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Illustrator Tom Gauld talks about his favorite books

Tom Gauld talks about the origins of Cabanon Press…

READERSVOICE.COM: Can you tell how you and Simone Lia started Cabanon Press?

TOM GAULD: I’d spent years reading comics and thinking about making one and in the end I decided I just needed to shut up and get on with it.

I asked Simone and some other students to make work for it.

It just ended up being Simone and me in it, and our work seemed to suit being together.

Simone had been doing children’s books up till then and didn’t know much about comics, but her work had some adult themes which I though would make good comics, so I showed her some good stuff (Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware I think) and she went on to make the stuff in First.

We did a comic each separately and applied for a college business prize, which we won and used the money to set up Cabanon Press.

RV: When you printed up 180 copies of your comic First, with Simone Lia, where did you distribute the comic to?

TG: We mainly sold them at our degree show at the RCA, but we sold a few at Gosh comics. http://www.goshlondon.com/

RV: What sort of deal do you make with book store owners, and how do you work out distribution?

TG: I only want to sell through shops who are keen to have the work.

For me the distribution of comics comes third (after doing illustrations as my day job, and making comics) so I really don’t have time to pester people to restock, or chase invoices.

So now we have a small range of stockists who are all really good and supportive.

We offer 35% discount to stores, and I haven’t had any returns.

We sell through our website directly and now that we take PayPal that’s been quite busy, so I make a lot of trips to the post office.

RV: Did you do the whole ISBN registration, Library number, and everything for the book, or just print a few off and sell them?

TG: This is something I’m going to have to do for my future books, I haven’t done it up till now as I wasn’t very organised, but now that we’re doing reasonably big print runs I think we have to legally.

RV: Where did you go to get them printed and what factors did you take into account when printing them, about paper and binding?

TG: We always try to make our books as beautiful as possible.

Partly as I really like nicely produced books, but also to encourage people to pick them up, as that’s the first step towards someone reading it.

Fortunately we have a designer friend from college who really knows his stuff and works with us on the design of the books.

RV: What did you do differently when you published Second?

TG: When we published Second we used a commercial printer and made 1,000 copies.

It didn’t turn out as nice-looking as the handmade First and since then we’ve taken care to make our commercially printed stuff look really nice, and have something of the handmade feel about them.

For example the sticker on Robots, Monster etc or the envelope for ‘3 very small comics’, it’s a bit of extra work to do these sort of things (I have to to put the sticker on by hand, or collate the 3 comics and put them in the envelope) but I think it’s worth it.

RV: How did Bloomsbury’s publication of Both come about?
TG: Our editor at Bloomsbury bought ‘Second’ at a bookshop and contacted us to ask if they could publish it.

It was very simple, and I guess this shows that getting your own self-published work out there can lead to bigger things.

RV: Which takes up most time? Running Cabanon Press or your art work?

TG: I mainly do illustration and recently I’ve been getting a lot of work so creating comics has lost out a bit, but this year I intend to give more time to comics.

RV: How many copies of your book 3 Very Small Comics, and Robots, Monsters Etc were printed up?

TG: I printed 3,000 copies of those two which is the biggest print runs I’ve made which was a bit of a risk, but they’re both selling well so I’m glad I went for it as a big run reduces the per-copy price.

It does mean that I’m surrounded by boxes of comics and as my studio space is quite small.

RV: Is it tough coming up with ideas each week for Move to the City, in Time Out? Do you write down ideas as you move around? Where do you get ideas?

TG: I don’t do timeout any more, but it was quite tough thinking of ideas.

The worst thing is coming up with a not-very-good idea and having to go with it because the deadline is looming.

On the other hand it forces you to work (rather than constantly mulling things over).

I have a sketch book which I make notes and doodles in, and most of my comics start in there.

I guess my ideas just come from looking around me.

RV: What’s your routine in London, for example, what did you do last week?

TG: I don’t have an exact routine, I come to my studio quite early Monday to Friday and work for 9 or 10 hours, and I usually work Saturday mornings too.

I’ve been busy getting ready for an exhibition which Simone and I are having at Analogue Books in Edinburgh.
I’ve made a new screenprint which I’ll be selling at the show and then on our website.

I also do an illustration for the Guardian Saturday Review every week, and I’ve been working on an ad campaign for the summer.

I’m also starting to create a graphic novel for a Canadian publisher, and a new comic book with Simone, probably called Third.

– See cababonpress.com for the work of Tom Gauld and Simone Lia, and for the latest news about their exhibitions and publications.

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