How To Do What You Love And Do It Right: An Interview With Peter Simeti, Founder Of Alterna Comics

Alterna Comics is a now thriving independent comic and graphic novel publishing company founded by Peter Simeti in 2006. Starting out with only a handful of titles, Alterna now features dozens including the very popular “THE CHAIR” which is slated for a film release in 2016. We caught up with Peter to ask him what it was like to start your own company right out of college and how he’s made it a success for writers and artists alike across a broad range of genres.

Thought Catalog: Peter, tell me a little about what it was like for you to start Alterna Comics. How old where you? What spurred you into doing it? I think most people that don’t know much about the industry and are just familiar with the big 2, Marvel and DC, but there’s a lot more companies making comics aren’t there?

Peter Simeti: Well, I was only about 6 months outside of graduating college in 2006, so I was 22 at the time. Alterna doesn’t really have a headquarters in an office building, it’s mostly wherever I am – and an internet connection. So there’s not a lot of overhead in terms of things like that. Creators store titles in their homes, I store titles in mine, etc, so there’s also not really a large inventory center or warehouse either. We’re pretty grassroots and bare bones but at the same time, fully functional and pretty comprehensive. I have a background in fine art and graphic design and have had experience with web design, pre-press, production, and post-production on graphics and materials. So all of that has come into use. There’s no staff at Alterna – just myself and the amazingly talented creators that publish their books through the company.

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Thought Catalog: What are Alterna Comics readers like?

Peter Simeti: I find our readers to be really supportive and excited about comics in general. They love the stories and the art but also enjoy connecting with creators which is usually a bit easier to do on the independent levels.

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Thought Catalog: I picked up the Alterna Comics Starter Bundle in preparation for this interview and was struck by the distinct lack of typical superhero comics in the collection. What I saw instead was what I think is a variety of highly imaginative stories presented in comic/graphic novel form. Was this an intentional decision on your part or is it simply the kind of work Alterna has attracted?

Peter Simeti: Well, it’s never been a conscious decision in terms of ignoring superhero books. It’s more an effort to publish great stories of high quality. Whether they be horror, action, humor, superhero, fantasy, etc. – that’s what I look for. Alterna has grown to have a bit of a trademark “mash-up” of genres that our readers seem to enjoy. I think most people realize that Marvel and DC pretty much have the market on superheroes, but it leaves a lot of room for other genres and characters to thrive and they can be just as exciting, interesting, and long-lasting as Batman or Spider-Man.

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Thought Catalog: In 2011, you and many other small businesses had financial troubles stemming from the Great Recession’s credit crunch. Tell me a bit about how crowdfunding affected your ability to keep going and how crowdfunding plays into Alterna Comics’ approach to publishing today.

Peter Simeti: Yeah that was a tough year. Almost all of our credit lines got cut down to what our balances were. So if we had $2,000 on a card, but a $12,000 credit line, we now had $2,500 on a card with $500 of credit space. It all happened at once too, which made it even worse. Especially being in a business where you first make (and pay) for product and then receive payment afterward – sometimes up to 6 months later – it put us dangerously close to going bankrupt from the sheer inability to operate the business. Luckily, our crowd-funding campaign at the time helped us to raise just enough money to provide some breathing space and restructure how we were operating. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success since that time and I’m relieved that we were fortunate enough to come across some great folks that really believed in what we were trying to do.

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Thought Catalog: What titles do readers seem to clamor for the most and why?

Peter Simeti: At this point, our most popular titles are the FUBAR books (recently established as an imprint of Alterna) where monsters/zombies/etc are placed in historical situations, generally famous battles and wars. The horror/action/historical element provides for some interesting reading and the books always have incredible art in them. Our other popular titles have been NOVO (sci-fi/fantasy by Michael S. Bracco) and my own title, a psychological horror film on death row called THE CHAIR, which is slated for a 2016 film release. If those books don’t sound appealing, we do have a large amount of titles with almost every genre covered, so we literally have something for everyone!

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Thought Catalog: What do you think is the best thing about Alterna Comics for the writers and artists?

Peter Simeti: Creators retain ownership of their stories and characters and Alterna doesn’t really get involved in merchandising and licensing unless the creator expresses interest in such a partnership. It’s a relatively standard thing at this point for most creator-owned publishers.

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Thought Catalog: Do you accept submissions and if so how many do you get?

Peter Simeti: Yes, we accept submissions on alternacomics.com – I’d advise prospective creators to please read the guidelines first. On average, we accept 1 submission for every 50 that gets sent our way. TC mark

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