Archives for the month of: March, 2012

I tell you what, having a good idea and writing a book is the easiest part. Selling the book is far more difficult. In particular when you are not  a good sales person yourself.

Having had a publishing house some twenty odd years ago, I thought okay, I don’t need a publisher, I can do this job myself. I can find a proof-reader that’s all I need. The design and organising the printer is easy for me. And then, I will go and find somebody who does the warehousing and distribution. I really wanted to out-source this part of the job. I am a book lover and I would have liked to see the book going through the classic book channels, basically sell them through book shops. But that isn’t that easy. The market here in New Zealand is very small and the independent book distributor told me my books is too much of an art book, I should sell it through galleries.

Right, it is an art book, but it also appeals to people who are not into the serious art stuff. It is also a quirky story about real friends in the age of online social networks, anybody who isn’t online all the time, can easily relate to.

If I had written an novel, it would be so much easier, as then I could sell it electronically. But the images in my book really need to be printed, so that the dede puppets come to life.

It appeals to a much wider audience than just gallery visitors. So, the distribution remains still a little bit of a headache for me. I will sell it via an online book distributor and our own website, which I still have to update. I assume most of it will be word of mouth to start with. Thankfully, books are not like buns, they don’t get stale by the end of the day.  It just means I will I have to put a lot of effort into the launch event and keep working on it all day, every day.

With the launch one month away, I started making new puppets. It helps me think. They will be placed on plinths around the room. I just noticed, I haven’t given the measurements of the dedes yet. They are not very big, only between 12 and 15cm high and the weight is around 20 to 30 grams. They look and feel very delicate, but in fact they are as hard as wood.

Currently I am working on L’artiste, Two Faced and Envy and I think the last one will become the Devil’s Advocate.  Seems like the negative traits are rearing their heads now. I have put off Procrastinator for now. I can’t visualise him yet. But I will get round to him at one stage.

I went to lunch with two friends today and, – we can’t avoid it at the moment – we talked about the launch. I did not intend to have a puppet theatre as such, just play my short pieces. But my friends both insisted I should build a theatre too. Another thing to add to the to do list.

Finally the date is confirmed. The book launch will be on the 19th of April 2012.  So it is still 5 weeks away today, and of course at this stage I think I have everything under control. There will be a puppet show. Not too long, just to introduce some of the characters and give an idea of the contents of the book.

This morning I woke up having the entire puppet show in my head. I need to write it down and practise, even though I know I won’t stick to the script, I never do. Usually I have a rough idea of what I want to say and make up the rest. My puppet movie will have to wait, as the first script I came up with will be incorporated into the launch show. I don’t want to give away too much. But this of course raised the issue that the launch needs to be recorded. I will have to find two people, one for stills and one for moving images. Better make a list of how many helpers I need.

The most pressing task now is to get out a press release. But I also have to update my website. This brings me to the issue of selling and distribution, now that is another issue and I will write an additional post on that one.


I have squared up the launch venue, but have not confirmed the date yet. I still have to get a commitment from the printers when the books will be ready.

Of course it is extremely difficult to judge how many people will attend, but I hope for a number between 50 and 100 people. – Am I too hopeful here? Going by these numbers the library was too small. I am now having it at Northart. This is a community gallery here on the North Shore in Auckland. I had the choice of using an empty gallery space or using the space when another exhibition is on. I opted for the latter. My reasoning was, that when the people make the trip to the gallery they might as well kill two birds with one stone.

When I first started thinking about the launch, I thought, a puppet show would be sufficient. But after talking to the curator, I decided to go the full monty and also provide wine. This is of course an additional cost, but you launch a book only once and I certainly want it to be a memorable evening.

I am terribly excited about organising it all. It looks as it is happening in the Easter holidays, which would be quite good re setting the show up.

On to the launch.

I wanted to deal with it yesterday, but I do have a day job too and I had to attend to the small detail of earning money.

The launch is still about six weeks away. I haven’t set the final date, as I have to find a venue first. Then I have to confer with my support crowd (consisting of precisely two people) when it best fits into their time-table. This morning I trotted up to the library. As I mentioned before, there are two types of spaces I deem appropriate for the launch: either the library or an art gallery.

The library can only accommodate 50 people max. At this stage I am hoping for a number between 50 and 100 people to attend, so that rules out the library. I sent off an email to a local gallery and on second thought, I even believe a gallery would be the better option anyway.

I came up with a little show for “two hands and one voice”. After all, the Dedes are puppets and they want to be used. The piece is for Mouse and Pirate and the voice, I guess, will have to be me. If I get round to it on the weekend, I will film it with my D60. I knew, there was a reason for me spending all that money on an SLR with a movie function, but actually doing it is yet another first for me. Maybe I change the script and make it a silent movie.

If I don’t manage to film the little puppet show this weekend, my next cast member will have to be Procrastinator.

I think it is about time that I talk a little about the story of Hermit’s Web. It is quite amazing how the whole thing fell into place. I started making these puppets on a rainy day. While I was unsure what I was going to do with them, I had them sitting in a vase – stuck on the end of chop sticks –  on my dinner table. My bunch of new friends.Originally I though I would sell them, and tried  to figure out what the best way would be: either through a local gallery or via Trade Me. In the meantime I love them so much, I am not ready to part with them.

