Book launches and crowdfunding campaigns are time-sensitive bursts of marketing so be sure to leverage every interaction with readers with a Facebook frame overlay.
“A whaaaat?” you might be asking…
Step aside coding nerds because technology has made it easy-ish for the non-tech-savvy person to create a Facebook frame overlay. (Granted, not understanding graphic design will make it a bit more time-consuming as you play around with the options, but that’s ok).
Many indie authors think that publishing is black and white. One either gets a traditional publishing deal or one goes it alone on the indie road and turns toward Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to help cover the expenses.
Creatively, Elisavet Arkolaki used Kickstarter as a proof-of-concept to show that her book, Where Am I From?, had a market to Faraxa Publishing based in Malta. The stakes were high for Elisavet as a failed Kickstarter campaign would mean that the traditional publishing doors would slam shut on her. This was her only chance.
We chatted about her experience, her strategies, and what she found surprising about running a crowdfunding campaign as an author.
How much research did you do before launching your Kickstarter? Can you recommend any resources to other authors that you thought were helpful?
I had been reading and researching successful and unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns for about 10 months before the launch of my campaign. I googled the creators of the successful campaigns I liked the most and read their interviews, posts, and advice.
I watched several Kickstarter videos. I reached out to other creators like Joe Biel from Microcosm Publishing (20 years experience as a publisher with tons of successful KS campaigns) and asked for advice.
To anyone interested in a crowdfunding campaign I would recommend to start by backing projects themselves so they can have a hands-on experience on how it works from the backer’s perspective. I would also recommend joining active marketing and crowdfunding groups.
It requires a lot of planning, skills in sales and marketing. If someone lacks these skills, I would recommend to reach out to professionals like you, Lisa, and get things straight and right from the start.
What types of “behind-the-scenes” work did you do that you think contributed most to your success?
I compiled a list with the people from my direct network who might be interested in backing my project and contacted each one of them explaining what Kickstarter is, what we wish to achieve, and why are we doing it this way.
I also compiled a list with blogs and media I thought would be interested in featuring Where am I from?.
Write copy in advance
I wrote lots of unique content in advance, and most of the newspaper’s features (5 newspapers, 3 countries) were based on my writings. I started contacting the media people about 2-3 weeks before the launch.
I posted on social media about 3 times per day, and I shared ‘Updates’ on Kickstarter whenever there was a new milestone to keep people engaged.
We also incentivized sharing by including a big button on our Kickstarter campaign page that unlocked a free PDF for anyone who shared the campaign on their Facebook timelines using the WordPress plugin, Social Locker. It was around $30 for the plugin and worth it, in my opinion.
I placed a PDF ebook called, How to Raise Confident Multicultural Children, and two stories of mine available to download free of charge after someone used Social Locker on my website to generate an automatic share of my Kickstarter campaign.
(Side note: if you are planning to create a free PDF download in exchange for shares, you have to plan well in advance as this takes time to create.)
Collaborate with libraries
When we were approaching the end of the second week, and we were still far from reaching our funding goal, I was contacted by the Libraries Counsellor of the Vestfold Municipality of Norway.
She had read a newspaper article, pre-ordered 20 books for the public libraries and invited me as a speaker at a cultural event. This was also fantastic from a marketing perspective.
Combined with all the newspaper features it added an extra layer of credibility to our book project, and I could display it on our Kickstarter page. It also gave us the insight that a book about diversity might be a good fit for schools and public libraries. These could be our customers.
After that, my publisher (Faraxa Publishing) in Malta, small publisher run by Joanne Micallef and mum of multicultural children herself) managed to secure a pre-order for 200 books from the National Literacy Agency of Malta. These copies will be distributed to public schools in Malta.
We also had some backers who loved our book concept and pledged on the expensive rewards; all of the main characters (except 1 which we didn’t commission) will be painted after real kids, a real baby, and a real mum. All but one are multicultural/multiracial individuals.
Why did you do a KS campaign if you had a small traditional publisher already lined up?
Thinking outside of the box, I pitched the idea using the Kickstarter campaign as a proof-of-concept that the book was worth publishing. That reduced the risk on their side (taking on an unknown author), and I was highly motivated to ensure the campaign was a success so that the door to traditional publishing wasn’t closed.
I don’t have time to learn all aspects of book publishing, but I knew that working with a small publisher would allow me to learn more about the process while creating a professional book.
