Elyse Martin & Sean Rubin's Copy Cat, From Tweet to Publisher Auction

Two years ago, in December 2020, comic book creator Elyse Martin tweeted, "When a thief in medieval England gets caught mid-burgle, he hides out in a monastery, pretending to be a scribe sent by the Bishop. But when he gets asked to complete an illustrated manuscript of the Book of John, his cover's blown, unless he can … COPY RIGHT. #FakePitMad"

Comic book artist Sean Rubin replied "I wouldn't not illustrate this?" Elyse replied herself, saying, "Ha, world's most esoteric children's picture book, or graphic novel interspersed with sudden illuminated manuscript pages?" Sean Rubin answered, "My usual approach is… both?"

Now renamed Copy Cat by Elyse Martin and Sean Rubin, it is a new middle-grade graphic novel set during the golden age of manuscript illumination in medieval Britain, where a 12-year-old orphan avoids getting caught stealing a box of jewels by disguising herself as a monk-in-training at the local abbey. There, she learns how to be a scribe, and discovers that art and community may be worth more than gold.

And now Stephanie Stein at HarperAlley has acquired North American rights to Copy Cat at auction, for publication in the autumn of 2024.

Elyse Martin tweeted recently "One COPY CAT related detail I want to share: Early on, I told @SeanCRubin that I LOVE marginalia in rare books– one of my favorite parts of working at @FolgerLibrary was looking for marginalia in any rare book I got to set up– and he has already come up with some great marginalia to include in the graphic novel itself! For example, in a segment on how to make vellum, he added in some backstory on how a calf becomes calfskin via my favorite late medieval allegory, the danse macabre! Isn't the little bagpipe-playing skeleton cute?"

Elyse Martin & Sean Rubin's Copy Cat- From Tweet to Publishing Auction

Sean Rubin added " Some COPY CAT-related art: @champs_elyse and I can't show a whole ton, but I did want to share a few things from the pitch, which we used to figure out the overall visual style. Here were the author pics:"

Elyse Martin's agents Stephanie Kim and Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, and Sean Rubin's agent Marietta B. Zacker at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency represented the creators in the deal.

HarperAlley is a graphic novel imprint launched from HarperCollins Children's Books under the direction of former art director and acquiring editor at First Second, Andrew Arnold described as a "collaborative, creator-focused publisher" that will specialize in graphic novels for "readers of all ages." The line is "looking to publish books that readers of all ages can enjoy, from the youngest readers to teens and adults. We believe that a good story is a story that any reader can relate to. That's what we mean when we say "readers of all ages." HarperAlley is looking to publish about ten books a season, or about thirty books a year and is one of a number of mainstream book publishers that has been rapidly increasing the number of graphic novels for younger readers.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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