GlobalGrind caught up with awesome illustrator, publisher, funny guy and social interlocutor Ricardo Cortes.
Ricardo clued us in on his and author Adam Mansbach’s new and wildly successful project, “Go The Fuck To Sleep,” a children’s book for adults, about getting your kid to bed and how it, on the strength of a few pages in a PDF, climbed Amazon’s best sellers list faster than fire-eating gasoline.
The book was published two days ago and it’s taking the world by storm, this time as an audio book read by Samuel L. Jackson and as the Number 1 bestseller on The New York Times.
Cortes was in Boston when we spoke to him by phone this morning. His next project is about jury duty.
We can’t wait to see it!
Take it away, Rico! Tell us how the project came about.
Ricardo Cortes: Basically the writer Adam Mansbach and I have known each other for a long time. We grew up in the same town and I went to college with him. He started a hip-hop magazine called “Elementary” and I was the creative director back in college. We’ve been working together for a while and he was doing novel. I was doing books, he knew my stuff and the plans, so when he came up with the idea, I think he thought I would be a good person to reach out to.
So he sent me an early draft and I just clicked with it. I was like, ‘Yesssss!’ and decided to put together two or three pages that we sent out to Johnny Temple in Akashic. We both had a relationship with him before so we didn’t even go to a big publishing house or anything. We just went to him to see if he would be down. Even though they didn’t really do any types of books like this before, they don’t really do picture books, he really fell for it. He fell forward too and so we started working together, and so we worked together for like the last 7 months.
Pretty much Adam had finished the verses, then it was just me just illustrating and then going back and forth. There were a couple changes to the words but, for the most part, it was just trying figure how to lock down the imagery. So, at the end of April, around April 23rd, Adam did a reading in Philly where he projected the book that we had done. The book was never scheduled to come out until October this year. It wasn’t even on our radar of doing anything just yet. We had just sent it to the printer, and were kind of looking forward to seeing it in the fall, then a couple days later the link started going.
There was no online presence of the book either, because we hadn’t done anything with it except for Amazon had put up a pre-order page for the book. That was the only presence so that’s what started going viral, the Amazon page, and with the Amazon page going viral and people just getting the pre-order, because it was really cheap, it was like $8 dollar book, it started going up in the Amazon rankings. It got to like 140, and we were like, Holy shit, that’s crazy!! Then, within the next couple of hours, it went to 25, then 14, then 6, then 5, and 3, and we’re like, this is fucking crazy! And this was all in a span of a day.
So at that point I think it got to like #2 and we’re just like, That’s insane! this is crazy! And that started making news itself because the publishing industry looks at the Amazon list.
So, when this book came out of nowhere, they started writing about it. That started feeding the frenzy a little bit.[pagebreak]
At that point we were just, like, Man I hope the book doesn’t get out, cause there were definitely PDFs of the book that we had sent to people to blur it, and each of those people were like, ‘Ahh man it was great! I sent it to my friend, don’t worry I won’t send it to anyone else.’
We were like, Alright, cool please don’t, ’cause it can get around. Then three days later, we started seeing the PDF going around. People were writing, ‘Oh I love the book.’ We were like, ‘How did you see it?’ Then people started breaking up the PDF and post it on Facebook and the whole book was up and then the whole book was in a Youtube video.
At first Adam was writing people personally on FB like, ‘Hey that’s my book, please take it down’ and they would be like, you know, ‘I will but I got 40 people that said they wanna buy the book after they read it.’ Sure enough, the book peeked at #2 then gone back down to 4 then 6, started going back up again. That’s when it went all the way back up to #1 and we were like, ‘WOAH.’ So, the privacy thing and the bootleg thing, in this case with this book, because they say it’s a tangible thing, it helped and people just wanted a copy of the book. It was a good thing, so that’s pretty much how the thing blew up. Then from there we just decided to move up to printing to June and you know we just released it like 2 days ago.
Wow, that’s quite a riot! How did you guys go about getting the writing and illustration then matching up the two? Was it a lot person to person communication via emails? Did you Skype?
The first version Adam sent me, it was kind of like a long poem. He went back and did a second fitting and then just finished it. It kind of became more like a narrative structure where it was a actually a little story where the kid’s not going to sleep then finally wakes up. At that point it was pretty much done. Then from there on it was just me and Adam.
At first it was like a phone conversation and just going over page-by-page, and just saying this is what I see here. For the most part, we were just on the same page. I was like, ‘Listen: I think I just wanna do like a beautiful landscape or I want my illustrations to be jokey or funny because the words are, and I think they would just match better if we kind of balance each other out.’ You know, I was the straight guy and he was kind of the jokester. After that, I’d do a page and mark it up in InDesgn and I have this whole book going and PDF saved and email it back to him and then every maybe third time we’d send it to Johnny.
Above: Sam Jackson reading Go The Fuck To Sleep”.
Cortes: “No one can say fuck like Samuel L. Jackson!”