Welcome to the second installment of Adventures in Publishing. I know it’s been a little while since the last post on this subject, but it’s only because I’ve been working on The Roommate Book and 100 Days of Getting Started. Here I will go over some of the frequently asked questions in regards to book publishing. Note: these questions are tailored to traditional publishing, not self-publishing. Here we go!

When approaching agents, do I already need to have an online presence? Do I need to be popular?

The quick answer is yes and maybe, but not necessarily. The longer answer is this: publishers need to know that their author is invested in selling the book. You need to prove yourself. You have to show that you’re the book’s #1 fan when you’re promoting. If you don’t have a huge presence online, that’s okay, but the next best thing is showing that you’re invested in growth, or you have an audience that’s accessible to you.

When I was talking to agents about representing I’d Rather Be Short, I had 200 Twitter followers. Two agents didn’t care about the number of my followers—they said the idea was good enough to sell on its own. Another agent was skeptical. He said that in 2007 a good idea was good enough, but now publishers need to see followers and numbers. A friend connected me to a popular lit agent. This agent told me to call him when I had 15,000 Twitter followers. I said, “I don’t know how to get 15k in a couple of weeks.” He responded with, “On the Internet you can go from 0-60 in 15 seconds. You’ll figure it out.’” Needless to say I did not go with him, but he’s right. It matters. But it’s not the only thing that matters…so some would say he was also kind of wrong. My only blog readers at the time were my mom and Facebook friends. I didn’t report the readership in my proposal, but we did say that the traffic spiked whenever I posted a new I’d Rather Be Short drawing (this is true). It was sincere and it showed that even on a micro level, the project was building momentum.

If you do have a big following, that makes it much easier for agents and publishers to say yes. It shows that you’re already committed to the project and there’s already a market for your work. T-Rex Trying started out as a popular Tumblr blog and has been a wildly successful as a published book. My pal, Alida Nugent also had her work on her blog, The Frenemy before it became a book. She’s a fantastic writer (I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud while reading Don’t Worry, It Gets Worse…order it today).

Every situation is different, but as a rule of thumb I’d say this: you don’t need to have a huge following, but you do need to show that you can get your book in front of lots of eyes, and the best eyes come from your tribe.

Should I post my work online first? Or keep it quiet until I find an agent/publisher?

Again, there’s no “right answer” here. As a fast and very general answer, I’d suggest showing what you can without showing too much. You’ll hear arguments both ways. I say that because it’s safe and I think you can have your cake and eat it too. I posted a few “I’d rather be short” drawings on my blog as just a “side project” while I was looking for agents. I didn’t want people to know I wanted it to be a book because that’s way too much pressure for my tender heart. But I do think the accountability and momentum is important. I’d lean more towards oversharing than undersharing. There are plenty of ideas to go around. 1. Nobody is going to steal your idea and 2. You are not going to run out of good ideas. Tucker Max was rejected by over 500 agents, but he put his content online and it exploded. He soon had a book deal and remained on the NY Times Best Seller list for over 150 weeks.

Ultimately you know what the best route is for you and your project.

How do I know if my idea is any good?

Obviously “good” is subjective. Are you interested in every book at Barnes & Noble? No, but every book in Barnes & Noble was good enough to be published, according to at least a few people.

Just because what we deem uncool, boring, bad or lowbrow gets published does NOT mean that every idea—good or bad—is destined for publication. The question is, how do you know if your idea is good for publishing?

We’ll start with the obvious: your content is already gaining traction. Perhaps you already have a project, series or blog post that is connecting with a lot of people. This is a good sign.

What if you just have an idea that’s good, but no exposure to prove that other people think so too? Your turtle portraits haven’t gone viral, but YOU really think there’s something special to them.

It helps to ask the simple question, “Who would buy this?” or better yet, “For whom could this make the perfect gift?” In my case, everyone has a short friend. I’d Rather Be Short is a niche book. It feels unique—unique enough that a potential buyer could instantly think of a specific friend. For my second, The Roommate Book (comes out next spring), we’re shooting for the graduation crowd (hence the publication season). For the gals headed to college or leaving college to live in a new city with a new roommate, this is the perfect book. The net can be cast as wide as “friendship” and as narrow as “high school graduation gift for girls.”

