Use a Facebook Frame Overlay During Your Book Launch

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).

Basically, create an image (600×600 px) in Picmonkey or Canva or upload an existing logo or call to action to  Facebook Camera Effects Page and follow their directions to upload your frame.

If you want a transparent background for your image and don’t have the pro version of Canva, you can use Lunapic Editor, click on Edit, Transparent Background, Save, and you’re all set.

Save the frame under your business Facebook page (which you should definitely have) and hit Publish.

When you do a Facebook Live on your business page, you can select the frame that has been saved to your account.

Check out the screenshots below to see which tiny buttons you’ll need to press to find your frames.

The upload is pretty instant and you’ll be able to find all of your frames created under your business account.

Click the magic want
And select your frame

BOOM! And you’re ready to start  your Facebook Live in less than 5 minutes of work. 

Not bad, right?

Let me know in the comments if you try this and how it works out for you.

Here’s an article for step-by-step instructions but really, it’s pretty simple. 

  1. Create a 600×600 png image
  2. Upload it to Facebook Camera Effects
  3. Get going!

Here’s the link to my super quick video (<2 mins) on Facebook using a mock-up overlay.

Creating a Deck of Cards


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.

RESULT 

My idea gets shelved indefinitely.

Sound familiar?

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 printer and 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.

Click here to read Daniel’s write-up about his experience.

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.

Here’s a 2016 write-up of self-publishing a tabletop game that you’ll find really illuminating.

Drivethrucards.com has a price list,  templates, and other resources to get your started. Some other bloggers have mentioned Drivethrucards as being more economical than other printing options.

And finally, here is a Reddit thread where you’ll discover that most indie card game creators use Kickstarter as their main avenue for sales and have zero plans for retail.

Enthused or derailed?

I hope that gets you started on some research if you’re considering creating a card game.

After all of this preliminary research, you’ll still want to dig down another few layers and get into the nitty-gritty.

Never take on any endeavor without building an audience first and mapping out your marketing plan.

After all, this is a business, not a hobby. #worksmarternotharder

If, after all of this, you decide you only want to create one deck of cards for personal use, you can make your own playing cards starting at $13/deck with makeplayingcards.com.

Be sure to leave a comment if you find other helpful resources to help your fellow indie authors.

As you may have noticed, game creators use Kickstarter as their means of funding production of their card and tabletop games.

If you’re interested in learning more about crowdfunding for your indie publishing pursuits, grab my Top 10 Tips Before Launching Your Crowdfunding Campaign delivered straight to your inbox.


Funded 433% on Kickstarter—Snail, I Love You

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.

About the authors and illustrator

Tevah Platt is a public health researcher, science writer, and former news journalist. You can find her work at www.snaililoveyou.com.

Willa Thiel worked on this book between the ages of 3-6 and just finished first grade at Honey Creek Community School.

Becky Grover is a fiber artist whose work has traveled in shows nationally. See more of her work at beckygroverdesigns.com and beckygrover.etsy.com.

All three are neighbors in the Great Oak Cohousing Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

How to Make Money as an Illustrator

“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. 

To read the first part of the interview with Natalie, click here to learn how illustrations can make or break your book.

Bio

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 can contact Natalie and view her portfolio of work here: http://nataliemerheb.com/

How to make money as an illustrator | Lisaferland.com
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Illustrations Can Make or Break Your Children’s Book

Beautiful illustrations can make up for a weak story. On the other hand, ugly illustrations can tank a really great storyline.

A great book—one with both an amazing story and beautiful illustrations—is what we should all strive for, but if you’re going to create a children’s illustrated book, investing in beautiful, high-quality illustrations that enhance your story is priceless. Priceless.

Many indie authors think that they can tackle the illustrations themselves but sadly if you do not have artistic talent in your DNA, you’re not going to create illustrations worth publishing. Save your pennies and hire an artist while you focus on the story and characters.

I spoke with graphic designer and illustrator, Natalie Merheb, who is on a mission to educate indie authors about the level of skill and experience required to create beautiful children’s book illustrations.

What are some things you’d like more indie authors to know?

There are a lot of different roles in the traditional publishing world—agent, author, publisher, art director, illustrator, editor, book designer, and then marketing and distribution.

Too many indie authors try to take on multiple roles and it’s really to their detriment (and results in lower quality books). 

Not many people have all of the skills and interest to take on all of these various roles. Remember that you, as an indie author, are both the publisher and the author but many authors are forgetting to pay themselves (all authors are paid for their work) like a traditional publisher would.

