Why Community is So Important While Writing

Writers often work alone and bring the ideas in their heads to the page without the input of a community of readers. Wherever possible, it is vitally important to receive feedback from your main audience while you create your book and then again, when you launch it.

Why is community important?

While building an audience, you receive creative energy and feedback from your readers. Their encouragement and feedback will give you the reminder you need to keep going when you feel like you’re shouting into the void.

But you’re never shouting into the void. Or, at least, the void is more crowded than you think…someone is always reading and watching what you do. They usually approach you at a dinner party and comment on your latest LinkedIn post, much to your surprise. And after you have the strangest conversation with that person, you leave feeling both shocked and grateful that someone is reading your words at all.

Readers are so valuable these days

In a world where it seems like everyone is shouting for attention, it is more important than ever to create a community of people who listen, reflect, and respond. If you want to create a dynamic of meaningful exchange, you have to ask questions, offer help, and support others where you can.

Building a community of engaged readers does the following:

– Provides you a solid sounding board so you don’t go too far in the wrong direction (for too long)

– Builds a support network for you when things inevitably go wrong (a soft place to land)

– Honest and critical feedback on your work that will lead to a better overall book

– A group to amplify your voice when you need them on book launch day/campaign launch day

– A go-to source for reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

– A group of people with whom you can feel really confident in sharing your voice

It’s easier with support

Indie author, Joanna Free and I were chatting via email (we connected over LinkedIn, believe it or not) and she said,

“I keep getting clearer and clearer, and on a visceral level, how important it is for me to be a part of a team. I’ve been unskillful in building one for myself. It almost makes me miss being in a workplace where that’s been done for me, and I can just step into my position within the team.”

When I launched the Knocked Up Abroad Again Kickstarter campaign, I kept saying to myself over and over again, “What would I do without these ladies supporting me? I’d be in worse shape than I am right now.”

My contributors really pulled through and they emailed me daily asking me how I was doing and cheered me on whenever I would send out a status update. They created new content, blogs, videos, and sent off hundreds of emails. Without a doubt, the team we created played a crucial part in our success.

Don’t go it alone

If you pursue crowdfunding or are about to launch your book, don’t overlook creating a team of cheerleaders around you. Nobody should take on 30 days of blogging, podcasting, and in-person book readings without a group of people checking in and cheering you on.

So much of the indie publishing process is done solo but we all fare much better when we have a team supporting us along the way.

Have you created a team of people around you?

What did you feel worked well? What would you change for the next time?

Wait, have you joined my community? Do you receive my bi-weekly newsletter? Join me and let’s chat by signing up here.

Into Your Dreams Raises over $16k on Kickstarter

Into Your Dreams Raises over $16k on Kickstarter | Lisaferland.com

Roger Blonder is the rhyming mastermind behind the illustrated children’s book, Into Your Dreams, and he raised over $16k on Kickstarter to fund his book and pre-sell copies to his readers.

In this interview, he discusses his previous failure on Kickstarter and how that shaped his second attempt and his advice to children’s authors looking to crowdfunding as a solution.

How much research did you do before launching your Kickstarter?

I was aware of Kickstarter for a number of years and had backed a few campaigns over time. In 2012, I created a time management app for kids but since I didn’t know anything about marketing or crowdfunding, the campaign failed and never came close to my $5k goal. I didn’t nurture the campaign and it showed.

An old student of mine helped people with Kickstarter campaigns and he pointed me in the right direction.

I used MailChimp to manage my emails and segment my messaging based on who opened and clicked on my emails and who did not. I really liked that because I didn’t feel like I was bothering people with the same messages over and over again.

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

I tried to do high-value special art offerings with a lot of art that was done years ago (and I funded myself). That lead to some big rewards that people were interested in and complemented the book.

If you’re using Kickstarter to produce a tech gadget, there’s an understanding that the Kickstarter campaign involves a discount of some kind as an early-adopter.

But, my research indicated that those who supported children’s book campaigns did not seem to be motivated by discounts like the people who want mass-produced tech gadgets. Aside from those in your personal network who have a desire to help you achieve your goals, there has to be something in the book that makes them want to buy it. I found that $35 for a hardcover children’s book seemed to be about the market rate.

As a teacher, I have summers off from school, so I planned my entire campaign during the summer and put together different mailing lists in MailChimp for different audiences. Altogether, I had about 900 people on my email list.

How many people do you think you emailed during the campaign. What was your biggest source of backers?

I had about 900 emails on my list and tried to think of as many people as possible who would be interested in a bedtime book.

My goal was to make an authentic and personal connection with potential backers.

A big tip is that if you don’t do anything with your campaign, nothing happens.

The campaign will not run itself and you can see that in the daily pledges.

If I had to do it over again, I would explore working with ConvertKit as I have heard that their audience segmentation tools are more powerful. It can allow you to reconfigure your email messages based on if they opened it or not.

