Kickstarter Creator and Self-Published Children’s Book Author: Erin Nelsen Parekh

Erin and I first connected when we were both live with our Kickstarter campaigns. (You can see hers here.) Activities during a crowdfunding campaign involve reaching out to strangers and supporting one another on the platform, and I absolutely loved what Erin was doing with Behowl the Moon.

UPDATE: Erin has launched another Kickstarter campaign for her second book, The Wild Waves Whist that is live now until May 19, 2018 so be sure to back it!

Check out her Kickstarter campaign here.

I mean, how many Shakespeare board books for babies are out there?

What I loved about what she was doing was that it wasn’t really for the babies. I mean, it was a book for babies, but the book was just as much designed for the parent reader. Believe me, no baby is going to appreciate that artwork like an adult.

As Erin is a Kickstarter creator of a children’s illustrated board book and a self-published author; this interview covered a lot of topics.

You have experience with traditional publishers so why did you go the self-publishing route?

I thought I had a fairly strong idea, but there was no reason I could think of that a traditional publisher would want me to do that idea.

This was something I wanted for myself, and I knew other people like me would want for themselves, but I didn’t know if it was a big enough market segment for a traditional publisher to take a risk on it.

Board books are expensive [to produce] and almost nobody debuts with a board book.

For me, I would pay $25 for a board book instead of $3 for something I really wanted, and I knew that if other people were willing to do the same, then we could do it ourselves.

| Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. | 

I have an extensive background in traditional publishing and I’ve done a lot on the editorial side. I knew how it was done distribution-wise and the technical details regarding the printing, so I wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of doing it myself.

Self-publishing meant that I got to pick everything—the illustrator, the title, the content. I wanted to have creative control for my project.

Self-publishing was a really empowering option.

Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?

Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. If I hadn’t done the crowdfunding, I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to push it so far.

We had 384 backers for the project so we weren’t trying to please the entirety of the world. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I know my audience is extremely sophisticated and has high standards for quality and production.

My illustrator was fabulous. And I also worked with a very talented professional book designer. I understand the need for getting the technical details right, but I don’t know how to make the book spine a certain width or how to reverse a template—she does.

Someone who is creative but not experienced in this industry wouldn’t know how to make my vision come to life like she did.

No one really wants to compromise on their project except in areas where you don’t know any better.

I really liked Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing approach because I wouldn’t be able to produce the book with only $5K. We truly needed to reach 100% funding to put this book together.

How much work did you do before the campaign?

Before the campaign, I did a ton of research on where to find potential backers.

I tried to think of every possible audience who might be interested in this book and how I was going to talk with them (Marketing 101, right?).

Then, I started finding where Shakespeare people were, parents, board book people, theatre people, kids who are into theatre, and then all of the blogs, websites, friends, etc. and made massive lists of every possible angle.

During the Kickstarter campaign itself, I tried reaching out to multiple groups each day so I wasn’t exhausting one interest demographic, but I was connecting with new people every day.

Did you do it yourself or did you have a team of people helping you?

I had a few wonderful friends and relatives who were interested in the project who helped me out sharing and looking for places to share.

Shakespeare Geek, who has been blogging since the dawn of blogs, picked up my campaign from Reddit, and he was my first stranger cheerleader.

It’s so incredibly compelling when someone else in the void of the internet likes your idea and has the authority of a background in your topic.

Neil Gaiman tweeted about the book and then did it again as the campaign was closing. I really admire him as an artist, and it was extremely exciting to see that momentum build.

At the same time, I was like, “Yeah, I need 100 more backers or all of this is for naught.”

You reached 100% with a few days to go in your campaign. Were you sweating it out?

Toward the end of the Kickstarter campaign, I’m thinking, “I have already said everything I can think of to say to everyone I can think of who might be interested. I have run out of ideas. What’s going to happen here?”

You get hung up at 92% for a few days, and it’s stressful.

 

How did you set your different reward tiers?

Crowdfunding campaigns are incredibly short, and there are only so many people who are going to back you at the higher reward levels in the short amount of time you have. It’s simply the nature of crowdfunding. You’re only going to reach so many people at those upper levels in the time you have.

People who really love you or your project may support you at the higher levels, but it has to be viable with a reasonable number of supporters at not too high a contribution point.

What’s your advice for authors with illustrations?

If you’re selling a print to go along with your book, you’re selling either a souvenir of the campaign, in which case they have to really like the campaign; or a physical piece of artwork, in which case they have to really love that piece of art; or a way for them to support your campaign, in which the actual piece of artwork doesn’t matter at all.

