Fundraising with Bob Books Take Two – Interview with Andrew Stewart

27th November 2018

We caught up with Suffolk-based designer, storyteller and strategist Andrew Stewart who has used Bob Books yet again for a wonderful cause. You can read about his first project here

We're thrilled that this is your second fundraising book made with us, what was the motivation behind this?
There’s a theme starting to build for sure – to create high-quality analogue pieces (in print as opposed to digital) that delivers an authentic, carefully crafted experience. The headline – this is a story about how fine art brilliantly captures a moment in time, it’s also about gift giving and incredible causes. In a world where often the ambition of a piece (of communication) is for profile, financial gain or market position – to get stand out and traction is I believe it’s about good old fashioned story telling, where a solid narrative, presented honestly and with integrity are central. Also, to be very clear on the ‘why’ – to thinking deeply about why people might be interested in what’s being presented. People can see through veiled attempts at authenticity, bluff and rhetoric. Markets are suspicious and super-sensitive, they are in effect people like you and me, they’ll sniff out the bluff a mile away. But when a good news story breaks, it can lift everyone and brings a sense of salt and light along with it. And I think people buy into good news stories, and in our case, they became a central part of the good news story.
The motivation behind the book ‘Together We Are Stronger’ was simple – it’s a story about how an artist and her husband (and a passion for Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C.) ignited a fundraising phenomenon. It’s the inside story that captures the spirit behind an incredible season for Wolves, captured in 13 unique paintings by Louise Cobbold; where earlier this year The Great Big Art Auction raised over £12,000.00 in support of the life-saving work of Cure Leukaemia.
Why a book? To permanently capture the story, which otherwise would be lost in the digital abyss. To offer people a chance to literally ‘own’ the story, the pictures, the spirit and success of what we can achieve when we work together. The book is a keepsake and a memento for all those who are passionate about football, causes and fine art. It is a record of what we can achieve together.

Can you tell us the story of how this project fell into place?
After the success of the fundraiser, Louise, Chris (husband of artist Louise Cobbold) and I wanted to capture the story and a book was a natural next step. I love books, I’m passionate about the role they play in the art of communication. They have a weight, a mass and a place on our bedside tables, under our beds and on shelves. They also are incredibly versatile from a creative perspective, both in strategically complementing digital platforms –  the overloaded transitory (disposable) digital world in which we live. They can also unite and create clarity out of mystery. They can challenge, reframe our thinking, make us laugh out loud, as well as make us cry. I’m not the first person in history to have discovered this – but it’s a medium that I believe has a powerful role in complementing and informing digital forms of communication.
But here’s the thing, to capture a story in book form is expensive. It takes collaboration, time, commitment and no shortage of ambition. There are no guarantees, if shifting units and hitting sales targets, often top of the agenda – they can be risky things to produce. But sometimes you have to shoot for the moon to get into space, and so it was with our book. Make it the best it can be, think deeply about the words, pictures, flow, visual pace, the way the narrative weaves, pitches and rolls. Make it a celebration, get endorsements, quotes about the book and the fundraiser from movers and shakers. Make it limited in number, add an emboss mark with a hologram in support of authenticity, hand-number and sign each copy and print using the UK’s best layflat print-on-demand platform, Bob Books. In short, create the best possible book you can in support of positive outcomes – then think strategically about how you reach your market, or maybe build your market and the sales platforms and mechanisms available.
For us, Chris did an amazing job of building audience via social channels – that was hard work, but it paid off. We sold out in 4 weeks. That meant the production, tailoring, special envelopes, tailored labels and fulfilment was all paid for in advance – it was in effect self funding, with all profits going to Cure Leukaemia.
Why do think people respond so well to a photo book? What does it communicate to them that an email or textbook can’t?
Why does anyone respond well to a book? It might be the print quality, the unique layflat binding, the emboss and hologram and personalised message on the inside front cover from the artist. But I think it’s more than that. I think it’s about relevance, the way a story resonates with a particular audience, how it hopes to inspires or promote a sense of well being or positivity about life. The way we can all be inspired by the things that we choose to read and surround ourselves with. We know that pictures play a huge role in communicating stories, that email is really just a business tool, and a rather formal one at that. So ask yourself, when you last purchased a book: why did you buy that book, once read, what did it change and how did it make me feel? We know there are a myriad of reasons and results – so capture the takeaways, maybe copy, transform and combine the insights – then represent. In a time of diminished attentions spans, people and markets respond to simplicity, and pictures can communicate complexity brilliantly. Why do people respond well to photo books? Maybe it helps us all reflect on the better angels of our nature, it might change our nature for the better even or remind us about an incredible football season, captured beautifully in 13 works of art.
What hints and tips would you give someone else who was considering making a photo book as part of a fundraiser?
Consider the question ‘Why make a photo book?’ – Answers will vary, so will reasons and context – and you’ve just read why making a photo book worked for us. To permanently ‘cast' the experience, memories and moments in print form – that alone is special and others might think the same. Fundraising I think is where stories compel people to give of their time, money or experience, sometimes all three. So what’s the story you want to tell? It might be hope, beauty, tragedy, loss, how the human spirit can at times overcome the most incredible odds to survive and sometimes thrive. Make the piece the best it can be, commit fully, collaborate, wrestle with it. Build on it… Be sure to just complete it, be strategic, be open to the outcomes, be courageous, see what happens… I would encourage people looking to embark on something similar to check out our website for pointers.

Can you tell us what you have planned next?
I’m mid-way through designing a very exciting large-format coffee table book about tennis. I was invited to partner on the project by Dave Courteen (MD of Mosaic Spa & Health Clubs) who has written incredible first-hand accounts that shine a light on how tennis challenges and changes us, the way we think and feel, how it contributes to our sense of worth and value in the place we find ourselves. It’s not just another book about tennis – it’s a story of transformation, where eight narratives together capture how tennis can change us from the inside out. This book, incorporating the amazing photography of by Richard Dawson, suggests that we take a step closer towards the game. That starts with showing up, being fully present and if you’re up for it, playing tennis. That’s the book pitch, the proposition that underpins the ambition and takeaway, the exchange that takes place between the player and the game.
It is a photo book on a grand scale. For the first time I’ve approached the book as a campaign, creating a name, brand and communications platform. With approaching 3 decades in the creative industry, I’m pouring all my years and experiences into this book – and I think it’s going to be a show stopper. Dave’s writing style along with Richard’s photography is exceptional, I’m super-excited to be working in collaboration with these guys, also to be working with the talented Kate Taylor, an independent publisher at Middle Farm Press. The book is due to be launched in February/March next year.