If you’re going to wear the publisher hat, you need to pay the author of your book (or you, in this case).

Which is easier—author-turned-illustrator or illustrator-turned-author?

It is much easier for talented illustrators to create a story than it is for talented authors to become talented illustrators. You see a lot of illustrators becoming authors because they already have experience telling a story through images. Adding the text is a logical next step.

In what types of illustrations are you a specialist?

I really fell in love with digital drawing over painting and spent all day practicing with my digital drawing tablet. I have my degree in fine arts and nobody taught us how to make money on our art.

I looked at the market of children’s illustrated books, which is so different from art. You have to be able to replicate the same character 40 times, capture emotion, and tell a story.

I studied the different styles the big illustration agencies are using and the type of work they are producing and found a particular style that comes naturally for me.

You don’t need to be in love with your own style but it has to be whatever flows most easily from your brain down your arm and out of your hand.

There are a lot of different trends in children’s books and you need to look at what type of art is sellable in the market.

How many styles should an illustrator have?

Not everyone is going to like your style but if you do your style well, someone will want to hire you. Some say you should be a one-style camp but I say that you can have one or two styles that are your absolute best work.

Remember that your portfolio is only as good as your weakest piece so don’t showcase anything that would bring down your portfolio.

What is a big problem indie children’s book authors face today?

The children’s illustrated market is oversaturated on many levels–in both the traditional and indie markets.

The Internet has given a platform for indies to rise, which is great in one way, but it also means that it is harder than ever to stand out.

There are great stories and illustrators in self-publishing, which is wonderful because it gives people like me a way to make a career doing what we love.

On the other hand, it opens the door for anyone to enter the market.

Being great is not good enough. You have to be at the top of your game to break into the traditional publishing market. 

What is the best part of working with indie authors?

I love having a close working relationship with my clients. There is a personal satisfaction I feel in making someone else’s dream come true. I also love the potential for repeat clients.

I have one client who wants to sign me for her book series, which is amazing and not always a guarantee in the traditional publishing world.

What is the biggest challenge working with indie authors?

I said earlier that many times, indie authors will take on too many roles, and I may need to find a kind way to refer them to an editor. If there are grammatical errors on the page I’m illustrating, I’m going to let the author know.

A lot of indie projects are passion projects which means that the author is too close and can’t really be objective. They often want the illustrations to epitomize their child—hair, clothes, body language, etc., —and that’s not always what is best for creating a good children’s illustration.

Creative works are always personal so the hardest part is giving and receiving critiques on our personal works of art.

Continue reading the second part of this interview—

How to Make Money as an Illustrator

Bio

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 can contact Natalie and view her portfolio of work here: http://nataliemerheb.com/

Julia Miles Inserro Takes Creative Control

Julia and I have a lot in common—we are both raising our families outside of our home countries (the USA), we are both authors, and both indie publishers dedicated to producing high-quality books.

Julia recently pushed back her launch date of her first book, Nonni’s Moonbecause she was unhappy with the print quality of the first round of books she received. I admire her willingness to sacrifice a bit of ego and time for a better reading experience.

In this interview, I asked her about the nitty gritty of children’s illustrated books and I think you’ll enjoy her responses. 

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

I know how long it takes to traditionally publish a book and honestly, I knew the odds were slim. Self-publishing nowadays is even more possible than it was in the past—which is both good and bad. It means that it’s easier than ever to self-publish but also that bad books can flood the market.

I really wanted creative control, and the direct financial rewards. I know friends who have traditionally published and they will all do a ton of work the month before and the month after their book is released. If I’m going to do all of that work anyway, I might as well have the creative control.

What aspects did you do yourself vs. hire out to someone else?

I hired an illustrator, Lucy Smith, via a Facebook group of indie authors for children’s books. Her interpretation of my story really opened my eyes to a whole new level that I had not intended. The bereavement aspect really spoke to her and it reminded me why beta readers are so important for providing feedback.

How much did it cost to produce your book? 

It depends on how you look at it because a lot of my costs were start-up costs for the first book. The illustrations cost the most (I’m paying her a flat rate with no royalties).  I paid someone to do my website, and I purchased ISBNs, etc., For a 32-page illustrated book, it’ll cost between $6k-$7k if done properly.

I saw a deal on Bowker for 100-pack of ISBNs for the cost of a 10-pack, so I actually saved some money there.

