Rad Girls Start a Revolution

Sharita Manickam and Jen Bruno want young girls to envision their futures as anything—CEOs, astronauts, artists—absolutely any dream at all. 

The photo book shows real girls modeling future professions and it caught fire on Kickstarter raising over $21k with 616 backers.

Turns out, stoking the fires of a revolution is popular business.

Sharita was kind enough to share some insights and experiences of her campaign.

With 139 backers on launch day, you must’ve done a ton of behind the scenes work to prepare everyone for your campaign’s launch. 

What types of “behind-the-scenes” work did you do that contributed most to that huge first day?

Before launching, we held a Thunderclap campaign (Thunderclap is a service that has since been discontinued).

Basically, it was a way of getting your early supporters (family, friends, social media contacts) to sign up to help spread the word about your Kickstarter launch.

We asked our contacts to support us by signing up by linking their social media accounts to our Thunderclap campaign. Then on the day of our KS launch, Thunderclap posted a one time, free message to all of those supporter’s social media feeds telling their friends/followers about our launch! Thunderclap was likened to a “social media flash mob”.  

In the weeks leading up to the launch, we made social media posts and graphics explaining how Kickstarter worked as we learned many of our friends and family members were unfamiliar with crowdfunding and pre-orders. 

We also sent out a market survey and received 700 responses and about 200 people signed up for our newsletter.

We also had some early bird specials for the first 48 hours that we promoted heavily. We sent out an email blast the morning of our launch to friends and family.

“It’s a lot of work, relationship building, and strategy, but one of the main things we would like to express is that you can’t be afraid to sell yourself and ask for help.”—Sharita Manickam

How long did you engage your audience and potential backers before launching? 

We began our social media campaign about a month before we “intended” to launch, but ended up having to push back about a month.

We used social media to increase enthusiasm about empowerment, count down to our impending launch, and collaborate with other accounts with like-minded missions.

How large was your audience before you launched?

We had about 900 followers on each platform, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and about 700 email addresses (500 friends and family and 200 survey respondents) collected.

The ever-changing, always elusive social media algorithms of FB and IG make marketing a product so much more difficult than ever before.

Since we didn’t have the budget to pay to boost our posts, we created “boost groups” of our biggest supporters and each time we posted something on FB and IG, we send a link to our “boost group” so they can go like or comment that post. It increased our exposure quite a bit.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign? 

We were blown away by the immediate support—the link sharing, the enthusiastic posting, etc. We didn’t expect that to happen right away, and then when we were selected as a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter within a few hours of launch, we were really surprised.

We’d been advised by several Kickstarter veterans that sales were likely to stall once we hit our goal, so that didn’t come as a huge shock, but had we not been prepared for it by others, I think that would have been a really difficult pill to swallow.

Your video is brilliant. Where did you find all of your sweet young models to participate? Did you do the video yourself or hire an expert?

Thank you! Since the photo illustrator, Jen and I have young children, we were lucky to have a fairly large pool of children to reach out to who are friends of our kids.

We ended up with 72 models in total and found many through word of mouth. Our video model is a friend of my daughter and her older sister did the voice over. Jen’s son is also in the video, as is another book model and her mom and brother.

Our video was filmed with an iPhone and I put it together using apps.

How was your experience with IndieGoGo InDemand after your Kickstarter ended?

We just haven’t had time to build our own website yet so IndieGoGo InDemand seemed like a good way to continue taking pre-orders.

We currently just have URLs (www.radgirlbook.com and www.radgirlrevolution.com) redirect to our Amazon page, and previously they directed to Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and BackerKit. 

I don’t think we received much new exposure from IndieGoGo, but we ended up raising about $2500 through inDemand from people who either missed our Kickstarter or were just learning about the book through social media.

With so many backers, has fulfillment been an issue? What solution would you recommend for authors who find themselves overwhelmed with logistics? Did you go with BackerKit?

 Our shipment of books from China was held up for weeks at the Port of New York, so we were about a month behind schedule on fulfillment. Once we received the books, we sent them all out within days.

We did use BackerKit.

It took a lot of time to setup but in the long run it simplified our fulfillment. 

I hesitated about the cost at first, but it more than paid for itself from add-on items our backers purchased through Backerkit. I would recommend Backerkit, especially for those with more than a few hundred backers.

Also a label printer is a must for quick shipping!

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

Sales don’t happen automatically.

Kickstarter doesn’t sell anything for you.

It’s a lot of work, relationship building, and strategy, but one of the main things we would like to express is that you can’t be afraid to sell yourself and ask for help.

We reached out to many other successful Kickstarter brands along the way to gather advice and to partner and cross promote.

We also asked our friends and family to help be an extension of our sales team by using their social media and word of mouth channels to spread the word.

We couldn’t have done this alone, and we advise anyone considering a crowdfunding campaign to rally their troops before they launch.

