The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

Creative Journeys: From Design to Storytelling with Jessica Hische

John Carter
May 8, 2024
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Creative Journeys: From Design to Storytelling with Jessica Hische

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Episode shownotes

We’re thrilled to welcome the incredibly talented Jessica Hische to the Human Centered Design Podcast. Jessica, a renowned lettering artist and author, based in San Francisco, shares her journey from studying graphic design to becoming an illustrator and author of children's books. Known for her exquisite typography and eloquent visual storytelling, Jessica's work is nothing short of breathtaking.

As we delve into her creative process, Jessica shares insights into the tensions and harmonies within her work, balancing the roles of writer and illustrator with grace and skill. We explore her recent ventures into children's literature with books like "My First Book of Fancy Letters", "Tomorrow I'll Be Brave" and "Tomorrow I’ll Be Kind," gaining valuable perspective on her artistic journey.

Don't miss this opportunity to dive into the mind of a true design luminary and gain inspiration from her remarkable portfolio. Be sure to check out the show notes and description for a link to Jessica's captivating work — it's truly worth exploring!

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Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Gerry: Jessica Hische, I am delighted to welcome you to the Human Centered Design Podcast. Long time fan, first time speaker. Um, but for people who don't, who've been living under a rock and haven't come across your name somewhere in the design world, maybe we'll start off by telling them a little bit about yourself, where you're from and what you do.

[00:00:24] Jessica Hische: Totally. So I, I never assume anyone knows who I am. That's something to,

[00:00:29] Gerry: Oh, they should do.

[00:00:30] Jessica Hische: I've been at this for so long now, though, that like now there's like young people that learn way more about the people who like are three stages removed from me than they would about me. So I don't make that assumption.

[00:00:42] But

[00:00:42] Gerry: work is, is

[00:00:45] Jessica Hische: I, uh, I grew up in Pennsylvania, um, which is a state here in the United States. And, uh, I was born to two parents who were not creatives. Uh, but who let me be creative, which was pretty cool. And then I ended up by the skin of my teeth going to college and studying graphic design. Thought I was going to be a painter, but ended up a graphic design major.

[00:01:09] And part of that was just, I really loved, uh, working towards solving problems rather than doing it as a self expression, uh, thing all the time. I felt like at the time I didn't really have anything to express yet. And so, and I still find now that. I'm, I feel the most creative when there's a problem to solve or when I have a bunch of constraints, um, not when there's this sort of open ended do whatever you want brief.

[00:01:36] I kind of hate those. And so after school, I realized that I, Kind of wanted to be an illustrator more than anything because I, you know, I always loved drawing and painting growing up, but didn't really know how to commercialize it or turn it into a real job. And then after I graduated, I was like, Oh wait, that there, that's like a whole profession of doing drawing and painting for other people that pay you to do it.

[00:01:59] And, um, so I was trying to pursue that in a freelance capacity, but ended up getting a job as a graphic designer, working for this really legendary lady in New York, uh, Louise Feely, And, um, she was just a great mentor and I learned a lot about typography. Like I learned a lot while in college, but also on the job.

[00:02:19] And then, uh, took like a post grad type design course and all kinds of stuff. Um, but when I finally went on my own as a freelancer, I didn't want to leave the typography behind, even though I still had this dream of being an illustrator. So I was illustrating typography as my thing. And at the time, lettering wasn't really like, as much of a

[00:02:43] Gerry: wasn't a thing.

[00:02:44] Jessica Hische: Yeah, it had like a big moment in the 80s and 90s, but then once people could find like, fun display fonts on their Personal computers, they kind of just kind of died down quite a bit and I felt like I was really in this like first new big wave of people embracing it again and I was just screaming it from the rooftops and so Now lettering has become this like massive profession again.

[00:03:09] Who knows? Maybe people will get tired of it and it'll go away but I feel like part of that was me and a handful of my peers just constantly shouting about it and um You know, being really early on in the trend for that. And so, I ended up, I've been on my own freelancing or running my own studio since 2009.

[00:03:30] And I work for all kinds of clients. I do stuff for film, for books, for, uh, ad campaigns, uh, for logos, all sorts of things. And then once I became a parent, I started doing, uh, illustrating and writing kids books as well. And so, that's sort of the biggest arc.

[00:03:49] Gerry: that is a, you're, you're too humble for a start because he's like, do a bit of movies, do a bit of this. Like you've done some serious work over the last 15, 16, 17 years, whatever it is. I'm not great at maths, but for anyone who is still kind of wondering, like, do they know any of the work I'm going to put a link into the show notes straight away.

[00:04:07] So you can click down below if you're listening to this, um, on Spotify, or if you're watching it on YouTube, it's in the description box, click on, you'll definitely follow along with this conversation as we're, as we're kind of. learning more about Jess's background. Um, you touched on something there at the very end, Jessica, where you mentioned about becoming a parent and writing a book for the first time.

[00:04:30] Like, you know, in the podcast This is 8cd, we really kind of speak to an audience around changemakers, people who want to make the world a better place, who are kind of in that mindset of, of doing good, and we have, I think we've a couple of prints floating around my home here, um, and my wife is a big fan of the positivity that sort of comes through in your work.

