The KDP experiment idea
Over the years I have collected sketches. I have consciously made it my mission to draw at least once a day. I noticed that my drawing ability almost seemed to diminish through lack of use. Perhaps it was laziness, or the demand on me with my employment in the workshop of the university. I had clearly neglected a thing I enjoyed doing.
I never thought that I would enjoy sketching in public. I chose my local Starbucks as a station and built up quite a relationship with the team there. Free green teas and fruit toasts kept me coming back and very soon I had my own little workspace on a well-lit mezzanine floor.
Buying a posh sketchbook encouraged me to fill it with lines and marks resembling something like the human form.
2016 passed, then 2017, 2018, 2019 and then 2020 happened. With lockdown engaged and other medical reason for not being at work I needed something to do creatively.
I started the long task of scanning all the sketchbooks with a mobile app and importing them into photoshop. With my Wacom pencil (a tool I was still becoming accustomed to) I managed to use it to an effect that tidied the image enough to look passable as “professional”.
Having to learn a few tricks on photoshop to lighten the image enough to create a pure white background, I started to see results. I had to individually touch up each drawing, correct the shading keep a consistent hue. It was a huge project. What with the scanning and each individual drawing being uniquely edited it slowly drove me to madness. However, over a series of months I got it done.
The next stage was finding a software that would allow me to create a book. My partner informed me that InDesign was a great platform for creating books and programs etc. So, I fiddled with the software with the help and patience of my partner, her tutorage was paying off. Soon I had a book filled with images. I categorised each book in years and each year had at least one hundred images in them.
However, the book format was not sitting right. The images needed introduction. After discussing it with my partner, she suggested the documentation of the method that I employ for the quick sketches. Feeling that she was onto something I set to writing down the rules behind my quick studies.
I found narrowing down the introduction a bit of a task. However eventually, after hours of nit picking and obsessing, I feel I summarized it well enough.
The Artists Spiel
After graduating from art school, things got a little stale in life. Creativity continued, but I was producing mundane pointless work on manufactured flimsy canvas. There is absolutely no problem with productivity. I strongly believe it is a good idea to be creative every day, in fact it is something I would advise to all people artists or not. However, my work at this time had no meaning, its quality started to diminish and there was no direction or point to what I was doing. After my last exhibition in I decided to go back to the basics with my artwork.
Having a job that allowed me to practise my hand skills within the areas of woodwork, plastics and laser cutting, I began experimenting with materials. I would create sculptures, make surfaces to draw and paint on, play with resins, silicone moulds, create frames and stretch canvases. During this time, I had a number of side projects on the go with many of the materials mentioned above. These projects are still on going and have grown into a quite substantial volume of work.
Towards the end of 2016 I started to flirt with the idea of drawing everyday as I felt my ability to draw, paint and understand mark making was suffering due to my enthusiasm with working with my hands in a workshop. I purchased one of those A4 sketch books with the waxy black cover, with the intention to draw one thing every day. In my lunch breaks I would go to a local café, enjoy a warm green tea and just sketch any thing on my mind.
Time went by and I discovered I just had a collection of random pencil drawings that made no sense and just felt empty. Towards the end of 2017, I decided to go into the new year with a more focussed goal concerning my drawing abilities. I made rules. Rules I discovered are important whilst drawing. I needed a subject; I chose people. I needed a tool; I chose a Berol pen. I needed something to draw on; so, I bought a fancy A5 sketch book with a leather cover and a little bit of elastic that wrapped round its belly. I also needed parameters in which to work in; so, I invented the ‘chew sip method’.
This is how I discovered the title of the series ’22 Chews & 1 Sip’. The method behind the chaotic collection of lines in my sketchbooks.
I wrote a set of rules. I often find personal touches to methodical practice often make perfect sense in your head, but do not come off so clearly on paper. It took me a while to make sense of it.
I thought It would be appropriate to include food and drink, as I do my sketches on my lunch. I usually use the number of chews and sips to determine when to stop sketching a subject.
I manged to round up the rules to a healthy round number. Ten rules people can loosely use to create similar fast studies.