What are you working on at the moment and do you have plans for more books?


At the moment we are working on driving traffic to our Amazon listing through influencer marketing and ads.

We keep a running list of occupations for a sequel and have ideas for other books, but at the moment we are just focusing on this one!

Bio

Sharita Manickam grew up in Maryland. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she moved to New York City, where she worked in marketing until her first daughter was born. During the next couple of years, Sharita discovered a passion for writing and co-wrote a television drama script for a major network. Her love of writing, coupled with her love of reading to her daughters, sparked the idea for a children’s book. Sharita lives in Forest Hills, NY, with her husband, Maurice and their two RAD girls. RAD Girl Revolution is her first book.

Jennifer Elliott Bruno grew up and attended college in Kansas before relocating to Tallahassee, FL to pursue a career in property management. She met her husband, George, in Tallahassee, and the couple moved to New York City where they soon became parents to a little boy named Henry. Shortly after his birth, Jennifer pursued her passion by opening a photography business. She currently resides with her family and miniature dachshund in Forest Hills.

Join the revolution!

Be sure to read and review Rad Girl Revolution on amazon.

Bonus resources from Sharita and Jen—feel free to model your graphics after theirs

Thankful Frankie: Recovering from a Failed Kickstarter Campaign

I backed Thankful Frankie before I even met Kathleen (yes, I’m one of those strangers backing campaigns), because I absolutely loved the book’s message.

It broke my heart to see the campaign fail when the book had so much potential and I was delighted to see Kathleen relaunch Thankful Frankie with a new goal.

I asked Kathleen to share a bit about her experience and what she changed during the relaunch.

Be sure to check out her relaunched campaign here and support the campaign with a social media share or pledge.

If you’re scared of failing, and who isn’t(?), then be sure to read Kathleen’s encouraging messages and advice about how to handle a public failure on Kickstarter.

I have put so much love and work into Thankful Frankie, and I believe so strongly in its message, that giving up was not an option.”

 

Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?

Crowdfunding offered an opportunity to share the message behind my book and get the word out about Thankful Frankie.  I also knew that paying an illustrator/designer, printing copies, shipping books, and a handful of other expenses add up to quite a lot of money.  Raising funds offset the financial risk required to self-publish.

Almost everyone is terrified of failure but your campaign failed and you decided to relaunch on Kickstarter. Can you explain a bit about your experience and how you decided to relaunch?

I’ll be honest, failure is the worst.

It doesn’t feel good and for a few days after the campaign ended it was difficult to stay positive.  After getting over the set-back and disappointment, I reconnected with the purpose of my book.

The book encourages readers to list things they are grateful for each day, a practice I believe can change your life.  I have put so much love and work into Thankful Frankie, and I believe so strongly in its message, that giving up was not an option.

Aside from changing your overall campaign goal from $20k to $4444, what other changes did you make to your strategy and communication with your audience?

My initial campaign launched when I was working with a hybrid publishing company (hence the crazy $20,000 goal).  After parting ways and deciding to tackle this on my own, I realized I needed significantly less funding and was able to lower my goal.  

I also changed the rewards I offered. Most of my backers were family and friends and were supporting out of love. I realized they didn’t want or need the rewards I had initially offered.

This time around the rewards are simple and straightforward, which also allowed me to keep the funding goal low.

I am still in the middle of my campaign, but communication and connection with my audience has been more consistent and I post on my social media accounts every day.  

Allow yourself to be upset for a couple days, scream a little, cry a little, throw some things around a little, and then get over it.

What strategies or resources did you find most helpful when planning your campaigns?

I referenced a lot of successful and unsuccessful campaigns to see what worked and what didn’t.  This gave me ideas for rewards, price ranges, and strategies for communicating with backers.

Your blog has been a game changer for me as well.  When starting out I connected with your blog to help decided which crowdfunding platform to use.  I read and re-read your post “5 Biggest Mistakes Indie Authors Make While Crowdfunding” and got so much out of it.  I have about 2 ½ weeks left in my campaign and will implement your suggested strategies as I continue to work toward my goal.

I also connected with other authors who ran campaigns and asked for any tips, advice, or suggestions they could give.  There are many great groups on Facebook and social media that provide a supportive community to bounce ideas off of.

Lastly, I supported projects and other campaigns that resonated with me.  

What has surprised you the most about crowdfunding?

Great question!  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard.  Crowdfunding is currently my full-time job!

What has been your biggest source of support?

I wouldn’t have gotten this far through the process without my family and friends.  I owe them so much gratitude and several giant hugs. Another source of encouragement has been seeing other self-published authors achieve success. It’s great motivation to keep at it despite the challenges.

What advice would you give to an author who is considering crowdfunding their book?

-Believe in your book and its message.  Passion will keep you moving forward when things get tough.

