Comedian raises $11k, self publishes first book ‘Toilet Material’

ENCINITAS — Encinitas comedian Robbie Pickard had an idea for a book for today’s short attention span: a series of funny “adult” short stories, none more than five pages, that could be finished in the one place where a person can seemingly have “alone time” — the toilet.

But when he submitted several chapters of his book to editors, he was met with a similar refrain: it’s a great concept, but you’re an unpublished author.

In short, rejection.

So Pickard, 33, decided to do it himself. He launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to cover the cost to self-publish his book. The campaign raised $11,000 and has now sold 450 copies of his debut book, “Toilet Material: Very Short Stories for Very Short Attention Spans.”

Pickard is having an official book launch party at 6:30 p.m. July 7 at UNIV Studio where guests will be able to meet him, his illustrator and hear him live read a few chapters.

“If you really want something, there are really no excuses because there are so many avenues to get your voice out there,” said Pickard, who moved to Encinitas three years ago from Santa Monica, where he was a stand-up comedian. “You don’t need to be signed. If you are a musician, you can put your music up on Soundcloud, and if you’re an author you can self-publish. For me, Kickstarter was a way to prove there was an audience for this idea.”

Pickard’s concept for the novel came from his stand-up routines, where he liked to point out the idiosyncrasies of things that are often considered routine and mundane.

Take large group chats, Pickard said. They’re totally routine, but think about how annoying they would be if they played out in real life, yelling your opinion to a crowd of 15 people when you are really talking to one person.

“It would be insane, right?” Pickard said. “Well, that was the inspiration for one of the short stories.”

And the stories are short enough to capture the attention of today’s audience, where readers don’t often have the patience to sit through a long, drawn out novel.

There are 38 of these abbreviated stories in the book, which Pickard’s friend Brooks Wheelan of Saturday Night Live fame in a testimonial said was “such a fun, easy read. Like for children, except don’t let children read this.”

“I think that sums up what I was going for,” Pickard said.

Pickard started working on the stories in 2015, completing as many as 60 before whittling down the final selections.

He launched his 30-day Kickstarter campaign Jan. 9. Pickard said the fundraising campaign was almost as tough as writing the book itself, as he had to market and promote it in order to reach a wider audience.

“There’s this connotation that it is a free handout, but it is really a ton of work,” Pickard said.  “And it is stressful, you’re constantly refreshing that page over the 30 days.”

When it was done, Pickard raised more than enough to hire a cover designer, editor (his dad), printing and shipping and other costs.

Pickard said the success of his toilet stories has him thinking about the next book he’s going to write. It could be a novel, but he doesn’t want to speculate.

“It could change a lot,” Pickard said. “I’m hoping now that I’ve proven to those editors and publishers that I am no longer an unpublished author.”

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