This week we catch up with Annie Koyama, founder of one of the most exciting comic publishers that is putting ink on paper today.
Based in Canada, Koyama Press has built a huge following in the last seven years. Publishing artists such as Alex Schubert, Brian Fukushima and Dustin Harbin – it has an enviable roster of artists who title-by-title are ushering in a new golden era of comics. We sat down to ask Annie how she put such a group together…
Could you introduce Koyama Press to our readers?
Koyama Press was founded in 2007 after a health crisis inspired me to pursue my interests in books and art, particularly books and art by emerging artists. As a former producer of documentaries, feature films and commercials, I had no prior experience in publishing.
What I did have was a passion for the artists I was encountering in Toronto and beyond, and believed deserved a wider audience and support. I founded Koyama Press with this in mind. The press is known for its alternative edge and diverse range of titles that include a myriad of genres from autobiography to photography, horror to humour, and more.
What led you to start a publishing company? Was there a definite goal you wanted to achieve?
I began publishing by accident, actually. After deciding to find some local emerging artists and to fund a project with them from which they could make some money, I got together with Clayton Hanmer, Aaron Leighton and Steve Wilson who make up Trio Magnus.
I loved their group doodles and suggested we make a book. I liked Christopher Hutsul’s prints and loved a comic that he’d done and financed the printing of that comic. After that, I wanted to make more books and introduce new artists to a larger readership. That became my initial goal: to introduce good work from unknown artists to the world.
I think it’s a publisher, often a small press, that is independently owned and operated. Our runs are not huge compared to large presses but we fill niches that large presses do not. We have more freedom in what we publish as the monetary risk is less than within a large corporation.
Is it important for you that Koyama Press remains an independent?
Yes, I can’t imagine it any other way. I prefer to run my own show.
It seems that Koyama Press has built a pretty loyal readership. Is that difficult to do without a major publishing company behind you?
Not if you make good choices about who you publish and if you are prepared to do the endless work to promote the books, projects, artists, and the press. You have to devote a lot of time online to spread the word and, when you have limited resources, be judicious about where you pay to advertise.
Do you think the artists you publish define you as a publisher?
I think it’s a symbiotic relationship. Each artist as an individual makes up part of the catalogue which then defines the publisher.
I honestly think that we are all working to get new work out there. Larger firms with more established artists will probably always garner more of the attention because their artists may be more familiar to readers, but there is clearly a thirst for different and, for lack of a better word, edgier work.
What’s next for Koyama Press?
A very interesting fall line up starting with Renee French’s new book Baby Bjornstrand, Michael DeForge’s Lose #6, Patrick Kyle’s Distance Mover collection and Walter Scott’s art world skewering comic, Wendy. In addition, we have two kids comics – A Cat Named Tim & Other Stories by John Martz and Cat Dad, King of the Goblins by Britt Wilson.