Elisavet Arkolaki Uses Kickstarter To Secure A Traditional Publishing Deal

Many indie authors think that publishing is black and white. One either gets a traditional publishing deal or one goes it alone on the indie road and turns toward Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to help cover the expenses.

Creatively, Elisavet Arkolaki used Kickstarter as a proof-of-concept to show that her book, Where Am I From?, had a market to Faraxa Publishing based in Malta. The stakes were high for Elisavet as a failed Kickstarter campaign would mean that the traditional publishing doors would slam shut on her. This was her only chance. 

We chatted about her experience, her strategies, and what she found surprising about running a crowdfunding campaign as an author.

How much research did you do before launching your Kickstarter? Can you recommend any resources to other authors that you thought were helpful?

I had been reading and researching successful and unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns for about 10 months before the launch of my campaign. I googled the creators of the successful campaigns I liked the most and read their interviews, posts, and advice.

I watched several Kickstarter videos. I reached out to other creators like Joe Biel from Microcosm Publishing (20 years experience as a publisher with tons of successful KS campaigns)  and asked for advice.

To anyone interested in a crowdfunding campaign I would recommend to start by backing projects themselves so they can have a hands-on experience on how it works from the backer’s perspective. I would also recommend joining active marketing and crowdfunding groups.

It requires a lot of planning, skills in sales and marketing. If someone lacks these skills, I would recommend to reach out to professionals like you, Lisa, and get things straight and right from the start.

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

I compiled a list with the people from my direct network who might be interested in backing my project and contacted each one of them explaining what Kickstarter is, what we wish to achieve, and why are we doing it this way.

I also compiled a list with blogs and media I thought would be interested in featuring Where am I from?.

Write copy in advance

I wrote lots of unique content in advance, and most of the newspaper’s features (5 newspapers, 3 countries) were based on my writings. I started contacting the media people about 2-3 weeks before the launch.

I posted on social media about 3 times per day, and I shared ‘Updates’ on Kickstarter whenever there was a new milestone to keep people engaged.

Incentivize sharing

We also incentivized sharing by including a big button on our Kickstarter campaign page that unlocked a free PDF for anyone who shared the campaign on their Facebook timelines using the WordPress plugin, Social Locker. It was around $30 for the plugin and worth it, in my opinion.

I placed a PDF ebook called, How to Raise Confident Multicultural Children, and two stories of mine available to download free of charge after someone used Social Locker on my website to generate an automatic share of my Kickstarter campaign.

(Side note: if you are planning to create a free PDF download in exchange for shares, you have to plan well in advance as this takes time to create.)

Collaborate with libraries

When we were approaching the end of the second week, and we were still far from reaching our funding goal, I was contacted by the Libraries Counsellor of the Vestfold Municipality of Norway.

She had read a newspaper article, pre-ordered 20 books for the public libraries and invited me as a speaker at a cultural event. This was also fantastic from a marketing perspective.

Combined with all the newspaper features it added an extra layer of credibility to our book project, and I could display it on our Kickstarter page. It also gave us the insight that a book about diversity might be a good fit for schools and public libraries. These could be our customers.

After that, my publisher (Faraxa Publishing) in Malta, small publisher run by Joanne Micallef and mum of multicultural children herself) managed to secure a pre-order for 200 books from the National Literacy Agency of Malta. These copies will be distributed to public schools in Malta.

We also had some backers who loved our book concept and pledged on the expensive rewards; all of the main characters (except 1 which we didn’t commission) will be painted after real kids, a real baby, and a real mum. All but one are multicultural/multiracial individuals.

Why did you do a KS campaign if you had a small traditional publisher already lined up?

Thinking outside of the box, I pitched the idea using the Kickstarter campaign as a proof-of-concept that the book was worth publishing. That reduced the risk on their side (taking on an unknown author), and I was highly motivated to ensure the campaign was a success so that the door to traditional publishing wasn’t closed.

I don’t have time to learn all aspects of book publishing, but I knew that working with a small publisher would allow me to learn more about the process while creating a professional book.

