too many books illustration. Mark Fearing
Here’s an update on my book-letting. Two months ago I wrote about my need to get rid of books. That perhaps being buried alive by books in my studio isn’t the way I want to go…though honestly, it’s not a bad way all things being equal.
And now for some blog-honesty…I haven’t gotten rid of one single book.
I tried. We had visitors for Thanksgiving and I tried to talk them into taking some books with them to read on the way home. But they already had plenty of books.
It gets worse…I recently purchased three new books and my bet is the Holidays will see me get at least one or two or three or more. So I am losing the ‘war on books’. I may never move from this house. I don’t have the energy to box-up all these books…
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Too many books. Too many shelves packed with books.
There, I said it. I have too many books and they are beginning to weigh on me more than I want them to. So it’s time to start deleveraging. So to speak.
It’s a big decision to make. But I plan on getting a box, then going through all the books on my shelves and I will keep only the books that fill that one box. No more, no less. I have too many tomes that I haven’t looked at in 15 years. I have those ‘Art Of’ books from animated films. Probably a dozen of them. Beautiful big, heavy, books. Love the art in them.Wonderful to casually page through, like I have time to casually page through anything anymore.
I do almost all of my visual research on the web now. I have directories full of art samples. I find myself going to the books less and less often for research. Either because of sloth or…well mainly because of sloth. This will not be an easy task but I need to clear the overstuffed shelves, the stacks on tables, the piles on the floor.
I’ve done this with CD’s and DVD’s and records and cassettes. Media storage nightmares all of them. I have three or four comic book cartons that need to go too. I’ve managed to ignore them, stick them in the back of the studio, move them to different corners, but honestly – it’s time. I realized I haven’t looked at what’s in those boxes for many, many years. Some I don’t think have been opened since I moved from Wisconsin to LA. Oh my. I feel even older now.
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Posted in 3 Little Aliens, Book Signing, Book Store, books, Candlewick Press, Earthling!, graphic novels, So you want to catch bigfoot?, The Book That Eats People, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot on April 13, 2012 |
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I got to watch rain dance across the open fields on my way down to Salem last night for a book signing. I’d like to thank the Morningside Elmentary school for being such a great host. I had a ton of fun meeting creative kids and talking about ‘drawing’ stories.
I was also really excited to be talking to kids about Earthling! for the first time (Thanks to Chronicle Books for some early support for Earthling!) as well as signing favorite copies of The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, The Book That Eats People and So You Want To Catch Bigfoot.
Thank you to the staff and parents and students who came out to celebrate books, illustration and storytelling. I saw some wonderful student books in progress and was excited to see so many students creating original tales of monsters, aliens, penguins and lemons!
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I read that Taco Bell is making taco shells out of Dorito chips. Talk about making a food product even less appealing…but it got me thinking. Perhaps the answer to all the problems the traditional book format is having can be solved by making – edible books. Print them on Doritos. Licensed Barbie books would be on bubble gum pages. Anything by Lemony Snicket would taste like lemon of course.
Barnes & Noble could become a lunch destination. The remainder bins would be take-out.
If you get 3 chapters into a book and lose your interest, no problem, just eat it. Let’s see an e-book do that.
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Over the weekend we stopped into the local Barnes & Noble. It was nice to see the store busy, if not exactly packed. The coffee shop was full and they had a nice selection of toys and games to go along with the books. The kids book section was well stocked. About 30% of the floor space was left to ‘classics’. Books originally released at least 20 years ago. So that limits how much floor space they have for new titles. They had a large display area of picture books, with covers out (YEAH!) and had a bazillion middle grade novels/illustrated novels. Vampires, nerds, monsters, kids investigating mysteries…it was completely overwhelming. I had no idea that there were so many of these type of books. After about 10 minutes they all ran together. Reading about a half dozen first pages also brought home the sameness of many of them. But most of them looked great. Beautiful art and plenty of funny character names…
I glanced at the picture books, but if I spend too much time I tend to get kind of depressed. A few of the things that really bug me jump out – overly cute stuff and books where the characters all lack expression. Characters have basically the same look on every page. A look of bemused detachment. The characters seem to suffer from some sort of post modern malaise. They stare into the woods, or at one another like sullen teenagers. Favorite topics revolve around losing ones mittens, or a hat, or wanting to dance or something equally wry. There’s something a tad disingenuous with them though. They don’t seem to capture much about the spirit of younger kids that I pick up on, but they capture plenty of ironic detachement.
But overall I was glad to see what appears to be a fairly healthy book store. We ended up buying a book/game combo thing for an upcoming birthday. My daughter wanted a DVD, but honestly, it’s easier to just order it on iTunes than have another chunk of plastic in the house, so they lost out on that sale.
But overall, the book store was still alive. That made me happy.
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I wonder what the new year will bring to the publishing industry? It was easy to find articles in 2011 predicting the end of dead-tree books and announcing the upending of an entire industry. Of course much has been written about the changes sweeping the entire media landscape. But as 2012 starts, I’m reading two dead-tree books, and one book on my iPad. So I guess they can live together in peace. But what this means for the traditional business of selling and marketing books, I don’t know. Honestly, the biggest media consumption change for me is that I rarely go out to see films anymore. I watch them at home, months after they leave the theatre. So I’d rather be writing and publishing books than running movie theatres in 2012. The only growth the film industry has seen is from rising prices for tickets.