It’s hard to know what motivates people to choose a print, so you have to cover all those possibilities when you’re making your decisions about production and shipping.

Some people will want to buy the print, and some people will want to support the campaign at a higher level.

| Too many options weaken your entire campaign. | 

Kickstarter always gives you the option to donate to the campaign without any rewards. But too many reward options weaken your entire campaign. For me personally, I like the stuff, so I designed my rewards based on stuff that I like.

The artwork is beautiful and calls to mind a fairly beloved play, and the artwork was one of the main items I was trying to fund, so postcards and prints turned out to be the most practical and transportable with the highest added value.

The success of the campaign filled me with all of this gratitude, and I wanted to send everyone everything related to the campaign. But you also have to keep an eye on costs, and postage is one that will add up fast.

I had one quarter of the artwork paid on spec (by me) for the campaign, and we did the rest of the artwork as soon as it funded. I was seven months pregnant, so I needed to get that book off to press!

We finished in November 2016 and went to press December 12, 2016. My daughter was born two days later. I was approving final carton markings in the hospital! But then I had a couple of months where the book didn’t really need anything from me.

What’s next? Can readers expect another Behowl the Moon anytime soon?

Yes! I just sent out a survey to my backers to see if they would be interested in a second one, and the response was so positive and gratifying.

I have a new project percolating along now. I’m hoping to announce some details soon, and if anyone is interested they can find out about it from my mailing list: http://drivelanddrool.com/contact.

What would you say to someone who wants to farm out their publishing or crowdfunding campaign to someone else?

The misery of rewriting is the author’s alone, and I think that applies to crowdfunding too. If you try to outsource it, it’ll end up “okay” and okay isn’t good enough.

You have to own the entire process, and if you want the victory, you have to go through the slog.

Not that the slog guarantees victory…

But I love seeing the content that is out here that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for crowdfunding. It really does democratize so much.

Bio

Erin Nelsen Parekh is an editor, writer, and copywriter with experience in book and magazine publishing, both business to business and consumer-facing. She has always loved kids and kids’ books, and now that she is a parent herself, she finds it particularly fun to explore children’s literature with a tiny critic in her lap.

You can find out more about Erin at drivelanddrool.com

 
Buy the book here

Kickstarting Cami the Kangaroo—How one author reached 100% in 9 days

Did you do any research before launching your Kickstarter? If so, what did you do?

 
Yes! I started researching Kickstarter campaigns three months ago (in November), when I first read about it on one of the author Facebook groups I’m a part of.
 
I did several things:
– I asked for advice and tips from several authors who had already run successful Kickstarter campaigns,
– I searched “Kickstarter” on Facebook author group pages and read all I could that people had already posted, and
– I went onto the Kickstarter website and studied people’s campaigns (past ones and ones that were running at the time) to see what they did that made them successful and
– I read several articles on the Kickstarter website itself to learn more about the program.
 
I also spent time backing several authors who were running campaigns.
 
 

Why did you select Kickstarter over IndieGoGo or another crowdfunding platform?

 
The main reason I chose Kickstarter was because it was the platform most other authors in my Facebook groups used and were using. It was the one I could get the most advice about from others! 
 
 

What types of “behind-the-scenes” work did you do that you think contributed most to your success?

 
As stated above, research, research research! I spoke with other authors, reading about Kickstarter and crowdfunding. Then in December, came the marketing.
 
Being a teacher, I literally knew nothing about marketing, so once again, I enlisted the help of other authors for ideas. I had magnets made and a press release and took them around town, dropping them off at local coffee shops and stores.
 
I called and visited numerous dentist offices. I called and emailed local TV and newspaper outlets and told them about my project and scored two newspaper stories and two TV interviews.
 
I researched and emailed parenting bloggers asking for support. I joined teacher and parenting groups on Facebook. I contacted local libraries, schools and just started passing out my magnets to anyone and everyone!
 
I had to think about the rewards, shipping costs and make a video (which my colleague Jim made for me). I also started my author Facebook, Instagram and websites and started building support for those as soon as I could. 
 

It sounds like you reached out to tons of people. How many people do you think you’ve emailed during the campaign? 

 
Oh gosh! Hundreds! Family, friends, my book club, my church, my school I teach at, newspapers, TV stations, bloggers, other authors, libraries, schools, dentist offices, the MN Dental Foundation (who I hope to donate books to)…I’m sure I’m forgetting some! 
 
 

How did you get your local TV coverage? Did you have that connection before you launched?

 
Nope! I just prepared and sent an email about my journey from teacher to author and they contacted me about doing a segment! 
 
