The Story of My Book: Marc Martin on A Forest

Four years ago Melbourne illustrator and designer Marc Martin self-published a little book called A Forest. Penguin Australia caught wind of Marc’s project and have this month published it as a big, hardback picture book.

Marc guest blogs to tell us the story behind the transformation.

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When I first self-published A Forest in 2008, I didn’t have much of a plan on where I wanted it to go. At the time I just thought of it as a creative outlet for myself - a way of making something beautiful and hopefully sharing it with other people. It was a personal experiment in self-publishing - to make a book and see where it would go, without putting any pressure on myself of having to sell a product. In that sense, I guess I took the approach most artists would take when making something; make the work for the works sake; and if people happen to like it (or buy it), then that’s a bonus. The thought of approaching a major publisher with the initial idea never crossed my mind – it was more a case of having an idea and wanting to do it as soon as possible (I can be a pretty impatient person!) – so for me that meant self-publishing as a starting point.

The beauty of publishing something yourself is that there’s very little risk involved – you can keep the print-run small and the costs down. Luckily, I also had prior knowledge in printing and design, so the technical process of getting the book to the printer was fairly easy.

Conceptually, I wanted to tell a story that was both visually appealing and easy to understand, without being heavily reliant on text to explain the narrative. I like to think that if you took away the words, the book would still make sense, so I made numerous storyboards until I got the visual narrative right before doing anything else.

The original illustrations were done on large, A1 sized watercolour paper, which was then scanned in and pieced together on the computer. Working large scale allowed me to have lots of detail and helped give the forests and buildings within the book a greater sense of density.

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When the original A Forest first came out, I had a small launch at a local bookshop (I also painted a mural for the launch - pictured), and then it was a matter of distributing the books myself (usually just on my bicycle to local bookstores). The initial response from readers and bookstores was really positive, but given I was doing most of the distribution myself, it had limited outreach (especially outside of Melbourne).

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It wasn’t until a couple of years later when I self-published The Curious Explorers Guide to Exotic Animals A-Z that publishers got in touch. The Curious Explorers book gained a lot of attention on the Internet, and luckily Penguin contacted me to talk about publishing A Forest and The Curious Explorers on a larger scale! It’s been really nice to see A Forest come to life in a larger, more substantial form (with a different cover too, as pictured)… and to be able to share it with many more people!

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The original cover soft-cover


martin-Cover_2_460 … and the re-formatted hard-cover!


A Forest is out now. Penguin will publish The Curious Explorers Guide to Exotic Animals A-Z in 2013.

A Forest

A Forest

Marc Martin

$24.95Buy now