I HADN'T PLANNED on visiting Texas, until my friend Michael Clayton, design chair and professor at University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) in San Antonio, Texas, invited me to speak to the local AIGA and lead a workshop at UIW. Next thing you know, I was booked for SXSW and partnering with Moleskine.
But I had the most fun being able to take my son, Nathan to Texas with me, for his first taste of the bigger than life state.
AIGA San Antonio Sketchnote Talk
My first event after arrival was a talk on sketchnoting to the San Antonio AIGA chapter. I was honored to speak to a full house — 90 people — at the Southwest School of Art. After my presentation, I was able to sign 20 or so books for attendees and say hello at the same time.
UIW Sketchnote Workshop
In the morning, I had the privilege of presenting a sketchnoting workshop to 15 of Michael's students at the University of the Incarnate Word.
Together, we worked from the basics of sketchnoting to practicing sketchnotes by watching videos and then critiquing work of the students. We had a great time and I learned about designing a sketchnoting day workshop later this year.
After the workshop, I took time to meet and talk with Sean McCabe, designer and hand-letterer. We had a great time at Local Coffee talking type, our current projects, how we got where we are now and illustration secrets.
Exploring San Antonio
With my work completed, Nathan and had time to explore the San Antonio River Walk, and The Alamo. The River Walk is quite beautiful. We capped the night perfectly with BBQ on the River Walk with Michael and his wife, Mindy.
On Saturday, Michael, Nathan and I headed North to Austin to get our jam-packed SXSW day going. By the time we arrived in Austin, lines were already forming for parking structures. We were able to find a spot on 6th & Brazos.
My first event was a Moleskine sponsored meet-up at Jo's Coffee Downtown, where we met with people and gave away custom designed Moleskine Pocket Sketchbooks. We had a good turnout at the busy coffee shop and I had a chance to see friends like Ryan Irelan and Todd Sattersten and meet new people too.
At noon I met with a local friend, Keith Pearce, and we all had BBQ for lunch at Lambert's. After lunch, we were off to the Austin Convention Center (ACC) to register for badges and find my green room, to prep for my mentoring session.
I was fortunate to meet Elaine Wherry, co-founder of Meebo while waiting for our sessions to start. She was interested in drawing and note-taking, so I gave her a custom Moleskine and a copy of my book. It was cool to share with Elaine.
My mentoring session was at the other Hilton hotel a few blocks away, so I headed there with my SXSW guide. After setting up, 2 of the 6 mentees came over (not sure if the other 4 got lost or just bailed out) but the time with the two visitors was great.
Book Reading & Signing
I had to get back to the ACC for my book reading, so once my session was done, I headed back over and got myself setup backstage, while my friend C.C. Chapman read from his latest book, Amazing Things Will Happen.
When my turn came up, rather than read from my very visual book, I chose instead to share my book writing process through images and stories, which was well received. You can hear the audio here:
After my talk, I met with audience members, then made my way to the book signing table to sign Sketchnote Handbooks at a table near the bookstore.
It was great to get to know readers and sign their books in fun ways. It seemed as though I signed 20 or 30 books during my 20 minute window, then I signed a bunch more for the bookstore's stock. I've heard that my book sold 80+ copies at SXSW — Peachpit's best seller!
Moleskine Meetup at Mulberry
After my book signing, I was interviewed by a film crew from an Alberta university, then it was off to the wrap-up meet-up at Mulberry, to see what fans had captured and to hang out to end the day. I learned that Michael had been wandering around the ACC, giving away custom Sketchnote Moleskines to whomever he saw drawing.
The Moleskine promotion went very well. So well, in fact, that I keep hearing for people who missed the giveaway or who weren't at SXSW at all being interested in one of these custom sketchbooks. I think I need to chat with Moleskine.
Mike, Nathan and I were wiped out after a day of working hard at SXSW. Back at the car, we crawled in and began the hour trip back to San Antonio, feeling really great about our 3 days promoting The Sketchnote Handbook in Texas.
On Sunday, we spent time exploring the San Antonio River Walk, riding on the barge tour and just having a great time together on our last day in Texas. That evening, we hung out with Michael's family before departing for Milwaukee.
Here are a few lessons learned on my Texas book tour:
- In-person is important - It's critical to be on the ground, meeting people and sharing your book. I met so many great people, and I believe personal contact really makes the difference. Being on stage to share my story, in mentoring sessions to talk with people, or just meeting folks at the Moleskine events was very rewarding and encouraging.