This also ensured the traditional publishing contract terms for the artist and me which were much better than the norm.
“Kickstarter can be a great marketing tool and a way to test the market provided there is a solid plan in place to support it.”
How many people do you think you’ve emailed/reached during the campaign? What was your most significant source of backers?
Hundreds of people, probably. These were a mix of media people and potential backers. I don’t remember what the ratio was.
My biggest source of backers came from my ‘Friends’ on Facebook, which comprises of people I personally know and people I have met online, who are people who have traveled a lot and/or have families of mixed cultural backgrounds.
What was the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign? What did you not expect to happen that happened and vice versa?
Positive: I did not expect to get so much support from the public sector, so much exposure from the media and so many high pledges from individuals.
Negative: I did not expect people in Europe were that unfamiliar with crowdfunding. I didn’t realize how severely I would be ‘punished’ by Kickstarter regarding visibility for not having enough pledges during the first 24 and 48h.
Instead, I would have skipped the Thunderclap campaign entirely and focused solely on raising awareness. I should’ve done more work educating potential backers about Kickstarter; why we need their support right away, explain they have nothing to lose and that there are 0 charges unless we are fully funded.
I had also not anticipated how time-consuming running a Kickstarter campaign would be. My youngest does not attend daycare and my working hours were limited. I had to accept my limitations that I could only do the best I could, hoping it would be sufficient.
Did you have to change your strategy mid-campaign? If so, why?
Yes, I did. We wouldn’t have made it without changing the strategy.
I had several obstacles to overcome:
-Mainly European audience who was not very familiar with crowdfunding -Foreign currency displayed which appeared in thousands (NOK, Norwegian Kroner) -No illustrations to show -The book wouldn’t be ready until a year after the campaign -We didn’t give out the story
It was too much and it wasn’t working.
I had to do something drastic, and the only thing I could give out was the text of the story.
I asked for advice from experienced people. I reached out to Steve Tanner from TimeBomb Comics who has created several successful Kickstarter campaigns and was our very first backer.
He told me that if the book were to be released in a short time frame, i.e., 3 months, I wouldn’t have to publish the story. But, in my case, since the book wouldn’t be out for a year, I should. He was right.
Parents often want to know what they will be reading to their children. If the parents liked the story, combined with the skills of the artist which they could see on our page, they would support the campaign even if it was a year to publication.
And it worked. Even though the text still needs to go through the last rounds of editing, people loved it, and we made our goal in time.
What advice would you give a fellow author who is looking to crowdfund their book?
If you have no idea about marketing and how to set up a book crowdfunding campaign, and do not have the time to learn how to do it the right way, reach out to an expert like Lisa Ferland who can guide you through the whole process.
I know that like birthing babies, you never ask a new mother if she’s planning on having another baby, but could you see yourself doing another Kickstarter campaign for books in the future?
Maybe I would, I am not sure. It’s very intense and emotionally draining. When I had my first baby, I was sure I wouldn’t have another one. I didn’t wish to go through pregnancy and giving birth again. Well, we now have two children 🙂 I’ve learned to never say never in life. Kickstarter can be a great marketing tool and a way to test the market provided there is a solid plan in place to support it.
Elisavet Arkolaki is a mother of two young children, entrepreneur, professional writer, online marketer, and a certified teacher of two foreign languages. She runs the top parenting blog in Malta www.maltamum.com, and is the exclusive retailer in the country of two of the biggest international babywearing brands, and the co-founder of All-in Translations, a multiple-award winning translations company.
She has lived in six countries, and has travelled around the world. Her biggest passion has always been and still remains, the written world.
Not many indie authors sell 10,000 copies of their debut novel, but that’s precisely what Joseph Malik did with his first book, Dragon’s Trail. After a ho-hum book launch and average sales in the first 90 days of publication, Joe revamped his approach.
I asked him a few questions about how he went from Average Joe to Bestselling Author and winner of numerous prizes. We also chat about his upcoming release in the Outworlders series, The New Magic, available for pre-order until September 18.
What do you think were the best strategies you employed to help make your book launch a success?
My first book launch failed miserably. It didn’t really take off until about six months later, and for the first 90 days, it lost money.
