Interview #37: What to do in the First Second of your career with Gina Gagliano

October 27, 2016

This week on the show we have Gina Gagliano from First Second books, a fine purveyor of graphic novels for every reader.

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First Second has one of the best FAQs out there as far as engaging with their audience and building a unique brand identity. I recommend you check it out, but here is a sampling of what they are about from

What does :01 mean?

Is it first? Or second?
 First Second Third Fourth Fifth Sixth Seventh.
 Pressing the reset button. A clean slate. A fresh start.
 Everything begins with the First Second. . .


the first second

Imagine shrinking a proton down to a billionth of its normal size… Now pack into that tiny, tiny space about an ounce of matter. Bang. You are ready to start a universe.

And so from nothing, our universe begins.

In a single blinding pulse, a moment of glory much too swift and expansive for any form of words, the singularity assumes heavenly dimensions, space beyond conception. In the first lively second (a second that many cosmologists will devote careers to shaving into ever-finer wafers) is produced gravity and the other forces that govern physics…

A fraction of a moment after the dawn of creation, the universe underwent a sudden dramatic expansion. It inflated — in effect ran away with itself, doubling in size every 10(-34) seconds. The whole episode may have lasted no more than 10 (-30) seconds — that’s one million million million million millionths of a second — but it changed the universe from something you could hold in your hand to something at least 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times bigger. Inflation theory explains the ripples and eddies that make our universe possible. Without it, there would be no clumps of matter and thus no stars, just drifting gas and everlasting darkness.

— From Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything

I think that’s a brilliant way to build empathy with the right readers. It shows the kind of personality behind the books, and more importantly the personality behind the people behind the books.

We talked about that a little bit with Gina, but more importantly we talked about things that we’ve never talked about before. Most of our guests are indie, and First Second is certainly not that. They are owned by Macmillan, a giant in the publishing space. Even though they are small, they have the support of a massive brand behind them.

That’s what made my conversation with Gina so interesting. She was able to talk from a much wider and more longitudinal view of many, many projects. She talked about the three-year time horizon from signing an author to having a book come out. For most people in the indie world, that is an insane length of time.

First second does that several dozen times a year. So they have to think in the short and long term. First Second also has one of the most extensive networks of bookstore and library distribution, if not the biggest, of any guest we’ve had so far, so it was nice to talk about how to plan for that kind of growth. Gina talked about the shows she attends and the strategy she used to make each of them a success.

But we talked about so much more than just shows. Gina laid out a sample plan for how she brings a book to market. I think only Colleen Dunn Bates was so thorough in her episode. Listening to both in tandem would be a great idea. You can find Colleen’s episode here.

Gina went step by step through her entire marketing plan, and how to dissect the best methods for your book launch even if you don’t have a publisher. It was fascinating to listen to her break that down, and also break down the different target markets for books.

This is something I struggled with all year, but haven’t articulated on the podcast, so I’m glad she did. The world is not just split up into adult, YA, and kids. There are many gradations that must be met when you are planning your marketing. Nearly every age gets split into its own category, and the marketing changes depending on the target market.

That’s one of the main reasons why Wannabe Press abandoned the children’s market. It was just too much work to segment our small market in so small a way. It didn’t work for us. This is one of the most important concepts you need to understand before developing a marketing plan. Where is your market?

I really enjoyed this episode with Gina and she dropped knowledge bombs galore. If you want to learn more about First Second, check them out online at or on twitter @01firstsecond.

If you liked this episode, please subscribe, rate, and review it on your favorite podcast app, whether it’s iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or others. It matters more than you will ever know.


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