- Have something to give away - When I travel I always carry a copy of my book to give to someone. I've given books away in Portland and now Austin, and in every case the recipients are so pleased. I had the double fortune of having custom Moleskines to give away in Austin, and people loved them! Even if it's something small, like a card, it makes a difference.
- Build in downtime - With Nathan along, I was quite busy. I built in some downtime for us to explore, but the SXSW trip was pretty intense. If I had to do it all again, I would have built in more downtime in Austin.
- Pack light - This was probably the lightest I've packed for 4 days and it was a great feeling having so little to haul along. Now that I present my workshops and talks only with the iPad 2, I leave my MacBook Pro 13" at home. It's great to do so much with just an iPhone and iPad.
I have a few more Sketchnote Handbook events coming up in the next few months — Judson College in April, Grand Rapids IxDA in May and most likely Minneapolis/St. Paul this June. I can't wait for these events to come now!
We're organizing 2 free meet-ups at SXSW Interactive in Austin on Saturday, March 9th, to meet fans and give away a bunch of custom sketchbooks.
Here's a mockup of the custom Sketchnote Handbook branded Moleskine Sketchbooks we're giving away:
We're challenging recipients of these custom sketchbooks to sketchnote panels and other experiences — then share their work with the #mSketchnote hashtag on Flickr, Twitter, Instagram and other social media channels.
Here are the details of the meet-ups:
Jo's Coffee Shop - Downtown: 10:30 AM -12 NOON
The first event is a meet-up at Jo's Coffee Shop Downtown (242 W. 2nd Street - between Colorado and Lavaca Streets), giving away 80 of the Sketchnote Handbook inspired Pocket Moleskine Sketchbooks and free coffee to those who want to take the sketchnote challenge.
Mulberry - 7:00 - 9:00 PM
The second meet-up will be at Mulberry on 360 Nueces Street at W. 3rd Street from 7-9. We can share a drink and your sketchnotes together, and have fun meeting others in the Moleskine and sketchnote communities. I'll be excited to see some of the sketchnote challenge work in-person at this event, and we'll have more custom books to give away to keep you sketchnoting SXSW all week.
Go RSVP for these events on Eventbrite, and I'll look forward to meeting you at an event! Come join us!
Follow Moleskine and me on these social media channels for more info and to see this work as it comes in on March 9th and beyond:
THE SECOND EPISODE of The Sketchnote Podcast went live today, so it's time to give you a little background on this extension of The Sketchnote Handbook and share what's coming in future episodes for the next few months.
Here's episode 1 - Sketching Concepts:
Origins of The Sketchnote Podcast
I've been a huge fan of podcasts since 2004, mainly listing to audio podcasts when I drive, walk, mow the lawn or shovel the walk. I've played with the medium a few years back, but it never made sense to produce a continuous podcast without a great topic as the focus.
So, when Peachpit pitched the idea of a video podcast as a way to extend the teachings from The Sketchnote Handbook, I knew I had the right topic, medium and timing to make something really cool. I got Brian Artka, my friend and video master from the book videos to help create the podcasts, and said yes.
Brian and I agreed to create 10 episodes, featuring three types of episodes: interviews, sketching ideas and critiques of reader sketchnotes.
Brian and I wanted to continue the alternative approach started with the Sketchnote Handbook video, by shooting every podcast with a 5D Mk II in a documentary style. On a lark, I decided to include my iPhone with The Sketchnote Handbook logo as a unique way to mark each podcast.
We've also been trying to use different techniques — drawing in a pocket Moleskine with a gel pen, and then a sharpie, doing critiques, interviews and drawing techniques on the iPad as well. As we continue to shoot these episodes, we're improving the details and nailing down the best practices.
Podcast Release Schedule
We've now created 8 of 10 episodes — 2 more to shoot. We've released episode 2 today and will be releasing the remaining episodes every 2 weeks through May. We've shot an interview with Sacha Chua on digital sketchnoting, critiques of 2 more sketchnotes, and 3 sketching concepts and sketching serif type.
Here's the current list of upcoming episodes:
- EP01 - Sketching Concepts
- EP02 - Critique w/ Gabe Anzelini
- EP03 - Sacha Chua Interview
- EP04 - Sketching Concepts 2
- EP05 - Critique w/ Andrea Pietkiewicz
- EP06 - Sketching Concepts 3
- EP07 - Critique w/ Jake Palmer
- EP08 - Drawing Serif Type
- EP09 - TBD
- EP10 - TBD
Podcast Feedback and Suggestions
If we get good feedback on these, there is a great chance Peachpit will extend a contract with Brian and I to make more of them.