I paid for a couple of cheap promotions; a Twitter promo off of Fiverr and another one I can’t remember for like $25 or so. I launched on KindleUnlimited with a blog tour and sent copies to friends and family. That was about it. I’ll let you know how the launch for Book II goes in a few weeks.
What has been most effective in terms of engaging with your audience? Newsletter offers? Facebook? Something else?
Face to face contact. Panels and demonstrations at fantasy conventions, lectures at schools and colleges, author events. I write fantasy technothrillers—fantasy novels whose plots turn on detailed technical points; think The Hunt for Red October but knights in armor instead of nuclear submarines—and I did most of my world building research in person: swordsmanship, horsemanship, blacksmithing, building a functional language, and so on.
This type of detail resonates with a specific type of reader—the fantasy reader who has little patience for inaccuracies in world building, and being an author with “street cred”—whether I’m demonstrating swordsmanship, speaking Elvish from my conlang, or talking about some other aspect of world building that I have personal experience with—generates a lot of buzz.
“I had no idea that so many [traditionally published] authors have a book or series that they love but that their agents can’t sell. I think that we’re going to see a massive paradigm shift here, shortly.”
What advice would you give to someone who is considering indie publishing but isn’t confident?
Write more. Don’t launch the first book you’ve ever written. Writing a book is a huge achievement, and congratulations are in order, but just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean it’s ready for anyone to read it. Write more until you feel ready.
Launching a book is always scary, but you’ll know when you’re ready. It took me several books before I knew I was sitting on a good one. And still, even that was scary.
Your book covers are awesome and are perfect for your genre. Can you recommend/share the name of your cover designer?
Thank you. My cover designer is Lynn Stevenson. The initial cover concept for Dragon’s Trail came from West Coast Design. Lynn created the cover for The New Magic to make it match the brand that West Coast Design had laid out.
#Nerdalert question—you have both paperback and hardcover versions available of your book—who is your printer for each?
What’s been the most surprising thing about indie publishing that you’ve experienced?
The overwhelmingly positive response from traditionally published authors. There’s tremendous interest in indie publishing from that side of the room. I had no idea that so many authors have a book or series that they love but that their agents can’t sell. I think that we’re going to see a massive paradigm shift here, shortly.
Did you use a company to create your book trailer or did you create it yourself?
We created the trailers ourselves. My wife is a professional opera singer, and she wrote the music for the trailer for Book II using a libretto I wrote in the Elvish conlang from the series.
My wife wrote an article for her blog from her perspective on all this; she was the marketing brains behind really making the book take off. You can read it here.
In addition to fiction, Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for the U.S. military.
He has worked as a stuntman, a high-rise window washer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command.
He has been a longtime panelist and demonstrator at fantasy conventions, speaking as an expert in swordsmanship, hand to hand combat, and military tactics and strategy. He has also lectured on fantasy writing and independent publishing at schools and colleges across the Northwest.
His first novel, Dragon’s Trail, became a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller in four countries in 2017, reaching #1 in Epic Fantasy in the U.S., Australia, and Canada and #1 in Sword and Sorcery in the UK, making him eligible for the 2019 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction and Fantasy—one of very few independent authors to ever qualify with a debut novel.
His second novel, The New Magic, is scheduled for release on September 18, 2018.
A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Joseph Malik lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs. He serves in the U.S. Army Reserve and is a member of SFWA.
Whenever thinking of a new idea, my brain works something like this in approximately 30 seconds:
BING! Ideas and possibilities start racing around.
Yes, this is an amazing idea.
I MUST DO THIS IDEA!
Hang on, let me Google it first.
Oh, awesome, someone has already done this before and has written about it.
Woah, that’s expensive. Way more than I want to spend.
Actually, that person is an illustrator. I’m not an illustrator so my idea would be even more expensive.
Umm…hang on, who is going to pay for all of this?
If I do a Kickstarter campaign, I need an audience first…
Do I have an audience? Not yet. I need to do a lot of work there before I can move forward with anything.
My idea gets shelved indefinitely.
Yeah, I went through this process when thinking through an awesome card game idea.
In doing so, I know that a lot of other authors are interested in creating a deck of cards to either complement or stand alone with their book ideas.
Card game creation and printing are a lot like creating a printing an illustrated book. One needs to consider illustrations (both cost and creation), paper quality, card stock, quantity, box design, shipping, and possible retail price that results in a profit.
How many card decks would you need to sell in order to make money in the process?