The chew sip method
I. Find a comfortable place to sit, with a good view, plant your coat there so no one steals the spot.
II. Go get yourself a tea or whatever your choice of beverage is.
III. Get yourself something to munch on, or if your saving money, bring your own food.
IV. Go and sit down, ready your sketch book, choice of pen, arrange your tea and food and relax.
V. When you find your first subject, get your sketch book ready, pen in hand, take a good bite of food and hold.
VI. When food is in your mouth, on your first chew, connect your pen to the paper and start drawing.
VII. Chew twenty-two times, whilst sketching out the subject.
VIII. On the last chew ready your drink in one hand and take a sip.
IX. That sip is the close to your sketch, so finish off the sketch whilst you gulp.
X. Take another bite and start the process again. By the time you have finished your food and drink you will have collection of quick sketches.
Through this method I have collected a series of sketches over the years. As time progressed throughout the year, I could see an improvement in my mark making and the information recorded on the page.
This book is a collection from the latter part of 2017, although in my opinion it is not my best work, it is my most honest work. This process is a joy, you should go and try it yourself, I think you will be surprised. (The trick is to chew slow, that way you really savour the taste of whatever you are eating, just make sure it’s something yummy).
With that sorted I pressed on, proceeding with self-publication. I was keen to use Kindle direct publishing (KDP), although there were other platforms, I had my eyes set on that.
With KDP, authors can directly upload their book files, and it will appear in the Kindle store as an eBook for readers to purchase and instantly download. I liked the sound of that.
I learnt that the bigger the file the more it would cost me to publish the books. Being that my eBook was made up primarily of big jpegs, it meant I would have to remove quite a few of the images. The bigger the file size the less likely it would be that I would make money. Although money was not really the aim, I wanted to give my series a chance to grow out there in the world. So, I reduced the number of images in the book, selecting the best images. I chose 13 images which reduced the file size massively.
Pricing is important with KDP, the book needed to be at an affordable price. The recommended price is between £0.99 - £2.99. With prices like this you can enrol in schemes like KDP Select.
KDP Select allows authors to tap into more expansive Amazon benefits for their eBooks. Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) is one of those benefits. KDP Select makes your eBook available on KOLL.
KOLL, is a program open to Amazon Prime subscribers. It offers members who own a Kindle one free download per month. I didn’t mind this so much because I just wanted to get my work out there.
With that decided I needed now to create a cover for the books. There is a selection of available styles for book covers on KDP. However, I wanted to make my own and add a personal touch.
The chew sip method obviously revolves around food and drink. So, the book cover could have just that on the cover. This is something that all people are drawn to and can familiarise themselves with. Coffee shop food would make sense also as it is true to the setting in which I sketch.
I took pictures of objects that were relevant, Fruit toast, a tea bag, a crumpet, a tea stain and for the later editions of the series a face mask. I became ‘Photoshop happy’. A nice clean white background with a single image of one of the above.
The title font was my own design, written with my Wacom pencil. I purposely put no indication of what the books where about on the cover, I would leave that down to the categorisation on KDP. By doing this, it would open up the floor to readers that perhaps where not art bound, bringing in a new audience. Also, because I minimised the content of the book, I had to create a stamp saying, ‘sneak peek’. I coloured the stamp red which made the front covers pop. As it was on each of the covers along with my own font, it became a uniform feature for the book cover.
The book series was ready to go. So, I slowly released them over the month of December in 2020, starting of course with the earliest years.
With KDP it is encouraged that you promote your books yourself. Although there are a number of schemes you can use on the platform, I wanted to use my social media as a starting point.
I loved the way that amazon promote their book titles, so I used their compositions as inspiration. I created my own versions of them, promoting the eBook as downloadable on all modern devices. Also producing a bookshelf composition promoting the front covers on a bookshelf, with my art collective as a faded background. I used Instagram and Facebook as platforms to promote the book. Twitter was more effective however my account was closed down as they were concerned, I was spamming with my book promotion… I was not.
Later on, down the line I went on to use the offers available on KDP to promote the series also.
A great feature on KDP is an author’s profile, a place where you can upload your books, promotions, and bio. It is a great way of getting noticed, which after all is my aim.
All in all, this experiment was a great experience, and I thoroughly recommend doing it. It has given me real insight in the self-publishing industry. It was however a lot of work. Belonging to a publisher would certainly leave more room for you to practise as a creative as appose to being a creative/businessman.
This experiment has given me the confidence to write my own stories and use KDP as a platform, if only initially until the title gains traction and is noticed by a publisher. This experiment has set my final major project in a different direction.