What surprised you the most about the self-publishing process?

The length of time. Initially, I wanted the book out by Christmas but I didn’t find Lucy until July (I had been searching since February 2017). The level of detail and skill needed to create the illustrations takes a long time and I’d rather not rush anything.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in self-publishing?

You have to decide what your strengths are, what are your skills, and where you want to spend your money. I always feel like I should at least try to figure things out on my own.

First and foremost, join a Facebook group because any question you have has already been asked by someone else. Read 5-6 marketing books—I recommend Martin Crosbie’s book. 

I can also recommend Tim Grahl’s podcast and his book, The Book Launch Blueprint.

Definitely team up with another author to do a dual book launch or book signing event so you have a larger crowd.

You’ll want a timeline to keep things moving forward and most importantly, it’s crucial to build a marketing balloon before you publish.

What do you think worked well?

My launch team is working out really well. I put out a call for people interested in reviewing the PDF version of the book in exchange for being a member of my launch team and the group now has 186 members.

Had I not joined a lot of Facebook groups and done research, I totally would’ve launched without a marketing plan and would’ve missed out on a ton of momentum.

I submitted the book cover to a contest by KidsShelf Books and we actually won! It’s a nice shiny badge to put on the cover that adds a bit of credibility and it was something for me to do while I was waiting for the rest of the illustrations.

I can also recommend the Curiouser Author Network, which is a brilliant group of indie authors. They gave me great ideas for the book launch teams.

It also took me a week to figure out Canva but it was worth it.

Bio

Julia Inserro is a mom of three littles, living abroad with her husband and a handful of cats. She is a writer, reader, photographer, and explorer. She is the author of Nonni’s Moon, her first children’s book, set to release in July 2018. Julia finds that life is a series of wanderings and wonderings and enjoys sharing her musings with the world. You can find her at juliainserro.com

Bobbie Hinman on How to Create a Bestselling Children’s Book

Bobbie Hinman has sold over 50,000 children’s books and has won numerous awards for her Best Fairy Books series.

In her latest book, How to Create a Successful Children’s Book (part of  KindleUnlimited), she gives readers her tips and tricks to creating a bestselling children’s book (hint: fart and poop jokes will go a long way).

Like any good fairy godmother, Bobbie was gracious enough to answer my questions about her Fairy books and take us behind-the-scenes on creating a book like a traditional publisher.

What was the original inspiration behind your fairy book series? 

It all started when my husband and I were babysitting our six-year-old twin granddaughters.

I was trying to comb through Emily’s morning tangles, causing her to wail loudly, so…I did what grandmas do so well—I made up a story.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, came the story of the sweet little Knot Fairy who visits sleeping children and loves to tangle their hair. Emily stopped crying. She loved the story and begged me to tell it every day. I was energized by my grandkids’ excitement. The Knot Fairy book was born.

Deep down, I had always known I wanted to write a children’s book. Hubby and I were both retired. So, why not?

You were self-publishing before it was popular. What convinced you to give self-publishing a try? Did you ever pitch your ideas to traditional publishers?

As the author of seven traditionally published cookbooks, I had learned a lot about the book business.

Thankfully, I did learn that, no matter who publishes your book, you, the author, must plan to promote, promote, promote. Even with a traditional publisher, I spent many hours working hard to supplement their marketing efforts.

Yes, I could have submitted my ideas to traditional publishers. It had worked with my cookbooks.

However, the publishing world today is more competitive than ever, especially when it comes to children’s books. I didn’t want to start sending query letters and possibly fill a shoebox with rejection notices while waiting for the right publisher to show interest in my book.

This time I wanted to be the one to make all the decisions—and keep all the money.

You published your first book in 2007 before a lot of the self-publishing tools exist today were available. In your opinion, how has the self-publishing industry changed in ways that have had the greatest impact on indie authors?

Competition in the book world is tougher than it has ever been. Yet many more people are self-publishing. The dilemma I see is that it is too easy for people to publish books that are not of the highest quality.

With the advent of Print on Demand publishing, anyone willing to pay can publish a book, often resulting in higher priced books and, sadly, too many books of poor quality.

Often there is little or no editing offered, and the paper and covers are of inferior quality. I’ve also witnessed the growth of social marketing sites, such as Facebook.

The good news for authors is that they now have a giant platform for marketing their books.

Unfortunately, the growth of social media is bad news for two reasons:

First, too many authors rely only on these sites to market their books, making their marketing efforts very one-dimensional; second, these sites are extremely crowded with authors saying “Buy my book” to an audience of thousands of other authors.