[00:04:55] Like, you know, I think there's one about sleeves up, um, sleeves up, I can't remember what it's called, but, uh, hard work and all this kind of stuff. So you've got some, um, of these seedlings that have happened even before he became a parent. And it's like, uh, the first book. When was that written? What was that called again?

[00:05:11] Tomorrow I'll be

[00:05:13] Jessica Hische: one's, tomorrow I'll be

[00:05:14] Gerry: Which one? Tomorrow I'll be brave. We've got two of these books in this. Tomorrow I'll be brave. So tell us a little bit about the the background to this, um, to this book. Like, you know, you had your first child and what happened?

[00:05:31] Jessica Hische: Well, for one thing, I'm sure you probably have a fair amount of parents in your audience, also. Um, if you are a creative person, and then become a parent, you become this like, idea factory. Like, no matter what, where you just see all the things around you, and you go, Oh! Oh my God, this playmat is so ugly and horrifying.

[00:05:51] If only I could start a company making beautiful design playmats. Or, and you just see opportunity at every turn. Um, and I think as an illustrator, um, and also someone who enjoys writing and things too, I was reading so many kids books, you know, because that's, it's just a part of your routine from even when you have a, an infant, you know, it's just a way to, Center a moment with your child where you're not just like goo goo gah ing at them.

[00:06:18] You're, you know, intentionally showing them stuff and reading them stuff and, um, I realized I had wanted to illustrate or write a kid's book before, but I didn't really know what the right moment was. And I sort of felt this weird, uh, silent gate, gatekeep around it, which didn't actually exist. You know, I felt like there was this like, Oh, I'm not allowed to do that.

[00:06:41] People like devote their lives to that and they understand it and all this kind of stuff. But then as I, my kids would fall in love with random books, you know, I was just like, I don't like this book, but You do you. It made me realize that there's just like an unlimited need for children's books because even if your kid is like into this really specific thing, like my kid likes dinosaur trucks or whatever, like if you don't have like 20 books about dinosaur trucks, you're just reading like one dinosaur truck book over and over and over and over and over again.

[00:07:17] Um, And so it makes it so all of a sudden this like bar to entry feels quite low where you're like all I need to do is find a thing that I know I wish was expanded upon or like has a different spin on it or it's within this universe that my kid likes or whatever. And so for me, I had been in therapy for a few years.

[00:07:37] And had felt like I learned all these really basic feeling tools that, that were really hard to learn, you know, as an adult. Um, and when you say them, you know, it seems so simple, but, you know, trying to actually put them into practice is a difficult thing. And um, I wanted to sort of like take these lessons that I was learning and teach them to my younger self.

[00:08:00] Or, and, you know, my younger self was like existing here in the world as my child, you know, I was just like, Oh my God, you are like me being able to take care of my child self by giving you the resources that I didn't have, you know? And so, um, Tomorrow Be Brave is all about like, I, I've noticed, I just noticed that there were a ton of books about like, you can be anything, you can be president, you can be an astronaut, like whatever.

[00:08:26] But not a ton of books that talked about what happened when you don't achieve your goals. And, like, that it's totally okay and that you can't be everything at once but it shouldn't stop you from, like, trying to be different things and sort of, like, feeling out yourself per day and being like, what am I capable of today?

[00:08:44] And like, letting yourself do the thing that feels like you can have the most impact in that moment versus trying to, like, climb some artificial ladder or trying to, like, Do everything all at once like we're never going to be capable of doing that and just sort of like Teaching that, like, teaching that, like, you might have all these goals, but you're not going to be able to do it all at one time.

[00:09:05] So, like, just celebrate the things that you were able to do, instead of getting yourself all down on the things you weren't, you know?

[00:09:13] Gerry: Yeah. So that first book came out probably six years ago. Is it around that

[00:09:19] Jessica Hische: Yeah, I think it came out in 20, I want to say 2018? 2017 or 2018?

[00:09:25] Gerry: It was before the pandemic. I remember that. I know that. Because we were reading it during the pandemic. Um, So what was the, what was the journey like where you decided this was something you were going to pursue?

[00:09:36] How do you prototype something like this? How do you, were you using your, okay. Hmm.

[00:09:44] Jessica Hische: at first I thought I was going to self publish it. And so, I was on this big hot kick about how I was going to self publish it. And so I tried to hold myself accountable to that by talking about it in public at conferences. And so I, I wrote the manuscripts to both Tomorrow Be Brave and Tomorrow Be Kind.

[00:10:03] And then I, I illustrated like two spreads of them. And then I went on stage at a conference and was like, I'm writing a kid's book and I'm going to release it. And then I just completely lost steam, you know, and sort of needed the accountability of, of a publisher. So, so I ended up, um, Deciding that one, I wanted the accountability of working with other people, but also I knew that I wanted the book to have an audience that was wider than just designers and other creative people because it's for, it's for any kid.

[00:10:36] It's not just for creative kids. And so I ended up pitching it to seven different publishers and got offers from a few of them and then went with Penguin for it. Um, and yeah, and then they helped me put the book into the world.