This also ensured the traditional publishing contract terms for the artist and me which were much better than the norm.

“Kickstarter can be a great marketing tool and a way to test the market provided there is a solid plan in place to support it.”

How many people do you think you’ve emailed/reached during the campaign? What was your most significant source of backers?

Hundreds of people, probably. These were a mix of media people and potential backers. I don’t remember what the ratio was.

My biggest source of backers came from my ‘Friends’ on Facebook, which comprises of people I personally know and people I have met online, who are people who have traveled a lot and/or have families of mixed cultural backgrounds.

What was the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign? What did you not expect to happen that happened and vice versa?

Positive: I did not expect to get so much support from the public sector, so much exposure from the media and so many high pledges from individuals.

Negative: I did not expect people in Europe were that unfamiliar with crowdfunding. I didn’t realize how severely I would be ‘punished’ by Kickstarter regarding visibility for not having enough pledges during the first 24 and 48h.

Instead, I would have skipped the Thunderclap campaign entirely and focused solely on raising awareness. I should’ve done more work educating potential backers about Kickstarter; why we need their support right away, explain they have nothing to lose and that there are 0 charges unless we are fully funded.

I had also not anticipated how time-consuming running a Kickstarter campaign would be. My youngest does not attend daycare and my working hours were limited. I had to accept my limitations that I could only do the best I could, hoping it would be sufficient.

Did you have to change your strategy mid-campaign? If so, why?

Yes, I did. We wouldn’t have made it without changing the strategy. 

I had several obstacles to overcome:

-Mainly European audience who was not very familiar with crowdfunding
-Foreign currency displayed which appeared in thousands (NOK, Norwegian Kroner)
-No illustrations to show
-The book wouldn’t be ready until a year after the campaign
-We didn’t give out the story

It was too much and it wasn’t working.

I had to do something drastic, and the only thing I could give out was the text of the story.

I asked for advice from experienced people. I reached out to Steve Tanner from TimeBomb Comics who has created several successful Kickstarter campaigns and was our very first backer.

He told me that if the book were to be released in a short time frame, i.e., 3 months, I wouldn’t have to publish the story. But, in my case, since the book wouldn’t be out for a year, I should. He was right.

Parents often want to know what they will be reading to their children. If the parents liked the story, combined with the skills of the artist which they could see on our page, they would support the campaign even if it was a year to publication.

And it worked. Even though the text still needs to go through the last rounds of editing, people loved it, and we made our goal in time.

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

If you have no idea about marketing and how to set up a book crowdfunding campaign, and do not have the time to learn how to do it the right way, reach out to an expert like Lisa Ferland who can guide you through the whole process.

I know that like birthing babies, you never ask a new mother if she’s planning on having another baby, but could you see yourself doing another Kickstarter campaign for books in the future?

Maybe I would, I am not sure. It’s very intense and emotionally draining. When I had my first baby, I was sure I wouldn’t have another one. I didn’t wish to go through pregnancy and giving birth again. Well, we now have two children 🙂 I’ve learned to never say never in life. Kickstarter can be a great marketing tool and a way to test the market provided there is a solid plan in place to support it.

Bio

Elisavet Arkolaki is a mother of two young children, entrepreneur, professional writer, online marketer, and a certified teacher of two foreign languages. She runs the top parenting blog in Malta www.maltamum.com, and is the exclusive retailer in the country of two of the biggest international babywearing brands, and the co-founder of All-in Translations, a multiple-award winning translations company.

She has lived in six countries, and has travelled around the world.  Her biggest passion has always been and still remains, the written world.

Be sure to check out her Kickstarter campaign for Where Am I From? 

Click image to pre-order

Want to keep reading about other authors’ experiences on Kickstarter?

Find out how Snail, I Love You showcased unique quilt art illustrations to connect with readers (funding 433%).

Learn how one client of mine went from $6k-$15k and used her event hosting skills to save a floundering campaign.

 

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
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Funded 433% on Kickstarter—Snail, I Love You

Tevah Platt is a first-time children’s book author and decided to use Kickstarter to fund the production of her book, Snail, I Love You.

