Thursday, July 31, 2008

Leading importer of Bande Dessinee in the US

Quite by accident, we have become the leading importer of Bande Dessinee in the US. Bande Dessinee, or BD, are the standard French comic books, which come in an over-sized hardcover format and are printed on heavy, high-quality art paper allowing for amazing reproduction of the art.
Stuart doesn’t speak or read French. He travelled alone to France in 2005 because there was a Claire Wendling career retrospective at Angouleme, the annual comics festival. This was his first trip outside the United States. His visit there began his personal association with Claire Wendling, and his professional role as an importer of French art books. Since then, he discovered other French artists such as Pierre Alary and Olivier Vatine. We debuted Alary's Belladone in the US and Vatine's Pink Planet. Alary was a guest artist at our booth at Comic Con in 2006 and 2007. We have published 2 Alary sketchbooks. Stuart's friendship with these and other European artists changed the course of Stuart Ng Books.


Who or what is STUART NG BOOKS and how do you pronounce it?

Stuart Ng is a person. You can read about Stuart’s background on the “about us” page on the website. Ng is a Chinese surname. The Chinese pronunciation doesn’t translate to English, so the English pronunciation is equivalent to the suffix “ing” as in drawing or painting.

Why aren’t these import books available in English?

Stuart attends the Angouleme festival in France each year and meets with many foreign publishers. He is always encouraging them to produce English translations. However, we have no control over if or when any of the import titles will be translated. The French publishers aren’t interested in producing English versions. They're French. They're willing to license the rights to do English translations, but historically, licensees who have attempted to provide English translations of these books have not sold enough copies to recoup the expenses involved. The company that produced the English translations of Blacksad went bankrupt. The Loisel Peter Pan series had 2 English language volumes, but they didn’t sell well enough, so the rest of the series is in French only.

Stuart has hand picked all the titles we import. We were the first US source for Sky Doll and Songes:Coraline. We are pleased to provide US exposure for the books we import. We derive no financial benefit when a book is translated.

Translating these stories is more challenging than just plugging in the equivalent English words. French story telling sensibilities are different. It is nearly impossible to translate cultural references and vernacular. As a result, the English translations that have been produced in the past were often disappointing

Since Stuart doesn’t speak or read French, one of his main criteria for selecting an import is that the art alone must convey some sense of story.

Why do some titles sell out so quickly?

We are a small company with a limited budget for inventory. We simply cannot afford to purchase hundreds of copies of every book. We do our best to anticipate demand for certain titles, but there is always the risk that demand will exceed our supply. We encourage patrons to contact us and let us know if they can commit to buying a title from us. This helps us budget our inventory and allows us to stock up on a specific title to meet that need. Delays in re-stocking popular import titles can also contribute to sell-out situations. We are at the mercy of publishers, shippers, and other variables when trying to re-stock imports.

Why are some of the books so expensive?

Stuart works hard to price the books fairly, and he himself does most of the work at all levels to make the books available on our website. Out of print books are in limited supply. When you buy a $10 sketchbook at a con, remember that you ALSO PAID the admission cost, transportation, lodging etc to acquire the book at that rate, not to mention your time. For many of the titles we carry, we are the only US source for the book. This means Stuart must establish relationships with galleries, artists, publishers, distributors, and shipping companies to get the book into our hands to supply to our patrons. With import books, there are additional steps involved. All of this effort takes time and money, but the result is, we are able to bring you a selection of books not available anywhere else. You are able to order the book from us off our website, get information about the book, and have the book shipped to you in a timely way, protected from damage. When we order books, we do not get the same level of service we are committed to provide to you. Each time we order a new round of import books, we are subjected to unexpected delays, translation and transportation issues, non-delivery of paid goods, exchange rates, customs holds, etc. The price of the books is the result of many factors, including the value of the book and the service involved to bring it to the US for our patrons to enjoy. By providing you with a large selection of titles, all in one place and in a range of prices to suit your needs, we save you the time and effort involved in finding these books for your reference library.

Why don’t you sell some of the popular books available at other stores?

There are many wonderful art books and artist sketchbooks. We couldn’t possibly carry every title available. Many books can be purchased through traditional retail book stores, on line, or at our colleagues such as Bud’s Art Books (formerly Bud Plant Comic Art), Secret Headquarters, Meltdown, Nucleus etc. Our niche is finding and offering the books you can’t find anywhere else. There is the occasional overlap, but in general, if you can find it other places we try not to stock it.

Can I get scans of the original art?

We prefer when possible to sell originals in person. The artists enjoy learning what inspires a collector to purchase a particular work. Since the artist knows the story behind the artworks creation, they also enjoy learning how and why it moves on to a private collection. We do scan what we can, but we are not a gallery. Our primary focus is book selling. Part of the issue with scans is, of course, unauthorized replication of the images off of our site.