[00:10:52] Gerry: So, as regards using your kids as prototypes, was that something that you did, as regards

[00:10:57] Jessica Hische: Oh yeah, but they

[00:10:58] Gerry: telling the story and how

[00:10:59] Jessica Hische: they were like, This is boring. This book is for babies, you know? Uh, but I think it's just because I was so like eager to like get their feedback. They were just like, get out of here, mom. I want to read my book about this. Boy who imagines a rocket or whatever

[00:11:16] Gerry: yeah, it's funny because, um, I don't know if you ever heard of the author Roddy Doyle. He, he's an Irish author. He wrote movies like The Commitments, The Van, um, some amazing movies, like they, they really captured Ireland in the early 90s. He's an extremely celebrated, um, author in, in this country. But anyway, Roddy created, he wrote, um, books for his own kids, and he never intended to publish them.

[00:11:44] One of them is called The Gigglers, which is about these little monsters who go about playing pranks on, on adults, um, who are kind of mean and, you know, kind of say mean things to, to other people and to children. And it wasn't until a few years after that, that the books got published. So he used his children as kind of like the first, the first readers.

[00:12:06] Um, and it's gone on now. We've seen it as a, as a theater production there just before Christmas. So it seems to be a thing where creative people have kids and it kind of, as you said, they become idea factories where they're just like, wow, this would be so cool to do this. Um, I'm surprised your, your, your kids didn't like it, but do they like it now?

[00:12:26] Jessica Hische: know,

[00:12:27] Gerry: that the fact that mom has got like four of them.

[00:12:30] Jessica Hische: they're very proud of me Um, and they love like talking about how their mom is Uh is her own boss and blah blah blah and like as writes books and they love they love that But my daughter has always been like my daughter, especially She's always like

[00:12:46] Gerry: How old is she now? She's

[00:12:47] Jessica Hische: what she's supposed to be.

[00:12:48] She's eight and a half now almost nine and so She

[00:12:52] Gerry: driving a car, is she?

[00:12:54] Jessica Hische: I mean, basically. She, last year when she was in second grade, She was reading at like a fifth or sixth grade level. And so when, when she first started reading, she like immediately went from like basic, like ABC, whatever books to like graphic novels.

[00:13:13] So she just like bypassed, uh, picture books entirely. And so she just felt like my books were like too simple and not like complicated enough for her, even when she was little. My youngest, however, he's really, he's into it. He was really into Tomorrow I'll be kind for a while. That was like his fave. And then, um, my third book, Who Will You Be?

[00:13:37] Um, he really liked that one as well. And then he's like a super fan of my new book that's coming out. Actually all the kids really like my new book. So I feel like that one's gonna gonna do well because it's like definitely not a book that's meant to please a nine year old, but my Uh, almost nine year old is like this is pretty fun.

[00:13:56] I like this one. So

[00:13:58] Gerry: Okay. How are you finding the writing aspect? Because obviously the illustration, when I, I remember when I saw that book coming out, I was like, okay, you know, at that stage, I was, I was a new dad. And I was like, okay, fan of, you know, the lettering, the illustration work. I bought it primarily for me. It looks cool.

[00:14:17] I'm a designer. I designery books in matches. It looks great on the bookshelf. Um, it it's cool. So How did you find the writing aspect of the narrative? Because as you alluded to before, you're like, Oh, somebody else does all that. Maybe, maybe I shouldn't be doing, maybe I'm not good enough to write these kind of things.

[00:14:40] But you've proven yourself wrong. You have been able to write and you've wrote a number of them. What was that journey like in terms of getting the narrative down?

[00:14:49] Jessica Hische: Well, I don't have a very good writing process. So writing, I, I, I consider myself to be a pretty good writer, but I just don't have a very developed process for it. So it's very painful for me to write. You know, like I hate it until suddenly I love it. Um, and that's the kind of like how I don't, I'm not good at just generating like a first draft and accepting it that it's not going to be that great and that refining the first draft is going to make it better.

[00:15:15] Like I try to basically write my final draft the first time around and it's a very painful process. Um,

[00:15:21] Gerry: Is that how you work, Jessica, as well? Is that how you actually, you create your designs, though, as well?

[00:15:26] Jessica Hische: No, I don't create

[00:15:26] Gerry: Is there a parallel

[00:15:27] Jessica Hische: at all. Like I definitely do a huge iterative, like, you know, lots of iteration, lots of brainstorming, lots of sketching, you know, like, um, I'm not like a one and done person with my art, but I don't know why I assume I should be that way with my writing and, um, But I think this is like, this was one of the things that I have noticed when reading other people's manuscripts that try, that are writing children's books and things like that.

[00:15:55] This is where I feel really good that I waited to have kids to write, to be a writer. Because I didn't have a lot of exposure to little kids. I never babysat and all that kind of stuff. Like the first time I ever held a baby was like when I brought my own baby home from the hospital, which is like so crazy,

[00:16:11] Gerry: Reading.

[00:16:11] Jessica Hische: but no, I swear.

