Alternate Publishing: Games and Education Resources

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Continuing the series about Alternate Publishing. This is part 5 of 7.

Alternate Publishing Series TOC

Rich Davis is an illustrator extraordinaire, with a generous heart and amazing talent. After being laid off from years as a greeting card illustrator, he went freelance. He has illustrated a series of books for Viking and uses those drawing skills to pull kids into the art world. And in the end, he’s publishing his own education resource book, too. Read Rich’s blog chronicling his one year journey in making his next children’s book for Viking is at creatingtinybook.blogspot.com

My Alternative Route to Alternative Publishing

Guest Post by Children’s Book illustrator, Rich Davis

Three years ago, I ventured out into the self employment arena. It was not planned, it happened unexpectantly. One of the ways I wanted to try and earn money was through doing presentations for children at libraries and schools since I am a children’s book illustrator. I had drawn with kids quite a bit before this time and I had
seen firsthand that kids like a game….
cartoons…
and drawing.

I combined these three ingredients into one and invented a simple drawing game called Pick and Draw (if you go to pickanddraw.com, you can actually try it online to see how it works).

But I didn’t invent it to take into the market place, I invented it to use for my own presentations in libraries and schools. I didn’t know if it would work. At the first library that I used it, I was floored by the response of the kids (very excited and loved it…wanted more). I had made a large prototype deck and it was the only one there was. I did not know what I had and even excused the success of that first trial as a “fluke”…a good day. But when I tried it at the next place, it happened again…but with an even better response. And people began asking me where they could get it.

I had come from a creative background where I had been a “drawing table jockey” that had spent the 21 years before that cranking out illustration work for a christian greeting card company and children’s books for Penguin/Viking (on the side). And that was all I did.

The Realities of Self-Employment and Alternate Publishing

Suddenly I was thrown into a huge learning curve in the world of business trying to plod a course through things I never even thought about. Things like….

  • creating the files completely to hand to a printer I did not know;
  • finding a producer that had the right quality and the right price;
  • paying up-front money (four digit numbers) to someone I had never met;
  • making choices about the kinds of materials to have the game produced;
  • deciding how many to buy initially;
  • how to get people “in the know” about the game;
  • setting up a site to promote and sell the game;
  • paying out taxes on games sold in state;
  • going to conventions and having a booth that would invite people to try it out;
  • starting an affiliate program online to promote sales;
  • paying others for services I needed done…

And the list goes on and on.

But today, by the grace of God, I’m still doing that same kind of dance because I’m still self employed. I’ve seen, if you are self employed, it means, if “you” don’t do it, it won’t get done. You call the shots, sink or swim. You’re the person with many, many hats worn in a day…in an hour sometimes. I’ve done alot of praying and alot of asking questions and stepping out into places I’ve never been. It’s beginning to feel normal and I feel more alive as a person and as a creative worker than ever before!

I prefaced what I want to say in this article by giving you this part of my story because I feel it is the skin you put on in order to be in alternate publishing. It’s a gamble…risk is involved and if you go for it, counting the cost at the beginning is wise advise. Then once you choose to do it, make a sound plan and be decisive by stepping into it boldly and go forward…don’t look back. Put yourself out there if it’s what you want to do and you feel good about your creative work. Be confident in your God-given ability to explore and venture out and find a way…it will be a wonderful part of your own story. And others will be encouraged by your sharing.

By the way, after three years, Pick and Draw is now being enjoyed all over the world. I’ve drawn with thousands of kids (yearly) and sold thousands. I’m getting ready to have my third print run. Even in India it is being used in schools that have been set up to educate kids so that they will not be sold into human trafficking and prostitution! An email from a teacher in Canada said she wanted to buy several decks to use…she had first seen it in a small community school in the remote mountains of Pakistan! Don’t ask me how.

I’ve used them in St. Jude hospital while kids got chemo treatments and seen kids with autism spectrum respond very well to therapy using the game. I’ve seen the game used in Occupational Therapy and heard tear-jerker stories from a children’s grief counselor in a major hospital that found ways to help kids locked up with grief. Many, many different uses in different fields…many schools now use the game for educational activities with great effectiveness. It just keeps unfolding and going…like a flower opening up bigger and bigger and then producing more flowers around it that open bigger and bigger. I want to give God thanks for letting me be a part of something so exciting and rewarding.

The Big Book of PAD Resources

I documented from every source that I could whenever I heard someone else using the game in an effective way. I began to see that when people saw the game used, their own mind automatically plugged the game into whatever kind of work with kids that they did. And this has led to producing a resource book for Pick and Draw….The Big Book of Pick and Draw Resources. Through the tremendous suggestions and coaching and brainstorming of the one and only, Darcy Pattison, I paid several of these people to write a chapter about how they used Pick and Draw in their profession. It will be a step by step book for teachers in education to use very easily. Children’s grief counselors will have their own chapter and clinicians who work with children who have autistic spectrum and christian missions workers and sunday school teachers and art educators and creative writing teachers and kindergarten teachers….all will have specific activities using Pick and Draw that have proved effective. Through this ongoing project, I get to provide a little income for several people in order to make this creative venture happen…the editors; writers; and book designer (the artist is free!). This makes the whole risky challenge worth even more to me….I’ve always wanted to help others financially.

We’ve produced about 8 chapters so far and have a few more to tackle but progress is happening and I’m much closer to plunking down a large amount of money to have it produced. I already know that Pick and Draw works and that all the activities are effective….when it’s printed, then the real work will have just begun….getting it out to the masses. Once I have introduced it into the education system in America alone and seen if it is worthy to be called an “effective tool” by educators, then it makes sense to go across the oceans and take it into other countries education systems. Art is a tremendous communication bridge and that is why it is even selling in countries where English is not spoken. The art speaks!

I’m asking the Lord for 35 more years to work and see this miracle go the full length in helping others creatively. That will mean I’ll be 88….and a content, joyful old man…still drawing cartoons on napkins or on anything that might be available!

I’ve not decided if I’ll publish as POD or self publish….I don’t have all the pieces that I need to make that decision yet. Since my marketing plan is to sell the book “with” the game to the education system, I don’t have a place that can print both the game and the book. And if someone wants to buy the game but not the book, that needs to be easily done. I’ve got to keep knocking on doors and asking questions and gathering all the info I can to make those decisions wisely. Most of all, because I believe in what is printed on our money (“In God we trust”), I will continue daily in this journey calling to Him for help and trusting Him to continue to lead me step by step….just as He has.

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