Dan Goldman

In an unusual acquisition deal, Tor.com, an experimental Macmillan website/publishing venture focused on launching original science fiction, fantasy and comics, has acquired web-only publishing rights to two full-length 192 page graphic novels and will serialize them over 6 months through the Tor.com website beginning in January. The two works are The Imitation Game, a biography of mathematician Alan Turing by comics writer and science biographer Jim Ottaviani and artist Leland Purvis; and Red Light Properties by Dan Goldman, described as a “paranormal real estate tale” by literary agent Bob Mecoy of Creative Book Services, who represents all the creators and negotiated the deal on their behalf.

The two works were acquired by Tor.com producer Pablo Defendini, who described the acquistions as part of Tor.com’s mandate to experiment with nontraditional publishing strategies. But he also emphasized that the acquisition also highlights how important and popular comics have become on the site, which he also said will be redesigned and relaunched in 2010..

“Tor.com is a separate entity from Tor Books and is an effort to explore nontraditional publishing strategies,” said Defendini. “Anything we consider for the site is definitely not for business as usual,” he said, emphasizing that “we may try some things that just might not work.” Tor.com was launched in 2008 and originally focused on orginal short stories in the sci-fi genre in addition to commissioning original webcomics. “We noticed right away that the comics were very popular,” said Defendini, who said the site’s redesign will “give comics a really big and popular profile.”

Jim Ottaviani

Both of the artists involved in the acquisition have already created short works that have been published on Tor. Com. Goldman created Yes We Will, a webcomic satire based on the 2008 presidential campaign; and Ottaviani (along with artist Sean Bieri) created the short webcomic Better Zombies through Physics this past summer.

However, the acquisition of web publishing rights for full length graphic novels is something new and Defendini said the site will consider publishing both works in print form. While he emphasized that Tor.com is a place for experimentation, he also acknowledged that the site recently published its first Print-On-Demand physical book, an anthology of fantasy short stories, some of which were launched through the site.

Indeed both Mecoy and Defendini were excited over the acquisition, calling it an updated publishing model that will use serialization to attract and build an audience for the finished books. “My clients decided to go with Tor.com because this model breaks new ground, or rather it’s a traditional model—the serial—used by Dickens and others over the years to attract new readers and build an audience,” Mecoy said. “We know that you can regularly release episodes of story telling that will not negatively impact the sales of the finished complete work. It’s the old becoming new again.”