[00:16:13] Cause I mean, I have a little brother, but he's only a year and a half younger than me. So we were like basically the same age growing up and I had younger cousins, but they were like, you know, we, they didn't live close to us, so I didn't hang out with them. And so, um, but. When I read manuscripts by people who don't spend time with children, I can tell because like the manuscripts will be too complicated or like certain pages will like be too wordy and I'll be like, man, you lost the kid here.

[00:16:45] This is where the kid dropped off. This is where you need a page turn, you know, like whatever, because I just got so used to reading books with the kids that I, I kind of had a more intuitive sense of like, Oh, we need to break the page here and illustrate this thing here. Because if not, a kid's attention span is just going to drift off into the clouds.

[00:17:05] And so, um, I think now I I've always been like a relatively empathetic person. And, and like, that's how I design is like, I visualize the people that I'm designing for and that visualization is like, and having an audience for my work is how I'm able to make my work. And so with writing, it's sort of the same thing.

[00:17:25] Like I have to like really get in the head of a person reading this, be that a parent or the kid listening and be like, what do they want out of this experience? Um, you know, as a parent, you, there's some books that you have where they're able to be like really funny and tell like these little visual jokes or even verbal jokes.

[00:17:48] And you can read it over and over again and it continues to be like entertaining and funny. And then there's some that you read where the joke is like too heavy handed. And it's just like, you're just saying that joke again and again and again every time that you reread this book, and it just makes it so unfunny and unpleasant.

[00:18:06] And so it's sort of finding this balance, uh, in your writing, where you know that this is not just a, like, A person doesn't read this book one time and put it down and never picks it up again. It is a thing that you read again and again and again, and that makes you write things a little bit differently.

[00:18:24] You have to understand that everything that you have in the book has to be something that can be repeated and won't get old if possible. And then also too, like,

[00:18:34] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:18:35] Jessica Hische: Well, you have to think about read alouds when it comes to children's books where there's going to be times when Kids can't really see the illustrations as well.

[00:18:44] So the words have to be quite visual too Um, and so you try to just pack as much in, in as little as possible, you know, it's really a huge exercise in editing, uh, writing for children where you're trying to just pack such a crazy punch into just a few words to the point where, you know, Even a sentence can create like a whole visual for someone and then if you think about it as the fact that most Children's book authors are not also illustrating their books, right?

[00:19:15] Like it's quite rare where you have like an author illustrator The the usual thing is that there's a separate author and a separate illustrator As an author, you have to build in the prompts for your illustrator. And so you can think of that even as the author illustrator, where you're writing for your illustrator self, to be able to pick up the seeds of what you have written and expand upon them with the illustration.

[00:19:40] So it's like, you sort of have to pretend like you're in this partnership with these two sides of yourself and you want to help your illustrator self out. Yeah, totally. You want to help your illustrator self out by, by laying down the tracks, uh, for them to pick it up.

[00:19:56] Gerry: Yeah, I was, I was going to delve a little bit deeper into that whole kind of process of did you see a visual of the story before you saw the narrative? Because it's kind of like a rock band, someone who sees the lyrics and someone sees the melody. You're kind of jamming in real time. You're kind of like, You know, this is, this is a groove.

[00:20:18] So did those two go in harmony? Were they running asynchronously to the process? Were you sketching ideas down? I'm really keen to

[00:20:27] Jessica Hische: Yeah, yeah. I think it wasn't necessarily that I was doing sketches while writing, but as I was writing, I would come up with like a visual metaphor that would work for that thing that I was writing, and come up with a few of them, and then think about in terms of the pace of the book, like, which one is going to work the best to get us to the next part.

[00:20:49] You know, or like, you know, I'm not going to have two pages about space or two pages about whatever, you know Like you want to have enough variety and so it's sort of like for every Spread or page or you know little bit of prose that you have You write down like the two or three ways you could see it going and then you know Um, each one of those things has its different directions and then in the end you like highlight or circle or whatever or edit down to the thing that you think is going to contribute best to the whole based on all the other ideas that have shown up versus falling in love with like this one thing for this one part, which suddenly has a cascading effect down the line on other parts of the book.

[00:21:30] Gerry: Yeah. It's, it's an interesting process when you hear it, when you're. Sort of laying it out there. What was the biggest challenge for you when you were creating these books?

[00:21:40] Jessica Hische: The,

[00:21:41] Gerry: about running out of steam and you said you were going to do it independent, but then when you suddenly have a, um, you know, publisher breathing down your neck saying, Hey,

[00:21:49] Jessica Hische: yeah, there were a few, a few pain points, um, the getting done with the manuscript part is the hardest for me for sure. Um, like actually getting the manuscript to a good finalized place. Part of that is because, you know, you're working with an editor, like, as well, and they end up, like, having really strong opinions about certain things in it, and you can fight them on that, but they also, like, experience.

[00:22:16] And you also should probably, like, take a knee sometimes and let them get their way. Um, but it was really tough with, um, a couple of the books that I've written because I felt like I had more. visual language in the manuscripts and it got kind of edited away and then felt quite bare bones when it was like down to its final manuscript.

