Benjamin Ehlert and Mitch Stevens sit down to lunch with wide perfect smiles. Seriously, these guys both have perfect teeth. But they aren't just smiling to be polite. They are smiling about their newest venture: The Dream Press.
The concept was first brought to my attention by Rick Walton, and it piqued my curiosity. So I thought I'd meet up with The Dream boys for more details.
"Initially it was hard to find just the right name for this project. But this is our dream: to produce other people's dreams," says Ehlert.
The dream to which he refers is a hybrid type of crowd-sourced publishing of children's picture books that have a focus on inspiring kids to reach for their highest potential and become better people.
Ehlert, who has his degree in business management and strategy, and Stevens, who has worked on ad copy for the likes of Taco Bell and Vitamin Water, came together to create this business venture in "market-sourcing."
Think of it as Facebook meets Kickstarter meets Scholastic.
Here's how it works: authors and illustrators set up profiles on thedreampress.com. Authors choose how many pages of any number of inspirational picture-book manuscripts to put up for consideration, illustrators provide a mini portfolio of work that would target that same audience. Visitors to the site vote for their favorite ideas and artwork.
There is a Dream Press publishing board who take the "likes" into consideration, then offer to put into print the best and brightest offerings.
"That way the market is pre-built into a project. People are already [emotionally] invested," they explain. But financially invested, too. Like with Kickstarter, interested readers may pre-purchase the book of choice (funds only taken once the book is created and shipped).
In time, Stevens and Ehlert would like that one-time payment to include not only the physical book, but videos, ebooks, and/or apps associated with it—something to ease the physical-vs-digital debate. And while picture books are the focus now, they may expand to MG and YA as projects come forward and the brand and its audience are built.
"We are building this brand to industry standards. We don't want to be just a small vanity press," they say. And they are getting some key players in the kid-lit market on board with them.
The concept is interesting on its own, but what caught my attention was that these guys are already taking it to the next level.
The official launch of The Dream Press this May is called "Dreamathon," a week-long promotion focusing on kid's literacy. Some 150 artists are expected to get involved with creating a dream-like sanctuary of murals and wall-hangings wherein short classes on writing and drawing will be offered to 1500-2000 school children. (They already have a donor providing funds to bus the kids to the event.)
In the evenings, keynote speakers, well-known musicians, and workshops will be available to the public.
Currently five books are in the works and will be part of the initial launch.
Details can be found on their website (which is being updated as the whole company continues to take shape).
And while you can't quite yet set up a profile, you can send story and art submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org now. Selected stories submitted by May 25th will receive a thumbnail illustration by a professional artist to accompany the author's profile.
So polish up that inspirational picture book and get in on the ground floor of the dream.