Cat herding, Kickstarting, and bringing romance back: an interview with Janelle Asselin
With just eight days left in the Fresh Romance campaign, Rosy Press is still raising funds at an impressive clip. At the time of posting our Fresh Romance write up on Saturday, the Kickstarter was at just over $40k — and now they’re just $1400 away from hitting a stretch goal that will bring illustrator and Fresh Romance #1 cover artist back for their fifth issue.
As I promised this weekend, Geeks with Wives is excited to bring you an interview with Rosy Press founder and ComicsAlliance senior editor Janelle Asselin. Keep reading to find out what it was like to make the leap from editor to publisher, and what kind of new stories and stretch goals Janelle is hoping to reveal as the Fresh Romance campaign enters its final days.
Geeks With Wives: Congratulations on hitting your first stretch goal! Did you anticipate this kind of response at this point in the campaign?
Janelle Asselin: Thank you! I didn’t expect this kind of response, no. I thought people might like the idea of Fresh Romance enough to get it to the goal by the end of the campaign, but I didn’t think we’d be working on multiple stretch goals at this point.
GWW: You’ve had an awesome career in comics, as an editor and as a journalist. I feel like editing is one of those ‘herding cats’ (said with affection!) professions that prepares you for anything, but has it been scary to make the leap to editor in chief?
JA: It has been a little scary, to be honest. A lot of my experience is in the day-to-day editing, which is obviously valuable, but when you’re running a business there are a LOT of other things you have to deal with. I spent over a year researching the business side. I took business classes that were available from a local economic development center. I read a TON of books and websites. But also, having a masters of publishing helped too because I knew how traditional, non-comics publishers operated as well. I really wanted to have a publisher that combined the best elements of traditional publishing and comics publishing.
The best part, of course, is that I’m the boss and I can hire whoever I want!
GWW: What made you feel like now was the time to launch Rosy Press and Fresh Romance?
JA: The comics industry is broadening constantly right now in terms of successful genres and the audience. I wanted to offer something as part of that with the goal of bringing in even more readers and genres.
GWW: Did the option to crowdfund at least some of your launch costs have play a big part in your decision to launch Rosy Press?
JA: Absolutely. I knew I wanted to use crowdfunding pretty much from jump because it would help financially, obviously, but also because it would help gauge interest in the project. I technically could’ve launched without crowdfunding if I were willing to pay people less and jump without a parachute, but now my creators and I know we have all that financial support from our backers and it makes everyone’s lives easier.
GWW: Do you think crowdfunding has helped push for more diversity in comics by demonstrating there really are audiences itching to spend money to support more inclusive projects?
JA: Yes! No one has to rely on what can get green-lit at an existing publisher anymore. It’s also a model that allows less reliance on the Direct Market and who’s going into comic shops. Both things push the comics industry wide open in terms of what can be published and how readers can access that product.
GWW: As a queer guy myself, I was super stoked to see that Fresh Romance was kicking off with a queer romance from Kate Leth, something I’ve had trouble finding as a big superhero nerd. Was diversity of stories and characters a big focus for you in considering pitches?
JA: It really was. I knew I wanted to do a Regency romance, which is traditionally pretty heterosexual (and super white), but I definitely hoped that in hiring some of the folks we have on board, including Kate, that I’d get some queer love stories. I want to offer a wide variety of romance for a lot of different kinds of readers but always have it be a compelling story. I started with a wide variety of comics creators who I knew had different backgrounds and interests and they did not disappoint as they offered a wide variety of pitches.
GWW: So far, the story line-up for Fresh Romance also includes a Regency-era romance and what sounds like a really fun supernatural story. Are there any other genres you’re hoping to see represented in the magazine?
JA: We also have some fantasy and slice-of-life stories coming up that I’m really excited about, and I’ve mentioned before that I really would love to do a western romance and a superhero romance. Really, I’m open to any number of sub-genres as long as the primary plot is about romance.
GWW: If you could appear as a character in any one of the stories you’ve got lined up for Fresh Romance, which one would it be?
JA: Easily, it would be “Ruined,” Sarah Vaughn and Sarah Winifred Searle’s story. I want to wear those pretty dresses and go to a ball!
GWW: Rosy Press is already committed to giving creators page rate bumps for each $10k you raise over your funding goal. In addition to supporting some incredibly talented creators, are there any other awesome stretch goal rewards you can hint at?
JA: Well we just announced Gail Simone will be doing a story with artist Rafaela Herrera when we hit $47,500, which rather than being included as one of our regular monthly stories, will be sent to only one-year subscribers. If we keep going past that point, I think you’ll also see some additional big-name creators doing stories.
GWW: I always try to cap my reviews with some “if you read that, then read this” advice. You’ve mentioned “Saga” in previous interviews as a book with a similar attitude towards sexual content, and I’m thinking fans of “Sex Criminals” might want to subscribe to Fresh Romance too. Any other book whose fans you think definitely need to give Fresh Romance a look?
JA: Oof, that’s a hard one! Especially since we have such a varied range of stories. If we’re talking about stuff on the stands now, I’d say folks who are interested in the aesthetic of books like the current Batgirl run, Jem & The Holograms, and Lumberjanes should find something visually interesting in Fresh Romance – although the content may be quite different.
Want to know more? Check out the Fresh Romance Kickstarter today. The campaign will be fully funded on April 22, and the first issue of Fresh Romance is slated to hit inboxes this May.