[00:22:38] But then, you know, you have to just remember that you can build that out with the illustration. Um, so yeah, I mean, the writing is definitely the hardest hurdle for me. It's a thing that I don't have. Like with my illustration, I know the process, you know, I know it's just like, read the material, write down ideas based on the material, respond to those ideas with visual thumbnails or whatever ideas, develop those further into sketches, get the sketches approved, work on the finals, et cetera.

[00:23:07] I have this really like concrete. process for moving through. And with the writing, I feel like I'm just always second guessing myself or like, I'll write something and think it's really good. And then, uh, someone else will think it's really cheesy. But the thing is, it's like, there's things that you'll hear about writing kids books that are true a lot of times and completely false other times, you know, like When I was doing Tomorrow, I'll Be Brave and Tomorrow, I'll Be Kind, there was like, all of the publishers were talking about, Oh, well, rhyming books don't sell anymore.

[00:23:40] Like nobody wants to do rhyming books or whatever. And which is just not true. Like every time that you find like your, like some aunt or uncle, like gets a kid's book for your kids, it's always a rhyming book. And so I think it's like, sometimes. Sometimes, sometimes publishers, um, and people within the book world are paying attention to what people within the book world are saying and not necessarily what customers are saying all the time.

[00:24:06] And that's not to say that that's like a hundred percent true, but I just feel like, you know how it is. It's like graphic designers talking to other graphic designers about thing they care about is totally different than if you talk to a random person in the world about, you know, That same topic like that a random person in the world doesn't actually care at all about the thing that you're so heated about and so or has like a

[00:24:26] Gerry: person.

[00:24:27] Jessica Hische: Yeah, yeah, or like, you know, like this is why people still get butterfly tattoos You know, like people love butterflies, the end, like, it's like, you can say that that's going to stop, but it's not going to stop because like people just love butterflies, butterflies, hummingbirds, whatever, you know, like there's, there's things that regular people love and we shouldn't shame them for it.

[00:24:46] We should embrace it and, and fold it into our work, you know, and I think regular people love rhyming books. And so if you can write a good rhyming book, it's going to sell.

[00:24:55] Gerry: Yeah. Who do you think is kind of doing it well? Like, who are you looking at, kind of saying, well, they've got a really nice style? Like, are you able to compare your work? Because it seems to, it seems to have a unique place amongst our, like, we've got a ridiculous amount of kids books. Folks, listeners of the podcast, Adrian Tan, who was part of This Is AC a long time ago, she gave us a Maybe four or five hundred books when her first child was born, so we've, we've probably got a thousand or two thousand children's books floating in this house, but it does hold its own.

[00:25:31] It doesn't really sit amongst anyone else, like it's, it's close to the Julia Donaldson books, I know that. Hmm,

[00:25:39] Jessica Hische: that no one's making lettering books or like books where lettering is a focus. because they're impossible to internationalize. So, like, it's tough to sell through a book because you know you're limited to whatever language that book was created in unless you completely recreate all of the artwork.

[00:25:56] And so that's been sort of the case with Tomorrow Be Brave and Kind where, like, another person who writes a children's book that is just all pictorial and narrative, um, you,

[00:26:07] Gerry: for instance. Yeah,

[00:26:08] Jessica Hische: yeah, you typically will just, like, the, the story will be printed in black ink. They can just, Uh, not print that plate for like a huge run of books and then switch just that plate and swap out the languages in like dozens of different languages.

[00:26:25] But when the artwork itself is language, um, it's very limit you're limiting yourself into the audience that it can find. And people ask me all the time like, oh, is this available in French? Or when are you going to do this in Spanish? Portuguese or whatever. And I'm like, when some publisher wants to do it and wants me to redo all the artwork, basically.

[00:26:44] So I think that's one

[00:26:45] Gerry: How would that work, though, Jessica?

[00:26:48] Jessica Hische: What were you saying?

[00:26:49] Gerry: How would that work in terms of timing? Like, how long did it take you to create this book? So if you had to create them in different languages,

[00:26:55] Jessica Hische: Well, you know,

[00:26:56] Gerry: you probably a

[00:26:57] Jessica Hische: it wouldn't take me the same amount of time because a lot of the artwork creation is sort of in the, like, figuring it out stage and once it's figured out and it's just about recreating it in another, um, another word, you're not even recreating all of the artwork, you're just recreating that one part.

[00:27:13] And so I've already translated Tomorrow I'll Be Brave into, uh, German and French. so much. Um, and so, and, and that's just because like publishers within those languages will approach Penguin and say, Hey, we want the rights to publish this in Germany. And then we work out a thing where they pay me for my time to like redo the.

[00:27:34] The spreads that need to get redone. Um, but people are always mad at me. They're like, how come you didn't do it in Spanish first? And I was like, it's not on me. I'm not the one choosing to publish these books. But, um, but yeah, no, they take like, they take a few weeks to redo. Um, but the process of actually creating them takes quite a bit longer.

[00:27:53] I think like start to finish tomorrow. I'll be brave was something like 400 hours and tomorrow I'll be kind was like 600. Yeah. Yeah, quite a

[00:28:03] Gerry: not that bad.