Team up with a coach or someone who knows what they are doing.  Their experience and perspective can be hugely beneficial. I have a great suggestion if you need one 🙂   

I know this is a tough financial decision to make since you are crowdfunding to earn money not spend it, but this could be the difference between making your goal or falling short.

Start early.  

Make genuine connections and support others when you’re able.

What would you tell that same author about recovering from a failed campaign?

If you believe in your book and your heart tells you to try again, try again. Allow yourself to be upset for a couple days, scream a little, cry a little, throw some things around a little, and then get over it.  

An unsuccessful campaign isn’t necessarily the sign of a bad book, perhaps it’s a sign of bad campaign.

Check out Thankful Frankie on Kickstarter

Bio

Kathleen Cruger is a former educator, a musician, a lover of nature, travel and kindness. In addition to writing, Kathleen teaches yoga in Los Angeles, CA. She is a firm believer in the power of gratitude and kindness and does her best to practice both each and every day.

 

Join my closed Facebook group of Crowdfunding Authors to share ideas, get feedback, and collaborate with one another.

Review of Unbound Publishing

I’ve received a number of queries about Unbound as a potential solution for indie authors and started conducting my own research on the platform and talking with Unbound authors about their experiences. The following is my review of their platform, business model, and services.

Unbound is a UK-based publisher that uses crowdfunding to determine which books are sent to print.

Great, we’ve seen lots of small presses use Kickstarter in this way but Unbound doesn’t use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. They created their own crowdfunding platform and integrated it into their site rather than pay Kickstarter a platform fee on every one of their projects.

Smart.

Unbound is a bit Unclear

However, unlike Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that display the funding goal, include the date of project creation and deadline, Unbound projects lack that level of detail.

I could only find the funding status, the percentage funded and the total number of backers for current and old Unbound books.

Their most successful book that I could find (it’s somewhat difficult to sort and organize projects) is a humorous biography/memoir about video games with nearly 9,000 backers and 1830% funded. You can check it out here if you’re interested. So it looks like Unbound has some popular books in their catalog.

It is tough to judge which books are popular and which ones aren’t because I have no way of knowing when the project was created.

If a project is 27% funded but it’s only Day 1, that’s not as bad as being 27% funded on day 37, you know?

Unfortunately, due to their platform, I cannot make an accurate assessment of the popularity of any of their books. (Except for the book with 9k backers. That would be a slam dunk on any platform.)

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards and buy our books.

Lacking transparency

When a campaign is over, parts of the campaign are no longer available as a public record (something both KS and IGG provide) and I couldn’t reverse engineer the total crowdfunding amount (total # of backers at each reward level to calculate the campaign goal).

So, Unbound’s platform is intentionally opaque.

Whenever you are raising funds (frankly, whenever you are selling anything), transparency is vital.

As a potential investor (even if it’s just a small amount), I want to know how much money you’re requesting and how you plan to spend the funds.

Knowing these details are absolutely crucial to building trust between creators and backers.

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards to buy our books.

Unbound themselves say that transparency is vital so, why don’t they make their funding goals public knowledge like other crowdfunding publishers?

I advise all of my crowdfunding clients to make their campaign pages as transparent as possible including a visual diagram showing how the funds will be spent.

If Unbound were my client, I’d be saying the same thing to them.

Making it Difficult 

In creating the platform themselves and hiding certain elements that convey transparency, Unbound is doing a disservice to their authors who are trying to build trust with their readers and convert them into backers.

They are actually making the crowdfunding process harder for their authors when it’s already quite difficult because readers are still relatively new to the crowdfunding process.

Left With a Lot of Unanswered Questions

After reviewing their FAQs, I had even more questions.

If you look at Kickstarter or IndieGoGo’s FAQ pages, they go on and on to help their creators understand the process. Kickstarter has a community of fellow creators to help troubleshoot and problem solve before launch. IndieGoGo is extremely responsive to emails and willing to work with their creators.

I sent off an email to Unbound with some questions for clarification related to their process so I could understand more before writing this review on September 28.

Within minutes, I received an autoresponder from Unbound informing me that they’d get back to me as soon as possible (which was usually within three business days).

But they never responded.

I fired off a reminder email on October 16 and received the same auto response.

It’s now October 24, and I’ve still not heard from them.

I mentioned this to an Unbound author, and his response was, “Yeah, that’s not surprising. They can be slow.”

From the author’s perspective, it would cause me concern if I need to follow up numerous times with my publisher to have my simple questions addressed.

Long Project Timelines

Crowdfunding is all about limited TIME. The main reason why rewards-based crowdfunding is so different from traditional marketing is that there is an intense period of marketing activities within a very short amount of time.

Kickstarter recommends campaigns end within 30 days and IndieGoGo does not allow projects to extend their timelines past 60 days after their launch dates.

Why?

