A Wave Blue World is an independent comics and graphic novel publisher with an unusual model: the house publishes the first issue of a new comics periodical series in print and follows it up with a complete graphic novel that is published just two months later. Readers who want to read the story in the serials format can also purchase the entire series digitally, but no single issues after the first are published in print.
Wendy and Tyler Chin-Tanner started A Wave Blue World 15 years ago in order to publish their own comics, and as the company grew, they added comics by other artists as well as anthologies, some funded on Kickstarter. The new format came with a general reorganization last year, and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, which broke out right around the time they were rolling out their first comics, they have ambitious plans for the next few years.
Tyler said they came up with what they call their “Premiere Program” as a way to support comics retailers and traditional comic book periodicals while publishing chiefly book-format graphic novels. “People love the #1 issue, not for just collectability but also because it’s a good tester,” Tyler said. “When a new series comes out, I’ll read issue #1, and if I like it, I’ll wait for the trade collection to come out.” That’s not unusual, which is why comics periodical publishers expect sales to drop sharply, from the first to the second issue of a series.
In order to add value, the Chin-Tanners add extra content to the premiere issues, such as an exclusive cover, essays, sketches, and other bonus content. “These are things you won’t find anywhere else, so there is a reason for people to pick up the #1 issue,” said Tyler. The graphic novel is solicited for orders in Diamond Comics Distributor’s Previews catalog the same month that the first issue of the serial hits newsstands. Readers then have a choice between waiting two months for the graphic novel or buying the digital issues, which come out every two weeks.
Wendy said the new model is far more sustainable than the industry practice of publishing an entire series in print and then collecting it into a paperback or hardcover trade book. “I think we both had a problem with the disposability factor of creating these issues [after the first] that were just going to get pulped,” she said. “The premiere issue is not an ashcan—it has value to it.” The first issue of each series will be available digitally as well, but without the extras.
The Chin-Tanners founded A Wave Blue World in 2005, the same year they got married—they handed out copies of Adrenaline, their first comic, as wedding favors. They decided to expand in 2019 because, Tyler said, “we either needed to shrink back down, because there was too much for me to do, or make this leap and grow and hire staff.”
They signed with Diamond Book Distributors for distribution to the book trade, but just as things were getting rolling, the Covid-19 pandemic shut down not only many retail stores but Diamond itself (which suspended its warehouse shipping activities for two months).
“We had one book come out just before [the pandemic],” said Tyler. “We were planning on launching it at Emerald City Comic Con. It came out just in time for everybody to be closed.” However, the fact that they are so small turned out to be an advantage. “Fortunately, because we have low overhead, the two of us work from home and our other employees are remote, we were able to withstand it,” Wendy said. Running the company and creating graphic novels is a full-time job for Tyler and a part-time job for Wendy, who is finishing a novel and homeschooling their two children.
A Wave Blue World published a 10th-anniversary edition of the graphic novel, American Terrorist, an eco-terrorist thriller co-written by Wendy and Tyler, in November. Now they are gearing up for 2021. Going forward, their plan is to publish eight books per year, a mix of their own work, graphic novels by other creators, and anthologies. Wendy is currently writing their first middle-grade graphic novel, which is scheduled for 2022.
Their first title in the new year is also their first YA title, the sci-fi graphic novel Averee, by writer Stephanie Phillips and artist Marika Cresta. The first issue of the serial is scheduled for February 2021 and the graphic novel will be out in April. That will be followed by Embodied, an “intersectional comics poetry anthology” co-edited by the Chin-Tanners (Wendy is a poet and the author of two poetry collections, Turn and Anyone Will Tell You).
While their comics span a number of genres, Tyler said, the company’s focus is on “stories about the world, who we are and how we relate as people on this planet.”