Finally, be sure to check out and join the Sketchnote Handbook Flickr Group. There are some great samples of reader work there, which we will be using for future critiques — maybe yours can be one of those!
I'VE BEEN HEADS DOWN, working hard at getting The Sketchnote Handbook sent to reviewers, communicating with readers and appearing on podcasts these last few weeks. I've wanted to provide an update here, and now I have enough new information to share an update with you.
Mac Power Users Episode 120 with David Sparks and Katie Floyd
David was one of my early review copy recipients of the book, so when he got the book and applied the concepts to his own workflow, he was very interested in having me on the show. David, Katie and I had a great time talking about sketchnoting and note-taking in general.
Systematic Episode 27 with Brett Terpstra
Brett Terpstra's podcast, Systematic was my second podcast appearing this week Tuesday, and we too had a great time talking UX design, drawing, sketchnotes and note-taking. I was also able to share 3 favorite picks with Brett, two of which were coffee related.
I'm learning that book sales are initially pretty nebulous and that real numbers take a while to filter in. I suppose that's to be expected with a physical object, spread around the world. I've learned that the estimated sales data from the launch on November 30 through December 31, 2012: 1,300 books sold.
Since I have no context of good or bad, I had no idea what to think of that number, until both the Peachpit team and my literary agent told me that sales number is pretty darn good! I think the even better news is that The Sketchnote Handbook appears to be what they call an "evergreen" title in the business — not tied to software versions or changes in other ways — so that it continues to sell, month after month. I love that.
The second bit of good news about the book is that the Video Edition (with a video streaming code) has been sold out at Peachpit.com and they've ordered another run of that edition.
Of course, not all 3,000 of those books are "sold" as many are stock shipped to Barnes & Noble or Amazon for reselling. Still, it's really good news when a book sells out and must have reprints created.
I can't wait to sell out of the regular edition!
Positive Amazon Reviews
On the more good news front, the book continues to do very well with reviews on Amazon. As of this writing there are 47 reviews on the US site (40 are 5-star), 6 reviews on the UK site (all 6 are 5-star) and 1 new 5-star review on the German book page.
These reviews are so critical for sales and interest in the book, that I'm always asking people to leave reviews on Amazon (even if you didn't buy the book there). It impacts bestseller status at Amazon, so if you love the book and haven't yet added your review — please take 5 minutes and add one now.
Viral, Word of Mouth Effects
Something you hope for with a book, but can't predict, are how viral it can become. We did our best to create a cool book that feels great and looks great, with great content — but you never know how that will impact readers. Well, preliminary feedback suggests The Sketchnote Handbook has gone a little viral.
Got "The Sketchnote Handbook" from @rohdesign, and it's now on my list of canonical design books. Reminds me of "Understanding Comics."— Dave Seah (@daveseah) December 21, 2012
I'm pleased to see people on Twitter or in email spontaneously writing me about the book. Very often those notes include stories of showing their copies of the book to other people, who get excited and buy their own copies. In one case, a copy of the book made its way to a co-working space in Brighton and has been making the rounds with the artists and others in the building.
It's very exciting to hear that the book sells itself in readers' hands. I couldn't have hoped for a better reception or word of mouth sharing.
Kindle Issues - Almost There (I Hope)
Not all of the news is good, in particular issues with the Kindle edition on iPad.
The Kindle version issues have been tougher to solve than I think anyone expected them to be. I worked with the Peachpit team to created some modified documents to help troubleshoot the issues, and hopefully that will identify and rectify the problems we're seeing.
I'm pretty sure the issue is only affecting Kindle Reader on the iPad, as I was able to see the entire document on Kindle Reader for the Mac. If you have the Kindle edition on a Kindle Fire or Android Tablet, I would love to hear your feedback. Right now we have the Kindle book pulled while we resolve the issue - hopefully soon. I apologize for this and appreciate your patience.
More to Come
I have more posts in store — one about the events I have lined up for the next several months, one about the workshop I'm exploring and a third post about the sketchnote typeface status. As I'm catching up from everything going on, I will write and post those here, so keep an eye out!
Thanks again for your support everyone. I couldn't do this without you.