In this interview, I asked Gina about her experience building an audience from scratch, her Kickstarter campaign, and her plans for her future books.
What surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?
It really is a lot of work. I was surprised about the amount of upfront work, before the first backer has even pledged.
I would not have done near as good a job making sure all of my links were consistent and working together if I had not had Lisa’s help.
It takes a long time to get all of the advertising materials together – even though I didn’t do any paid ads, I made a lot of memes and graphics to post throughout the month.
Also, the work that went into the “simple” video, the Kickstarter page was a lot more than I expected.
However, it was a great exercise because now I have all kinds of info ready to go, and I basically pinned a post to the top of my blog with all my lovely Kickstarter info so people who visit the page will see that first.
What was the best aspect of crowdfunding your campaign?
We made our goal and went well over, so now I can invest in my Spanish translation and my French editor.
It was great to see how many of the backers came from the Kickstarter community—over $1K of the funding.
What was the worst aspect of your campaign?
Being obsessed with checking my numbers for several days! Then, thank goodness I calmed down a bit once I reached my goal at the start of day 11.
I still kept pushing through the month, but I let off a bit for about 2 weeks to give people a chance to breathe before the final call for pledges. I didn’t want people to get sick of me.
What were the best strategies you did to build your audience before you launched?
I started pushing my email list really hard, and that worked pretty well—for my particular case, I promised special exclusive memes about opossums.
I mostly needed email subscribers since I was pretty much starting that from scratch, but I already had over 1000 Facebook followers, and I’m still building that audience all the time.
I think it also helped that I wrote on Medium and got my call to action out there in lots of articles related to my book (that was Lisa’s idea, and was really helpful).
What strategies did you use to build you readership before launch?
So, I am in five or six different private Facebook groups about opossums and each day of the week for several months, I made my own memes with pictures people had posted of their rescue opossums (I always credited the photos on the meme).
I posted the memes on my IG which simultaneously posts on my FB page.
Then I shared that FB post in each group with a different little quip in each new post.
People in each group saw my FB page each time I posted and sometimes they mosey on over and follow me.
Even if they only go to my page and like a post, I could scoop them up that way by inviting them to like the page later.
I think the secret is that I was always giving them something entertaining and sneaking a little info and/or link in with the meme, so it didn’t annoy the crap out of people that all I was ever doing was pushing my book.
I rarely shared direct marketing things for my book in these groups—only to announce the beginning of the Kickstarter and maybe one to say it was about to end.
Otherwise, I usually got my link in the first couple of lines, but the star of the show was always the original meme.
I was getting over 200 new followers every month for several months.
What advice did you receive that helped you the most?
To write related articles, to have things ready in advance (although I could have done much better with that, I had time to do it during the month, too, luckily).
I also emailed about 200 people individually, and I think that helped even if a lot of people didn’t reply at all.
Some people I didn’t really expect to hear from were super excited about my book.
What advice would you give someone thinking about crowdfunding their book?
Get help from Lisa Ferland! Read as much as you can, study the projects that are not working and figure out why, look at the ones that are and analyze that too.
Make it yours, make it clear, make it great.
Would you crowdfund your book again?
I would if I had to, but it was so much work (and since I did pretty well), I plan to use the funds to get my publishing empire rolling and then reinvest in my next couple of projects.
I finally found a day to draft most of the next book I’ve been percolating, so I want to use all the money the first one brings in to keep going and hopefully not annoy my friends and family with guilt trips for cash anymore. Don’t want to run out of goodwill.
Although, crowdfunding is a very good way to get to people you wouldn’t normally have reached. Those super backers are nothing to sneeze at!
I learned and am still learning so much from all of this that I wouldn’t have necessarily learned so easily if I had not gone through the process of crowdfunding my book.
I could not be happier with my results. I feel prepared for anything!
Translating Children’s Books—especially those that rhyme
Working with foreign rights agents may work well for straightforward fiction and nonfiction, but it’s a different story when it comes to children’s books—particularly books written in rhyme.
Balancing proper rhyme, meter, story plot, and reader interest is difficult to do in any language and often doesn’t translate well.
Rhyming books will never translate directly between any two languages (nothing ever does), and the language for children needs to be applicable.
This always results in the creation of a new storyline.
Oh, and you’ll need a snappy new title with market appeal in your target language.
A revised storyline requires one of two approaches:
—commissioning new illustrations ($), or —shoehorning your new story to match your existing illustrations.
Translating a rhyming children’s book can become quite expensive for the indie publisher and difficult to market if you don’t know the language.
My experience translating English rhymes into Swedish
When I originally planned to publish my books in two languages—my native English and my adopted language Swedish—I didn’t fully grasp the consequences of my idea.
I was naive in thinking that since my books were short children’s books, we could find words that rhyme in both languages.
It doesn’t matter if your books are 300 words or 3,000—if there is rhyming involved, you might want to reconsider taking on this arduous task yourself and pay a foreign rights agent their hard-earned 20%.