If you don’t mind sharing, how do you print your books? What printer have you found that has the best quality for the price?

My books have been printed by a wonderful company, Amica, Inc., that has headquarters in Kent, Washington in the U.S. I chose them after seeing their finished products at Book Expo America.

They print in China and they produce top-quality books. I recently had 2 of my books printed in the U.S. by Bang Printing Co. They also did an excellent job and were very fair with the pricing.

The price depends on the amount of books ordered—the larger the order, the lower the price. 

You include an audio CD with your books, which is something I haven’t seen any indie author do before. What level of production is required to add such a valuable item and do you feel it is worthwhile?

Having been an elementary teacher, I felt that adding a CD would provide an added bonus for toddlers and young readers.

It gives the book the ability to appeal to another one of the children’s senses, helping them learn better by both hearing and seeing the words at the same time.

Producing a CD is an interesting process that involves writing a script and recording it in a sound studio, with an audio engineer.

My basic script consisted of the story narration and an original fairy song. I became a song writer! I tapped into a lot of local talent to make the process work without breaking the bank.

I found a young audio engineer with a studio in his basement, “hired” my vocalist daughter-in-law to sing, and turned my grandchildren into a children’s chorus.

People love the added value of having a CD inside the book, and also love the fact that their children are learning to read with the help of the CD.

If I were to do it today, I would go through the recording process but, in place of a CD, I would use a QR code that would take the reader to my website to listen to the recording. (I haven’t explored the details of doing this, but I have met people who say they have done it successfully.)

Approximately how much does each book cost to produce?

There are so many variables here. It depends on the format (hardcover or paperback), the size of the book, the paper quality, and any additions (dust jacket or CD)  and the number of books ordered.

I certainly don’t recommend mortgaging your house to purchase thousands of books, so you have to be realistic and know how you plan to market your books before you print.

Also, of utmost importance, is to first produce a top-quality book that has been professionally edited and market-tested with a focus group of age-appropriate readers. 

Your illustrations are beautiful and it is clear that there is a team behind each book. Where did you find your collaborators? 

I don’t know why it’s called “self-publishing” because you certainly can’t do it all yourself!

A team of professionals provide the checks and balances you need to produce a top-quality product.

I found my illustrator (Kristi Bridgeman) by doing an internet search for “fairy illustrators.” It was love at first sight! Her magical watercolor illustrations turned my books into works of art.

My graphic designer was a young friend of a friend, who worked from home and was affordable. He meshed the words and illustrations in just the right way.

Although I am an editor, even editors need an extra pair of eyes to check their work. Luckily, my pilates instructor was a retired editor who had worked for a large publishing house.

My team worked together beautifully, even though we were in different states—and countries!

Have you ever felt pigeon-holed by your topic? (Ever want to write about non-fairy books?)

No, I’ve never felt pigeon-holed. I love fairies and love finding things to blame on them. I actually have a few other fairy books written that I would like to publish. (No, I won’t tell you what they are.) That being said, I have also been collecting cat photos for a new toddler book and—to add something different to the mix—I am working on a true-life ghost story. Stay tuned…

What would you say was a mistake that you made that taught you something valuable?

Oh, dear. Here it is: When it was time to print the first book, I thought the cost of encasing the CDs in tamper-resistant plastic sleeves was too high, opting instead for paper sleeves. They seemed sturdy enough to me. I ordered 5000 copies of the book!

Only when I sent a copy to the children’s buyer for Barnes & Noble did I learn that my books were deemed unacceptable due to the use of paper CD sleeves. Fortunately all was not lost, as 10 of my family members agreed to convene on a Sunday morning around a large conference table in my son’s office.

We formed a production line and spent twelve hours unpacking each case of books, carefully removing the paper sleeves, placing each CD into its newly purchased plastic sleeve, meticulously gluing each CD back into place and repacking the books.

Lesson learned: Do it right the first time! 

What advice would you give someone considering indie publishing?

  1. Know your target audience. When you decide what age you are targeting, go to the library, find out what this age group is reading, and read as many of these books as you can.
  2. Have your book professionally edited—yes, even if there are only 100 words in your book.
  3. Own your ISBN. Whoever owns the ISBN owns the rights to publish your book.
  4. Before using POD or subsidy publishing companies, ask for samples of the companies’ work and ask yourself if this is what you want your book to look like. Also, make sure to discuss the total price and know what to expect in the way of quality and service.
  5. Read my book, How to Create a Successful Children’s Picture Book.

