Originally launched in 2005 as a vehicle to publicize and distribute the works of Peter Beagle, author of the bestselling fantasy novel The Last Unicorn, Conlan Press is expanding its list and the authors it publishes. The press has hired a new editor and plans to publish as many as 30 books over the next two years in a line that will feature new authors as well as a mix of prose and illustrated works that include art books and graphic novels.
Conlan Press, in Montara, Calif., was founded by Connor Cochran, Beagle’s business manager, as an effort to revive public awareness of Beagle and sell his works direct to consumers while he addressed a number of disputes with Beagle’s foreign licensees. In addition to The Last Unicorn (originally published in 1968), Beagle is best known for A Fine and Private Place (originally published in 1960). The Last Unicorn was also adapted into a popular animated film in 1982, and until this year—when a long-running royalty dispute was settled this summer—Beagle had been in a financial dispute with the film’s producer.
According to Cochran, Beagle’s “large publishers weren’t doing anything to promote him and his small publishers didn’t have the resources. I knew there were literally millions of Last Unicorn fans out there waiting to be tapped through the Internet, because of the worldwide success of the book and animated film.” Conlan Press sells direct through its Web site (Conlanpress.com) and since 2005 the house has released a variety of audiobook editions of Beagle’s books as well as limited edition prints based on the Last Unicorn. Conlan Press controls the rights to all of Beagle’s works; while Penguin controls the U.S. print rights to The Last Unicorn, Conlan Press holds e-books rights to the novel and has released digital editions.
In 2007 the house packaged a deluxe hardcover edition of The Last Unicorn—including “Two Hearts,” a story sequel; new introductions; and an interview with Beagle—for sale exclusively through Barnes & Noble and the Conlan Web site that sold about 15,000 copies. This year Conlan licensed comics house IDW to produce a graphic novel adaptation of The Last Unicorn (with art by Renae De Liz & Ray Dillon), which spent nine weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Cochran said that since settling the eight-year dispute over film royalties, the house has the time and resources to add authors to its list, authors much like Beagle, acclaimed writers with past commercial success who have been “abandoned by their publishers and agents as they got older.” Over the next two years the house will publish all the works of fantasy novelist Parke Godwin (in print and audiobook editions) and the works of the late novelist Edgar Pangborn as well as several novels by his sister Mary that came into the possession of Beagle, who inherited the Pangborn estate. Conlan Press will also release several novels by comics writer Peter Gillis, who Cochran compared to Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore, authors who divide their time between comics and prose novels.
The house has hired former IDW editor Mariah Huehner—she edited the Last Unicorn graphic novel—and she will oversee Conlan’s Art and Graphic Novel line, which will include at least four graphic novel adaptations of other Beagle works (Come Lady Death; Two Hearts; Dirae; and “an intense black & white” manga-influenced version of Last Unicorn) as well as an original comics work by Gillis. All Conlan’s titles are sold direct, while IDW and Penguin distribute the titles they have to the trade. But Cochran said he is looking for a distributor to handle titles from the expanded line.
That’s not all: in 2010 the press produced Giant Bones, a play based on Beagle’s stories; and the press also produces music performed by Beagle. In addition, the press plans children’s books by Jan Brown and A.S. Angelo as well as multiple collections of essays by Cochran himself.
“We’re small but feisty, highly creative, committed to innovative author/artist rights deals, and dedicated to the highest possible quality,” Cochran said. “We play in a lot of arenas most publishers wouldn’t touch. I’ve got connections in different industries and the old business category distinctions are kind of silly. It’s all creative expression, so why not do everything?”