Not every book is super niche. Some books have a broader appeal, and that’s okay too. Those probably connected or were sure to connect with a lot of people who thought it was really beautiful, funny, helpful or interesting.

I’ve had a lot of good and bad book ideas. One time I think I pitched an idea to my agent that was a book of quotes by famous people but on the adjacent page to the quote, the people where illustrated mermaids and mermen. It still sounds terrible and hilarious at the same time. It could have been great, but I couldn’t get past the initial question: who would receive this as a gift?

And that concludes our second installment of Adventures in Publishing. Thanks for stopping by! Do you have a book you’re dreaming about writing? Do you already have a book and want to offer further insight? Do you have any questions that haven’t been addressed? Leave a comment below or holler on Instagram or Twitter.

Want to read more on publishing? Check out the first post where I answer a few other questions.

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Hello all! I’m chipping away at The Roommate Book one spread at a time. Here’s a modified version of said spreads.

I want to let you know that I’m regularly updating the home page of www.beckycmurphy.com with new art that I’m creating for 100 Days of Getting Started (the 100 drawings I’m creating for my first quarter in my Creative Residency.)

Here’s why it might be relevant to you:

1. New art in any capacity is cool, right?

2. I’m jotting down my process / tools used for every new piece from now on (including the last nine).

3. I also include the original scan, unedited. It’s easy to highlight our process—to show on Instagram what we want people to see. This is the raw footage.

My hope is for this art to become a resource for aspiring illustrators or those looking to compare notes. Check out the rest of the page. I’m still deciding if I want to make the animals black or keep the white cutouts. Thoughts?

If you’re interested in these updates being delivered to you via email every other week, sign up below. I promise I will never send something just to fill the space. Also, a newsletter that’s 90% pictures? TOO EASY.

Biweekly art & notes

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Do you know about the 100 Day Project? Read about it here on the Great Discontent.

We can accomplish great things when we do a little bit at a time consistently over time.

The first quarter of my Creative Residency is devoted to making art.

How do we make the best art? How do we make the worst art? How do we make any art?

We get started.

Like I said before, if there’s one thing I know it is that it’s better to start somewhere now than it is to start somewhere later.

And this is why I’ve been posting #100daysofgettingstarted on Instagram.

Mark Twain said it best: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

My 100 Day Project will display 100 illustrations in varying degrees of completion. I’m updating the home page of my website (almost weekly) with new work, complete with original sketches and tools/process used. If you want to see more, check that out or follow me on Instagram.

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Greetings from Charleston!

I have so much to talk about. 1. My talk at Giant Conference yesterday! 2. Marriage! 3. Deciding what to do about my last name! 4. My 100 Days of Getting Started project! 5. Illustration on the go!

Let’s chat about the last one, illustration on the go.

We all travel. If you’re like me and you like to draw, you probably give your sketchbook extra attention during this time. I don’t mind staying analog for a little while, but what if a project is due? Or what if I want to actually finish one of my 800 sketches? What if I don’t want to haul my laptop around the city, but my iPad fits in my purse?

See this this travel clothing collage up top ↑? I created it without even opening my laptop. Here’s the short version: hand drawn → vectorized in Shape → edited in Draw with my Adobe Ink on my iPad (also used Color to help with the palette).

Now for the more detailed version.

1. I drew the most basic clothing shapes on the most basic paper with the most basic marker. Nothing to see here, folks.

2. I took a picture of each item with my Shape app on my phone (iPad works too). For those of you who aren’t familiar, get familiar. Shape is *so* easy to use and saves a *ton* of time. It vectorizes anything and everything. I like to use it for line art (see below).

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3. Time to grab your Adobe Ink and open up your Draw app on your iPad (iPhone works too). Now it’s the fun part! Start placing and arranging each shape. You can change the size, orientation and even outline color.

