This is an official music video directed by the book’s writer featuring a track from the forthcoming soundtrack for the interactive ebook version of MAX & CHARLIE. The interactive soundtrack will feature 17 original songs by Raphael Fiorda (aka FUTURA).
“So much data.” That’s how Zack Lieberman, author and publisher of Max & Charlie describes his 136-page graphic-novel-by-way-of-picture-book debut, which he published through his existing media company, Exit Strategy. A digital creator who has won an Emmy and a Webby for his work, Zack originally conceived Max & Charlie as a feature film, but pivoted when he saw its potential as a printed, formatted, physical book.
The book—for which an e-book version will be launching soon, and will be the first piece of content on Exit Strategy’s original and proprietary e-book platform—is Zack’s first foray into book publishing. As an author, an artist, and—newly and officially–a publisher, Zack gave us his perspective on creating independent art, working on a book for the first time, and the particular challenges of debuting in the world of publishing with a picture book.
Why a picture book?
One of the best things about illustration in general (and picture books and comics and graphic novels in particular) is that anything is possible. The medium empowers such a broad range of voices and stories and styles—there are obviously some conventions to generally follow, but even those standards are constantly challenged by artists and creators. There’s a pretty long leash for what you can say and how you can say it.
I knew Max & Charlie would be kind of a weird book, and that it wouldn’t quite fit into an particular age range—it’s for kids, but it’s also for someone like me (a big kid!)––but I wanted to embrace that weirdness and create something that space cadets of all ages could enjoy and be inspired by. I also wanted it to feel modern yet classic, vibrant yet dark, silly yet inspirational. I think graphic novels are one of the few mediums that can genuinely be all of those things at once.
I’m proud of what we created with Max & Charlie‘s book,, but we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve, so the jury’s still out on whether it was/is the best medium to tell the story.
Does the task of finding an illustrator differ when you wear your author hat vs. when you wear your publisher hat?
I’d say they complement each other in some nice ways.
As an author, you’re looking for someone who can step into that voice you were trying to create, and can hopefully raise the stakes with their interpretation. But then of course you’re this “proud writer” and need an illustrator who can “stick to the script” so to speak. I wrote Max & Charlie to make a set of open-ended points and was taking a quasi-philosophical stance, and so I also really wanted to find someone who “got it”—or would at least be willing to go there.
As a publisher, you want to support both the writer and illustrator as best you can, but I’d maintain that the art is fundamentally what sells. There are other, more nuanced considerations in picking an illustrator obviously (everything from their artistic tone, to their medium, to work ethic and general stability, etc), but the marketplace needs to be on your mind.
We’re very indie and we’re down for the cause, but we still want to sell some books. The world is full of so much amazing art and design right now, especially in the digital space, and finding a fresh talent that can stand out enough to pique marketable interest is one of the hardest and most nuanced things you have to do as a publisher.
Publishing a picture book comes with a lot of considerations, particularly for Max & Charlie’s finer details. What advice would you give to someone looking to publish their first picture book?
1. This isn’t easy, and you shouldn’t expect it to be.
2. Trust your instincts
3. Go do it. No one else will.
4. Double––nay, triple!—how long you think it’s going to take.
And, especially for artists: 5) forget the established model. Business is business and you need to keep your eye on that ball, but we’re in a crazy world of burgeoning opportunity for independent creators, and you might as well experiment. Learn as much as you can from the community and the people who have done it well, but find ways to make it work for you. There are no “right” ways.
I made infinite semi-naive decisions that only someone coming from outside the publishing industry would make—like holographic foil logos on a spot gloss/velvet matte dustjacket, inlayed a holographic foil starscape on the case, printing and distributing hardbacks and paperbacks at launch, etc.—none of which made for cheap or easy endeavors. Each phase of the project has gone over budget and took two-to-three times longer than I thought they would. But at the end of the day, we were only really focused on quality, an amorphous thing no doubt, but nevertheless our guiding principle.
Max & Charlie is the first book published through your media company, Exit Strategy. How does book publishing in general differ from film and the digital media Exit Strategy has previously worked in?
Book publishing takes a long time. In digital, you can have an idea, prototype it, and push it live tomorrow, then track real-world, real-time data and use it to refine, iterate, refine, iterate. You obviously can’t do that in publishing, where even just distribution and review timelines are so comparatively slow.
It’s not a bad thing per se, just takes some getting used to.
I’ve produced dozens of projects across basically every form of media, and this book was hands down the hardest thing I’ve ever produced. Which is weird to me, for whatever reason. Book publishing is hard, willful, nerve-wracking work and the physical world is just so unforgiving. But I can’t wait to make the next one!