 

What has been the most surprising thing about your Kickstarter campaign? What did you not expect to happen that has happened?

 
So many people have helped me. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am just so grateful!
 
From my friend, Malina, who gave me the idea to choose a kangaroo for my main character, to my friend Jen who put me in contact with someone to help create the bookmarks I plan to give all backers. The ladies in my Bible study who have prayed for me and supported me through this entire thing to my friend and colleague Jim who created the video for my campaign.
 
From people like you and other authors (especially Diane Alber) who have given me so much great advice and support to my friends (old and new) who have championed for me this whole time.
 
My family (parents, sisters and my extended family in WI, TX and CA) has been especially supportive—every time I make a new post on my author page, they are right there sharing it and supporting me.
 
My #1 fan and cheerleader has been my husband Will. He has supported me every step of the way—I definitely couldn’t have done any of this without his unconditional support and love.
 
 

Have you had to change your strategy mid-campaign? If so, why?

 
Yes! I was surprised and excited AND grateful when I found out that we made our goal about 9 days into the campaign! So, I then had to start thinking about stretch goals.
 
Once again, I had to research, talk to my author friends and do a lot of thinking about how to go about that. I really wanted to be able to donate books to schools and also to the MN Dental Foundation and since I have over two weeks left of my campaign, I’m hoping to keep the momentum going to be able to do that. 
 

What advice would you give a fellow author who is looking to crowdfund their book?

 
Reach out and talk to people! Ask questions. Start researching and building up support for your book a couple of months before you launch. 
 

I know you’re still in the midst of your campaign but would you pursue crowdfunding again or recommend it for other authors like yourself? If so (or not) why?

 
Yes! It’s been so fun! I’ve loved every minute. The amount of support I’ve had has been overwhelming and exciting.
 
I am so grateful to have had this experience. I have learned so much, made so many new friends and have had so many new experiences. 

Watch the video below to back Stacy’s book and help her reach her stretch goals, Cami the Kangaroo has too many sweets!

Want more crowdfunding help for your book? 

Lessons Learned from a Serial Crowdfunder

If you are interested in using crowdfunding to fund your book, then you would do well by studying Don Moyer’s success on Kickstarter.

Don is a serial creator with 32 projects on Kickstarter (probably more if you are reading this a few months after publication.)

Not only does he successfully crowdfund books on Kickstarter but he also creates unique ceramic pieces that he sells on calamityware.com.

After browsing through only a few of his projects, you’ll find that he is consistent, his style is distinct, and his work is high-quality. You’ll need those qualities as well if you want to replicate his success.

How I Discovered Don’s Work

Kickstarter has a great social feature that allows backers to follow one another. Every time someone backs a project, a notification email is sent out to all of their followers alerting them to the new project. This is a great benefit to Kickstarter and generates a community built on common interests and trust.

However, none of my friend’s had backed Don’s latest project—I actually saw his campaign shared on Facebook.

I watched the 1-minute video and was immediately charmed by the campaign’s goal.

Don’s content was authentic, the video was on point, and everything resonated with me as a reader. Home run.

The Campaign

Let’s dig deeper into Don’s successful campaign.

Campaign title: Stay Home: The Ugly Truth About Space Travel

Funding goal: $2,500

Total raised: $21,150 (846%)

Total backers: 843

Campaign Content

Don Moyer delivers a hilarious, snappy, and succinct 1-minute pitch in his campaign video about why it’s much better to stay home than suit up and explore the stars.

Seriously. Go watch it.

Coupled with his unique illustrations featuring aliens and his robot and alien themed porcelain creations at Calamityware.com, the reader can easily find a lot to pair with this fun book.

Rewards

Don kept it really simple by focusing on the book with the highest level reward being $100 for original artwork plus four signed copies of the book.

He charged $11 for international shipping, which I thought was cheap. I normally see $15 for international shipping rates on Kickstarter.

One signed copy of the book was $13—$2 less than retail price.

Two signed copies of the book—$22

Four signed copies of the book—$42

Original artwork + four copies of the book (limited to 25)—$100

Communication with Backers

Let’s take a look at the one email I received from Don during the campaign. Note how his message is in keeping with his personality and the book’s tone which keeps things light, entertaining, and informative.

“Lisa,

I’m so happy you’re supporting Stay Home, my latest Kickstarter project. These books tell the truth about the perils and inconveniences of space travel and may make you laugh.

If you know anyone who needs encouragement to stay home, be sure to tell them about this project before it closes tonight, November 22.