Do you publish a printed catalog?

After many years of producing printed catalogs, we have had to suspend this service for the time being to meet the demands of the website. Our older catalogs are prized collectors items now, for the details about the books and artists listed.

Stewardship - "stuart ng" is an action word

Getting to know how we work and why we do things the way we do will help us help you.

Think of “Stuart Ng” as an action word….”stuarting” if you will…

“Stuart ng” is learning about the background of artists you like, and looking at the art and artists that influenced them.

“Stuart ng” happens when we acquire books from a private collection or on consignment from an artist, then guide those titles into the hands of a new owner, moving that treasury of experience and inspiration onto the next generation.

You’re “stuart ng” when you browse to really look at the books and images and discover more than just what you were looking for.

“Stuart ng” is spending a week’s salary on a stack of books, knowing it’s less expensive than travelling the distance Stuart has covered for you to find and hand-select the books to make them all available at one location. You know a $10 sketchbook you picked up at a con costs you time and the price of admission, meals, hotel and transportation to acquire. When you can’t get to a con, you can count on us to try to supply the books to you for a fair price negotiated directly with the artists, saving you and the artists the aggravation of seeing sketchbooks sold for profit at auction.

In many cases, sources with highly desired books contact us to handle sales for them. They trust us to provide the books to artists, fans and educators on terms that are fair to everyone. The word steward means caretaker. We are all stewards of the art we treasure. When you preserve, promote, and respect these traditions, images and art ….you are stewarding… and “stuart ng.”

Stewardship - small and personal, not industrial and automated

Most of our patrons find us via personal referral or by finding us on the internet. Because we have a website (more on that later), there is the impression that we are a large company.

In fact, we are a small company of 3 people: Stuart, one full-time staff member, Peggy, and me. When we are really in over our heads (like for Comic Con), we have a group of bookseller friends and student interns that pitch in to help us. We don’t have staff or departments. Everything that needs to get done to serve your order gets done by one of us.

Running a small business is a big headache. The fun for all of us is being part of our community of patrons and the artists we serve. I really miss the days when someone else handled IT, HR, and accounting!

We are not

We are your personal contact between the books and the artists. We can do a lot for you… but we can’t do everything at once.

Being a patron of Stuart Ng Books is more than clicking through an order form or filling an electronic shopping cart.

Your Stuart Ng Books experience should be more than a retail transaction.

The benefits we bring you are as unique as Stuart Ng. He alone selects the books we offer. He never offers a title for sale until he’s gone through the entire book himself to make sure the art meets his expectations. Hand selecting and personally cataloging each title isn’t efficient. It’s effective.

Artists tell us they like to see their books on our website. They know Stuart and they trust his opinions. We are grateful for this support and confidence.

Stewardship - hand-selling books in the internet age

Prior to our association with Wendling, Stuart Ng Books was a boutique mail-order business selling out of print titles.

Stuart had managed a Crown Books, but bookselling grew out of his interest in book collecting, not retailing. For many years, Stuart and I attended book fairs, collecting books in various genres, and getting to know a coterie of book dealers.

In general, booksellers aren’t business people. Most of the old school book dealers came to book selling after retirement from traditional jobs in industry or academia. They had pensions and benefits and liked books. Book selling allowed them to make a little pocket money and cover their expenses, but they didn’t need to make a living at it. Bookselling was an opportunity to travel in the book world, acquire books and exhibit at book fairs.

These were the people who became our mentors as we transitioned from “real jobs” with regular hours and benefits to the roller coaster life of self-employment. We thought we making a lifestyle choice. We had no idea at the time the level of risk we were taking. We were shockingly na├»ve about the realities of running a small business.

In the pre-internet era, book fairs and book stores were wonderful opportunities for serendipity…. You might arrive looking for a specific book, but you learned much more from what you found by accident on the shelf, or better yet, what you were introduced to by the dealer.

Stuart was schooled in these traditions…. Hand selling books, and looking for opportunities to expand a library, not just fill it, by learning in depth about books and artists he never knew about before.

With the arrival of the internet, that era of book collecting and book selling has disappeared. Now there are fewer book fairs. Many of the small brick and mortar used book stores have closed.

Our goal at Stuart Ng Books is to bring you the best of hands-on bookselling traditions in the internet age.

FAQ & Stewardship - our Claire Wendling connection

I am convinced that the success of Stuart Ng Books has very little to do with us, and everything to do with Claire Wendling. Her art needed to reach a US audience and that propelled Stuart into becoming her ambassador.

Stuart discovered the work of Claire Wendling via her sketchbook Desk back in 2000. Stuart’s French friend Claude would send European art books he thought Stuart might be interested in. I remember when Stuart first put Desk in my hands and asked “what do you think of this?” I was blown away… and got even more excited when I realized these powerful images were the work of a woman artist.