Swept up in the chaos, chasing the dream! "Onward we march!" maxandcharlie.com #indie #graphicnovel #comingsoon
"Alas, YOU must continue our mission... have no fear!" #space #adventure #nofear #graphicnovel #springiscoming
"Even something as small as a hiccup can change the world!" #cHaOs #change #indie #graphicnovel #makingof #springiscoming
"...The complexity of it all is endless! More than endless! Infinite!" #cHaOs #springiscoming
Having a blast in the last dash to the finish! #springiscoming #indie #makingof #graphicnovel MAXandCHARLIE.com
Another Friday the 13th?! Weird! Here's something from MAX & CHARLIE's darker side...Keep an eye over your shoulder! :o #springiscoming
Here's the rough draft of yesterday's "Belly of the Beast" post. Pencil and charcoal loveliness!
Any guess what NYC neighborhood this is?! Here's a hint: it rhymes with "oh no" :) #springiscoming #bellyofthebeast
It's March 4th! And we shall march forth! Aim for the horizon and into the infinite #march4 #aimhigh #springiscoming
Win a FREE copy of MAX & CHARLIE by coloring your own version of Max! Print it out or do it digitally! Make it silly or serious! Go wild! Do anything you want, but just be sure to have some fun!!
When you're done, just upload it to your Facebook or Instagram or Twitter with #springiscoming — our five favorites will be featured on the website and will win awesome signed copies of the book!
Tag us to make sure we see it! :)
Start yours by downloading/saving the images below! (Right click the image and select "Save Image As" — then just print it out or use your favorite software so edit digitally!)
Peep the rough draft version of one of our favorite panels! Charcoal and pencil. And love... :)
We'll be posting much more behind-the-scenes stuff that shows more about about how this process works very soon — stay tuned, it'll be sweeeet!
Daydreaming about the park on theese chilly winter days... stay warm y'all! #springiscoming
Workin on a snow day... #finishingtouches #indie #graphicnovel #comingsoon #yessss :)
THANK YOU everyone for the love and support! Feeling just like this!! #thankful #yesssss #indie #graphicnovel #nofilter ;)
Welcome to the online home for MAX & CHARLIE!
We’re brand new on these internetz... And we’re very glad you found us!
MAX & CHARLIE is a new graphic novel that follows a young boy (Charlie!) on a crazy chase through the cHaOtic streets of New York City. Charlie is chasing his best friend, an adorable beagle pup named Max. Max’s middle name is Danger.
If you’re a kid — or if you know one ;) — this is your kind of book.
MAX & CHARLIE has been a labor of love for a small group of independent artists. This group is led by me, Zack Lieberman. Hi! I wrote MAX & CHARLIE, and I also art-directed, edited, lettered, produced, and published our little adventure. I also built the website you’re on. Thanks for stopping by!
My partner in crime is the amazing Louis Neubert: you and the rest of the world will assuredly join in my perpetual awe of Louis’ art and illustrations — he’s the real deal folks! Louis charcoaled, penciled, inked, and coloured MAX & CHARLIE — it’s a stunning and gigantic piece of work, and I can't wait for you to see it!
Louis is based out of Bristol, UK... and I’m based out of Brooklyn, USA. We’ve made this book together at times (in NYC and Playa Grande, Costa Rica), but we mostly did the "long-distance” thing. Across the pond, as it were!
There will be a lot more to say about all of this very soon! Please stay tuned to this station — it’s going to be an awesome little adventure.
In the meantime, you can pre-order now! And don’t worry, we won’t charge until we actually ship the book.
If pre-ordering’s not your thing, go ahead and subscribe to the newsletter and we’ll keep you up to date — we’ve got a lot of cool things planned (and some sweet contests and giveaways) and we want you to know about them! (Hint... there's also a *secret* little coupon code if you subscribe!)
We couldn’t have made this book without the love and support of about a hundred zillion people — we owe each of you our biggest thanks for the guidance and kind words you've given along the way. Everyone will be getting their proper thanks in due time (endnotes!), but please accept our sincere virtual thanks in the meantime.
And to all the new friends out there: a great many thanks to you too! We can’t wait to meet you.
More soon! See you!
Look out 2015! Max & Charlie is coming at you from every which way!!! Here's a fun little pattern by M&C assistant extraordinaire @bryan_tuckman Stay tuned, much more coming very soon... #maxandcharlie #graphicnovel #illustration #colorfun #fanart #fun #comingsoon