Find out what Tevah and her illustrator did to catapult their book over $10k on Kickstarter (433% of its goal).

What did you do before or on launch day that helped you rocket to success?


A little backstory first: I was working on it every day and 24 hours before the campaign was set to launch, we realized that the bank account information we had added to the campaign was incorrect. Worse yet, that information was locked and we could not change it.

I had to rebuild an entirely new campaign page, change all of our links to direct people to the new page, and everything in six to seven hours.

It was 4 pm on launch day and we were wondering if we shouldn’t just wait one more day and go live in the morning. We decided to hit the Go Live button right then and we hit 100% in two hours.

My illustrator and I created a list of 25 people we knew who would champion our campaign. Having other people share your work is critical to your success. We also reached out to friends and family and included, “If you’re going to back us, will you back us on launch day to help us have maximum impact?”

We found personal emails to be the most effective method for promoting our campaign.

Here’s how we did it:


I made a huge spreadsheet of 150 people who would pass my, “Would this person come to my funeral?” test or if they had a kid and was in my target audience. I wrote two sentences that were personalized to them and then mail merged those sentences into my general marketing copy in my email using the Gmail add-on, Mail Merge. (See this article for the Top 5 Mail Merge Add-ons)

I wrote everything before we launched and then sent out the emails to my list of contacts. My contributor sent out her emails on Day 2.

Were you able to relax after Day 2 when you were at 292% funded?


Yes, we very much relaxed. We tested out some Facebook ads but we weren’t seeing much traction. I ended up writing a press release but I didn’t send it anywhere. We didn’t really gain traction with the outside world.

Take me through the $2,500 goal vs. your $7,500 goal amounts. Why did you set your Kickstarter at the first goal instead of the second?


We did the math on a really small print run and $2,500 was the bare minimum we’d need to do that.

In retrospect, $2,500 was too small of a goal and we were being really modest. We knew that $7,500 would cover our costs but we were being risk-averse gamblers.

What types of marketing efforts had the best reach?


As I mentioned earlier, personal emails were the best. We incorporated the feedback from our cheerleaders and that made them feel more invested in the project. It also improved the project a lot.

What didn’t work out so well?


Facebook ads but we didn’t experiment beforehand.

We added new rewards and add-ons but we should’ve added more rewards while the momentum was happening. We weren’t able to generate much momentum past those first two days.

Are there going to be future books?


I would love to create more books. Because of Kickstarter and other routes to indie publishing, I knew this was a possibility. I wrote this book with my daughter and now she’s writing books, which I absolutely love to see. I’d definitely do another Kickstarter but it is so much work.

How did you meet your illustrator?


She’s my neighbor and she went around to our community offering to embroider vector images so she could practice using a new tool she bought.

I really loved the fact that her illustrations are with a sewing machine—a traditional symbol of domesticity for women—and yet her illustrations break every traditional convention. It’s a real statement on feminism.

I want readers to see the beauty of these illustrations and know that a woman created them. That’s the message I want to send to my daughter.

What is your affiliation with your local library?


We are publishing through the Ann Arbor District Library, which provides an amazing service for local authors. It is in their budget to support local authors and illustrators. You have to submit your manuscript and if selected, they will edit, and layout your book. They give you the digital files for your printer and the rest is up to you. They are hosting our launch party in November. I recommend them to all indie authors in the Ann Arbor area.

What piece of advice would you give an indie author considering crowdfunding?


Do the work in advance to line up your people and your champions. Get feedback and consult all of the resources you can find available.
Take into account every comment on your video, campaign page, and rewards. Be open to feedback and be personable and warm.

The Kickstarter made me feel like this was a personal project involving everyone I love. The notes I got from people were so nice and supportive. It was a great experience.

About the authors and illustrator

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

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

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

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

How to Make Money as an Illustrator

“My professors in art school never taught us how to make money from our art. We were taught to create for the sake of it,” explains Natalie Merheb.

In speaking with children’s book illustrator and graphic designer, Natalie Merheb, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with almost everything she was saying.

