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Dreams Coming True is a Thursday feature on my blog, a way to highlight those whose goal is to create community. The dream might be a blog, a published book, a small business, volunteering, or even fundraising for a charity. Something that makes the world a better place . . . for others.
“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).
I am Jodi Murphy, mother of two adult children—Jonathan, the oldest has Aspergers Syndrome and is a professional voice-over actor, and my daughter, Molly, is a writer, musician, and vocalist. I’ve worked my entire career as a marketing specialist, first in high-tech and later as a freelancer and journalist in the lifestyle market.
When did this creative dream begin?
I have always had to think creatively and pioneer solutions to help my son with his learning disabilities and social challenges. When he was growing up in the 80s, Aspergers was rarely diagnosed, so there were very few programs and interventions for children on the higher functioning autism spectrum.
Today, there are very few services for adults on the autism spectrum. So once again, I have to think out of the box to create support systems and opportunities for his employment, housing, and self-reliance.
How did the idea for Geek Club Books and the Mighty League App get started?
Through a series of unrelated events, it came to me that we could share Jonathan’s life stories growing up with Aspergers Syndrome in a positive, engaging way through a series of interactive comic-style book apps. My husband fully supported the idea and enthusiastically encouraged me to make it happen. I asked my daughter to write the manuscript because she understands her brother and could express the plotline from an authentic point of view. And of course, I knew Jonathan would shine doing the narration and character voices.
What makes your story app stand out from the crowd?
The Mighty League, Vol. 1: The Terrible Taunting (our first release) is unlike any other storybook app on the market. It is the only story app to feature an ‘Aspie’ protagonist, and the reader chooses whether that’s a boy or a girl. It’s a charming and entertaining plot with an endearing character . . . and you don’t know he (or she) has Aspergers until the reader delves deeper to discover the character’s journal.
The story feels real to young readers because it is based on a “real” person (and read by that person) and the plot comes from his “real” experiences. Parents email me to say how their children are connecting with it. It has strong lessons in being different, handling bullying, and autism awareness.
What are the goals and intentions of the Mighty League app?
My mission is twofold: more opportunities for my son to do the work he does best, and to be of service and support to parents of younger children on the spectrum. Ours is a message of acceptance and hope.
How does Geek Club Books create community?
My son has triumphed over struggles and being bullied to grow up to become such an amazing, quirky, charming and funny guy. Parents hear our message, download our app, and see what my son can do and it is inspiring and hopeful. But it’s not all about him or us . . . I adore my community and, even though I have never met any of them in person, I feel so bonded to them . . . I take joy in their joys, understand their fears, and do whatever is in my power to support them.
Many have creative ideas but have trouble following through with them. What advice would you give to creative types who start projects eagerly . . . but then enthusiasm drizzles off?
I know that feeling of excitement and that burst of initial energy to dive right in get started! I’ve done that so many times. I’ve learned to enjoy and honor that gift of creative thought and when an idea comes forth that feels viable, I let myself brainstorm without judgment and write everything down I can about the concept . . . and then I leave it and move on to some other task. The next day, I come back to it and if it still excites me, I begin the process of turning the concept into a reality.
And as for the process, I follow the lessons of St. Francis of Assisi—I build it day by day . . . stone by stone. From experience, I know it takes lots of patience and persistence to make things happen. It’s also important to be kind to yourself and not judge the pace of your progress based upon others.
What have you learned?
I realized that everything I have done in the past, everything I have worked on and learned how to do . . . was for this moment in time to help my son and others like him. My career has come full circle back to THE most important job I have always cherished . . . being a mom. And now, thanks to my experiences, I’m a mom with a skill set!
Have there been any unexpected surprises?
When I moved forward with Geek Club Books and the Mighty League app, I didn’t stop to realize how vulnerable I’d feel, especially before the app was released. For the first time, I was putting my son’s life stories out into the world and my daughter’s writing out there for public scrutiny. What if no one responded or worse . . . rejected it? It was a test of faith. And then the early reviews started coming in so positive and my very first email from a mother in the UK said:
“The app is truly WONDERFUL . I know no two children with Asperger’s are the same but my son and I just had our first look at it for his bedtime story and it was like we were reading about him. It is brilliant on so many levels.”
What are the biggest misconceptions people have about starting a storybook app?
I don’t think people realize when you publish a book, or in our case a book app, how much work you have to do to market it. You must, must, must, start from day one to build a community of supporters and let them get to know you before asking them to buy your book.
What are some ways you promote the Mighty League app?
I do all kinds of things to promote the Mighty League app that have nothing to do with selling. Our website is where I write about a mom’s perspective of raising a son on the spectrum and I interview other authors and mompreneurs there too. Parents can nominate their children for our Mighty League Squad and I feature them on our website and mail them a custom certificate and Geek Club Books bag. I participate in giveaways, promote others’ projects, create free downloadable goodies, and my favorite involves my son . . . I commissioned original scripts we call Dorktales: Classic Fairy Tales with A Geekish Twist. My son and our sound engineer record them and Jonathan does EVERY voice! They are so ‘adorkable’ and we give the audio tales away for free for those who sign up on our email list.
Creating something is one skill. Marketing and promoting it is an entirely different skill set. How has that gone for you? Shocked by the amount of work marketing takes? Or pleasantly surprised?
It is a tremendous amount of work but I knew what to expect. What I’m shocked by is how much fun I’m having. I’ve been doing this kind of marketing for years for clients but I love doing this for my family and my community.
Any marketing mistakes you would avoid?
Effective advertising campaigns require big budgets so I don’t waste my money on them. Grassroots marketing, and social media outreach have been the best promotional tools for me.
What social network has worked best for you?
Facebook, hands down. Interacting on Facebook puts me right in the middle of my intended audience’s conversations and gives them a chance to get to know me on a more personal level. Facebook drives many people over to my website so I spend most of my networking time there.
What advice would you give someone else who has a creative dream like yours?
If you are interested in making a book app, I suggest educating yourself first before you jump in. My best advice is to download Karen Robertson’s Author’s Guide to Book Apps, and if you decide to proceed, definitely take her Book App Academy. Both were invaluable for giving me realistic expectations, and setting me on the right course.
Where do you see Geek Club Books in five years?
Oh, thank you for asking! In the next year, Jonathan will be performing a live version of our Dorktales and both he and I will be speaking about life on the spectrum in person. My daughter and I have the concept and title for our next story app in the Mighty League series. Right now I giveaway branded merchandise when I participate in giveaways, but I am hoping to add a shop for selling it and include products created by other autism entrepreneurs and artisans. And the grand dream? A sustainable income source for Jonathan and being able to offer employment opportunities to other adults on the spectrum.
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