Watch for my updates as the project advances. I’ll try to keep you up to date without being an email pest. The latest update is here.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/159974695/stay-home-book-reveals-the-ugly-truth-about-space/posts/2043134

Thanks for your amazing support.

Don

****
PS: Breaking news: Cheese factory explosion. De Brie everywhere.

****
PPS: Left-overs from my previous Kickstarter projects are available at www.calamityware.com, while supplies last. A great place to find some unusual gifts, including the world’s most delightful shower curtain.”

Don’s humorous personality is really what makes his video fun to watch but then his call to action in his email reinforced my desire to share.

In fact, I did share it on my Facebook page because I sincerely wanted to share this project with my friends. I knew they would like it too.

Don is back at it with another Kickstarter project that currently has reached $70k as of this writing and has two more weeks to go before it closes.

He’s projected to reach 4878% of his goal.

How does he do it?

Don is a Kickstarter veteran and has created 32 projects. Not only is he a super creator but he is also a super backer.

If you are going to venture into the world of crowdfunding, you need to understand that becoming a backer of other people’s projects is vitally important.

Check out Don’s stats: he has backed 152 projects, created 32, and commented 292 times on Kickstarter.

He’s an active member of the Kickstarter community in both creating and supporting other creators.

Don told me,

“I’m always deeply suspicious of people who launch a project when they have never supported even one. Ridiculous.”

You heard it directly from the pro, folks, go back a few campaigns before you launch your project.

Serial backers who support random campaigns on the platform look at creator’s profiles to assess reliability.

You don’t have to create 32 projects like Don, but you will need to support at least one project before you launch your own.

What happens when you support other people’s crowdfunding projects

You will learn a lot when you support other people’s crowdfunding projects. I have had many email communications with fellow backers and they were fonts of knowledge and tips.

After backing someone’s project, email them with a simple request to chat if they have a moment. Ask them if they can share any lessons learned with you or give you any advice. You’ll learn so much from them and who knows? Maybe, just maybe, they’ll support you when you launch your campaign.

Back to Don’s success…

How can we find success on Kickstarter?

No doubt, Don’s past projects have garnered quite the devoted following. But look at his funding targets—they are insanely reasonable.

Across his 32 projects, his funding goals range from $2500-$5000 and he exceeds them by tens of thousands of dollars.

Setting a low funding target does a few things:

  • Guarantees funding which, in turn, guarantees happy backers. Nobody wants to back a project that looks like it has zero chance of reaching their funding goal.
  • Funding XXX% over your goal means that your campaign is WILDLY popular and you’ll hit the top posts on the Kickstarter homepage. More eyes will see your campaign, see how many people are on board, and will throw in their support as well. Exceeding your target builds social capital. Everyone wants to be a part of the latest cool thing.

Here’s a screenshot of the Most Popular projects on Kickstarter under Art

As a backer, I’m going to check out the one that’s 1,034% funded first because that one is clearly the most popular and I want to find out why.

Consistency

Don is consistent in delivering high-quality products that are unique, interesting, and best of all, downright fun.

His messaging is consistent throughout everything he does—his campaign page, reward descriptions, communication with backers, and his public updates.

Even better was his book, you know, the thing I wanted from the beginning, had the same style and voice as his campaign.

Anyone who can insert humor into the copyright page is someone I want to continue to support.

Don used Fulfillrite based in NJ, USA—a third-party service to fulfill his orders—and everything was seamless. I completed a quick survey and my book arrived in the mail a few weeks later (most likely due to my international address).

Shared on my Instagram account @knockdupabroad

What can you learn from Don’s success?

Be yourself. Be quirky. Be weird.

Put out high-quality stuff, set small goals, fulfill your projects consistently, and be yourself in all of your communications with your backers.

If you have a project with a big funding goal, think about what you can do to break it down into pieces.

Don has amassed a huge collection of porcelain creations that are part of his Calamity Ware store, but he didn’t get there by asking for $100k in funding.

He raised funds for each mug, plate, platter, and book, and delivered them one at a time building success upon past success.

Engage in the community

Back other projects, communicate with fellow backers, and comment regularly so you build a presence.

You’ll get the same advice from the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter social media wizards—you have to be a genuine part of the community to benefit from it.

Don’t reinvent the wheel

Don has successfully created a store full of related items and once he figured out the format that connected with his audience, he repeated the process time and time again.

Do loads of research before you start and evaluate what works and what doesn’t work from other creators.

Want more crowdfunding help for your book? 

Feel free to send me an email for a free 20-minute chat where we can figure out what works best for you.

Tips delivered straight to your inbox