Friday, January 3, 2014

From Rabbits to Robots - Matt Novak Introduces his latest book

I first met Matt Novak working at the Disney Florida animation studio, known back in the late 1980s as the Disney MGM Studios. We were both working on Rollercoaster Rabbit, and we were part of the Magic of Disney Animation ride, called by everyone who worked in it (safely out of earshot of anyone important) as The Goldfish Bowl, a walk-through animation installation where the public could witness actual animated films being made.

For me, just 19 years old and still studying at University, it was a paradise, an absurdly lucky break into one of the top studios in the animation business. I was there in the summer of 1989, and Matt had already started a career as an illustrator, having published his first book Rolling back in 1986.

We got on famously, joining in obligatory trips to the local karaoke lounge, and even making it down to the Florida Keys, before my golden summer at Disney finally ended and I returned to England to continue my studies. Matt stayed on, but eventually left Disney to become a full-time writer and illustrator. Now, with around 20 books to his name, Matt has just published his latest book: Little Robot.

FLIP: Tell us about your new book Little Robot - what's it about?

Matt: It's an adventure story about a boy named Toby Tibbles who gets a robot for his birthday. The robot's name is "Little Robot" and he likes to help. As a matter of fact he likes to help too much and that leads to one problem after another. They end up flying through the town, helping put out a fire and teaching Toby's big bullying brother Snerd a lesson in the process.

FLIP: How did you get it published? Did you pitch it to a publisher?

Matt: I self published this through my new company Nootron Press. It's the first time I've gone this route with a book and it's sort of an experiment. I wanted to see how the whole process of self publishing might work, from beginning to end.

The creative side of the process is still the same, but then I had to think about the actual production of the books and the marketing as well. Self publishing has come a long way. It's quite simple now to make a book available almost immediately all across the globe through amazon, barnes and noble, and other vendors.

FLIP: How does an author go about getting published? 

Matt: The usual route an author takes to get published is this:
  1. Have an idea. 
  2. Put the work in to mold that idea into something others might want to read.
  3. If you're an author/illustrator you need to put together a mock up of your book. Usually a 32 page draft with text and drawings. Much like a storyboard is used for a film.
  4. (this is where people usually quit) You have to show it to a publisher. So many people get their book idea together and then get scared that someone might reject it - so they just decide it's somehow better to just sit on it. 
  5. You need to be prepared for rejection and then keep moving forward. Keep showing the book to publisher after publisher and hopefully someone will decide to publish it. There's no one way to get a book published. Each book is unique. 

FLIP: You have published many books - are you now insanely rich and ready to retire to Fiji?

Matt: Definitely not rich and definitely not ready to retire. But I have been able to make a decent living with my art and writing for most of my professional life so I do feel quite fortunate.

FLIP: What's next from the Novak publishing machine?

Matt: I have many new ideas in the pipeline. I am aving a real explosion of creativity these days. Hopefully something will break through and get published and I'm sure I will be self publishing something again in the near future. Perhaps a sequel to "Little Robot."

FLIP: Where can we buy your book?

FLIP: Do you mind if we publish a photograph of you singing Karaoke in Orlando in 1989?
Matt: Definitely yes. Under no circumstances do you have my permission.

Matt and Alex sing Karaoke, Orlando 1989

(Editor's note: For about Matt's work, read our May 2013 interview with him here. You can also read our interviews with other animation authors such as Uli Meyer, author of Cuthbert was Bored, Tanya Fenton, author of 3 Silly Chickens, Vladimir Todorov, author of a new eBook, Stephan Franck, author of the graphic novel Silver, Sydney Padua, author of Lovelace and Babbage, and Tom Sito, author of the History of Computer Animation. Finally, check out Tod Polsen's new book, Zen and the Art of Animation Design.)

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