Are your books available in bookstores, libraries, and schools? Can you briefly describe how you’ve approached each channel?

I have been fortunate to have had my books accepted by a large distributor, which is the only way I know for an indie author to distribute their books to bookstores and libraries nationwide so quickly and efficiently.

As for schools, this has proven to be a very lucrative market for my books.

I do classroom visits where I read a book or two and teach the children the songs on the CDs. I prepare order forms for the teachers to send home with the children a few days before my visit.

I charge a fee for my visit, plus sell my books. For practice, you can offer to do free visits at your local libraries.

What other opportunities has publishing your books led to? (e.g., speaking opportunities, lectures, etc.)

A whole new world has opened since my granddaughter refused to have her hair combed.

I have been a guest presenter at numerous book fairs all across the U.S. and in Canada. I have been a guest blogger on blogs all over the world.

I have had Barnes & Noble book launch parties that have attracted as many as 300 people. I have been invited to sign my books at many Costco stores.

Occasionally someone even recognizes me on the street!

Anything else you’d like to share?

This is an exciting journey. My books have received 28 children’s book awards along the way, including the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal for “Best Picture Book Series of 2017.” I invite everyone to take the journey with me.

Would I recommend self-publishing? Yes, if you do it right.

Let’s face it: As self-publishers, our books are often judged more critically and held to a higher standard than traditionally published books. Therefore, if we’re going to represent ourselves, let’s make our books the very best.

There’s no room in today’s market for more run-of-the-mill books.

Competition is tougher than it has ever been.

On my journey I have verified an important fact that some self-publishers fail to recognize: In order to compete in the book world, you MUST produce a high-quality product!

Read the Best Fairy Books

Note that all of Bobbie Hinman’s books are available in the KindleUnlimited program so you can check them out for free when you are a member (which I am).

I have also purchased the Belly Button Fairy and the Fart Fairy books with my own dime because I like to do my own research when it comes to bringing you the best information and believe me, these books are a hit with my kids.

Bio

Bobbie Hinman is a former elementary teacher with B.S. degree in Elementary Education/Children’s Literature.

She is the recipient of 28 children’s book awards, including the Moonbeam Gold Medal for “Best Picture Book Series of 2017.” Her achievements are numerous:

  • Author of The Knot Fairy, The Sock Fairy, The Belly Button Fairy, The Fart Fairy and The Freckle Fairy which have sold over 51,000 copies
  • Author of “How to Create a Successful Children’s Picture Book”
  • Ten years experience editing children’s books
  • Member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) and IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association)
  • Judge for the Royal Palm Literary Awards
  • Ghost writer for numerous children’s books

4 Reasons Why Indie Authors Should Crowdfund Their Books

After successfully crowdfunding my book on Kickstarter and helping other indie authors find success on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter platforms, I fully believe that more indie authors can successfully crowdfund their books with some research and strategic planning.

The average book on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo raises $5k, but my clients raise above average levels ranging from $7k-$27k USD. (You’ll find my client portfolio here.)

Here are my reasons why you should consider crowdfunding:

#1 Proof of Concept

Erin Nelsen Parekh Kickstarted her debut children’s board book and felt that the crowdfunding process proved her book was worth creating. “Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted.”

If you can get more than 150 people to pre-order your book based on a sales page and campaign video, then you have a really strong message that resonates with people. Chances are good that you should create your book.

If you can’t raise the necessary funds to make your book a reality (i.e., your campaign doesn’t successfully fund), then it means that you need to reevaluate your idea, your audience, or your marketing efforts. Something is flawed and a failed crowdfunding project doesn’t mean your idea isn’t valuable, it just means you need to rework your approach.

Crowdfunding in a do-or-die scenario is a really good test of your book’s concept and will undoubtedly improve your future marketing efforts.

#2 Expand and engage your audience

When I launched the Kickstarter campaign for Knocked Up Abroad Again, I only had a newsletter size of 140 people and a Facebook page around 700. That was it. Scary, right?

Traditionally markers said that I wouldn’t reach my $10k goal with those numbers and normally, they’d be right. The difference is that crowdfunding isn’t like traditional marketing campaigns.

Crowdfunding forces you to create valuable content that people will want to share with their friends and family—organically—and those articles, videos, and images all have the link to your campaign on them. 

