There is a definite romance and thrill involved in the process of publishing a book. I think it’s the same sensation that so many experience in these days of homemade videos and social media. Real or imagined, there’s an element of being validated when you can go to a public space and see images and content that you created, and there it is for the whole world to see. The doors have swung open and, what was once only accessible for the chosen few, is now available to the masses.
But we’ve lost a lot of quality because of the wide open availability to these public spaces.
Thousands upon thousands (millions and billions?) of videos get published online, and so many of them are very amateurish. Many are just flat out terrible. The majority of them are just average. A lot of the average group are above average. And a smaller percentage of those are terrific.
But terrible or terrific, they all get the job done, delivering to their audiences whatever is their message. And because they are all published in a public space, they are validated. Even the poorly made ones.
The only quality control is simply the masses who vote with their thumbs up or down. Success is measured by the number of likes and clicks. Although quality certainly is a factor, popularity is the new measure of success. If you simply publish your content online, you’re validated and thus successful.
I think the same thing is happening with self publishing.
Ever since the invention of the printing press and book printing, there’s been a measure of quality control, because book publishers simply would not invest resources into works that were poorly done.
But today, anyone with a manuscript and a few thousand dollars can publish a book, no questions asked. No matter how wonderful or terrible it is. Because we’ve lost that step of quality control. So whether it’s wonderful or terrible, anyone willing to pay for printing can be a published author. And having published a book is at a whole other level of validation. Words can’t describe the heart flutters you get when seeing your name on the front cover of a book.
But our books are a lot like those online videos …
An online video isn’t like a movie. Movies are full of camera tricks and special effects, all designed for the purpose of giving the viewer an amazing experience. The purpose of most videos is simply information sharing, and the camera is only needed for recording the persons speaking. No tricks or special effects needed here.
Terrible or terrific, most videos are made about the same way. So what’s the difference? What makes the terrific ones so terrific? It’s partly content. It's partly delivery.
But delivery is subject to a lot of different variables … a speaker can perform flawlessly and be dull and uninteresting. Or they can be not so perfect and yet be fun and entertaining to watch.
Some of it is, of course, just the personality of the speaker. But there’s more to it than just that … it’s also how interested and passionate the speaker is about the subject. If they are excited about it and are eager to share the information, then their audience will likely be interested and excited about it, too. All that passion and energy flows out from the speaker’s heart, and touches the viewer’s heart and evokes an emotional response.
It may not be a big, booming response – it might be barely imperceptible – all the viewer knows is that he/she really enjoyed that video. That imperceptible connection was made, because that speaker had a storyteller’s heart.
And the exact same thing can happen with a reader.
This website is mostly about helping self publishers make their picture books look great … what the printer needs, how to layout type and graphics, tips on the art. Packaging is important. It draws readers in for a closer look … what will they find when they open that gorgeous, well-produced book?
But you can follow all the rules. You can achieve perfection on every page, in every line, and every word. You can do everything right and still give that reader a terrible experience.
You need a storyteller’s heart.
Most creatives have this innately. It’s the most valuable tool they possess. It’s a very intuitive tool and some can wield it effortlessly right out of the box. Others have to put in a little extra effort to learn how to use it. But don’t think for a moment that it’s some mysterious unachievable skill you’ve either got or not.
For a children’s book writer and drawer, simply the fact that you’re interested in children’s books is a good indication that you’ve got a storyteller’s heart.
In this month’s blogs let’s talk about what that is and how to put it to work to make our books terrific.