This week Jess and I sent Kern and Burn: Conversations With Design Entrepreneurs to the printer. What started as a blog a year and a half ago has taken shape as a 276 page perfect-bound book. I’m excited. It may be the hardest I’ve ever worked on anything. We’ve been making book decisions every day for the past 6 months. What interviews can we strengthen? Can we cut a ‘famous’ designer’s interview when they were so generous and talked with us? Is our red, orange enough? What the heck are we doing? What if no one likes it? How many nagging emails is too many?
Sending a book to press is different than writing a blog post, or capturing email addresses, or testing product assumptions. You can’t really beta test it, and it’s impossible to log in to wordpress and fix a fact, or correct a spelling mistake. I think we took all of the right steps. We hired a copy editor, read the book ten times, reviewed everything with the designers we interviewed, and made intelligent decisions. But I am completely terrified.
I’m incredibly grateful to our Kickstarter backers that made it possible. But it still feels crazy. I’ve never spent this much money on anything before in my entire life. My first car cost less then a third of what our book run costs.
But, it’s sent. It’s gone. Editing the book is over. When I lay in bed tonight and flip through the PDF on my iPad and find mistakes—and there will certainly be mistakes—there’s nothing I can do. I have to let it go. I have to be ok with the imperfection and celebrate what we’ve accomplished.
Not many things that I do today are permanent. I can delete Twitter posts, curate my Facebook wall, and ship quickly on digital products. I’m expected to iterate. But shipping a physical product is incredibly scary. And it’s just the beginning of the hard part. We need to sell and distribute this book.
There’s something that feels right about self-publishing. About taking responsibility for our decisions and our mistakes. If the book is a success, it’s because we made good decisions. If it is not, it’s because we made bad decisions. We can’t blame errors on our publishers.
I cannot wait for the moment when I finally hold a physical copy of the book in my hand. But today, I think letting go of 1.5 years worth of work, may just be the most profound moment in the entire process. For better or worse, we’ve done what we can, and our passion project will soon be released into the world.
What else am I waiting to do until I think it’s perfect? Until I can mitigate the chance that I’ll be embarrassed, or considered foolish?
It seems we are being encouraged to be entrepreneurs, to take control of our own destinies, and to take risks. But I’m beginning to realize that vulnerability is as much of a skill as risk. That the opportunities are for those willing to ship. Willing to let go, and invite critique, feedback, and hopefully support. As designers we often find ourselves fighting for control, but I gotta believe there’s power in embracing constraints and letting go.