Whenever doing research on the costs of producing something, you need to be sure you are factoring in all of the variables like quality, type, and quantity.
How many cards are in your card deck? What size cards do you want to create?
How many decks do you want to produce in one print run? The more your print, the cheaper your price point per deck, but then you’ll have more to sell.
If you’re nodding your head like, “Duh, Lisa…” then good! We’re on the same page.
If all of this is new information to you, then be sure to listen to my free webinar on the True Costs of Self-Publishing where I go over a lot of the hidden costs related to publishing books that will definitely also apply when creating a card game or deck of cards.
Let’s learn from others
In 2011, Daniel Solis worked through the math with SuperiorPOD as his printerand found that he would need to go back to the drawing board. At ~$7/unit cost, and a retail ceiling of $15-$20/game, he decided he needed to lower his printing costs in order to make it worthwhile.
The card game, Corporate America, was Kickstarted and self-published in November 2012 and the write-up completed in 2013. The creator discusses Kickstarter funds raised plus actual costs (~$30k). Be sure to read that article here.
Tevah Platt is a first-time children’s book author and decided to use Kickstarter to fund the production of her book, Snail, I Love You.
Find out what Tevah and her illustrator did to catapult their book over $10k on Kickstarter (433% of its goal).
What did you do before or on launch day that helped you rocket to success?
A little backstory first: I was working on it every day and 24 hours before the campaign was set to launch, we realized that the bank account information we had added to the campaign was incorrect. Worse yet, that information was locked and we could not change it.
I had to rebuild an entirely new campaign page, change all of our links to direct people to the new page, and everything in six to seven hours.
It was 4 pm on launch day and we were wondering if we shouldn’t just wait one more day and go live in the morning. We decided to hit the Go Live button right then and we hit 100% in two hours.
My illustrator and I created a list of 25 people we knew who would champion our campaign. Having other people share your work is critical to your success. We also reached out to friends and family and included, “If you’re going to back us, will you back us on launch day to help us have maximum impact?”
We found personal emails to be the most effective method for promoting our campaign.
Here’s how we did it:
I made a huge spreadsheet of 150 people who would pass my, “Would this person come to my funeral?” test or if they had a kid and was in my target audience. I wrote two sentences that were personalized to them and then mail merged those sentences into my general marketing copy in my email using the Gmail add-on, Mail Merge. (See this article for the Top 5 Mail Merge Add-ons)
I wrote everything before we launched and then sent out the emails to my list of contacts. My contributor sent out her emails on Day 2.
Were you able to relax after Day 2 when you were at 292% funded?
Yes, we very much relaxed. We tested out some Facebook ads but we weren’t seeing much traction. I ended up writing a press release but I didn’t send it anywhere. We didn’t really gain traction with the outside world.
Take me through the $2,500 goal vs. your $7,500 goal amounts. Why did you set your Kickstarter at the first goal instead of the second?
We did the math on a really small print run and $2,500 was the bare minimum we’d need to do that.
In retrospect, $2,500 was too small of a goal and we were being really modest. We knew that $7,500 would cover our costs but we were being risk-averse gamblers.
What types of marketing efforts had the best reach?
As I mentioned earlier, personal emails were the best. We incorporated the feedback from our cheerleaders and that made them feel more invested in the project. It also improved the project a lot.
What didn’t work out so well?
Facebook ads but we didn’t experiment beforehand.
We added new rewards and add-ons but we should’ve added more rewards while the momentum was happening. We weren’t able to generate much momentum past those first two days.
Are there going to be future books?
I would love to create more books. Because of Kickstarter and other routes to indie publishing, I knew this was a possibility. I wrote this book with my daughter and now she’s writing books, which I absolutely love to see. I’d definitely do another Kickstarter but it is so much work.
How did you meet your illustrator?
She’s my neighbor and she went around to our community offering to embroider vector images so she could practice using a new tool she bought.
I really loved the fact that her illustrations are with a sewing machine—a traditional symbol of domesticity for women—and yet her illustrations break every traditional convention. It’s a real statement on feminism.
I want readers to see the beauty of these illustrations and know that a woman created them. That’s the message I want to send to my daughter.
What is your affiliation with your local library?