The rules for succeeding at making money as an illustrator were the same I have found as a writer—1) conduct research, 2) practice until your hand falls off, and 3) create quality content. Easy, right?

Can you describe your process when you work with indie authors?

If the author doesn’t do this themselves, then I will split out the text into pages. The number of lines of text will affect the design and placement of the illustrations on that page. Sometimes, just 10 lines of text will have five different actions but an illustrator can only show one action per page.

I often choose what I feel are the priorities within those actions that move the story forward.

I consider what action fulfills these three qualities:  identifiable, remarkable, and memorable and then I illustrate that action.

For example, if the scene is that the kids are waking up in the morning, getting ready for school, and waiting for the bus, I’ll decide to illustrate the kids waiting for the bus. The bright yellow color of the school bus is immediately identifiable, remarkable, and memorable to the kids reading the story.

I also take the readers’ age into consideration as to what they’d like to see on each page.

What are some of the trends in traditional illustrations?

Many traditional artists are moving to digital painting because it is easier in a lot of ways. The equipment is an investment upfront but then you don’t have the ongoing costs of consumable materials like paint, paper, canvas, etc., 

In digital art, everything is composed in layers. Since every illustration has layers, if the chicken needs to be moved and resized, I can do that very easily to create the right composition.

It is easy to adjust colors in Photoshop and many watercolor paintings are enhanced in Photoshop to make the colors more vibrant.

How long does it take you to create an illustration?

For my clients, it depends on the quantity and complexity of the project. I calculate my time spent emailing, sketching, and revising into every illustration and budget 8 hours per spread. 

Illustrators should factor in all of the business aspects related to creating something for a client and build that into their payment process.

What advice would you give to another artist who is looking to illustrate children’s books?

Push yourself to create the best work you can and target your ideal client. They will want to hire you based on your quality of work.

Within two months, I was booked months in advance and am now charging what a traditional publisher would pay its artists.

Having done branding for solopreneurs, that experienced really translated into illustration. 

My advice is to treat any activity as an entrepreneurial venture. Treat your art like a business and you’ll make money.

Treat it like a business

All new business ventures require a lot of research. Don’t go into anything blind and don’t try to do it at half effort.

Learn the roles of the traditional publishing process and learn about marketing, aesthetic style, and trends in illustration.

Once you get a feel for what you like, practice, practice, practice, and pursue feedback. “Let me know everything you don’t like about this.”

Prepare yourself ahead of time, make the investment, and get out there. 

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

Bio

Natalie Merheb is a children’s book illustrator depicting stories written by others, as a brand strategist & web designer crafting brand stories for small businesses. She is a mama to twin girls, wife to a fellow entrepreneur from Lebanon, daughter to parents from the USA and Argentina, a Minnesota native, and Dubai expat. 

 

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

How to make money as an illustrator | Lisaferland.com
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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

Ibari’s Curls—How Nicholette Thomas Created A Dialogue With Her Readers

Nicholette Thomas wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, Ibari’s Curls, that focuses on creating a dialogue with her young readers. I know this because my kids love “answering” the main character’s questions throughout the book. I’ve never seen anything like that before and we have quite the collection of children’s books in our house.

It turns out that creating that conversation was the main reason why Nicholette decided to self-publish her book. That style of writing is not commonly found in children’s books (but it should be because it is quite effective).

Read more about my conversation with Nicholette and how she plans to educate kids (and their parents) through this type of interactive reading style.

Why did you decide to self-publish your illustrated children’s book?

I always wanted to write a story, and I set a goal to publish a book. I wasn’t sure traditionally publishing was right for me because it takes a long time and I can be really shy. With self-publishing, I felt in control, I didn’t need approval from anyway, and I could accomplish it all by myself.

The illustrations are really unique in your book. What was your process?

I sketched in pencil, did the watercolor, outlined in marker, and then scanned and enhanced them to make them transparent. I wanted a painted background to make the illustrations more unique. I didn’t use any fancy tools—I dropped the scanned file into Word and clicked the tab “Set to transparent,” and that was it. I upgraded my Canva account so that I could control more of the settings, but that was really it.

