During Thanksgiving break, Adam Gasiewski and Emily Beck threw a party where they autographed friends’ copies of their Amazon bestselling book.
“It was crazy to see that we had turned into celebrities overnight,” said Adam Gasiewski, a freshman computer science major. “It wasn’t just our friends, but distant family members, random neighbors and even people from other colleges who gave books to our friends so that they could get us to sign them.”
On Oct. 22, Gasiewski and Beck published “Milk and Vine: Inspirational Quotes from Classic Vines,” a parody book based on Canadian poet Rupi Kaur’s bestselling book, “Milk and Honey.” Gasiewski tweeted photos of the book and a link to its Amazon page on Nov. 3, which was retweeted more than 60,000 times.
“Milk and Vine” has sold 115,000 copies so far.
Gasiewski and Beck were in a Barnes & Noble in October when Gasiewski picked up a copy of “Milk and Honey.”
“We liked how simple the style was, and thought it’d be cool to parody,” said Beck, a freshman political science major. “Adam had always wanted to write a book and I thought, ‘Why not put vines in it?’”
In place of Kaur’s minimalist poems and accompanying illustrations, Gasiewski and Beck included transcripts of their favorite Vine videos — short six-second clips that users uploaded to the now-defunct Vine app before sharing them across other social media platforms. The two paired their selections with quick sketches Beck drew with her finger on an iPad.
Gasiewski and Beck — who have been dating since high school — published the book as a joke for their friends. They never predicted the success that would come once they published the book through Amazon’s self-publishing platform, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, near the end of October.
The attention garnered from the book hasn’t all been positive. The couple received backlash for parodying “Milk and Honey,” and some have accused them of plagiarism.
“People have been making parodies for centuries,” Gasiewski said. “We’re not taking away from Rupi’s sales. Our book has a complementary relationship with hers. It helps
Beck added that on Amazon, both books are advertised as being “frequently bought together.”
Recently, other Vine-related books have been popping up on self-publishing platforms. “Vine and Tea” by Max Stein, which came out Nov. 5, is another parody of “Milk and Honey,” based on a similar idea.
Julie Stapleton Carroll, the program director of Blackstone Launchpad, a campus-based entrepreneurship program, helped connect the couple with legal advisers when copyright issues first arose.
“I feel like the criticism is being a little harsh, and a lot of the folks are mostly just jealous of them,” Stapleton Carroll said. “It’s a brilliant, really creative idea. They’ve gotten the legal counsel that assures them that they’re not in violation of anything.”
The copyright statement about the book that Beck shared on Twitter reads, “We’ve tried in the past to find the names of the Viners, but it is difficult, as many accounts have been deactivated and many Vine videos don’t feature the person who uploaded it.”
Gasiewski was recently able to add a list of credits to the back of the book. He said bugs in Amazon’s publishing platform made it difficult to make edits.
Rivers Jackson, a 19-year-old film major at the University of Alabama, bought “Milk and Vine” and has started citing the original creator of the Vine video on each page of the book. He tweeted a photo of some of his adaptations with names of the Vine creators written under the illustrations.
Jackson thinks the Vine creators should have been given credit for their “art,” but he appreciates Vine compilation books for their role in keeping the memory of Vine alive.
“The act of dying made Vine that much better,” he said. “Like how artists’ voices are often amplified after their death. This is the same thing, except instead of just one artist, it’s the whole platform that’s being celebrated.”
Gasiewski and Beck are currently working with other publishers on a sequel set to come out in early spring of next year. In “Milk and Vine,” the couple mentioned a follow-up based on tweets instead of Vine videos.
They aren’t harboring any negative feelings about similar parodies.
“We’re happy that we inspired other people to independently publish their own books,” Beck said. “People are free to take our ideas and do what they want with them. That’s the beauty of the Internet.”