Fortunately, I had the help of a team of 5-8 contributors who developed their own blogs, videos, and graphics to share with their networks.  Crowdfunding is truly a team effort that undoubtedly results in expanding your audience.

One of the best parts about crowdfunding is that you engage your audience. As the creator, you provide them an inside peek into the development process of your book. They are along with you on the ride and are excited to share your concept.

This type of audience engagement is rare during the development process. Normally, writers will create a book and release it on a launch date.

Not many readers get the chance to influence a book during its development and that’s what keeps people coming back to platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

#3 Condense 3-6 months of marketing efforts into 30 days

This condensed marketing effort really takes a lot of strategic planning and development. You can’t just throw up a campaign page and expect the backers to support your project. 

All of the marketing efforts that other authors spend over the course of the year are condensed into a very short timeframe. This can be exhausting, which is why all crowdfunding campaigns should end after 35 days or so.

During your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll write press releases, create videos, reach out to bloggers, social media influencers, and hopefully, get the attention of a few news outlets.

Stacy Bauer made a few appearances on her local TV news station during her Kickstarter campaign for her children’s book.

Erin Parekh’s campaign link was retweeted twice by Neil Gaiman out to his 2.72M followers.

You’re not supposed to be able to sustain this level of a marketing media blitz longer than 30 days, so please, don’t try. 

#4 Your book is funded

The best part about crowdfunding your book is that aside from your marketing budget during the crowdfunding campaign, your wallets aren’t entirely empty.

Many indie authors struggle with finding the thousands of dollars necessary to hire a quality editor, illustrator, and cover designer. As a result, their books aren’t as well made and don’t sell as well. 

Crowdfunding offers a unique proposition to readers that basically says, “Invest in this idea and you’ll get a much better product than you could’ve if I did this on my own dime.”

Believe me, people will invest a few extra books if it means they get a better book plus a few extras.

Tired of reading and want the video version of this blog instead?

Watch me reiterate the points above (and more) in the video below.

Why Stories About Failure Are So Helpful

Failure.

It’s no longer a dirty word to utter or admit in entrepreneurial and corporate circles. In fact, many entrepreneurs and businesses are embracing sharing stories of failure because they understand the value of these stories.

Sharing what doesn’t work is just as valuable (maybe more) as sharing what does work.

In science, it is every researcher’s dream to test a hypothesis and find statistically significant results confirming that they were right. However, publishing research findings showing that there were no statistically significant results for those elements is equally important to the research community. It shows that those confounders aren’t relevant to your problem.

Failure in a Public Health Study

Case study: In 2005, Michael Watson and his public health colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial where 3,400 some odd families with children under 5 were provided child safety equipment to prevent injuries.

They studied whether a child in the family had at least one injury that required medical attention and if they sought hospital admission for injuries over the course of a two year period. Their hypothesis was that providing safety equipment and medical advice to these families would reduce the number of injuries seen in the family. Afterall, safety equipment provides a protective effect, no? Seems logical.

However, they found NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in the number of medically attended injuries between the families who had the safety equipment and those who didn’t. Basically, kids will be kids regardless of the safety equipment they have. You can satisfy your nerdy side with the full article here.

Was their study a failure or did it provide interesting results?

I’d argue that these non-significant results were very helpful in directing future researchers to various study designs when it comes to studying families and child injury prevention. Their study informed pediatricians and crafted the advice doctors gave their worried parental patients.

One can argue, quite successfully, that publishing non-significant results (or stories of failure) are extremely valuable in how we view our world and test our own hypotheses.

Failure is the new trend in business

“I’m still shocked at being considered an authority on robotics when I’m known for making robots that don’t work.” – Simone Giertz

Fail stories are finally being seen as something of worth in the business world and entrepreneurs are embracing their failures with open arms. Failory.com provides written interviews with start-up founders to dig into the reasons why their ideas failed. Entrepreneurs are sharing their F**kup stories on vlogs with Stefanie Koch on We Fucked Up, and the videos are entertaining to watch and reassuring to see.

Because learning what not to do is as valuable as learning what to do in business, young entrepreneurs are gobbling up failure stories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Take a look at all of the books related to failure: The 10 Commandments for Business FailureSecret to Startup Failure: Fail fast. Fail cheap. Fail happy.How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

On Alie Ward’s Gizmology podcast, she chats with Simone Giertz from Shitty Robots (a super entertaining YouTube channel, by the way), about how her robot fail videos made her famous. Simone admits, “I’m still shocked at being considered an authority on robotics when I’m known for making robots that don’t work.”