[00:28:04] Jessica Hische: It's not that bad but it's

[00:28:05] Gerry: was going to say that's not that bad.

[00:28:06] Jessica Hische: not doing it in a straight shot though. You're doing it like, two weeks of intense work and then you send off the manuscript and it gets rewrite and then it comes back to you and you redo that or whatever.

[00:28:16] So it's all these like, really intense pockets of time and then it like is a big gap between when you send off the work and get the next round of feedback. So it's like two weeks of intensity, three weeks of nothing, two weeks of intensity, three weeks of nothing. And that's kind of like the process for

[00:28:35] Gerry: The cadence. The cadence. Here's a question for you, and you can dodge it if you want, because, in case your publisher is listening. It's one thing if the publisher maybe gives you critique on the words. Did you ever encounter critique on the illustrations,

[00:28:52] Jessica Hische: Yeah, but usually

[00:28:53] Gerry: and how was that

[00:28:53] Jessica Hische: me critiques on the illustrations, it was like, um, a misunderstanding about something in it where in one of my

[00:29:01] Gerry: because that's kind of your domain, like, that's,

[00:29:04] Jessica Hische: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I thankfully I mean i'm very lucky. Um, i'm very lucky because I can usually be like, I don't want to do that. And then the publishers are like, okay, you know, Not everybody has that power um, but I do try to always like listen to everyone with an open heart and and Try to get to the why of why they want a change to happen.

[00:29:25] Gerry: And then tell them they're wrong.

[00:29:27] Jessica Hische: Yeah, and then I tell them they're wrong. I know it's uh, if like on my recent book There's there's always a ton of changes that they want to happen in the art But usually a couple of them that I'm like, I don't want to do that. I can, I have a reason of why I don't want to do it. And I go, I know that that makes sense, but you know, and then I just kind of have a little back and forth with them and they're like, okay, we're good either way.

[00:29:47] We didn't really feel that strongly about it, you know, and so, um, so yeah, I mean, I get feedback. One of the things, uh, that I got for my third book, which is Who Will You Be, was they just wanted to make sure that it had enough diversity represented in like the people pictured, but I would be like, oh yeah, that person is Asian.

[00:30:06] Oh yeah, that's meant to be like an African American mom and her child or whatever. And like, as soon as I said it, they were like, oh, we see it now, you know, and I'm like, okay. And I was like, I don't want to get too like stereotypical with how people look or whatever. I want it to be like a, like a suggestion that it is that, um, but you don't want to be hitting people over the head with stereotypes when you're trying to, uh, visualize a kind of person.

[00:30:32] Gerry: There was, there was a post that you put out on Instagram, um, which kind of triggered me to reach out to you because we were back and forth about some stuff, but, um, the, the sort of reliance on social media to promote your work, like you, we're all kind of craftspeople at the end of the day, we're designers, um, you've a huge following for anyone who's on Instagram, check out Jessica's following, cause they've got some seriously cool stuff going on at the moment, opening up a shop and so forth in, in Oakland.

[00:31:02] Um, but you mentioned about the first book sold really well. I mean, I saw it, like, I think I, I might have seen it on your Instagram. I think that's more than likely because I'm not on Facebook. Um, but then the second book was published and it didn't have the same sort of visibility. Um, Are you okay to

[00:31:23] Jessica Hische: So yeah,

[00:31:24] Gerry: the third book, was it Be Kind and Grateful?

[00:31:26] Jessica Hische: yeah, my first two books did really well. So like my first book, I just. You know, went so hard on promoting it because it was my very first kid's book. But my second book, I felt like I was doing sort of like more normal promotion for it, like nothing over the top, not phoning in all of my favors or whatever.

[00:31:44] And that one still did really well. Like it did better than the first in pre sales. And then when the third book came out, I sort of followed the same formula that I did for the second book, which was to like post about it when there was the cover reveal and post several times about the fact that it was coming out and announce a book tour and like do all the things that I had done, but I just found it impossible to get eyes on my social media posts and just to give you an idea of how, how different Um, it has been for that third book versus my first and second.

[00:32:17] So my first and second books in pre order and week of sale. So it's like pre orders are everything that happens from when you announce it up until the day of sale and then the first week of sale gets lumped into your pre order numbers as well. Um, My first book sold like 2, 500 copies in pre order to first week of sale.

[00:32:39] And the second one was 2, 700 copies. And then the third one sold 750 copies. And it came out a year, almost a year ago, because it came out, I think, in April of, uh, this past year. And since being on sale, it has only sold 1, 700 copies total. And that includes me bulk buying it, like, 200 copies at a time to sell them in my store and things like that.

[00:33:07] And so, by the time we got to, like, a year out on my other books, they had sold, like, 30, 000 copies or like, you know, like a really pretty significant amount. And then it kept going and going. Um, so it sold like it sold a thousand less than I sold in pre order for my other books. And it's because every time I talk about it, people are like, I didn't know this book came out, you know, and they, they like make a big thing of like not ever hearing about it.