The book idea popped up, when I took photographs of some of the puppets to send to the German newspaper they are made of. When I looked at the images I thought photographs are indeed a very good way to share the puppets with my friends. At the same time I found an email in my inbox, somebody wanted to be my friend on facebook. The list of people who want to be my friend is steadily growing, but I don’t have a facebook page. I have thought about it… and decided against it, for various reasons. It is not a matter of not liking people or not wanting to have friends, but I have enough to do with my real life friends.

But this particular email started the Hermit story….  The narrator admits to being an online hermit and then goes on to tell us about his circle of friends. He observes each and every one of them and shares his thoughts with the reader (not unlike a blog really).

I did a small print run of just 30 copies and got them bound with a hard cover. These books I gave to my real life friends and they absolutely loved it. Now, they are my friends… and I gave them a present… of course they won’t say: yuck, don’t like it… but my friends passed their copies around and even their friends gave positive feedback. Everybody seems to recognise people they know in the observations. It’s really like facebook as a puppet show.

Yesterday I put up the cast of the Hermit’s Web book on the Cast page. These are basically the first puppets I made. Detail is missing, though. She wasn’t one of the initial lot. I only added her after I had written the story. I had one blank puppet head left over (one without face and skin) and I didn’t want this head to go to waste and therefore created her part in the story.

The files are gone to the printers – again! Now I am waiting for the sign-off copy. Once this is done, it will take around 4 weeks until I have the books in my hot little hands. One week for printing and 3 weeks for the bookbinders. It is a hard cover book and the sections are stiched rather than glued. I think this is the only way to go for an art book. I don’t want it to fall apart once it has been looked at twice.

Hermits web cover

Final cover of Hermit's Web

Even though I haven’t signed off the proofs yet, my mind has moved on to the next task. Which is the organisation of the launch. Considering the time it will take the printers and bookbinders and with Easter coming up as well, I will try to get a venue for the end of April. The most logical venue would be the library up the road here. It’s a lovely new building, but I have no idea what size spaces they have available for the public to hire. I will go and check them out on Thursday. If the Library doesn’t work out, my next option would be a gallery, but I assume it will be more difficult to get a space on short notice. I cross that bridge when it comes to it.

So, Friday I’ve sent the replacement pages and the new cover file to the printers. The day was pretty hectic and at night I had to go to a meeting as well. When I finally sank on my sofa at 9:30pm or so, I had a melt-down… Realising that the new title isn’t at all what I wanted.

This sounds now as I can’t make up my mind. No, honestly, I am not the one who is always last to order, because everything on the menu sounds delicious. I am usually very good. Chop, chop, chop, get on with the job! But the title of a book is sooooo important. If you don’t get it right, it can be indeed very costly. Once it is out there, you can’t change the title easily. Even if the story is great. If the title doesn’t fly, you are sort of stuffed.

Sitting on my sofa, pondering about where I am in regards to the project, I realised, that my entire strategy of the project is build around the hermit narrator. Who in the world knows what dede puppets are? Nobody… but everybody knows what a hermit is. In two sentences I can explain the content of the book, when I am asked what Hermit’s Web is all about. While if I call it Dede Chums, I have to start by describing the type of puppets first and by the time I get to the contents of the book, the listener has fallen asleep.

However, my friend who commented on that the book gives the impression of being a children’s book has heaps of very valid points. After thorough consideration I don’t think Dede Chums gets around this issue, though. I still like the word, but it is so quaint and old-fashion, that I might now attract little old ladies to buy the book for their grandchildren. After all it is about puppets. There is nothing in the book that is not appropriate for children, but it is not directed at children. It is aimed at people with a little bit of life experience, who will recognise their own friends in the descriptions of the puppets. And it is a stage for my puppet art.

So back to the original title –  Hermit’s Web it is!

I will have to eat a little humble pie, when I write to the printers, but it is better to change the name now. My reasoning is, if I change the name and it doesn’t take off, I would always wonder if it was the title. While if I stick with the title Hermit’s Web and it becomes a sitter, then I know there is something wrong with the book as such, eg others don’t share my sense of humor or don’t take to the puppets.

I had another idea to position the book more precisely. Another friend of mine suggested to just print on the front of the book that it is not a children’s book. But instead of saying what it is not (a children’s book), I now clearly state what it is (an art book). I have added a line at the top: dede puppet art book.

This morning I checked the proofs of my book and it’s all good. I only had to replace four pages as I changed the title. (Luckily at this stage no extra cost occur, as it is only in the proof). Instead of Hermit’s Web the book is now called Dede Chums. A pretty old-fashioned word, but let’s face it, hand-puppets are pretty old-fashioned too. It was difficult for me to let go of the original title as I think it describes exactly what I wanted to say. I must have had close to 50 alternative suggestions but nothing stood out. Waking up this morning “chum” finally popped into my head. I am happy with this term as it indicates friendship. And that is what it is all about.

Here is the front cover of the book:

Dede book cover