Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
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?