[00:33:34] Yeah, exactly. And so I think what happened was it came out right when Instagram was doing a big shift about reels and what kind of content they wanted to promote to other people. I think they've since course corrected it a little bit because. I just announced my new book that's coming out in October, and I feel like I'm getting plenty of eyes on it, and plenty of people are like, being really responsive to it, and it's not like, Like I feel like I, I set up a new Instagram account for it and it already has a thousand followers, you know I feel like there's like people are seeing it Whereas with the third book like no one saw it I have 200, 000 followers and the posts that I would make about the book would get like 400 likes or like be seen by You know, less than 3 percent of my followers or something like that.

[00:34:27] And it was just, cause at the time they were really pushing video content. And so I'm hoping that things have like, sort of. Corrected a little bit in that regard. I'm still going to definitely be trying to do more like video content, the stuff about it, just to make sure that I can get eyeballs on it. But yeah, I mean, it, it was really destabilizing because I felt like I had this thing that was really reliable for.

[00:34:52] Getting eyes on the things that I made. And then it just felt like it evaporated overnight, like the ability to trust in it. And so, um, and it's, it's made me really reconsider social media in general. Like, not that we, like, I'm not the first person to be like social media is not all the way healthy for us.

[00:35:09] You know, like everybody thinks that and knows that. Um, but I'm actually writing a talk right now. Um, cause I'm doing a few, um, public speaking things in the next few months. And it's going to be really about like embracing IRL and looking, uh, trying to have real human connections to people, um, rather than relying on social media to make those connections for you.

[00:35:34] Because I think we all got into this like idea that I'm sharing the things that I'm doing on social media and my friends follow me. Therefore, my friends see it. Therefore, I don't feel like I should go and reach out to them separately and tell them about my life or connect with them. So, cause you're like, Oh, that's just like me doubling up on that when really like, there's no guarantee that anybody that follows you sees things.

[00:36:00] And so it's actually made us less likely to reach out to people. And make the actual in person connections. Cause we just assume that they know about the thing already. And so I really want to sort of like highlight this behavior and how, um, you know, I think the pandemic, yeah, like the pandemic has made us all feel very disconnected and like isolated and everything, and, you know, things are like open up now and everything.

[00:36:27] But I feel like these. Like that disconnection is still very real and part of it is people aren't doing the extra step of like like connecting one on one with people or in groups with people or trying to like manifest these more real life connections as much because we've just used these online ones as our only source of socializing for so long even before the pandemic.

[00:36:53] Gerry: Totally. On that point, I remember, uh, Many, many years ago, I worked for Myspace and, um, in Sydney, the, the international HQ is in, uh, HQ is in Sydney and we were working with brands that were doing millions of dollars to build out their, their friends list, getting the top six. Do you remember that? And whenever Myspace started to, uh, to die, I remember walking away kind of going, Hmm.

[00:37:20] All those brands have spent millions and millions of dollars and it's just down, down the toilet. So from that moment on, I always encourage people to, to build their newsletter list, to have that kind of connection directly with the, with the customer. So with 000. I saw, I saw that happen on the other day and I was like, it's a great milestone.

[00:37:41] But if people want to stay in touch with what you're doing, is newsletter still the best way for them to engage with you?

[00:37:50] Jessica Hische: It's definitely a good

[00:37:51] Gerry: you still believe?

[00:37:52] Jessica Hische: I, I love my newsletter because I don't send it out often. It takes me so long to write it that I only do it like every couple of months. Um, but I do feel like while I share often on social media, the newsletter I feel like is the way that I, I can like guarantee that the people who care about my stuff, see my stuff.

[00:38:13] You know, so I don't share everything in my newsletter that I've posted on Instagram because I don't want it to be like a big look at me festival every time I send in a newsletter and I I tend to write about super random things to like Doing karate with my son and all that kind of stuff because I feel like I treat it more like we're pen pals You know, like I love it when people write me back, like when I send out my newsletter and then people write me back and tell me about their life, it's like so fun for me.

[00:38:39] Um, it's like the thing that makes me want to send the newsletter out because then I just get a bunch of like fun email instead of like annoying email of just people being like, That was so great. I feel so happy now. Also, I'm doing roller skating too. You know, like it's, it's wonderful. I love it. And so you kind of have to do both, like, you know.

[00:38:57] Follow me on the internets, and then also the newsletter is really fun. I promise I'm very not spammy. I send them out so

[00:39:04] Gerry: you're not at all.

[00:39:06] Jessica Hische: Yeah,

[00:39:07] Gerry: You're not at all. Like, I've, I've been on the newsletter. I think I'm still on it as I'm saying this. I'm like, God, if they check

[00:39:14] Jessica Hische: you might want to, you might want to re sign up because I just switched from MailChimp and some people are telling me they haven't received it,

[00:39:20] Gerry: Who did you move to just an interest? You moved from, I moved from MailChimp about 18 months.

[00:39:25] Jessica Hische: I moved to MailerLite Um, I was between them and Ghost and they were pretty similar price for me because like I, I didn't do Substack Um, I, they were trying to court me like a long time ago And I didn't do it because they had this crazy high expectation of like how many, you know, Emails they wanted you to send out and I was like, I don't want to do that And so and then they've just hit a bunch of controversy with their free speech stuff So i'm just like I also don't think like it's probably gonna fold at some point, you know Just because you can't be supporting like Massive like email lists for free forever So, I don't know

[00:40:02] Gerry: That's what MailChimp did. They gave you, I think it was 1000 subscribers for free.