Failure makes you human. Failure makes you relatable.

The Old Guard (looking at you, my lovely gray-haired/bearded experts in your field of choice) have kept their mistakes a secret—always wanting to be perceived as the all-knowing, wise, and knowledgeable specialists. But, when those all-knowing experts are always on the conference call, they stifle their colleagues’ desire to speak up and offer their ideas.

Former Florida State Epidemiologist, Richard Hopkins, is a tall, white-bearded man who would regale me with stories about his bassoon playing vacations in Bozeman, Montana. During a “long table discussion” (you know, those where all of the experts sit at a long table and rabble on at one another) he pulled me close and whispered in my ear, “I’m not going to answer any questions so, you’d better be ready to speak up. You know as much on this topic as I do.”

Other people’s fear of failing in front of an expert actually hinders growth and progress.

Being a young, relatively inexperienced female epidemiologist sitting at the table next to a veritable expert with over 30 years of experience, I took his permission to heart. I was grateful that he explicitly gave my ideas equal validity as his own despite the discrepancy of years of experience in the field.

Later, during one of the coffee breaks, he said, “I’ve found that whenever I offer up my opinions on a topic, it shuts everyone else down and a lot of good ideas go unsaid. We need more new ideas coming to the table, not less.”

In short, other people’s fear of failing in front of an expert actually hinders growth and progress.

This is why we need more experts to share more of their stories of failure with their colleagues and especially with people seeking to enter their field. In doing so, we will all understand that growth cannot happen without failing and that it is only through failure that we can improve.

Share your failures story with someone and you’ll find that sharing your mistakes makes you more human, more relatable, and more empathetic toward others. You’ll gain more admiration and respect in your field of expertise.

Failure shows persistence

Tim Ferriss sent his 4 Hour Workweek book to 25 publishers before someone finally accepted it. Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers before it was accepted. Walt Disney filed bankruptcy after starting several businesses and failing at them all. Continuously failing means that you improve the next time and the next until you reach greatness.

So, head out there and fail your heart out. You might just inspire someone.

Are you ready to learn from my mistakes? I share all of my failures with my clients so they can learn what not to do when it comes to self-publishing and crowdfunding their book.

Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo vs. Publishizer

When it comes to crowdfunding platforms, you really only have a few options—Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Publishizer. Of course, there are other, smaller crowdfunding platforms out there, but I do not recommend those for crowdfunding your book.

Full disclosure: I have successfully crowdfunded books on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, so I prefer those platforms over others. I’ll go over the reasons why below.

Regardless of what you decide, you first need to research the types of projects featured on each platform to find the best “home” for your book.

The average book campaign raises around $5K. If you have a larger goal in mind, I suggest you read about how Don Moyer used serial campaigns to successfully fund his creative projects.

Let's Start With The Basics

A key thing to remember: the vast majority of your readers don’t understand the concept of crowdfunding. Plain and simple.

Whenever you launch a crowdfunding campaign for your book, most of your time will be spent educating your Aunt Mary why you are crowdfunding your book and why it’s important that she shares your campaign link.

Without a doubt, she will brush you off thinking that you are begging for money, and you’ll be left feeling frustrated with the entire thing.

So, given that, does the platform you choose matter?

Absolutely.

Crowdfunding companies like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are homes to crowdfunding campaigns that have gone viral—gadgets, gizmos, and a never-ending supply of travel neck pillows.

However, creative projects like performing arts and books have struggled to find the same success as the games and apps have on these platforms.

The average book on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo receives $5k in funding. However, there have been notable exceptions, and I’ve seen books reach over $100k.

Science Wide Open put out a series of science books for girls and leveraged their established audience from their online games to find success on Kickstarter. Their campaign ended with $136,520 (2275%). 

It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’s rare. Those with wild success have already built their audiences before they launch.

Enter…Publishizer

Publishizer was invented in 2016 with books in mind and I really really wanted them to be the answer and provide an amazing platform for books.

It might because they are still growing as a company, but in browsing their current and past book proposals, I simply cannot recommend them to any of my crowdfunding clients.

Publishizer is kind of like a literary agent who takes 30% after you’ve used their platform to drum up 1,000 pre-orders of your book.

The thing is, if you can successfully garner 1,000 pre-orders for your book, you don’t need the Publishizer platform, and you certainly don’t need to give them 30% of your funds raised.

