Source Side Hustle School.
What It’s About
Twin brothers think outside of the box, discover needle-felting, and create something wool-thy of standing out.
Words of Wisdom
Holman and Jack’s story is a perfect example of why you don’t need to get a platform in order to score a book deal. A great idea is still valuable, and content matters most of all!
Sometimes the books will take several seasons to create. Holman will wait to frame his shot for a book for the perfect season. For Star Wars, he staged some of the scenes and photographed them in British Columbia winter, and then again in spring. And for the desert scenes, he actually flew to California to set the stage in the sand dunes.
Notes from Chris
Twin brothers Holman and Jack Wang spent part of their childhood writing and illustrating books … just for fun. As the years progressed and their studies turned into full-time careers in Law and Teaching, they brushed aside their artistic interests. But then, much later in life the two brothers found themselves reminiscing about their lost art. They wanted to find a way to revisit it.
It was Jack who came up with the idea for creating Cozy Classics: a series of books that used primers to tell abridged versions of literary classics like Pride and Prejudice and Moby Dick. Holman loved the idea but there was one problem—neither one of them had done any type of drawing or painting in nearly 20 years. So while the idea was there, he didn’t see how they could compete with professionally trained digital artists. They had to think outside of the box and create something worthy of standing out.
Holman then floated the concept of needle-felting figures and photographing them in various scenes for the illustrations. He had heard of this medium before but had never tried it. So he decided to consult the number one tool for learning new skills: YouTube. He watched several videos on the technique of needle-felting and essentially taught himself how to do it.
Needle felting involves taking loose wool and repeatedly stabbing it with a specialized barbed or notched needle. The movement of stabbing the wool entangles the loose fibers allowing the wool to get denser and eventually turns it into felt. As the wool is felted, it begins to take some structure so you can sculpt shapes. Sounds easy, right? (It actually sounds hard to me.)
It took several months to stitch together the first book. Each wool figure took anywhere from 20 to 40 hours to create, and the process for styling and photographing each scene required 4 to 6 months.
They had met with one publisher through a friend of a friend who loved the concept, but didn’t think they would go over well by doing literary classics. The publisher wanted them to alter their vision and change it from “Pride and Prejudice” to “The Adventures of Lizzie and Darcy”. Holman and Jack were not willing to compromise their vision and turned down their first offer. They eventually found another publisher who bought into their original vision. That’s when their first two books were picked up and published.
So just how wool-thy has this 9-year side hustle become? Since launching Cozy Classics in 2010, they’ve earned more than six figures from book sales and royalties and speaking engagements. While the amount varies from year to year, they are currently averaging about $25 to 30,000 dollars annually.
Aside from the book sales, Holman has been invited to speak at many events that include presentations showing kids how to create needle-felt figurines. With needle and felt in hand, Holman and Jack are sure to stab their way to continued success.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Cozy Classics: Cozy up with one of Holman and Jack’s unique, needle-point illustrated books—head on over to their website to see their full book lineup and felt art
- HOLMAN WANG: Learn more about what’s down the proverbial felt thread over on Holman and Jack’s website!
- WordPress: Holman and Jack used WordPress to set up their personal website, and here you can learn how to install your own WordPress site in 5 minutes
- University Lecturer Earns $2,000/Month Writing Children’s Books: An American teaching in Taiwan tells tales of foreign lands, packaging them in a series of books for children back home
- Canadian Colleagues Publish Children’s Books About Real Life: Two Canadian mothers shake up the children’s book narrative by publishing stories that tell the truth about hard things in life
- Children’s Book Author Turns Page to New Income: A successful children’s book author pivots from making book trailers to coaching other authors. Along the way she learns to grow her business and spend more time with family
Inspiration is good; inspiration combined with action is better. Now get back to work!
Yours in the revolution,
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To infinity and beyond,