Nov 9, 2010

The Man Behind Semantink Publishing

You see interview after interview from the people behind-the-scenes at comic book publishers like Marvel and DC and by now you probably know their business as well as they do. But what about the smaller, up-and-coming publishers? How do they work, what are their struggles? I got up-close and personal with Semantink Publishing's Director of Publishing Benjamin Glibert in an e-mail interview recently to discuss the inner workings of the company, what they look for in potential properties and how it all got started.


Jill Pantozzi: When was Semantink formed and by whom? Where did the idea first come from?

Benjamin Glibert: Early in 2009, SanBox Inc., a media solutions firm from San Diego, was looking to expand and start a secondary corporation. There were several ideas from film to publishing to games, but it had to be a company that could not only stand on it's own two feet, but also help SanBox with their own endeavors. Eventually they decided on creating a publishing house.

I knew the gents running SanBox from college, and they knew that I had a passion for books, especially comics. I pitched them on the idea of making Semantink a small press comic book publisher that emphasizes quality of quantity. Three months later, Semantink was officially born with the release of MYTHOI.

JP: What's your personal history with comic books?

BG: I've been in love with comic books since I was a kid. A friend gave me a copy of GREEN LANTERN: EMERALD DAWN #2, and I've been hooked ever since. I'm pretty sure I could build a very impressive fort with all the long boxes I have hiding in my garage.

My favorite part about comic books is that there are always new worlds to explore and enjoy. I remember thinking I'd outgrown comics in high school, then I read one issue of PREACHER, and was sucked right back in. The same thing happened in college, but CASANOVA brought me back.

JP: As an independent publisher, what have been your biggest struggles? Has anything come easier than expected?

BG:
Without a doubt, the hardest part about being an independent publisher has been getting our name out into the public consciousness. It doesn't matter how good our books are if no one is reading them. There are so many amazing books out there for public consumption, we really have to push hard to show people that not only are our books worthwhile, but available.

On the flip side, I never would have guessed that there were so many talented individuals looking to break into comics. Daniel Touchet, the artist for our web-comic THE UNDERGROUNDS, and next year's SIM-I, was a guy that I'd known for years, but had no idea he even had an inclination towards drawing, let alone an aptitude for it. One day, he just comes up to me and starts showing me page after page of this amazing artwork.

JP: What are some of the lessons you've learned from other publishers, big and small, positives and negatives?

BG: Something that I learned early on is that the established way is not always the best way. The great thing about starting a company from scratch is that you don't come in with any preconceived ideas about how things need to get done. As an example, right out of the gate I knew that we wanted to push our single issue books digitally. When we started, digital comic books were growing, but the big companies like Marvel and DC hadn't embraced the tech yet, and companies like Image and IDW were just coming around on it.

Something that I've really tried to stay away from with Semantink is publishing books just to have them out on the shelves. It used to drive me crazy when I'd go to the LCS and see books on the shelves that were rushed out, or unoriginal, or just plain boring. With the variety of stories available, I hate to feel nickel & dimed when I get my comics. I've really tried to make Semantink a place that takes the time to craft a full story, from beginning to end. I want make sure that readers never get cheated.

JP: What are your responsibilities as Director of Publishing for Semantink?

BG: My responsibilities fall into three main categories, brand growth, talent acquisition, and financial stability.

A large part of my job is finding ways to make Semantink a name that people know, looking for new avenues of distribution and recognition. Whether it's through social networking sites like twitter or facebook, hitting up conventions, or obtaining distribution from companies like Graphic.ly or drivethrucomics.com, even if its just hosting our monthly meet-up group in San Diego, there's a thousand different ways to get our name out there, I just have to find them.

I'm also in charge of bringing on talent for the properties that we own and finding new stories to publish. We've been fortunate enough to acquire the rights to several stories, so I'm not just looking for finished work a la Image, but trying to bring in the right guys to make the properties we do own flourish.

Financial stability is by far the most tedious (yet most important) part of the job. I have to make sure that we stay in the black. If we go into the red, that's it for Semantink, and I really don't want that to happen. It's been such a great ride so far, I'd hate for it to end soon.

JP: What do you look for in creators and/or properties?

BG: When I'm looking at a potential property, there are several things that I try to consider. Is there a niche for this comic? Is it marketable? Someone might have a great idea for a comic based on the life of a tapeworm, but will people want to read it? I also want to make sure that a property has been thought out. I want to know where the story is going to go, not hope that the writer has thought out the ending.

When I'm looking to bring a creator onto a book, passion is the number one thing that I want to see. Technical skill is important, but if you love the material, you are going to put out your best work. A great example of this is the team that we have on our book, THE HEAVENS. James Ninness and Turbo Qualls would talk for hours on end, creating this entirely new world, and every time I would talk to one of them, they would be even more excited about the project. I want to know that people are going to be putting out the best work possible, not for money, but because they love the story and want readers to love it as well.

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