(Posted June 26, 2015)

Jay Hosler, professor of biology
Jay Hosler, professor of biology

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- In the world of science-based comic books, Jay Hosler, professor of biology and author of four popular graphic novels grounded in biology, entomology and other disciplines, is a rock star.

After all, he's been featured in the New York Times, Discover magazine and the ultimate for a college professor -- the Chronicle of Higher Education. This year in April, Hosler debuted a new project, "Last of the Sandwalkers," a graphic novel focused on Lucy, a scientist beetle who leads a group of insect explorers, most of them beetles of various species, on a trek out of a desert oasis.

The book was released by First Second, a publisher specializing in graphic novels that is part of MacMillan Publishers. A decade or two ago, Hosler would have been able to promote his book through newspaper, radio and television exposure. Unfortunately for most authors not named Rowling, Roth or Stephen King, a publisher-paid-for book promotion tour is as rare as a Simon and Garfunkel reunion.

Luckily for Hosler, he was on sabbatical from teaching duties at Juniata, a liberal arts college noted nationally for science excellence. Hosler's release from classroom duties left him time to do some promotion.

"My sabbatical was primarily for finishing and promoting the book," he says. "I finished a second book and started a third." In addition, Hosler used part of his sabbatical time to start a new research program.

Aided by the marketing experts at his publisher, Hosler was able to book speaking engagements and did some book signing events at renowned bookstores within driving distance of his central Pennsylvania home, such as Politics & Prose, in Washington, D.C., and The Ivy Bookstore in Baltimore, Md.

One new twist was what the publisher called a "blog tour." The idea is to identify blogs dedicated to subject areas relevant to the author. In Hosler's case, he made a tour of blogs dedicated to comic books, children's literature and science.

Although Hosler never left his home during the "tour," that is not to say that the tour was easy. For the 14 blogs he spoke with he drew one of the beetle characters from "Last of the Sandwalkers" and wrote a short essay about the character and provided "fun facts" about that particular beetle species. Each blog published Hosler's essays and art in the week leading up to and after the debut of the book in bookstores.

Jay Hosler's other books include "Clan Apis," about the life cycle of a bee, "Sandwalk Adventures," about a mite living in Charles Darwin's eyebrow, "Optical Allusions," about the anatomy of the eye, and "Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth."

Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.