We are publishing through the Ann Arbor District Library, which provides an amazing service for local authors. It is in their budget to support local authors and illustrators. You have to submit your manuscript and if selected, they will edit, and layout your book. They give you the digital files for your printer and the rest is up to you. They are hosting our launch party in November. I recommend them to all indie authors in the Ann Arbor area.
What piece of advice would you give an indie author considering crowdfunding?
Do the work in advance to line up your people and your champions. Get feedback and consult all of the resources you can find available. Take into account every comment on your video, campaign page, and rewards. Be open to feedback and be personable and warm.
The Kickstarter made me feel like this was a personal project involving everyone I love. The notes I got from people were so nice and supportive. It was a great experience.
Read more crowdfunding case stories by indie authors
After listening to hundreds of free webinars, and free video courses, I realized that I was past the “free” stage. Indie publishing is great because one can do so much on your own and I had but it wasn’t enough. I published two anthologies that were huge feats of collaboration among 50 women living around the world and I got pretty far considering I had more or less stumbled my way through the process. I was looking to elevate my game and take it to the next professional level.
The free webinars weren’t cutting it anymore but I still wasn’t ready to spend money on myself. I needed professional advice but I wasn’t willing to pay for it. All of the experts were saying that investing in yourself would pay off in spades but I saw that as self-serving.
“Of course, they are going to tell me to invest in their courses and consultations. They want the sale.”
And naturally, free content is used mostly to demonstrate that a particular person has expertise in a topic. I should know, I offer free webinars myself and try to make them as valuable as possible so my future clients understand that yes, I can help them reach their goals.
But despite all of that, I had to admit that there was value in getting advice from someone who had done it before me.
I needed someone to tell me what to do next. Someone who had either walked in my shoes or knew people who had.
What was holding me back?
After a few conversations and soul searching, I admitted that a few things were holding me back from hiring an expert:
– I wasn’t treating my business like a business
– My money mindsetwas focused on scarcity, not abundance (I was focused on everything I had to lose instead of what I had to gain)
– I was scared of spending money on something that might not work
– I was partially afraid of success. Hiring an expert meant that I was really taking the next step in my business
With those points mapped out, I could tackle them one by one. If I wasn’t treating my business like a business, why was I doing this?
Did I want to monetize my knowledge? Absolutely.
My money mindset was focused on scarcity and I was scared of spending what little money I did have on something that wasn’t guaranteed to increase my income. However, I kept hitting the same wall in front of me and I needed help to get over it and move onto the next level.
Like when I played video games when I was a kid, it was a different experience when I was playing by myself than when I was playing with my brother next to me who would warn me about what obstacles to avoid in the next scene. He’d tell me what was going to happen so I could be prepared and make the best moves.
Could I continue on my own? Sure.
But would I get there faster and easier with help? Absolutely.
Hiring an expert
After months of hemming and hawing and talking with other people who had done the same, I finally took the plunge and hired a marketing coach. I invested in myself.
It was scary and I said so during our first call but within seconds, all of my anxiety was addressed. I felt confident that I had made the right decision. Her excitement about what I had done so far gave me the boost of reassurance that I was looking for.
Taking the next steps outlined by my marketing coach would be my responsibility but she’d be there to amplify my actions and cheer me on.
I figured that if I was going to give my hard-earned money to someone, it might as well be someone who I knew and trusted. She was the perfect fit for me and her approaches to marketing resonated with my core values. Nothing salesy, only authentic.
After a few sessions with my marketing coach, I realized that other people started to take me more seriously.
They saw me investing in my business and were, therefore, more likely to invest in me. I sold more courses and I started receiving more queries for more private consultations.
When you pay for a course or service with real money, you take yourself more seriously, too.
I carved out time for marketing and created more content. I followed up with potential leads and started emailing more people who I hadn’t reached out to before.
I had someone holding me accountable and routinely checking in with my progress. I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
And then it starts to work.
All of the things your coach told you to do starts to get traction and you see results.
You make progress which increases your confidence, which leads to more progress and you find yourself in a place you’ve never been before doing things you weren’t doing before.
Success follows on success and the setbacks you encounter don’t seem so stressful anymore because deep down, you know this will work because you’re making it work.
So, does investing in yourself pay off or is that just something people say?
I think it does, or at least, it has for me, but I had to exhaust all of the free content options before I was ready to put my money on the table.
Not all experts are worthwhile, which is why it’s always good to do your research and ask their former clients about their experiences.