[00:40:09] Jessica Hische: yeah, well my MailChimp, because I had, because I had 16, 000 subscribers, because that's how many I have, um, MailChimp was 330 a month. Which, like, for someone that sends out, like, four emails a year, it was really hard to justify, like, you know, a thousand dollars an email. Like, you know, so

[00:40:28] Gerry: Yeah, that is crazy. So MailerLite is,

[00:40:33] Jessica Hische: MailerLife is, ended up being about a hundred and twenty five a month, and it, it is very similar for me. Like, Ghost is the other one that a lot of people have been using, but it's probably, like, more rich than I need. You know, I don't really need something that has all of those features, I just need something that is like a nicely designed email newsletter, and that's kind of that, and has good metrics, and that's it.

[00:40:52] Gerry: Did you check out ConvertKit? Just

[00:40:55] Jessica Hische: You know, someone had recommended ConvertKit to me too. I did MailerLite because my friend Dan Cederholm always talked about it, um, as being really great, and I know a few other people that use it that like it.

[00:41:06] Gerry: It seems a lot of American people I know use MailerLite. A lot of European people are using ConvertKit. It's kind of like, um, it's just interesting. But yeah, MailerLite, they're all pretty much the same thing. But, sorry to deviate a little bit on that. Well, look. Jessica, I know it's coming towards the end of your lunchtime and I know you have not had your lunch and I want to let you go.

[00:41:30] Um, I wish you

[00:41:31] Jessica Hische: my bag of grapes, but that's it.

[00:41:34] Gerry: your bag of grapes. I feel like your mum here, but you need to be eating more than just grapes for your lunch. Jessica

[00:41:40] Jessica Hische: I know, I will. I have soup in, over here

[00:41:42] Gerry: you?

[00:41:43] Jessica Hische: that I'll have. Soup and

[00:41:44] Gerry: No. Good, good, good. Get a, get a good lunch into you. Um, but wish you the very best of luck with the new book. I have just bought the last two books from you on your website, so when you turn on your Do Not Disturb, you'll see two little things.

[00:42:04] My kids will be getting them in the next couple of weeks, but hopefully by the time I do the intro for this podcast, have them on the desk and show them to the listeners. So we mentioned there about your newsletter, oh,

[00:42:16] Jessica Hische: uh, if I can hard sell your listeners on pre ordering my new book, it's called, uh, My First Book of Fancy Letters. And don't wait to buy it from me directly, like, please pre order it, um, because the pre order numbers, uh, really make a difference to the publisher and, like, to how they treat the book moving forward, so.

[00:42:37] It's on Amazon and it's on a bunch of other, like, if you go to, if you just Google, like, my first book of fancy letters and then my last name, it'll turn up the, the Penguin page for it and they link out to bookshop. org and a bunch of other places.

[00:42:50] Gerry: Is that the one, Who'll You Be?

[00:42:52] Jessica Hische: No, that's, that one is out. You can, you can buy that one now and that will show up whenever it shows up. The new one is called My First

[00:42:59] Gerry: It says coming soon on your website though. It says coming soon on the website.

[00:43:03] Jessica Hische: That, that, I

[00:43:04] Gerry: Come on!

[00:43:06] Jessica Hische: I know, I just put it on there the other day. Oh, wait, does it say coming soon on my shop?

[00:43:10] That just means that it's sold out right now and I have to update the numbers. Yeah. So don't,

[00:43:15] Gerry: So what's the new, the new book that you're talking?

[00:43:17] Jessica Hische: me. In

[00:43:19] Gerry: No, I always like buying directly from the authors and

[00:43:23] Jessica Hische: terms of pre orders though, in terms of pre orders, don't buy it from me. For pre orders for new books, any, any other bookstore, go to your local favorite bookstore and have them pre order it for you. It's better to do that because if you pre order for me, my numbers don't count towards my sale,

[00:43:39] Gerry: Okay.

[00:43:40] Jessica Hische: that the big sale stuff.

[00:43:41] And that's what determines what, if the publisher likes me or not.

[00:43:45] Gerry: So, so give a shout out for the new book. What's the new book title called?

[00:43:49] Jessica Hische: The new book is called My First Book Of Fancy Letters.

[00:43:53] Gerry: Mm, very nice. Um, I'll put a link to that. I'll find a link to, uh, a couple of stores in Europe and a couple of stores in America. Um, try and avoid the Amazon thing if you can, if that's okay, Jessica? Um, I'll put a, yeah. Put a link to, to your local stores, but if you're in Australia, there's definitely a bunch in Sydney.

[00:44:13] I know that I recommend to go in and pre-order the books. as Jess has just explained. Look Jessica, thank you so much for giving me your time today, my night time. Um, thoroughly enjoyed speaking with you and if you need anything else in the future, you know where we're at.

[00:44:29] Jessica Hische: Yeah. Thank you so much.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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