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Dispatches from the Digital Revolution

Google Chrome’s ad: “An Awesome World” about a self-published “awesome dad”

Have you seen Google Chrome’s video about children’s book author Dallas Clayton? I happened to catch it during X Factor commercials last week. (Don’t judge. I was curious.)

The ad describes Clayton’s goal to write and illustrate a story for his son about “dreaming big.” After shopping An Awesome Book to publishers with no success, however, he made the decision to post it on the web for free. As a result of some major grassroots success (and a lot of downloads), the book was eventually acquired and published by HarperCollins Children’s. See Google’s full ad below:

In the video, Clayton states, “To me, it was never about writing a physical book; it’s about sharing an idea with as many people as possible.” And this is an interesting capture of the world in which we now operate.

Though producing a physical book may not have been his primary goal, thanks to the viral success of his first book, he went on to write An Awesome Book of Thanks! (published by AmazonEncore in 2010, soon to be distributed in hardcover by HarperCollins), An Awesome Book of Love (HarperCollins, December 2012), and Make Magic! Do Good! (Candlewick, November 2012).

In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Clayton stated that he never intended to spite the industry by going the self-publishing route; rather, he just wanted to share his story, and he is grateful for the opportunity to work with publishers. (Note that this PW article is only available to members, but you can read an excerpt of the piece on Clayton’s website.)

It raises interesting questions about the publishing process itself, and particularly, where self-publishing fits into this landscape.  Just this summer, for instance, we learned that Penguin acquired Author Solutions. As the PaidContent article noted:

[Penguin’s CEO] Makinson said that an increasing number of bestselling books either are self-published or started out that way. The two most well-known examples are 50 Shades of Grey and Amanda Hocking’s ”Trylle” trilogy. And Penguin recently  acquired the rights to two bestselling self-published titles, On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves and Bared to You by Sylvia Day.

Of course, not all self-published authors will end up with a book deal, and perhaps not all of them want one. But self-publishing options do provide an interesting alternative to the traditional solicited manuscript approach, and writers have more choices at their disposal than ever before. (And yes, I truly apologize for putting a children’s book and 50 Shades in the same post.)

Back to the point: though I do think that this Google ad likely romanticized a lot of the back story and hard work that was likely involved in a project like this, I appreciate their sentiment: “The web is what you make of it.”

I don’t think anyone would disagree; the question now is for traditional publishers and self-publishers alike to figure out how to leverage online channels in the most productive (and discoverable?) way.

I am curious to hear your thoughts on this video. Do you think Google’s commercial adds more credibility to the self-publishing approach? Or do you find it romanticized and unrealistic?

4 comments on “Google Chrome’s ad: “An Awesome World” about a self-published “awesome dad”

  1. kosieeloff
    October 17, 2012
  2. kosieeloff
    October 17, 2012

    I haven’t done a visual communication assignment in years, but here goes. Google’s adding more credibility to self-publishing by adding its *own* credibility to self-publishing – and this video demonstrates that.

    One important subtext throughout the video is that “Google can make your dreams come true”. The video shows the narrator first typing “how to publish a book”, then reconsidering and adding “self” into the search bar [0:13 onwards]. Also listen to what he’s saying – especially the “turned it down” part.

    This, of course, happens while he’s using Google Search. Google has provided information about self-publishing just in the nick of time when “no-one else” would support his idea.

    The second part to this subtext is that Google provides more than information. I noticed references to Google products popping up often [1]. The rise of self-publishing is in part attributed to the availability and usability these tools – and Google Accounts are (for the most part) free.

    [1] In order of appearance: Chrome, Gmail, Google+, Drive, Google Translate, an Android-driven tablet, YouTube… surely they could’ve squeezed in a few more [2]?

    [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Google_products

  3. Tina Adams-Carter
    October 21, 2012

    I say whatever it takes. If you have a dream and no one else believes in it then follow that dream and make it what you want. Own IT! In the past I have written articles for local magazines and blogs. Twice I won a writing contest based on a certain topic or event. Never in my wildest dreams would I have known how hard it would be to publish a Children’s book. However, I have come up with some new ideas in how to get my dream out there. Congrats to anyone who has a dream! because once you stop dreaming, well…life just sort of looses some spark. : ) Oh, and if anyone would like to help me with my dream please feel free to contact me.

    • Marlowe Hicks
      January 24, 2013

      I too have a dream of self publishing children’s books. Maybe we can connect.

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This entry was posted on October 16, 2012 by in Opinion and tagged , , , , .

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