Merely finding a Swedish author to help me take on this task took a few months.
I reached out to numerous children’s book authors who wrote in Swedish rhyme, but nobody seemed interested. It’s a tough job!
I finally connected with a local author, Veronica Linarfve, who was a delightful collaborator and relished sinking her teeth into a new project so different from her novels.
Veronica had to do the heavy lifting as I could not offer intelligent alternatives to improve the meter. I can barely trust my ears to hear meter cadence in English, let alone detect it in my second language.
Fortunately, Veronica is super talented and stuck with me. We found words that worked and Swedish kids and parents absolutely love the book.
Ohh, but merely translating the words does not a book make.
You may need new illustrations ($$)
Fortunately, I was able to crosswalk most of the existing illustrations from the English version and repurpose them for the Swedish book.
Kevin the ghost needed a new costume with the words “Bus eller godis” but otherwise remained the same
Other considerations included a new book title, book cover design, title page, copyright page, ISBN, updated sales page description, and a marketingplan.
You’re definitely going to need a new title
Your translated work may have a completely different title based on the market appeal and genre of your book.
“When the clock strikes…” is a well-known phrase in English, but it doesn’t mean anything in Swedish.
The new title has to mean something to potential readers, so we changed it to, “Vi firar halloween” (Swedes don’t capitalize their titles like we do in the US/UK) which translates to, “We celebrate Halloween.”
It doesn’t have quite the same gravitas as “When the Clock Strikes…” but Swedish readers are enjoying it and that’s the most important part.
How are you going to market your translated book(s)?
Oh yeah, marketing, don’t forget about that! No book sells itself, and neither will your translated book(s).
If you don’t know the language, you’re going to struggle to get it in front of potential readers. Google Translate will only take you so far.
Writing persuasive copy in your native language is tough and now you’re in charge of doing it in a foreign language? Ehh, ok.
I live in Sweden, so I can take my book around to markets and stores and sell it in-person.
If you’re translating your book into Korean and you live in the US, how are you going to get it in front of Korean readers?
My long-term solution is to get my Swedish books into the Swedish version of Amazon (bokus.se) via a local fulfillment center.
Until I can get the books in circulation, I’m selling them on my Shopify website, which has been quite simple to set up and get moving.
I’m directing traffic to that site via Facebook ads.
None of this is remotely easy as I’m working in my minority language.
Again, Google Translate can only do so much.
US-based solutions, like Shopify, are super helpful but their buttons aren’t in every language so some English may remain on your page.
Here’s what my Swedish book looks like on my Swenglish Shopify page.
An Alternative Solution for Rhyming Books
But wait! I don’t come to you with only problems, I also offer potential solutions.
Her family is trilingual, and she understands the need for books to be available in multiple languages.
“You need a translator and editor experienced with stories for children, because translating stories is it’s own art form,” Tamara explains.
“The translated text not only has to convey the story itself, but the jokes and puns still have to be funny, the language rich and beautiful, and the vocabulary simple and accessible to children.”
Tamara has teamed up with other bilingual professionals to offer translation services for children’s book authors in English and Spanish.
If your story is in rhyme, you have options:
1. The story in verse can be translated as a story in prose. A good translator can use rich language to bring your story to life without using rhyme and rhythm.
2. The story can be translated to have a lyrical, rhythmic feel, but not be in rhyme. This is a step harder for the translator. He/she will need the freedom to change small details, like the order of words or the details described, to make the meter work.
3. The story can be translated into poetry in the target language. Most likely, this is only possible with straightforward texts. It will probably require editing some details of your story and maybe even changing the illustrations. Depending on the topic and tone of your story, it may not be possible.
Note that Option 3 is the path I chose for my Eng-Swe books. I wouldn’t really recommend it to everyone.
They can help you decide which option is best for your story.
Pro tip: Wait until your manuscript is FINAL before attempting any translations whatsoever
If you’re publishing two separate editions —an English edition and a Spanish edition— wait for translation services until everything in your original version is finalized.
If you’re still making changes to your text or illustrations, it’s not time to start another language edition yet.
If you’re publishing a bilingual edition, you need to have your bilingual text ready for the illustrator early on so he/she can create the space required for the text within each illustration. As you make changes, you’ll need both an English and a Spanish editor to review the finished manuscript before publication.
Tamara and her team offer a complete translation & editing service:
– Professional translation services
– Professional editing in English and Spanish
– Digital text placement for your bilingual or Spanish edition
They also offer marketing assistance to help you sell all of those beautiful books you had painstakingly translated.
I will admit that I was a bit ambitious with my first books and eager to get them to market despite it taking an entire year.
It will take time for me to get the books into Swedish circulation but I know that it’ll be successful once it does. We learn by doing, which is often a bit painful and expensive, but that’s how we make progress.
So how are you feeling about translating your book?
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?
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.
Have your book professionally edited—yes, even if there are only 100 words in your book.
Own your ISBN. Whoever owns the ISBN owns the rights to publish your book.
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.
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.
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)