Why?

Because if you are popular on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you can use that social proof to get the attention of a traditional publisher. I know because it has happened to one of my clients on IndieGoGo, but they never paid someone 30% for that visibility—only the 8% in IndieGoGo and payment processing fees.

So, why automatically give a platform money for what you can do yourself?

The benefits of a community

Kickstarter has some benefits—there is a vast Kickstarter community of super backers who browse the platform and offer up their support to random projects. Since Kickstarter backers aren’t charged until the project is successful, many backers will support a project in the early stages when things are relatively low-risk for them. It’s been known to happen.

The publishing projects on IndieGoGo tends to be fertile ground for books, and they will often share popular campaigns on their Facebook and Twitter social media accounts resulting in a huge boost in your visibility to new readers.

The main problem I have with Publishizer, and I have a few, is that they will put you in front of the Big 5 publishers if you have 1,000 pre-orders, but their most successful books usually only raise $1,000-$5,000 in funds—the same average as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

Publishizer basically equals higher fees and lower success rates than Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

So, in short, their fees are higher, the projects on the platform tend not to compete as well as those on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, and the community is smaller than the other crowdfunding platforms.

What’s wrong with Publishizer?

My personal opinion is that the Publishizer website isn’t as visually appealing as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.

Publishizer also has a bit of a “Chicken or the egg?” dilemma. Meaning that the authors who are posting on the platform are seeking funding because they don’t have an audience but you can’t successfully crowdfund ANY book without an audience.

While I absolutely love the concept of Publishizer because they are focused on books, they missed a huge part of the equation essential to all crowdfunding campaigns and book campaigns are no different than neck pillows.

You need to offer something someone wants.

Often, the authors on Publishizer aren’t offering books anyone wants and therefore, their campaigns flop. Without a funding do-or-die strategy like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, authors aren’t motivated to push their campaigns to success. 

Wah, wahh, waaaaah.

Authors use Publishizer because they want to get the attention of a publisher—indie, hybrid, or traditional. That means that they aren’t really committed to putting out the book on their own and readers don’t want to back a book that’s unlikely to happen.

Holy horrible cycle of destruction, Batman! 

Consider the perspective of your reader (aka the backer)

Let’s look at it from the reader’s perspective. Am I more likely to pre-order a book from an author who is waiting for a publisher over one who is committed to self-publishing and delivering the book to me according to a specific timeline?

I can tell you right now, readers who are truly interested in the book and want you to be a success are going to want reassurances that you’re going to deliver the book.

The uncertainty factor that is inherent in Publishizer’s approach doesn’t send waves of confidence to the author or the reader. It’s a big shoulder shrug as to the outcome of the campaign.

Homework: After you’re done with this article, head over to all of the platforms and comb through their current book projects, and you tell me which is your favorite.

But wait, there’s more

If you have one (only 1) pre-order on Publishizer, you’ll be put on the list of service publishers—the folks who will gladly take your money to help you “self-publish” without any quality control or guidance.

No, thanks, Publishizer. I don’t want Xlibris to have my email whatsoever as they are notorious for horrible service and hundreds of writers have written reviews warning others about their “services”. The fact that Xlibris is even included on Publishizer’s website indicates that they have not done quality control for their authors.

Uh…if you’re not familiar with Xlibris or Authorhouse, proceed cautiously and read this article.

With Publishizer, your book won’t be seen by traditional publishers (the big guns we all hope for) if you don’t have 500+ pre-orders.

For Knocked Up Abroad Again, me and my contributors worked around the clock for 30 days to generate the equivalent of 302 pre-orders from 277 backers and $10K on Kickstarter.

Had I launched my project on Publishizer instead, I would’ve gotten the attention of 10-15 independent and service publishers (no big guns, sadly), but I would’ve had to fork over the 30% fee to Publishizer which would leave me with less money to self-publish the work myself if a publishing contract fell through.

If I were in your shoes, I’d take my chances and save 22% of my fees by crowdfunding on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

You bring the audience to the platform

Remember, authors have to bring their readers to the crowdfunding platform, so it really doesn’t matter which platform you direct them to as long as it contains enticing information, is visually appealing, and will get done what you want to accomplish.

In my opinion, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo will give you a better chance at success over Publishizer.

Now, should you choose Kickstarter or IndieGoGo? That’s another question for another day.

If you’ve created or backed a project on Publishizer and have a different experience, please let me know. I’m open and receptive to other people’s opinions.