Beatrice Davis Fellow Sophie Splatt heads to the US

Sophie Splat

Last year Sophie Splatt, children’s and YA editor at Allen & Unwin, was named the 2023 Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellow for a research project investigating graphic novels. Over the next 10 weeks, Splatt will travel around the US, meeting with graphic novel publishers, editors, agents and creators, to learn how the Australian industry can ‘better capitalise on this fast-growing category’. 

In this first update about her project, Sophie shares an outline of her travel plans and ambitions for her project. 

After months of reading, thinking and planning, mid-July has finally rolled around and it’s time for me to set off on my adventure to the United States to research all things graphic novels for the Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship. To say I’m excited about what lies ahead would be a huge understatement! 

Part of the difficulty in planning my fellowship activities was narrowing down exactly what I’d do in a country where opportunities abound in the world of graphic novels. I’m starting out my trip with a week in San Diego where I’ll attend panels and events at Comic-Con International, as well as the associated conference for educators and librarians. This will also be a great opportunity to meet publishers, creators and others involved in the world of graphic novels from elsewhere in the US.

I’ll then head to New York – the epicentre of English trade publishing and location for nearly every movie I’ve ever seen set in a US publishing house. Here I have meetings lined up at publishers and graphic novel imprints, including First Second Books, Graphix, Random House Graphic, LB Ink, Levine Querido, Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, Holiday House, Street Noise Books, and more. 

As well as meeting with publishers and editors, I’m also hoping to speak with people who work in design, production, marketing, publicity and distribution, and professionals who specialise in colouring and lettering. 

I’m aiming to learn as much as I can about the entire process of publishing graphic novels – from acquisition to editing, production and positioning. From the nitty gritty details of things like print runs and paper stock, to looking at how the graphic novel ecosystem operates as a whole. 

Of course I couldn’t do this without also meeting with authors, illustrators and agents and finding out how graphic novels even make it to acquisition, and to visit the other endpoints – bookstores and libraries – to learn how graphic novels flow into the hands of readers.

I’m looking forward to a week in White River Junction, Vermont, at The Center for Cartoon Studies (CCS). Here I’ll be attending a graphic novel workshop with cartoonist, comics scholar and renowned teacher Paul Karasik, while also wondering how I can avoid revealing my abysmal drawing skills! CCS also houses the dreamy-looking Schulz Library with a collection of almost 200,000 books, featuring contemporary graphic novels, zines, rare collections of cartoons and newspaper strips, books about cartooning and more. I can’t wait to spend some time getting lost in this massive collection!

While the aim of my fellowship is to produce a report that suggests how we, the Australian publishing industry, might better capitalise on this fast-growing category, for me the most thrilling part of setting off on this adventure is the unknown – it’s a story that’s not yet written (or illustrated!) and I’m uncertain in what direction my findings will take me. 

Whatever I discover, I’m excited to share my knowledge with the wider industry on my return, as the more we learn, the better graphic novels we’ll publish.


Follow Sophie’s experiences on Instagram @editor_abroad.

About the Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship

The Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship was established by the Australian Publishers Association in 1998 and supports a senior editor in a major research project that has significance for the Australian publishing industry. Following the research the fellow shares their findings with the wider industry, and helps promote and apply any practical outcomes or recommendations.

The 2023 Beatrice Davis Editorial Fellowship has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the APA’s Trade Publishers Committee.