April 12, 2011

Letter by Letter P i c t u r e l e s s Books is Hoping to Create a New World of Words

P i c t u r e l e s s books -- what a fascinating concept! Here's how it all began, what it is, and where it's going, by guest blogger, alphabateer (and Seabury alum) Adrea Peters:

Teff and I met in graduate school at Seton Hill University where we wandered the halls looking for a quiet place to create every chance we got. It’s a low residency program, meaning we were there for a week every six months or so and we milked every moment of that time. Both of us had intense demands on us in our home states so this was a time of escape for us. Teff was a semester ahead of me and when she graduated we vowed to stay in touch. We both graduated in the children’s lit track so we decided to be writing partners. Or as I remember it, Teff told me that’s what we were doing and I said, “sounds good.” One day (that’s the modern version of Once upon a time) we were chatting and Teff told me about a book idea she had written a proposal for and done all the research on, but hadn’t written it. It was for a positive word alphabet. I loved the idea. So that evening, I went on Blurb.com and made her a book. A couple weeks later it arrived and I mailed it off to Teff as a gift—to inspire her to move forward with her genius idea. I’d never seen her proposal. We didn’t even talk about the words she planned to use. That was the beauty of it. Almost every word I’d chosen was in her original list. A partnership was born.
Adrea and Teff
We wrote a bundle of alphabet books in record time and I started making them on Blurb.com… but the one issue was cost. When you are making only a few books, the cost was high—like $12-20 per book. We had no strategy. We had no real plan but we were spending chunks of change. Thus, we went back to our ABCs and decided to pause. We literally did not mention it in conversations for the next several months. We always have plenty to talk about anyway! Actually it would be hysterical to record one of our b o u n c i n g business calls. We jump from kids to pets to advertising to loans to food to vitamins to love to friends to book covers to apps to iBooks to Kindle to Twilight to publishers back to kids to boyfriends to Facebook to Twitter to books. There we usually stay for a while passing ideas back and forth back and forth. But that’s the way business works now. At least business at p i c t u r e l e s s! Light and easy. Fun and flowing. We believe that’s how business should, and can be.

And that is exactly how we awakened from our pause. I had just returned from a writing workshop in Guatemala where I had the incredible opportunity to work with Francesco Sedita of Penguin Publishing on my children’s novel, and from our brainstorming, I saw an opportunity to take the piece a new direction. So of course, I was looking for a distraction from the lonely hours I would be embarking on for that re-write! A week or so later Teff called and said, “I’ve got it.” I asked what she got J. She said, “We’ll do the books for Kindle. It’s free to publish!” My response: “Let’s.” We were off and running again and published seven books on Amazon within a few weeks.

What are we exactly?

We l o v e to be a wee vague about this because we are words. And with words, the possibilities are endless. Teff and I consider ourselves alphabeteers. We create alphabets. Sometimes as a whole alphabet, sometimes just a letter, and sometimes a bunch of letters to make words. Words can go a n y w h e r e and that is what we’re planning on doing… Cards, Notecards, many more Books, Twitter, Facebook, Magnets, Stickers, Clothing, Sheets, Towels, and our biggest project to date: Apps! We’re doing them for iPhones, iPads and all the Google-driven phones—Droids, Androids, etc.

Our alphabets fall into six categories:
a n g e l series

These are alphabets with a positive word followed by an affirmation. Z, Zany, Be zany! B, Beauty, You are beauty.

c a n v a s series

These are art, of any sort. Simple one... letter and word. b is for brush, c is for cartwheel.

e x p l o r e series

This alphabet explores the more scienc-y, math-y subjects. It is a word and a fun definition. E is for El Nino. . . when the Pacific gets super warm.

i m a g i n a t i o n series

These cover emotions and inspirations. The format changes on these depending on the emotion. Example: When you feel yucky, be yummy!

n o t h i n g series

This is a nonsensical series and kind of hard to describe. N is for Never Night is a title in the series... they are words that you can't really see... but that we hope you can imagine and form in your mind. Ur Txtbk is a book in the series, which is an alphabet of texts! And coming soon in the series: Study guides for vocab on the SATs!

w e l l n e s s series

This is our newest book set... and the name says it all. First book will be W is for Walnut. In this book there is a healthy food and three ways to prepare it... A is for avocado... on toast, in salad, in guac.

Why? Why do we do it?

We love words, but it is more than that. We wanted to create something that emphasized decompression and expression simultaneously. Thus we are picture less . . . to imagine more (our tagline). We hope that by not offering pictures or images, our readers will imagine what the words means to them. We have so many amazing stories coming back to us of what people did with the words—dances choreographed, paintings painted, poems and songs written and many, many discussions sprouting out of a word in one of our books. That is what it’s about.

We ask three main q u e s t i o n s when we create anything:

1. 1. Is it fun?

2. 2. Do I feel good when I create, read or experience it?

3. 3. Does it make my mind do something? Relax? Energize? Think? Wonder? Create?

To have guidance with a lot of freedom has been a terrific model for us. We do what’s fun, feels good and titillates our minds. To us, it doesn’t get much better than that, and if it does, we’re happy to find out.

What are our immediate plans?

We have started to release one book a month on Amazon and Apple iBooks. We teamed with a great designer, David Abbott, for new book covers so we will also be re-launching our first releases with brand new covers. Very exciting! Our next release is this week for:
We just got our first loan and with that money we will be creating our first Alphtapp. It will be based on our “flagship” book, A is for Angel. That was the hardcover book I created for Teff that is now a vintage classic because there are only a few printed, and our main seller on Amazon for Kindle. In the app, people will be able to read the book, make their own words and post letters and words to Facebook and much more, but I can’t say because it’s a surprise in the updates! What we love most is that people will be able to interact with the books/words in these apps and make things of their own with the letter! Oh how we love that because that is how we feel about them. Like they are our friends that we get to hang out with and share.

We absolutely want to turn Wednesdays into “W O R D Wednesdays” on Facebook! All over Facebook, words, words, words. Facebook is such an excellent tool for a company like ours. It allows us to interact with our readers/worders all the time, all around the world. Words, just words. And it is such fun! We have a ball playing with everyone on Facebook. It is meant to be fun—that is all. Just post a word. It’s addicting! We love it!

We’d like to expand our reach on Twitter as well! Tweet tweet a word of the week! That campaign will roll out in the coming weeks… We want something fresh and fun so we’re letting our j u i c e s brew!

My personal goal is to be featured in a story by Seabury Alum, Becky Worley on Good Morning America! That would be so much fun I can’t even begin to express it!

And last but not least… I made something to surprise Teff and I think you’ll see that on Facebook and our blog before April is done! Shhh. It’s a surprise. But I’m thinking giveaways!!!


Best of luck to Adrea and Teff on their c r e a t i v e journey! As for me? I'll be thinking of words for “W O R D Wednesdays".

My one question is, could the words be in another language? 
H o 'o m a i k a 'i, for instance, which means congratulations, in Hawaiian.

H o 'o  m a i k a 'i, Adrea and Teff. You really are making a difference for our children.