You can feel more comfortable emailing someone you know hasn’t opened your first email and the messages should be different than people who have already backed you.

What was the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign?

You have to have thick skin. It was surprising to me to see who unsubscribed from my emails.

On the other hand, it was surprising to see the people who reached out to me and offered help to make it happen. I knew that getting help was a necessary step in the book’s production but I didn’t want it to be a charity effort.

The most exciting thing was receiving support from every chapter of my life—backers from elementary school, high school, workplace friends, family, students who would kick in $5, and some faculty and administrators who ended up supporting the project.

I’m glad it had a limited timeframe and I’m happy I found my voice with it.

Did you have to change your strategy mid-campaign?

Not really. It’s all about trying to find a balance between presenting a polished product and keeping it real.

I always led with the messaging, “If you find this to be meaningful, I’m hoping you’ll support it and validate it in some way.”

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

When you work with talented human beings who understand their craft and put them all together, you will have a great book.

You have to know what success means to you. It’s ok if you just want to make a little book for your kids but that person shouldn’t necessarily pursue a large publishing effort.

Success for me meant creating the book and sharing it with the people who supported the campaign. I felt like my words deserved to be read.

Respect your audience. Someone reading your book is taking time out of their day, so respect that.

I don’t want to be manipulated by marketing schemes and I’m sure my readers don’t either. Take the time to hone your craft, learn from the greats, be open to criticism and learning.

(Side note: If you’re not sure if crowdfunding your book is right for you, watch this quick video)

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) for lessons on craft and inspiration. You’ll have access to a diverse community of people who are all striving for excellence.

Think hard about what success means to you before going through all of the effort and expense.

If you ask people to support you, be prepared for them not to support you at all. It sucks but it’s what happens.

If your goal is to make your book a business, you need to prepare, research, and take your time.

Advice: If someone offers you help or advice along the way, then take their help. I met with a parent who was an Amazon marketing expert and he made himself available to share what he knew. As I was so focused on my campaign, I never followed through with him and only later came to realize how valuable his help would have been in the sales and marketing efforts after I completed the campaign.

Listen to the advice of people who know more than you.

Could you see yourself doing another Kickstarter campaign in the future?


I would do an IndieGoGo campaign instead of a Kickstarter.

And I would only do another campaign if I could reach my audience and not tap the same friends and family who backed my first campaign.

You mentioned that you worked with a museum-quality printer for your book. Can you specify and would you recommend them?

Absolutely. I work with US-based Four Colour Print Group who has relationships with printers in Korea and China. I have found them to be competitive with other printers and the price for shipping is included in the quote.

Final advice

It’s a good idea to have some clue as to what you’re going to do with the book after your campaign is finished.

Next time, I’ll leverage the campaign to generate more reviews on Amazon and plan a proper book launch. I learned a lot from your interview with Julia Miles Inserro. I have been using the resources she suggested and recommend them highly. 

Bio

Roger Blonder goes Into His Dreams by crafting words, playing music, making movies, working in the garden, staring across the ocean and hiking in the mountains. Blonder received his MFA in Animation from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
 
His animated films have been honored with awards at film festivals all over the world. He has animated students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, Loyola Marymount University and currently as the Director of Media Arts at de Toledo High School in Southern California where he lives with his wife Renée, daughters, Jaelyn and Noa and dog, Zephyr, Beast of Joy. 
Read his book today

Want tools, checklists, calculators, and email templates for running your Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign? 

Check out the Crowdfunding Vault

Only $35/mth or $99 for lifetime access

Joseph Malik’s debut fantasy novel sold over 10,000 copies. Find out how he broke the mold

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?

I use Ingram Spark for both.

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.

You can see the trailer for Dragon’s Trail, our first trailer attempt here.

You can watch the trailer for The New Magic here.

Anything else you want to add?

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.

 

Bio

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.

Pre-order your copy today
Joseph Malik Sells Over 10,000 Books | Lisaferland.com
Pin me

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.


Why “free” content will only take you so far

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 mindset was 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.

Nice words from a client

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.

What happened

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?

Send me an email if you think you want to work together.

I’d love to help you reach your goals self-publishing or Kickstarting your book.

Keep reading

More on being an indie author or illustrator—”Being great isn’t good enough. You have to be at the top of your game to break into the traditional publishing market.” – Natalie Merheb

How to Make Money as an Illustrator

Stand out from the crowd—”There’s no room in today’s market for more run-of-the-mill books.” —Bobbie Hinman

Why Stories About Failure are so Helpful

Why free content will only take you so far | Lisaferland.com
Pin me for later

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
Pin me for later

The Power of the $1 Reward on Kickstarter

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.

Should you offer $1 rewards on Kickstarter for your book? | Lisaferland.com
Pin me for later

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