OPTION B: If you don’t own an Ink (digital drawing pen made by Adobe and works effortlessly with these apps), you are in luck because you can still finger paint. Follow steps one and two, but fill in the color with your little fingies (see example. In said example, note that I also drew it with my fingers). The finger painting method yields less detail but more charm (unconfirmed). But seriously, check out what’s possible with this app.

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4. After images are placed, create another layer below the outlines for color.

5. Now it’s time to go gangbusters. You’ve arrived at Destination Coloring Book. You earned it, warrior.

Tip: you can choose from and create rad color palettes in the Color app. See a cool book cover/bouquet/tapestry/bathroom tile with like, the BEST color palette? Snap a picture with Color and it saves it in your library (which can be accessed in the Draw app. If it sounds confusing, don’t worry—just open the app > library and you’ll figure it out. It’s quite intuitive). Here’s an example of one of my saved color palettes paired with its original photo.

6. Time for details. This is where the real magic happens. I know I talked a big game for #5 but this time I’m serious. This is where the big dawgs hang out. The kind of big dawgs who have gothic lettering tattoos above their belly buttons. Their bumper stickers say, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen” and so forth. This is the point where we add some finesse. Draw little patterns, change the line weight and add new colors. Remember: subtraction can be powerful too.

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7. And before you know it, you’re done! Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Share it on Behance, Instagram and Twitter. Or don’t stop the fun just yet and bring it into Illustrator to turn it into a repeating pattern.

Want to know more? For an easy 9-minute tutorial on Adobe Illustrator Draw, watch this video. For more tutorials on Adobe’s mobile products, check these out.

BONUS: Adobe just released a ton of handy updates TODAY. Check them out and be the leader of your pack.

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For the first leg of my creative residency project, I’m doing 100 pieces of art (still thinking of a name). You can follow along by way of Instagram, Behance and my portfolio site. The home page of www.beckycmurphy.com will showcase my progress, and in the future I’ll list the tools used to complete said projects. I’ve already added a handful. Check it out.

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You know when you have those moments where you’re like, “I know very few things for certain, but this…this I know this for sure.”…? Yes? No?

I’ll skip the rapport and get to the point:

Just try it.

HA! It was in the header this whole time.

Last Thursday I spoke at Adobe’s Austin Creative Jam. It was a real big time. Local designers competed for a few hours, then a crowd full of students and professionals gathered for Foodapalooza grub and booze. We mingled, then four of us spoke for 15 minutes each on our process. The grand finale was the room voting on which design they liked best. It was a great night. Be sure to check out the other speakers: Lin Zagorski, Ty Wilkins and Ryan Hamrick. 

How’d I spend my 15 minutes?

Talking about books, of course.

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*Photo by Bonnie & Lauren

I’m working on my second book, The Roommate Book. I forget that it wasn’t long ago that I didn’t think it was possible for me to be a published author/illustrator at this point in my life.

Let me explain via the rewind button.

In college I knew I was pretty okay, but “all my classmates are way better.”

I almost moved to South Korea (to teach English) because I didn’t think I’d get a job in “this economy”* PLUS “I’m not even that good.”

I always wanted to write and illustrate books but I didn’t think I had it in me until “Sometime in the future when I’m older and better and have more time.”

I put off starting I’d Rather Be Short because “I’m not a good writer” and “I’m not even qualified.”

I didn’t think I could get a book deal because “I’m not that type of person—the type to get PUBLISHED.”

Once I did have a book deal, I didn’t think designers I respected would take it seriously because “I don’t draw the right way.”

And on and on and on.

But somewhere between those lines read,

“You may not be the best, but what if you just try?”

“You are qualified at you. You are an expert at your story” and

“Just because this hasn’t happened to you yet doesn’t mean it can’t or isn’t going to.”

“Big deal” stuff is all relative. If your name is Lorne Michaels, why are you reading this? Please keep working on your show that I will always love despite the dummies who say it hasn’t been funny since the 90′s.

Back to the rest of us. If [insert creative dream] is indeed a dream of yours, then I imagine that while you are inspired by the possibilities, you might also find yourself on the other end of the spectrum. The part that feels like it’s too good to be true or too “advanced for where you are now.”

But that’s hogwash (I can make that joke because I’m from Iowa).

