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!
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.
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