You really used Word to manipulate your images? That’s crazy. Word is not designed for that at all. I’m impressed.

Yeah, I did! I made it work.

You ran a quick Kickstarter campaign to cover some of the fees of your book. Can you explain what the campaign covered?

I wanted the Kickstarter campaign to cover the costs of the ISBN 10-pack ($395), the Canva upgrade ($12/mth), and then the set-up and printing costs of the book (Ingram Spark $49 and CreateSpace $75).

Next time I self-publish a book, I want someone to take my artwork and make it digital, but for this book, I didn’t hire any editors or cover designers.

How long did it take you to create the book from start to finish?

It took me about a year. I ordered a bunch of copies from Ingram Spark to have on hand, giveaway, and sell on Multicultural Children’s Book Day. (Set your calendars for the next one Jan 25, 2019) 

Ingram Spark ($8/book) ended up being much cheaper than CreateSpace ($13/book) for me to produce since my book was full color and there was no noticeable quality difference that I could find.

What advice would you give an indie children’s book author?

My advice is to hire a cover designer and illustrator if you don’t know how to do it yourself. Also, have kids look at it and make sure that the words make sense to them. I got a lot of great feedback from the kids who read the book and pointed out things that I wouldn’t have thought about. Getting group feedback is really good even if it means you have to change things.

Do a lot of research and keep testing before you publish.

Your book used to have a different title. What made you decide to change it?

During the research phase, I noticed that a lot of children’s books had really unique names. Golden Girl and Her Curls (the original title) just didn’t seem unique enough to stand out. I asked for feedback in a book group, and Ibari’s Curls was overwhelmingly more popular.

Be careful in how you share your work publicly as you might still be working through things and changing things right up until publication.

Has self-publishing your book resulted in any new opportunities for you?

Self-publishing definitely forced me to put myself out there more than I was already doing writing for my blog. A book is a much more visible product of your work, so it’s easy to feel more vulnerable because it is being seen and judged by others.

What’s next for you? Are there any new books in the works?

I’ve started illustrating another book about unique families and want to show different makeups of families. There will be all sorts of families with two dads, two moms, one mom, one dad, etc., and I want kids to know that this is normal.

For any book I create, I want there to be a dialogue with the reader, so they learn as they read while still having fun.

Any last takeaway messages for indie authors?

Make sure publishing a book is something you feel passionate about.

Don’t do it to try to make money, do it because you love it.

Even if you don’t sell one copy, you’ll still feel great when you hold your book in your hands.

Bio

Nicholette Thomas writes at mixedfamilylife.com about her interracial marriage and family life.

Be sure to read her book, Ibari’s Curls, and follow her on Facebook.

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

Perspectives from Self-Publisher, Britt Reints on Marketing and Topic Burnout

I had the opportunity to chat with Britt Reints, author of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness, who was kind enough to share her insights on why she chose to self-publish and the interesting things that happen when you are marketing your book.

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

Honestly, I didn’t even try to publish the traditional route because I was scared someone would tell me I couldn’t do it. I’m an instant gratification person, and I didn’t want to wait for a long time only to be told, “No.”

What aspects did you end up doing yourself and what did you hire out?

I hired a cover designer and a few editors. I also hired a short-term publicist who blasted out my press release to every outlet and got me on a few radio shows. I did my website all by myself and the interior formatting of my book and e-book. I used Scrivener for the writing and organization of my book.

Do you remember how much it cost to produce your book?

I can’t remember exactly, but I’d say somewhere around $1800. The cover designer charged around $500, editors $800, and the publicist was around $500.

You’ve been writing for about 12 years. How helpful was your blog in informing your book?


Well, I traveled for a year, but I didn’t write about that trip. I wrote the book that I didn’t see in the self-help genre (I cringe at the term).

I wanted to write something that discussed the topic of happiness in a way that reached more people. I wanted it to be accessible.

I saw the same themes coming up over and over again on the blog, so I knew they were universal, and I wanted people to know how to do it.

Do you consider yourself a happiness guru of sorts?