With our initial order of Desk, Stuart became the first US bookseller to import Claire’s books. Despite the mythos in the animation community surrounding Claire’s year at Warner Bros Animation in the 1990s, she was virtually unknown in the states. Stuart’s hand-selling of Desk to influential artists, industry professionals and academics launched the Claire Wendling phenomenon in the US.

We quickly sold of out all the copies of Desk we were able to obtain. This set the stage for the success of Iguana Bay 2.0 and Drawers 1.0 and 2.0. Soon other US distributors and book sellers started importing Wendling books. Claire's work now inspires leading artists across the globe in the fields of illustration, animation, gaming, comics and commerical art.

Desk initiated the ongoing relationship between Stuart Ng Books and Claire Wendling. We could not imagine back then that we would end up publishing the US version of Desk in 2006 in order to bring our favorite Wendling book back into print. In spite of the odds, the answer with Wendling issues is often “yes, it is possible.”

Yes, Stuart knows Claire. Yes, he sees her every year. Yes, I have met her too. Yes, she is even more amazing in person than on the page. Yes, I adore her.

With certain people, you might have an expectation of what it would be like to meet them. You hope they meet the expectation, but often the experience falls short. Meeting Claire exceeds your expectations. She is brilliant, funny, luminous, and magical. Meeting Claire is like meeting a unicorn.

Claire doesn’t see herself as famous and influential. She is not a recluse, but she doesn’t seek attention. We are honored to know her. By sharing what I can about her on this blog, I hope to share this message with her fans:

Enjoy the work. Be inspired by it. Be respectful of it and the artist. Appreciate the gifts. We all want more, of course. But Claire is only one person. That old rumor that, due to the range of styles produced under the name, “Wendling” was the name for a team of artists working together: it isn't true . Give things time to happen.

We are always hopeful that Claire will have a chance to visit the US again someday… she has some good memories of her year in Los Angeles, and she has open invitations from colleagues and art schools (and us of course!)… but at present there are no set plans for Claire to travel to the US.

FAQ - Steven Ng & the other Stuart Ngs

Stuart has an older brother, Steven Ng, who also attends many conventions. You can see images from Steven’s art collection at (CAF). Steven and Stuart do look a bit alike, but Steve is slightly taller and usually has a shorter haircut. Steve is the “transportation captain” for us at WonderCon and Comic Con, since he and Stuart drive the trucks we rent to bring the books to our booth.

Stuart is not the only Stuart Ng we know about ……. one is a concept artist and designer living in Canada. You can view his website at The other Stuart Ng is a financial planner for a film studio’s credit union. The Stuart of Stuart Ng books isn’t related to the other Stuart Ngs.

FAQ - Who is Stuart Ng of Stuart Ng Books?

There’s background information about Stuart under “About Us” on the website, so I won’t repeat his resume here. The main thing to know about Stuart is that books and art are his passion. That’s how he became a bookseller. For over 30 years, he’s been collecting books and studying about illustration and animation art and artists.

Stuart Ng Books became Stuart’s full-time job in 1997. He loves what he does, and like any small business owner, his life is his work and his days are 24/7. There is never a moment when he isn’t thinking about how to promote the art and artists he loves, and find the best books for his patrons.

Bookselling is not a sensible way to make a living. Stuart Ng is a romantic, and Stuart Ng Books is a love story.

I have known Stuart since 1983. Neither of us imagined we would end up as booksellers. However, this is the role where Stuart is best able to use his unique abilities and help artists. There is no logical reason for Stuart Ng Books to exist. We have no business background. Nothing about what we do makes sense as a business plan or model. I have attended some small business seminars and tried to learn more about what “real” businesses are like…. but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no entrepreneur. I don’t run Stuart Ng Books. I'm the one that worries that the business is running both of us into the ground. My anxieties aside, it’s obvious to me that Stuart has found his niche. Stuart skills are helpful to our patrons and the artists we serve. This is a community we both care about, and Stuart gets to do something he loves for a living.

It’s karma.

And it has a lot to do with Claire Wendling.

How do you pronounce "Ng"?

Let’s begin with the whole “NG” issue.

Some patrons refer to us as Stuart “N-G” Books.

Ng isn’t just letters from the alphabet. Stuart Ng is Stuart’s name.

Stuart’s last name is just 2 letters. It’s Chinese. The last name is pronounced “ing”… like the suffix in drawing, painting, or if you’ll permit the association… Wendling.

Behind the Scenes at Stuart Ng Books

Welcome to Behind the Scenes at Stuart Ng Books. This is a personal blog about what it’s like to be part of the team here with Stuart. This blog was started in July 2008, right after Comic Con.