So, make your own list of what you think is holding you back from investing in yourself and see if any of it rings true.
What’s holding you back? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of spending money? Fear of admitting you need help? All of the above?
“For a while, it seemed like there wasn’t any traffic and nobody was listening.”
None of her efforts were working and she had already reached out to everyone she could think of who might be interested in supporting her book.
With only two weeks to go, Tania was stuck at 43% and her campaign was essentially dead.
In a last ditch effort, Tania booked a Pick my Brain sessionand we spent an hour and 20 minutes strategizing creative ways to revive her campaign.
Armed with confidence, a new reward tier idea, and support from a stranger, Tania felt reenergized to succeed at Kickstarting her book.
“Getting some direction and someone to hold my hand along the way gave me more confidence in moving forward. I was getting tired it helped to get the direction to move it forward after the $6500 lull.”
You were averaging $100-$200/day and all of a sudden, you had a day where you surpassed your launch day pledges with $2k. Then you had a $3k day and another $1k day. What was happening?
I was doing events at gardening centers and connecting with like-minded people. It was really easy to share my enthusiasm for the project during conversations with people at these events.
It feels good once you know there is an audience who is interested in your book, which in turn, helped my confidence. I felt better pushing it toward the end to reach my goal.
Toward the end, I posted on my Facebook that I really needed help to reach my goal. Coming from a personal place, where I admitted that I was vulnerable, really connected with people.
It was a happy place and I saw the good in people coming out. My friends came through for me in such a huge way and I’m so grateful.
Do you think doing events saved your campaign?
I had a huge backing from some teachers and that really helped infuse more money and energy into the campaign at a crucial point.
I think the events helped a lot because I was connecting and having conversations with people who were directly interested in the book’s topic.
At some of the events, I had coloring pages and crayons for the kids, tacos for the adults, and I handed out a little informational flyer with the campaign details to people who were in the gardening center.
You created a new reward tier and even though nobody backed it, do you think it still helped?
I know! Nobody backed that new level, which surprised me, but in creating that new reward, I collaborated with The Nectar Bar, and they shared the campaign with their audience. A lot of people forwarded the announcement that I created a new reward which was definitely helpful in raising awareness of the campaign.
Are you happy that you did Kickstarter with the all-or-nothing model or would you have rather done a flexible funding model with IndieGoGo?
During the $6,500 lull, I had kind of given up and just accepted it but the all-or-nothing aspect really pushed me harder. If I had done an IndieGoGo with flexible funding, I would’ve given up and we wouldn’t have raised as much money.
This style (all-or-nothing) really engages people and a lot of people were watching it who I didn’t think were paying attention. As stressful as it was, I’m so happy I went with Kickstarter.
Would you ever do another Kickstarter campaign again?
I would, actually, I think it worked out really well once I had all of the pieces in place. (Now I know better.)
What would you do differently the next time around?
I would’ve spoken to someone like you, a Kickstarter creator or coach, before I launched. I didn’t know all of the things I needed to have lined up before I launched.
I also would’ve engaged my audience more prior to launching so that more people were aware of it beforehand.
Well, a big congratulations to you, Tania. You worked very hard for this success.
Thanks! It’s going to take me a while to come down from the shock that we actually made it happen. Now I need to get working on the book!
Tania DeGregorio is the indie author of Skydancer: Adventures of a Monarch Butterfly living in Austin, TX, USA.
“My professors in art school never taught us how to make money from our art. We were taught to create for the sake of it,” explains Natalie Merheb.
In speaking with children’s book illustrator and graphic designer, Natalie Merheb, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with almost everything she was saying.
The rules for succeeding at making money as an illustrator were the same I have found as a writer—1) conduct research, 2) practice until your hand falls off, and 3) create quality content. Easy, right?
Can you describe your process when you work with indie authors?
If the author doesn’t do this themselves, then I will split out the text into pages. The number of lines of text will affect the design and placement of the illustrations on that page. Sometimes, just 10 lines of text will have five different actions but an illustrator can only show one action per page.
I often choose what I feel are the priorities within those actions that move the story forward.
I consider what action fulfills these three qualities: identifiable, remarkable, and memorable and then I illustrate that action.
For example, if the scene is that the kids are waking up in the morning, getting ready for school, and waiting for the bus, I’ll decide to illustrate the kids waiting for the bus. The bright yellow color of the school bus is immediately identifiable, remarkable, and memorable to the kids reading the story.
