Adam Fortier: No Risk, No Reward!
Interview conducted by Spiros Evangelos Armenis
Edited by Dimitris Sakaridis
It's likely that many of you hear the name of Speakeasy Comics' Publisher, Adam Fortier for the first time and that you probably know absolutely nothing about him. Usually, the spotlight is on the creators of our favorite funnybooks and especially on the writers and artists. It's a rare occasion that an Editor or Publisher or Executive becomes really famous and is well-known to the public. We're not going to suggest that this is, in any way, unfair, or that the opposite should be the norm. It's just that sometimes it's equally interesting and important to listen to the people "behind the cameras". Especially when they have the philosophy and vision of Adam Fortier.
SPIROS EVANGELOS ARMENIS: What led you to the decision to start a new comic book company?
ADAM FORTIER: I had worked in the comic book industry for 6 years as a consultant before deciding to start Speakeasy Comics. I worked with IDW, Devil's Due, Udon Entertainment and I helped negotiate the TRANSFORMERS license for Dreamwave Productions. I was handling a lot of licensing negotiation, and printing and advertising arrangements for a number of companies and was really enjoying the professional relationships I was developing. At some point I think a consultant needs to either become the boss or stop consulting. I took my own advice and became the boss.
SEA: What did you feel the prospects were in such a move, considering the market is not exactly huge at the moment?
ADAM FORTIER: I tried to be as prepared for any situation as I could be. I had the experience of watching other companies make decisions, and seeing what the results were. If you're smart, you can learn as much from other people's mistakes as your own. As with any industry you have to have realistic goals and then you have to work really hard to achieve them.
SEA: Did you meet any obstacles or any problems in the beginning?
ADAM FORTIER: It is always difficult trying to break into an industry that is dominated by two major companies. It seems that every January, the Diamond PREVIEWS has 30 or 40 new independent publishers that want a slice of the pie. It's hard to be new and try to stand out in a crowd of new faces. Retailers usually like to stick to publishers and names that they know. Sometimes the only way they are going to find you is if the consumers find out about your company and your products first.
SEA: Considering you were already in the industry, before starting Speakeasy, did you find it easier to take on such a project? What are the names of the people who helped you, with advice, know-how or otherwise?
ADAM FORTIER: I cultivated many relationships in the industry in the last 7 years. It is always easier doing business when you treat everyone with respect. I don't respond well to egos or tantrums, and there are many in this industry. You quickly learn whom you want to work with and whom you don't. I think most people want to hear about the major artist and writers that I've met, but the people in the printing and distribution and advertising are just as important and helpful.
SEA: Why should the readers choose Speakeasy books over the other publishers' output? What do you feel is the one thing you can provide that other publishers can't?
ADAM FORTIER: Speakeasy Comics provides a high quality product in diverse genres that DC and Marvel are not exploring. We've got horror books, science fiction, comedy, all ages fantasy, the list goes on and on. Whatever kind of book a reader likes, chances are that we have something that would appeal to them. Other publishers might focus on one genre or two, but we like the diversity of stories and artwork.
SEA: What are the things you look for in a title before deciding to publish it?
ADAM FORTIER: Strong art, strong story and potential. Potential to develop a writer, an artist, and potential to make a profit. Everybody who publishes hopes to make a profit. You can't run a business without a profit. Speakeasy Comics has a great editor who has a discerning eye. I trust his first instincts about a project. Speakeasy Comics started with projects that people sent in as submissions, we have no intention to stop accepting submissions.
SEA: What's your take on self-publishing?
ADAM FORTIER: Speakeasy Comics is an independent publisher, who publishes anywhere from 8-15 books a month. If you don't like hard work, or if you can't give up most of your personal life, then you don't want to be a publisher. Then again, unless you take a big risk, you cannot reap the rewards. I really do believe that.
SEA: One of the first books you published was ATOMIKA, and judging from the promotion and the general audience response, it's pretty obvious that you had invested a lot in this title's popularity. Tell me a bit about this book, how it came to be and what led to the "divorce".
ADAM FORTIER: The success of ATOMIKA was mainly due to Sal Abbinanti's (creator of ATOMIKA) vision and his ability to get a great writer, and renowned guest cover artists to work on his project. I had met Sal through mutual friends and we got along great. Sal's probably the best-dressed man at any convention and he works very hard for everything he's achieved. After ATOMIKA's introduction via Speakeasy Comics, Sal decided to try self-publishing himself. No animosity, no drama, just well wishes.
SEA: You made a pretty big expansion pretty early on, with a lot of new titles coming out in just a few months. Aren't you afraid this could turn against you, as it did with other publishers in the past, like CrossGen or Dreamwave?
ADAM FORTIER: Speakeasy Comics has always been about calculated risk. We have selected and stand by every project we publish. I really don't think that most individuals sit and count how many titles we publish monthly. It helps that we have diversity because consumers don't have to pick whether they want Speakeasy's Robot Story A or Speakeasy's Robot Crossover Story B. They can choose our horror or fantasy title, or one of our sci-fi graphic novels.
SEA: Is there any kind of "policy" regarding the genres that Speakeasy publishes?
ADAM FORTIER: As long as there's a level of quality to the work then any kind of genre will be considered by Speakeasy Comics.
SEA: What sort of feedback do you have so far from readers?
ADAM FORTIER: Really positive feedback has come from our readers. Many orders that come through our web store from all over the world, Chile, UK, Australia. Obviously there is a niche that Speakeasy Comics is filling. As for our readers, there have been many interesting conversations among them and the creative teams at conventions. We also have very active and vocal forums at our website www.speakeasycomics.com.
SEA: What are your plans for the immediate future?
ADAM FORTIER: Speakeasy Comics is totally focused on producing interesting books at a high artistic and writing level. At this point we want to develop our reputation in the industry, especially foreign rights. We also are always open to explore an exciting opportunity that comes our way. No risk, no reward!
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