This is not my first time publishing, over the years I have produced hundreds of publications, several magazines, dozens of zines but this is the first real book. When I say real it’s not to diminish the importance the previous works I have been involved with but real in the sense that mistakes are no longer an accepted part of the process. I believe in making mistakes and having the audacity to do it in public as a way of remaining authentic. Some of today’s most amazing companies (and charities) know that making public mistakes is good for the bottom line because it’s an opportunity to interact in a meaningful way with your audience. It’s not the actual mistake that you make but how you correct it that can change everything, especially the perceptions people have of you. An organization that regularly makes public mistakes but rectifies them in a meaningful gets to establish trust in way that print ads simply cannot. That’s not so true with perfection because ‘perfect’ doesn’t exist as a constant state and sooner or later that perfect persona (or brand) you’ve created will tumble under the scrutiny of those who you have set the standards for. Like it or not, the book publishing industry is about creating the perfect illusion and so be prepared to test, test and test your finished book, before it goes for a full printing because it’ll save you an expensive reprint and potentially derail your marketing aans by several months.
Despite this being my third print run (sounds impressive eh?!), the previous print-on-demand were a way for me to take the story from words on a page to a tangible hardcopy that I could share and get feedback on. I first published The Great Meeting Room in 2000 right after we returned from the Friends For Life Bike Rally, a six day bike ride from Toronto to Montréal. The experience was rich with human contact and each of us created expansive friendships that only really impacted me once I returned to work and realized just how disconnected I was to the people around me. This disconnection worked both ways and it left me craving something greater and so began my pursuit in finding my truth and connection to the everyday world. The day after our trip I sat down to write the original manuscript for this book which was actually a ninety-two pages black and white spiral bound zine that I made myself at a local Kinkos for the boy I met on my trip*. It was a way of explaining how much the trip had impacted me and tangibly expressing my desire to bring that dynamic into my everyday life. The Great Meeting room was, and still is, an allegory for a world that has placed it’s faith in institutions instead of people.
If you want praise or to feel good about your work, show it to your mother, otherwise get out there and find people who can be that critical eye.
In 2011 I edited the book down to a solid 48 pages, printed a limited edition of 100 but the majority I gave out to the media, some schools, a few of my peers plus a few Toronto celebrities in hopes someone would review, comment or praise the book. While I did get some limited exposure, it allowed me to get my book out there into people’s hands and get real feedback, sometime harsh, but always helpful. I appreciate that we all love a compliment and that’s especially true when we’re shopping around our own work but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s helpful, it’s not. You need to seek out people who will help you improve your work, not serenade you with compliments because they are too afraid to offend. I loved hearing people tell me just how fantastic my story or the book design but those ego boosts turned out to be only that, a boost for my ego. In fact I would argue the people who give you nothing but praise are doing you a disservice. If you want praise or to feel good about your work, show it to your mother, otherwise get out there and find people who can provide a critical eye. Printing a book costs money so give your book to people who will provide valuable comments on potentially what’s wrong, what could be better, shorter, clearer, more creative or concise. Be selective with the criticism, you don’t have to do everything people suggest, just be mindful of what comments resonate with you or trigger you into an emotion.
Last week I signed off on my printing proof which means the books are now shipping route our apartment in New York City which is all really exciting but also fear inducing because all this writing, editing, editing, editing, editing, soliciting feedback and proofing the book has literally taken years and to think I have only just begun because now I have to sell them.
*That boy is Stewart Borden, fifteen years later he’s still the most important person in my life.