The best person for the job is the one who is doing the job. Not the one who says they’re going to do it, or the person with the most qualifications, but the one who is actually doing it. 

We have no idea what we’re capable of. What we do know is that we’re capable of more than we think. The least we can do is try. Just try! Just wait and see! Let’s get off our twerking booties, computers, Instagram and Farmville (really?) and MAKE. Make dinosaurs out of tin foil and necklaces out of macaroni, record a song in the bathroom, I don’t know! You do you. It might be bad, but do it. Make it. And then put it into the world.

If it’s nagging at you now, it will nag at you later. THEREFORE, It is better to make a crappy draft sooner than later, my friends. Back to one of those few things I know for certain:

It is better to start somewhere now than to start somewhere later.

Just do the thing.

Or, if this is easier,

just try the thing.

*I realize I just quoted ‘the economy’ but you have to remember it was 2010 and people were blaming canker sores on the economy.

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Please join us at Creative Jam tomorrow at Vuka (7 PM) for a night of process and story telling. I’ll be sharing the journey of how I ended up in the publishing world. Better yet, you’ll also hear from Lin ZagorskiRyan Hamrick and Ty Wilkins and learn about the process from our creative leaders in Austin. RSVP here.

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Two things.

1. When in doubt, draw what you see. In my case, I looked at my desk and here we are. Sometimes I blank because I want to be clever or soooooo original, but my eyeballs keep me grounded.

2. Do you sometimes wonder about other people’s illustration process? Me too! Do you have Photoshop? Below I share how I took a modest doodle and turned it into a HeyThisDrawingThingIsFun.JPG.

I often work in Illustrator with vector files, but I spend my fair share of time in Photoshop. This is also more or less how I illustrated I’d Rather Be Short and The Roommate Book.

Let’s begin.

1. When I use a regular scanner*, I scan the drawing at 600 DPI so I always have the option of making it bigger (you can always make it smaller, but you can’t blow it up and maintain quality…also a reason why it’s great to be short…I’m talking about how you can always hem a good pair of pants but you can’t make them grow, but I digress.)

*I often use my phone as a scanner. Either the ScannerPro app, Adobe Shape (if I’m making it a vector) or just a straight up photo.

2. I make the image black and white, level it out, then I might clean it up a bit and HECK, I may even crop the dang thing.

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3. Next I convert it back to color (CMYK or RGB, depending on the purpose).

4. Sometimes I drag in a specific image for color inspiration (good app for this is Adobe Color). In this case, I snagged this art from Pinterest under my “Illustration: color” board. Image source: 2014 MOMO lookbook. Originally found via Miss Moss.

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5. Now it gets fun. Unlock the background layer and create a new background (use the Eyedropper tool to pick background color from the image).

6. Now multiply the illustration layer (make sure to keep this layer on top). This will ensure that only the black stays visible.

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7. Use the Eyedropper tool to pick a fill color from the image.

8. Create new layer (remember to keep it below the top illustration layer).

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9. Click on the illustration layer, then select the Magic Wand tool and click on a portion of the illustration you want to color in. It needs to be a bounded space without any gaps. Then click on the new layer and Paint Bucket the selected area. Make sure to add a new layer for each new color.

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TIP: If you want to change the color of a layer, double click the layer (not where the text is), then the layer styles will open, then go to ‘color overlay’ then click on the color thumbnail and change it to the desired color.

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10. Rinse and repeat. There are countless ways of achieving anything in Photoshop, but this is just one. Play around with it. If anything doesn’t make sense, test drive a new route. We all learn by doing.

Lastly, this is my first written tutorial. Please let me know if you found this helpful (or confusing), as well as how I can improve them in the future. What are your favorite tips and tricks?

What do you do when you suddenly have the time, space and resources to fully unleash your creative potential?

1. You find yourself “weak at the knees” or “scared shitless” or “extremely humbled.”

2. You pull yourself up by your favorite-colored bootstraps and put a little meat on the bones of this project* you set out to do.

