Self-Pub Author Spotlight: Julian Thomas
Updated: Jan 20
I recently interviewed Julian Thomas, creator of the graphic novel Black Heart, and principal at Vanguard LLC, a new indie comic publisher that is doing exciting things.
With so many ways to tell a story, what drew you to comics/graphic novels?
I originally created Black Heart with the intention for it to be viable in any medium. Though there’s plenty of action and all the other science fiction bells and whistles, this is a love story at its core. So, during development, I aimed for those core themes to be able to be conveyed in a still image, prose, a movie, a comic, etc. I chose a graphic novel as my flagship medium because of representation, not the story itself. As a black man who grew up with a passion for anime and comics in general, I know all too well how often we are relegated to looking to green aliens, like Piccolo, for representation. I already know Black Heart is a good story no matter how its told, regardless of the race of the main character, so why not also use it to make black children feel a little less overlooked?
What was the hardest thing about starting your own publishing outfit? How did you overcome it? What was the most surprising thing about it?
The most difficult part was deciding to do it, and the legal red tape that comes along with starting any business. Launching an LLC is literally just a matter of typing in some info online and a $40 fee, but now I have extra taxes to take into consideration and an accountant and a business debit card, blah blah blah. I overcame it by realizing that if I’m going to do this on my own I have to accept the fact my role is bigger than just the creator. The most surprising thing about was how simple being “a publisher” is. People think you have to have a major publisher to be official. In reality, as long as you print your book and distribute it, that thang is published.
How did you find the artists that you collaborate with?
A wonderful thing called the Instagram explore page, and a fully fleshed out idea. There are a lot of freelance artists looking for work on this planet, as long as you know what you want and are willing to pay they are usually willing to work with you.
What is your advice for someone who wants to self-publish their work?
Research the topic. Google has a wealth of information and the writing community is pretty helpful to other aspiring authors. Self-publishing isn’t as daunting a task as the industry may make it seem. If everyone knew how easy it was to have your digital manuscript distributed on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc, there wouldn’t be much need for major publishers, right? But more importantly, finish your book. Worry about the business stuff later; writing a book is going to take enough of your energy without also preemptively stressing yourself over digital marketplace royalty percentages.
What or who was most helpful to you throughout the process of self-publishing?
Research and my friends, but mostly my approach is trial and error. If I seem as if I have this thing all figured out, it only means my branding is succeeding. I make mistakes all the time. So I guess the real answer to your question is my willingness to fail and try and again until I get it right.
What is next for you? And where can people find what you've already done?
Outside of my social justice work, the second issue of Black Heart is slated to release early 2021! 2021 also marks the year Vanguard will publish its first works not written and created by me. You can find everything Black Heart at www.BlackHeartComic.com, or on the official Instagram @BlackHeartComic.