After I wrote my book and did a Ted Talk, I haven’t written. It kind of killed my writing because after writing my book, marketing my book, I got annoyed with my topic.

Being associated with my book’s topic ended up being limiting in a way. I was interested in happiness because of a personal experience I had, but I’m kind of over that and want to explore other things.

What was the biggest marketing event that went the furthest?

I definitely sold the most number of books when I was speaking at corporate events and conferences and had my book for sale in the back of the room. I could sell a lot in bulk—20-30 books at one event, so that’s where I saw the most traction.

What advice would you give others?

Hone your craft and be a good writer (and all that jazz) but know that 90% of your work is going to be in marketing your book. If you’re not good at marketing, then invest your money in someone who is.

Do you think it’s worthwhile to self-publish a book?

Writing a book is a stepping stone. When you’re done, you have a huge sense of accomplishment, and it solidifies your platform. Similar to getting your college degree, it shows that you can do a good job and finish something. You can flesh out an idea into a finished book. It’s a major portfolio builder.

What’s next for you?

I would publish again, but now that everyone is writing on the internet, I feel less inclined to put my opinion out there until I know how my opinion is different from everyone else’s. I’m still active on social media, but Twitter is so noisy. I prefer Facebook for tracking conversations.

Check out Britt’s TedX talk here: Creating your owner’s manual for a happy life

Bio

Britt Reints is a happiness expert who doesn’t believe there is any such thing as a happiness expert.

Check out her writing at www.inpursuitofhappiness.net.

Perspectives From a Fellow Self-Publisher: Kiran Prasad

In this interview, I sat down and chatted with Kiran Prasad, author of A Mindful Move: Feel at home again, to pick her brain on what she loved and would recommend to anyone thinking about self-publishing.

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

I tried to go the traditional publishing route and got nowhere with it. I spent a lot of time researching how to do it and sent off book proposals only to receive one rejection after another. I was lucky to get any response at all. Felt a bit like applying for jobs in a tough economy!

It seems that these days it is not enough to write a good book, you need a social media following of thousands before you can get noticed by traditional publishers.

Publishing is essentially a business and they need to be sure your book will sell well.

In the end, I was glad I self-published because I got to have autonomy over the entire process.

What aspects of the publishing process did you do yourself and what did you hire out?

Being an English Literature major and teacher, I value quality writing, therefore, I paid for professional editing. I also paid for a cover design because I know how important a polished look is to selling a book.

I set up my own website and social media following on my own after attending a writing workshop, reading books, and watching video tutorials.

I found it tough to justify spending much money upfront on my book not knowing if I would get a return on my investment.

Since we’re talking about investment, how much did your book cost to produce?

Most of my cost was for professional editing. But the total cost for editing, proofreading and cover design was around $3,000 dollars.

We all know that royalties won’t pay the bills but what types of things have happened after you published your book that surprised you?

At a webinar that I attended, we were advised to think of our book as a glorified business card. Really, I haven’t done much marketing of the book since it’s publication but I’ve still had a lot of people, like you, contacting me about it.

I’ve been on a few podcasts, blog interviews, and a New York Times journalist contacted me to write a column about mindfulness and moving. I’ve also been contacted by a women of color empowerment workgroup to give a 60-minute workshop and potentially give a talk at a university too.

None of those things would’ve happened if I hadn’t published my book.

What surprised you about the self-publishing process?

I was surprised how long the cover design ended up taking me and how the cost of professional editing could be variable as I went through the different stages of editing.

A pleasant surprise was how quickly my book went live on Amazon Kindle! It was the most incredible feeling to see my book up there for the world to purchase!

What advice would you give someone thinking about self-publishing? 

Research the process before jumping in so you know what you’re getting into. It can become overwhelming to learn and do at the same time.

Build a following before you publish so that you’re not tackling the marketing aspect at the end.

I recommend reading Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, for marketing ideas.

Research who the leaders are in your subject area and reach out to them for connections. I sent a free copy of my book to Naomi Hattaway, the community leader of I am a Triangle, and she’s been a great help.

I also recommend joining the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can join before you are self-published and put the member badge on your website that lets your readers know that you’re a professional.