I also take the readers’ age into consideration as to what they’d like to see on each page.
What are some of the trends in traditional illustrations?
Many traditional artists are moving to digital painting because it is easier in a lot of ways. The equipment is an investment upfront but then you don’t have the ongoing costs of consumable materials like paint, paper, canvas, etc.,
In digital art, everything is composed in layers. Since every illustration has layers, if the chicken needs to be moved and resized, I can do that very easily to create the right composition.
It is easy to adjust colors in Photoshop and many watercolor paintings are enhanced in Photoshop to make the colors more vibrant.
How long does it take you to create an illustration?
For my clients, it depends on the quantity and complexity of the project. I calculate my time spent emailing, sketching, and revising into every illustration and budget 8 hours per spread.
Illustrators should factor in all of the business aspects related to creating something for a client and build that into their payment process.
What advice would you give to another artist who is looking to illustrate children’s books?
Push yourself to create the best work you can and target your ideal client. They will want to hire you based on your quality of work.
Within two months, I was booked months in advance and am now charging what a traditional publisher would pay its artists.
Having done branding for solopreneurs, that experienced really translated into illustration.
My advice is to treat any activity as an entrepreneurial venture. Treat your art like a business and you’ll make money.
Treat it like a business
All new business ventures require a lot of research. Don’t go into anything blind and don’t try to do it at half effort.
Learn the roles of the traditional publishing process and learn about marketing, aesthetic style, and trends in illustration.
Once you get a feel for what you like, practice, practice, practice, and pursue feedback. “Let me know everything you don’t like about this.”
Prepare yourself ahead of time, make the investment, and get out there.
Natalie Merheb is a children’s book illustrator depicting stories written by others, as a brand strategist & web designer crafting brand stories for small businesses. She is a mama to twin girls, wife to a fellow entrepreneur from Lebanon, daughter to parents from the USA and Argentina, a Minnesota native, and Dubai expat.
You may be thinking that a $1 reward is a waste of your time. Who is going to pledge $1 if they are truly interested in your book? Why would someone even bother running a $1 charge against their credit card? It’s just not worth it…right?
As a former restaurant server, I equated the $1 reward to the penny tip on a bill. It can be viewed as insulting to the creator, so why include it?
Well, I’m changing my tune on the whole $1 reward thingy and here’s why.
1. $1 is an easy gesture of support
Whenever approaching strangers about your crowdfunding campaign for your book, you may feel reluctant to pitch a large pledge amount but with the $1 reward option, you’re giving those folks an easy way to say, “Yeah, I’ll support you at little-to-no cost to me.” It’s a no-brainer for people who may not know you personally but like your campaign and want to follow along.
2. The $1 reward acknowledges gratitude at all levels of financial support
Anyone, even those who are not in a financial position to support you at a higher level will be able to support the $1 reward. By placing it there, you’re giving them an option and telling them, “This is a legitimate option to support my campaign and I won’t view it as an insult.”
3. $1 backers receive all campaign updates
It’s really tough to reach people via email if they haven’t backed your campaign. Getting more people onto your email list at the $1 level means that they’ll receive your campaign updates and emails. They may decide to modify their pledge to a higher reward later on during your campaign.
4. It can’t hurt to include it
I was surprised when people skipped over my discounted Early Bird Reward and pledged higher amounts than was available. In the same way, you’d be surprised how many extra people you’ll get at the $1 level who you might not have engaged without it. It can’t hurt to include it, so put it in there.
5. Every dollar counts
When fundraising, every dollar counts, even in $1 increments. Some creators have gotten really creative in the types of rewards they offer for $1 and you can read about them here.
One creator reached out to contacts and asked them to commit to pledging at the $1 level on launch day. To his surprise, many of those backers pledged at a higher level and helped him create that much needed launch day momentum.
One reason not to include the $1 reward on Kickstarter (not applicable on IndieGoGo) is that Kickstarter lists rewards in increasing monetary value and that extra reward takes up valuable real estate when it comes to directing backers to the higher valued rewards.
It does take up real estate so keep your description short and make it fun. Use the $1 reward area to showcase your personality and gratitude.
Did I miss anything?
Be sure to leave a comment below if you think the $1 reward is a good or bad idea.