Jamie Russo, the author of The Underdog Paradox, was my very first guest. Now, he’s published a new picture book with Ash Lamb.
If Creators are like Wizards is something Jamie likes to call a Minimum Viable Book or MVB. More about that later. Let’s get to know the authors a little better first.
Jamie lives in Brooklyn, New York, and enjoys a plain, classic cappuccino. He has a background in product design but also loves exploring his creative side with colourful language and beautiful visuals.
Ash Lamb is an illustrator from Barcelona, Spain, with British roots. He recently discovered Twitter, prefers water over coffee, and was inspired by Jack Butcher’s Visualise Value Community to share visuals on the social platform.
And, of course, I’d also created the opportunity for these two creative geniuses to work together.
Jamie got introduced to Ash’s visuals via the Visualise Value community. They got in touch and decided to cooperate on a thread about simplifying the creative process.
They were happy with the result and a few months later they had the idea to turn this thread into a picture book.
Originally, they wanted to inspire their Twitter community of fellow creators to disconnect and see what they can do with pen and paper. But the book turned out to be a lot more. Readers said they’ll read it to their children or even give it to them.
If Creators Are Like Wizards is an inspiring book for the entire family. https://anchor.fm/coffeeandpens/episodes/5-Jamie-Russo–Ash-Lamb–Minimum-Viable-Books-e17dhmd
Minimum Viable Book
Some authors work on their books for months, years or even decades. It’s a big risk because they never know for sure what the result will be.
So Jamie created the concept of a Minimum Viable Book. It’s something small with enough effort to be great but without lots of work behind it.
It can be used to better understand the target audience and test the market.
If Creators Are Like Wizards is one of these MVBs. It’s a creative book with a couple of constraints.
- Max. 20 pages.
- Max. 280 characters per page
- The content could fit in a thread
- Same page structure everywhere
- Every illustration has a pencil
Jamie has made a few of these small books for himself, friends and family, but he never had the idea to share/publish one until now.
If this project with Ash works out, he would love for this to open the market for similar projects. He could work with other illustrators, Ash could work with other writers and new duos could create similar projects.
It’s not that hard to get started and it’s a great experience to get to know and understand the self-publishing process.
There are also great tools on the market to create these booklets for yourself and hold your product before you take it to the market.
Testing the content
Even though it’s a short book, the content went through a lot of test phases.
Jamie and Ash were brainstorming a lot about the creator space. They asked themselves questions like: ‘What sort of unconventional advice can I give to creators?” and “What are some fun metaphors to compare painters or orators to writers or creators in general?”
Jamie tried to tweet one idea on Twitter every day. That’s his idea refinery. He then curated the best ideas in his weekly newsletter Goodnote. Afterwards, the best ideas made it to his website. And finally, the best of the best are in the book.
Working together remotely
Ash and Jamie live six hours and about 6,150 km (just shy of 3,900 miles) apart.
But this wasn’t a hurdle. On the contrary, they worked asynchronously for almost the entire project, using tools like Twitter, www.playbook.com, Telegram and Google Docs. The podcast interview they jointly did for Coffee & Pens was only the second time they were on a call together. Can you believe that?
So how did they make it work?
They tried to make life easier for each other. Jamie, for example, used flavourful language, metaphors and personifications to give Ash something to play with. He also gave him full control over the creative process.
Working together means giving each other input and feedback, not forcing things. They even suggest switching roles from time to time to get new inputs and share ideas.
Their mutual trust made working together across a large distance possible. And it even had its perks. Because of the time difference, one could often see the progress the other had made during the night.
Working with Constraints
Another key aspect in their successful joint project is the addition of constraints.
Constraints make working together easier. There are fewer questions and doubts. No discussions about how long the text on each page should be or what the illustration should look like. These things were pre-defined.
And there’s more: constraints take your individual work to the next level too. Ash practises minimalism in his life and work. By focusing on the essentials, keeping things simple and limiting your projects, you can achieve many great things.
Of course, constraints help writers too. Think of poetry like sonnets and haikus that have been around for centuries. Or the more recent atomic essays that thrive on Twitter.
Constraints don’t limit your creative freedom, they can enhance it.
Working together with someone else adds another layer to the creator. Every creator has some sort of skill. But they often lack the right contacts and the public support of an audience.
With this project, Jamie showed he believed in Ash and vice versa. They lifted each other to new heights because of their mutual support.
And they want to encourage others to do the same.
In Jamie’s words: “Go out there and have fun; you never know which two atoms are going to collide but when they do it creates something really special.”