I’ve mentioned Kevin Hendricks before on this blog. He’s been a full-time freelance writer for as long as I’ve known him, which is several years now. He edits Church Marketing Sucks, founded Color4aCause, maintains his own blog, and has kept a very entertaining Twitter feed for more than a couple of years, which is pretty much a lifetime in the Twitterverse.
Right before some good friends of ours began the process of adopting from China, Kevin and his family adopted their son, Milo, from Ethiopia. I followed the lengthy process on Twitter, and was thrilled to hear that Kevin had decided to turn the whole journey into a book by republishing his Twitter feed.
It’s called Addition by Adoption: Kids, Causes & 140 Characters. Part of the proceeds from the book go to fund a clean water well in Ethiopia. If you like quirky families, quality writing, good causes, and heart-warming adoption stories, this is the book for you.
With the book ready to launch and a special preorder week kicking off today, I asked Kevin if he was up for an interview.
Jason: At what point during the process did you start to think these Twitter updates could be turned into a book? Did it then change the way you tweet?
Kevin: I think the response from people, both on Twitter and Facebook, influenced me more than anything. I had an instant gauge for what tweets generated a response and I probably tweeted with that in mind. That’s what first gave me the idea for the book—realizing that people got such a kick out of my breakfast time songs or Lexi praying for the bus.
I started pulling the tweets together last summer, but I was never really certain the book would happen, so I don’t think it influenced me that much. I did realize that certain things would need to be in the book, like the court date last October when we finalized Milo’s adoption, but I would have tweeted that anyway.
As a writer, what is it about the 140-character limit that is so freeing (rather than being restrictive, as you might think).
There is a certain challenge to crafting something in 140 characters. You have to figure out exactly what you want to say and boil it down to its very essence. Sometimes as you’re trying to do that you realize there’s a better way to say it or a different way to go about it or you see it in a new way.
It’s also an experiment to see how concise you can make a statement and still retain meaning. That’s kind of fun.
Plus you have instant results. It’s a lot easier to throw out 140-character statements when you’re wrangling two kids under 4 than it is to, say, write a novel.
Tell me about your self-publishing experience. Did you ever give any thought to trying to package it for a publisher? What are some things you learned in the process of self-publishing the book?
One of the reasons that I went the self-publishing route is because I had an offbeat idea that I thought would be a hard sell. I did ask a few people but the response was kind of mixed—“great idea, good luck with that.” Rather than taking the time that kind of effort would require, I just wanted to get the book out there. If any book is ideal for self-publication, this one seemed like it.
The self-publishing experience has actually been pretty easy. Print-on-demand publishing makes the act of getting a bound and printed book in your hands relatively simple. Anyone can do it. Of course you also need a manuscript. And you need to edit that manuscript. And proofread it. (Good thing I do those things for a living). You also need to lay it out (I had incredible help from Ronald Cox on the layout). Then you need to design a cover (Again, I turned to Brian White of TriLion Studios). Then you need to spread the word—books don’t sell themselves.
So except for all that hard work, it’s easy.
I’ve heard of a few Twitter-update books over the last couple of years. Which ones are/were on your radar?
There are a few:
• The first example I found was James Bridle. He took two years worth of his tweets and dumped them into a hardcover book as an experiment: My Life in Tweets. But he’s not selling it and he didn’t make any effort to curate his tweets or clean them up for a book format.
• Nick Douglas put out Twitter Wit, a collection of humorous tweets and David Pogue did The World According to Twitter, a collection of humorous tweets clustered around topics (like phony Chinese proverbs, spam from the future, etc.). Both came out around the same time last year and both are essentially collections of other people’s tweets. Fun fact: Lexi and Milo’s godfather has a tweet in The World According to Twitter.
• There are also services to turn your tweets into a book, like the full service TweetBookz, the PDF creator tweetbook.in or TweetNotebook that lets you create a notebook with a tweet at the bottom of every page. But those are more for creating your own personal scrapbook of sorts—they don’t set you up to actually publish and sell your book.
• There are also plenty of Twitter-feeds-turned-books, like @Sh*tMyDadSays, @FakeAPStylebook and @HistoricalTweet though those are more books launched form a Twitter feed, not necessarily straight collections of tweets.
So I haven’t seen anyone doing exactly what I did. At least not yet. The Internet’s a big place.
What does Lexi think about being the “star” of a book?
At 4 years old, it’s hard to know how much she understands about it. I’ve told her I’ve got a book coming out and I’ve told her what it’s about. She agreed to sign her name in the pre-order copies, but until I have the actual book in hand I’m not sure she’ll get it.
she rolls with this stuff. She loves watching videos and looking at pictures of herself on the computer—and to those who say I’m raising a narcissistic child, she also likes to see her friends on the computer. Well, anybody on the computer: Daddy as a little kid, Grandma and Papa, kids in Haiti.
How are things going with Milo? Was the adoption process smoother or more difficult than you expected?
Life with Milo is amazing. In the past few months he’s started walking and he’s talking more and he’s just exploding into this little kid. He’s very much a boy—likes to be loud, throw toys down the stairs and destroy things. So that’s fun.
The process has been about what we expected. He came home so young that the transition was pretty easy. It also helps that the care center he was at in Ethiopia takes amazing care of those kids. That’s not to say it’s always easy when they’re young or that we’re “in the clear,” so to speak. Being adopted is part of who Milo is and that’s something that will always be a part of him and always be a potential speed bump.
Do you think you’ll ever do anything like this again? (A Twitter book, I mean.)
I’ll ignore your parenthetical and say that we are planning to adopt again. So we’re thrilled about that. We just made the decision and haven’t figured anything out yet, but we are leaning towards older kids. It’s fun to be launching this book and diving into adoption again at the same time.
And back to your parenthetical, I haven’t thought of doing a sequel to the book. We are adopting again, so there’s certainly the potential. As with any sequel I’d want to be able to tell a new story in a new way, so that might be difficult (though the funny things teenagers say would have an entirely different vibe). Even if it’s not a huge published book, I do like the idea of collecting and archiving tweets in a printed book. My original thought behind this idea was that it was something my Grandma would love to see, so even if it’s just for Grandma it’d be fun to do again.
Thanks, Kevin. I’m reading Addition by Adoption right now, and it’s a lot of fun. Kevin’s a thoughtful guy, a creative writer, and the best kind of weird dad, which makes his Twitter feed worth following and this book totally worth buying.
Beginning today, Addition by Adoption is available for a limited one-week preorder for $12.99 through April 20. If you preorder, shipping is included, twice as much money goes to charity: water, and Lexi will personally sign your copy. Win all around.