3. You wish to flesh out this list for the sake of adding more idioms.

4. Okay, now let’s talk about this here Creative Residency and what one (me) plans to do in the first three months.

Like I said in my previous post, I’ve found myself in a unique situation (huge opportunity). Before this all came about, I was making teeny tiny baby steps toward transitioning my business into full-time art sellin’. As you know, side hustle forces us to make the most of the little, precious time we have to work on the side projects we are so passionately side hustling in the first place (efficiency! Great!). The sometimes-downside is that it creates, at least for me, an ultra-productivity mindset. If I have an hour, I’m going to make it count.

But we know that making space to explore and play is where we find the insightful, clever, thoughtful and impactful art.

I want to make and sell my work and I want it to support me and I want to teach others how to do it too. I also want to help folks realize their creative potential.

Because of this year-long creative residency through Adobe, the whole process will be accelerated.

There are a lot of unknowns, and that’s why this is so good for me. Like I said, I tend to be very methodical. I suspect the hardest part for me will be making space for exploring, learning and failing. For the first three months, my focus will be on making art. I’m going to create 100 pieces and I’ll be posting them on my website. I plan to update the home page weekly (probably starting in the next week or two), so please follow along on my journey. I’ll also share my process (thoughts and tools).

In an effort to prioritize the actual illustration process, I created a skeleton schedule. Check out this post by Jessica Hische (sent to me by my fellow traveler and figurative running partner, Jen). I have no doubt it will be more fluid than my “2-3 PM: catch up on email” plan, but making time to make is going to transform my flow. I’m looking forward to seeing how this impacts the life of my work.

Last thing! Next week (Thursday, May 14th), I’ll be speaking at Vuka alongside some other talented designers at Adobe’s Creative Jam. Sign up and join us for a night of inspiration, process and tomfoolery.

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Some exciting, big changes are happening around here.

Aside from my recent engagement and progress with The Roommate Book, I now have the opportunity to work with Adobe to actualize a dream of mine since I can remember (and have gotten serious about in the last six months).

I’ve been a self-employed cowgirl for the last two years and three months. It’s been awesome and it’s been hard. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The best parts have been seeing myself get tougher and realizing my long-term goals (and seeing them change over time). I’ve observed what gets me into my flow and what gets me out of bed early. The last year has especially groomed me for the road ahead.

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My dream career is to make and sell original content. Content being art and ideas.

I’m talking books (check), prints (check) and now a lot more stuff. That’s where Adobe comes in. They have a brand new program called the Adobe Creative Residency. I’m one of their first two creative residents, alongside the talented, whip-smart Kelli Anderson. Check out her work and watch this video where she shares more on her creative process.

Over the next year I will forgo client work in order to focus entirely on making my illustrations a sustainable business.This will give me the time to make art, explore new methods, fail, succeed, experiment, collaborate and share the process along the way. Adobe will also provide mentorship and software to make it happen. Check out this interview to learn more about why I’m so excited.

But this isn’t all about me. I know I’m not the only one with this kind of dream. My hope is that my participation and commitment to sharing the process will help accelerate this dream for everybody else too. To learn more about what I do (and what I plan to do this year), Check out this interview to learn more about why I’m so excited. You can read about why Adobe is excited by checking out David Wadhwani’s post, One-Year. Unconstrained Creativity.

And lastly, here’s a bit more on the program from Adobe:

With Adobe’s support, the creative residents have access to the best tools, resources and mentorship in various creative fields throughout the residency. Residents are encouraged to explore their strengths and weaknesses through the support of mentors both inside and outside of the company; and to share their insights and work at conferences, workshops and online.

The Adobe Creative Residency is a way for Adobe to support the community and to honor creative individuals whose work elevates the use and value of visual content in our culture. The residents are future creative leaders who produce work that changes the way we see and interact with the world. They are individuals who are eager to share their skills with others. They are visual explorers, willing to take on risk and fail, while knowing they will learn from their challenging experiences.

Pretty soon I’ll write more specifically about my role in this program and what I’m trying to accomplish by the end of the year. I’ll be posting my process and what I’m learning along the way. If you’re a creative entrepreneur who dreams of selling your work, where are you in your journey? What are you learning? What do you want to learn?

Let’s band together. Like the African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Now let’s do this.

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