In our Editorial Eye series, we go behind the scenes with comic and book editors to learn about their role in the creative process and discover how their passion for their industry helps shape their work.
Several comic companies have introduced imprints that cover more adult stories, which means books that invariably involve sex. In 2016, Oni Press introduced Limerence Press, spearheaded by managing editor, Ari Yarwood. The goal of the new imprint is in line with the dictionary definition of the word: “The state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one’s feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship.”
Taking inspiration from erotica comics publishers like Iron Circus Comics, and unlike the imprints of other publishers, Limerence Press is creating a platform devoted to inclusive, sex positive books with a heavy focus on education through “approachable books that reflect a wide variety of emotional and intimate experiences.”
“My goal,” explained Yarwood in an interview with The MNT, “is to publish books that dispel myths and shame that let the reader feel comfortable with their own personal sexuality, and that prioritize consent and communication.”
Limerence’s lineup of books began with Oh Joy Sex Toy and is slowly expanding. “I feel good about the imprint’s growth so far,” Yarwood told WWAC. “I’ve always known that it would be a small imprint, and I’ve aimed for three to four books per year. In these first couple years, we’ve put out books that could be brought to market quickly—reprints that needed new audiences and coloring books. This year we’ve been able to publish more new content: A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns and Open Earth, our first original graphic novel. I’m looking forward to being able to publish more books in the Quick & Easy line, as well as more OGNs in the future! There are lots of stories in development that I can’t wait to share with everyone.”
In terms of the sex education aspect of the imprint, Yarwood explains that she had to make a choice when she was younger as to whether or not she’d become an editor or a sex educator. Limerence is almost like the best of both worlds for her; however, she does her best to “defer to folks who have more lived experience, expertise, and time spent in sex education when dealing with nonfiction,” in addition to the research she puts in herself.
Managing Limerence’s editorial direction is only part of Yarwood’s job. She remains Oni’s managing editor, with two-thirds of her editorial slate taken up by Oni books, particularly kids books. “All told, I’m usually editing between 25 to 30 titles.” Her executive editorial responsibilities also include managing the editorial department as a whole as well as the publishing calendar.
“My weeks are pretty variable! If there’s a convention, I’ll be working the booth, scouting, and meeting up with creators. If there’s a batch of books going to the printer, I’ll be proofreading. If it’s the start of a new publishing season, I’ll be working with the calendar and moving books around so that everything fits right. In between all that, I’m answering emails, giving notes on scripts and art, attending meetings, and watching Twitter for industry updates and new artists. Email definitely keeps me the busiest!”
Yarwood approaches the editorial process itself as a relationship between herself and the creators. “My role in the process is to help the creators tell the best version possible of the story they’re crafting, and make sure it happens smoothly, on schedule, per print specifications, and that it is packaged and marketed in the best way to reach the right audience. The whole process goes best if there’s a level of trust between me and the creator, and there should be—I’m asking them to dedicate months (or years!) of their life to a book, and to trust me (and the rest of Oni/Limerence), to do right by that hard work.”
Her approach focuses on “honesty, humor, and kindness,” which, she finds, earns the best results. Her editorial process hasn’t necessarily changed over time, but she’s definitely learned to speak up more and be confident in delivering her input. “I’m a lot more upfront about my opinions than I used to be when I was starting out! You can be kind as well as clear and candid.”
The logistics and day-to-day tasks of any job can bog anyone down, but at the end of the day, Yarwood is passionate about her job and about “seeing creators and readers happy about a book. […] Seeing a debut author ecstatically showing off their book or being stoked about the spot gloss on the cover is awesome.” For Yarwood, it’s a reminder that she and her team are “making art that real people are going to hold in their hands.”
And when readers share how much a particular story means to them, it means the world to Yarwood. “It’s the impact that comics can have on people that I love the most, hands-down.”
Look out for Limerence’s latest books, A Guide to They/Them Pronouns, and Open Earth, by Sarah Mirk, Eva Cabrera, and Claudia Aguirre.