I suggest following Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn. She has a ton of great advice, podcasts, tutorials, and e-books that really helped me while I was researching everything.

You need to set a deadline and hold yourself to it. Make it public if you need to. I posted to my Facebook page that I would release my book on my birthday and I hadn’t even started the process.

Without a deadline and someone holding you accountable, it’s easy to just keep on writing and writing.

What’s next for you, Kiran?

I’m going to keep moving forward and publicly announce that my next book will be released on my birthday in 2019. I have so much to say about my plant-based diet and how it has truly changed my life but more on that to come soon!

I really want the books I write to make a difference in people’s lives.

Bio

Kiran Prasad is a teacher, speaker, and author of A Mindful Move: Feel at home again.

She is a New York Times featured author and her work can be found at http://www.jaskiranprasad.com

Connect with Kiran on Facebook to follow her future work.

 

Click here to keep reading more perspectives from fellow self-publishers.

Perspectives from a Fellow Self-Publisher: Clara Wiggins

Learn from other authors and figure out what works in this series where I interview those who have been there and done that.

What was your biggest mistake in self-publishing your book?

My biggest mistake was writing my book before I started my blog.

Had I built my blog first, that would have helped me reach more people with the book with a ready-made audience for The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide, and I would’ve been able to better answer the questions my readers had.
 

Especially since my book was more of a self-help guide for a specific community, it would’ve helped me had I been able to connect with my readers beforehand. Also, a blog is a great way to explore what it is you want to write about in your book. 

That said, I’m not sure I would’ve had the time to maintain a blog and write the book, so there is always a balance to find.

Did you take any courses or study how to self-publish before you started?

I took a self-publishing marketing course and read Self-Printed, which I used like a guidebook to help me through each step of the way. I also went on a writer’s retreat and spent a few days brainstorming, writing a pitch for publishers, and started my first chapter.

Really, I jumped right into it and made it up as I went along until I started to get the hang of it.

Did you hire any experts to help you?

I hired people to help me with the editing, proofreading, cover design, interior layout, and e-book design. I uploaded all of the finished materials to Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace myself and it was quite easy to follow the on-screen instructions.

One of the hardest parts was knowing how much I should pay for each service. Pay too little and you’re sure to have low-quality work. Pay too much and you’re getting ripped off.

It’s really important to know what you shouldn’t be paying someone.

What other challenges did you experience? 

It was really hard for me to know if my idea was worth anything or not. I received great feedback from my editor but only I really cared if my book sold or not.

My editor made some great suggestions about leading between chapters—recapping what had been said at the beginning of my chapters and letting the reader know what was coming next at the end of each chapter. That really improved the book for the reader and made it easier for them to keep reading.

How much did you spend self-publishing your book?

I didn’t want to spend more than $1,500 on the editing, cover design, and e-book formatting but I can’t remember exactly how much everything cost in the end.

I was very cautious with my budget but I recommend investing in services that would take you days to figure out but someone else only a few hours to do. Your time is valuable. 

What is the most exciting thing about self-publishing?

That excitement you feel before you press “Publish.” It is so rewarding to get feedback from readers who let you know that your words have touched them in some way.

There’s also no better feeling than holding your book in your hands and thinking, “Wow. I did this.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking about self-publishing?

Don’t put out anything you aren’t proud of. Remember that the book is only part of your brand.

After publishing my book, I’ve launched a freelance writing career and people take me seriously.

Think about the branding of your book and create something that can follow you wherever you go (e.g., speaking engagements, webinars, courses, etc.,) and is easily recognizable.

Do you have any future plans for more self-publishing?

No plans at the moment to revise or update the current book. I am thinking of creating a short companion e-book, The Repat Survival Guide, but nothing is set in stone.

 

Bio

Clara Wiggins is a freelance writer and author of The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide.

Read more of Clara’s writing on her website: https://clarawiggins.com/

 

Clara was very budget-conscious and self-published her book for less than $1500.

Design a smart budget for your book with this free webinar on how much self-publishing can cost indie authors.

Click here to access the free webinar.