Indie Monkfish Book Publishing of Rhinebeck, N.Y., publisher of science, spiritual and metaphysical titles, celebrated its fifth anniversary last month. A milestone, for sure, but six months before, when publisher Paul Cohen and his partner, Georgia Dent, who handles design and publicity for the press, entertained ways to generate more revenue, the idea of self-publishing came up. Cohen was reluctant initially, but the pair decided they could start a self-publishing imprint that would allow them to be more hands-on than self-publishers usually are. Little did they know they'd have a big success self-publishing one of their own.
For the new imprint, Epigraph, Cohen and Dent have, for the most part, relied on word of mouth. Books are digitally produced, printed on demand through Lightning Source and distributed by Ingram. “We produce the book the author wants,” Cohen said. “We have a no-frills package for $895.” Epigraph has completed five projects but now has its first big success story with the charming graphic novel French Milk, the tale of a mother and daughter's monthlong stay in a small Paris apartment, the mother facing 50, the daughter adulthood. But French Milk is actually the story of Monkfish partner Georgia Dent and her daughter Lucy Knisley, a cartoonist and recent Chicago Art Institute graduate. “I was keeping a journal,” Dent said, “and Lucy was drawing pictures. We thought, 'Why not do a book and publish it with Epigraph?' ”
Knisely sold 100 copies of French Milk to friends and through her live journal Web site (lucylou.livejournal.com). But when she brought French Milk to the MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Comics Arts) festival in New York City at the invitation of a graphic novelist in attendance, Hope Larson, she found a fresh enthusiast. Amanda Patten, senior editor at Fireside/Touchstone, who says says she went ot MoCCA not looking to acquire anything but immediately heard the buzz about Knisley and French Milk. “And when I finally saw Lucy's book, I was really impressed—that she was so young, that she was with Hope Larson—and I loved the story of the mother/daughter and the idea of Paris.”
Patten brought the book to Touchstone editor-in-chief Trish Todd, an admitted Francophile, who also loved it, and they sent a contract offering $15,000.
Knisley, who is starting grad school at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, said she is thinking about doing a kids' book and also a book centered on another real-life experience—“being part of crazy theater group when I was 16.” Self-publishing, which has turned out to be a good business idea for her mother, appears to be a thing of the past for Knisley.