We also suffered through the closing of Borders in 2011 (years after we finally stopped hating them for moving into midsize markets and putting the local book shops out of business). But with Borders going under it left a lot of shelves that no longer needed to be filled and deleted a place where readers could discover new books while browsing aisles.
It feels a bit precarious to be making a living working on books in the year 2012. Especially since I spent many years of my career glued to the interactive and digital space. As 2012 starts I find myself working in one of the oldest media technologies. True, I use a computer to draw and paint. I send my final art on DVD or CD or FTP and the printing process uses digital technology at every step. But the finished product isn’t that different from a book crafted in 1454. That’s the strength of the platform and perhaps its weakness.
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The book is no longer available via Blurb. Look for news in summer of 2012 about a new version that will be released for reading on the iPad.
I’ve been very interested in the e-book fad. Well, the self publishing part of it is a fad. Of course I come from a background of comics, small press/self publishing AND making short animated films for the festival circuit. In comics, self publishing doesn’t carry the stigma it does in the ‘real’ book market. But as each day passes I think the issues become more complex and intertwined.
A few months back I published a free enhanced comic book for the iPad as an app. You can see Cave Bear and Duck here. It was a fun project. We developed it from scratch, recorded Tom Kenny (he of Sponge Bob fame) and got it into the App store for the iPad. It’s done well as a free download. I get a few emails from time to time about it. And I have to admit it’s a very particular type of comic book and not trying to be the broadest piece of entertainment. So I’m happy to see it finding readers. I would very much like to dig back into it and add more interactivity and perhaps some more material. But overall it’s been a worthwhile project that is satisfying because it ended up finding readers. That is the usual goal of someone who writes books or paints pictures, to find an audience. Making dummies and revising material isn’t REALLY the fun part…
Well, I have also made The Thing with No Head available as a e-book through Blurb. This too is an experiment. Blurb just started allowing for the publishing of books in the e-pub format for use in the iBook Store on the iPad and iOS devices. I wanted to try the process out and see how it worked and I already had the dummy in Blurb’s layout program called BookSmart. So it was as easy as proofing, again, and hitting export.
The Thing with No Head is available as a digital download for $4.00. It can be read on a computer or an iOS device. There is a print version also available on the Blurb store. Blurb makes you offer a print version if you want to sell an eBook version. The print version is very expensive as it is a print-on-demand product. I suspect Blurb will stop making you also sell print versions if they find any luck selling digital books. I’d rather sell e-books.
I have already learned a lot and I will write more about that later. But the process is still very disconnected. And while I don’t expect to sell bazillions of them, investigating the process fascinates me.
Blurb is not an ideal place to put a book such as this, but it will have to do for now. I guess it will make an appearance in the iBook Store at some point. But there is little way to market a book on the iBook Store right now for a self/small publisher. Especially as it is more or less a mixed-genre book. Trying to compete by sitting on the same page as Stephen King isn’t a great help. And it doesn’t help that the book is a hybrid. It is no easier to describe online as it would be in a book store. A comic-gothic-horror-kids focused-story in verse…Yeah, good luck with that…
I plan on taking it down in a few weeks, as I see nothing in the fine print that makes me keep it ‘in print’ and my experiment will be done. But the process is getting interesting and the opportunity for your work to find an audience can be fullfilling.
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I was casually munching my Kix cereal, scanning the morning paper looking for news I read three days ago online and saw another ‘Are Picture Books Dead’ editorial/essay type piece.
What’s more amazing? That I am reading an actual paper paper (It’s been theorized that only 8 people still read actual paper papers in the country) or that the story is back, not quite on the front page, but you know, a respectable Section B page 3.
I’m actually happy to see someone talking about picture books who are not writing, drawing, editing or selling picture books. That’s a win.
Are they dead? Alive? Or are they zombies, crawling onward even with legs hacked off, clawing for scraps of young children’s time (and brains of course)?
Honestly, I don’t know. And while I worry that an art form I love, that I work at, that I would like to continue to work at, may be teetering a bit in this age of cloud-everything-digital-entetainment-everywhere, there’s really not much I can do about it either way.
Judging by the kids I have contact with, they still love picture books. They develop a close bond with a book if they are given the opportunity to. And while I am an owner and user of an iPad, and my daughter enjoys it for games and some ‘interactive’ style books, she has never shown any interest in it being part of her bedtime. Once or twice she looked at a particular ‘bed time’ book on it. But the simple animation and sound effects ‘magic’ wore off quickly and it was back to dead tree media and the 100th reading of Crackers the Cat.
Dead, alive or zombie, I’ll continue to let them into our house. And I suspect many people will for many years. You could board over the windows and hide in the basement. But there’s no adventure movie in that.
PS. The Book That Eats People is not a zombie. It’s perfectly alive and was just nominated for a 2012 North Carolina Children’s Book Award!
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