This year, I published a book of Green Day fan stories and art. I wanted to document the band’s incredible impact on a diverse fanbase. So, I gathered stories and fanart from fans of all ages, from Greece to California to Costa Rica to China. All 161 pages are a truly wonderful testament to how Green Day have changed lives and the devotion of their fans. I knew I was going to be proud of it – and everyone in it – but quite how proud I was didn’t hit me until I opened up the box.
How it all began
I was making My Rage My Love My Life – a documentary of my own experiences following Green Day on tour – when I got the idea. I knew I was going to exhibit my photos. They'd quickly become a document of the fan community as a whole, rather than just myself. I thought a little book of other fans’ stories would be an amazing addition. I asked for submissions – at this point just for stories, not fanart – and made a short book in InDesign. Then I exhibited it. It was the most popular part of my exhibit (sadly, no one got in my survival bag).
A while later, I put the book up for sale so everyone could read it. It was surprisingly popular!
I knew at this point – shocked by quite how much the stories moved me and knowing there were even more out there – that I wanted to make a bigger, better book. This time, I asked for fanart submissions, too. It would be the final book, so it had to be good!
Looking for more stories and art was a slow process. A lot of people who weren’t too shy, or too busy to submit already had. I kept plugging the submission page, but there was little interest. I tried approaching fan artists on Instagram, but they didn’t reply, deleted my comments or blocked me. With my 9 to 5 job, I didn't have much time to continue going out of my way to get submissions. The deadline passed, but I never got around to printing. I felt very disillusioned with the Green Day fandom and its drama and hierarchies at the time, too. How much the book meant to me and what a great project it was faded from my memory.
When I pinned My Rage My Love My Life as an Instagram highlight, I included a few excerpts from the book. Unexpectedly, a lot of people messaged me saying they wished they’d been part of it, that they weren’t even aware of it until then, or that they wanted a copy. I went back to read it again. It immediately reminded me why I was doing it and how important it was to me and to document this. So I reopened submissions (feeling bad that I'd never got it done before!).
People now had months to submit. It was, again, a slow process, but this time I wasn’t letting it go until I’d got as many fans as possible into it!
Getting more submissions
I tried a few different strategies. One was offering the option to submit in Spanish, French or Portuguese, but no one did. I made fun and more ‘serious’ calls for submissions. I encouraged friends who’d previously expressed interest or I thought would like to be in the book. Half of my attempts were successful. My most successful plan was recruiting my East Bay native partner to speak with fan friends in the area and one in LA. Some were shy or struggled to write, so I ‘interviewed’ them or we just chatted about Green Day and pieced together stories. They were stories I’d never have found by only appealing to visible or ‘super’ fans – but they were some of my favourites and moved me to tears!
The biggest obstacle was definitely convincing shy or uncertain people their stories or art were absolutely worth a place in the book. I don’t know if I made a mistake giving people months to submit. Other than my partner’s unpaid internship at My Rage My Love My Life, the most submissions came in with my last minute reminders. Maybe I should have done that all along. It’s so easy to procrastinate or just forget to make time when you have forever to do something.
Deciding whether to publish an eBook
I had a long think about this. At first I was definitely going to offer a cheap eBook version to make it more accessible to everyone. A few weeks later I thought about how if I did, a free PDF would be much more likely to end up on the internet for anyone to see. Which isn’t inherently bad – I wasn’t looking to make money from it, after all. But the contributors shared personal stories under the assumption it would be a limited physical print people had to buy to see, not an easily accessible PDF. I also felt it wouldn't be fair to people who’d previously bought the physical book. So I decided against it. It’s a shame because I’d love it to be more accessible, but I don’t trust the internet with everyone’s stories.
Why not make more books?
A few people have expressed disappointment they weren’t in the book. Some felt I should make more books. Volume 2 is the final version, though. For starters, I don’t think expecting people to keep paying for extensions of the same book is fair. In total, people had almost two years to submit. I chased a lot of people who said they wanted to be part of it and approached others I thought might be interested. The majority didn’t reply or just never got around to it. Most genuinely didn’t have time and that’s a real shame. Before printing, some people had been waiting months to buy the book, so continuing to extend the deadline wouldn't have been fair to them either.
I really wanted as many people as possible to be part of this, but if people don’t submit, there’s not much I can do. The same will happen if I make another book. A few more people will submit, but most who didn’t have time last year won’t have time this year. I did make it clear when I opened submissions for Volume 2 that it would be the final book, so I don't think it's unreasonable.
This time, with the book being over three times longer at 161 pages, I had to use a professional – and pricier – printer instead of the simpler company I’d used before. In early February, I put the book up in my store for £14.99 until February 18th. After that, I’d put in a bulk order. If I only sold a few books, I’d lose a huge amount of money and end up paying to send the books out. It was a scary gamble at first, but I soon sold enough to cover everything. As February 18th approached, I finalised the file in InDesign and prepared to send it to the printer.
Despite having learned all about this at university, I was nervous. After all, studying something in a classroom and actually executing it are totally different things… and I wanted the books to be perfect for all the amazing people who’d supported and contributed to the project over the last two years. What if I messed it up somehow? I had a quick chat with the printer to make sure I was doing everything right and then I sent off the file.
A heavy box arrived with DPD on March 6th. I opened it and there were all my very own, professionally printed books! It was surreal.
They were thicker than I expected. Even though I’d already published one book, this even better final product was somehow even more incredible. Flicking through and seeing everyone’s amazing art and stories there, in full colour and all their glory – I felt so proud! Despite having stared at my own art and story on InDesign for months on end, I was excited and a bit emotional to see that there, too. I knew then exactly why I’d done this and, regardless of inevitable drama, how special Green Day’s fandom really is.
Shipping the books
This was quite a big job, but also exciting! The first five orders got a little gift for their support. After carefully wrapping the books, I passed them to Joy to be sealed in mailers. Her sellotape fortresses then went into a Primark bag, ready to be shipped the next day.
The parcels were transferred to some transport sacks (also known as my Pokémon backpack and Berkeley Bowl shopping bag) and we took them to the Post Office.
I was a bit worried the Post Office lady might run away screaming. But no, she was professional and got it all done quickly. She even knew American Idiot. I left with a stash of comically long receipts.
And then it was done. My books had officially been published and dispatched. I felt like a proud parent. I sent out dispatch notifications, finished this and now I'm going to rest and play Pokémon.
Hope Green Day are ready for this, because they’re getting a copy on the next tour!