Villard Trade Paperbacks will publish Meredith Gran’s Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars In Brooklyn on June 22. The 272-page volume collects the first 13 episodes of Gran’s webcomic, which follows the lives of two twenty-something female roommates in Brooklyn as they navigate the tricky territory between college and "real life." Gran has developed a devoted online following which Villard hopes will drive sales of the book.
"Gran’s picture of life in Brooklyn is dead-on accurate and also hilarious" according to Tricia Pasternak, Gran’s editor at Villard. Eve Ling is an ardent bicyclist who works in an organic food store, while Hanna Thompson sells a line of pot-enhanced baked goods. Through her depiction of their adventures and their extended circle of friends, Gran paints an affectionate portrait of Brooklyn’s hipster scene, gently skewering its worst excesses.
Gran originally began publishing Octopus Pie on her website in May 2007. "I knew I would be in full control if I published it online" she explains in an interview with PW Comics Week. She self-published three volumes of the comic; soon after publishing the first volume, she began to speak to agent Judy Hanson about taking the comic to a publisher. Gran ultimately chose Villard because she felt "Villard’s promotional power as a large company would be helpful." She also notes, "The widespread distribution was a big factor for me."
Since Octopus Pie already existed online and in the self-published volumes, Pasternak saw her main role as "working on the design and presentation of the volume." She adds, "We didn’t ask Gran to change anything." Gran did elect to add a new final episode, however, as she felt the original ending was too dark. In her self-published volumes, Gran had re-colored her strips in a monochrome, and in Villard edition the tradition continues, with the interior comics appearing in a striking green. Pasternak explains, "We mostly liked the way it looks. And we thought it would make purchasing the actual book more attractive."
Gran continues to publish new storylines online. Though she originally updated the website three times a week, she now waits until an episode is completed. While she believes this change has altered the experience of her readers, they have remained loyal to the site.
"Meredith has always been a great self-promoter," Pasternak notes. The artist is setting up a tour of cities where her fanbase is strongest, which she has been tracking through her website. Several of her appearances will be with other webcomic artists, including her studio mate Aaron Diaz (Dresden Codak) in Portland, Oregon, Jeph Jacques (Questionable Content) in Boston, K.C. Green (Different Comics) in Austin, Danielle Corsetto (Girls with Sling Shots) in Richmond, Virginia, and David Malki (Wondermark) in Los Angeles.
Pasternak envisions the role of Villard in promoting the volume as "…helping retailers see that Meredith Gran has a major fanbase and that there is a great demand for Octopus Pie." The book was featured in Diamond Previews in April. Gran will join Jon Rosenberg, another webcomic artist whose book Goats is being published by Del Rey in May, for a live webchat at www.suvudu.com at the beginning of June "Octopus Pie is uniquely suited to independent bookstores," Pasternak adds. "The fact that the book has been available online and will continue to be online is nothing but a good thing. Meredith has been able to build her audience and will continue to build her audience."
Gran is currently organizing the second New England Webcomics Weekend, which will be held in East Hampton, Massachusetts, November 5-6. As for the future of Octopus Pie, she "will do it as long as I feel the story can be told."