Limiting time forces action

Time-limited campaigns are successful because it is difficult to sustain a level of intense marketing for very long.

Creators burn out, and audiences become fatigued with hearing the same messages over and over again. It leads to burnout.

On their website, Unbound tells prospective authors that their books’ campaigns often last between 3-6 months (!!!) Which is 3x-6x longer than the crowdfunding experts recommend.

If this was equity crowdfunding, which is known to have a longer timeline, then that would be a different story. But this is rewards-based crowdfunding.

Sean Leahy’s campaign lasted from March-December 2016 (10 months)  and is scheduled for publication February 2019. His campaign was 10x longer than his peers on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are crowdfunding.

He endured way more stress and marketing fatigue than his crowdfunding counterparts.

In our interview (available here), he mentions numerous times how it felt like a slog and no, he wouldn’t want to do it again or recommend that process to other authors.

Are the deadlines flexible? 

My guess, I don’t know for sure because Unbound never got back to me, is that their campaigns have a flexible deadline until it looks like it will be funded. Perhaps they have a deadline that only the authors know about but in reality, it’s much more important for the readers to know about the deadline.

Having no deadline means that you lack the very thing that makes readers get off their butts and back your campaign.

One has to take something away to make it exclusive.

That’s why every marketer will tell you that you have to “close the cart” if you want to see sales.

“You won’t be able to get this book after today!” really forces people to act, not, “Oh, don’t worry. You can back this campaign today or tomorrow or in six months from now. It’s fiiine.”

From the creator’s perspective, having no end in sight is a nightmare. Crowdfunding is a humbling experience. It’s stressful and nobody can sustain a 24/7 marketing strategy for 10 months.

From the backer’s perspective, no deadline means I’m not motivated to back the project. Why should I do it now instead of tomorrow?

Dodgy Refund Policy

Also part of the trust factor is a clear and user-friendly refund policy. 

As a backer, if this project doesn’t succeed, will I get my money back?

With Unbound, no, you won’t. Not without a lot of hassle, anyway.

Look at the text of their refund policy 

With Kickstarter, your credit card isn’t charged unless the campaign is successful when it closes.

With IndieGoGo, your credit card is charged when you pledge but is fully refunded if the campaign is not successful (for their fixed funding projects only).

With Unbound, a backer is refunded in Unbound credits that they can use to back another book on the platform.

If a backer wants their actual money back, they must contact Unbound directly.

Provided that many books are backed by authors’ close network of friends and family, I highly doubt that many backers would want to use their funds to support another book on the platform.

Again, given their radio silence via email, I would imagine that getting your money back would be difficult and annoying.

Verdict: Unbound’s refund policy isn’t backer friendly and wouldn’t give me the confidence that I’m looking for when backing a book on the platform.

Crowdfunding Publishers

My mission is to support authors crowdfund their books. There are many publishers using the crowdfunding model to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for their books on Kickstarter.

Microcosm Publishing—19 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $100k.

Flesk Publications—5 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $500k.

Beehive Books—10 projects on Kickstarter raising over $500k.

I think it’s great that Unbound has close to 300 books in their catalog and when done correctly, I believe that crowdfunding can be a sustainable marketing approach for all authors.

Room for improvement

The issue with Unbound is that they lack the very elements that make crowdfunding successful—time, transparency, and responsiveness.

Can I recommend Unbound as a publisher for authors who are open to crowdfunding? In its current state, sadly, no.

My Recommendations

If Unbound addresses the factors that I mention and publishes each campaign’s goal amount, provides the project’s open and close dates, and changes their refund policy, then I might consider changing my recommendation.

Also, replying to emails from potential clients never hurts.

In my opinion, Unbound’s platform and approach is neither creator nor backer-friendly compared to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

The long timelines cause undue stress and marketing fatigue on its authors and their refund policy isn’t great customer service.

The radio silence via direct email and confirmation from Unbound authors that they are slow to respond has me thinking that they are overstretched.

At this point, I would not recommend publishing with Unbound.

Instead, go the indie route or find a publisher who is open to you crowdfunding your book’s costs as Elisavet Arkolaki did with her publisher.

As always, I encourage authors to take control of their publishing and marketing timelines and create a strategy that promotes engagement with their audiences and furthers their brand as authors.

If you are open to crowdfunding your book but don’t know where to start, I recommend signing up for my free mini course.

What you’ll learn in the free mini course

  • The different types of crowdfunding
  • Why authors keep choosing Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to fund their books
  • What every book’s crowdfunding campaign needs to be successful
  • Big mistakes to avoid during your campaign
  • Access to my monthly newsletter tips on how to best use crowdfunding to market your book

Click here to sign up. 

The Monster Café—Unbound’s First Illustrated Book

Children’s book author, Sean Leahy, teamed up with Hungarian illustrator Mihály Orodán and crowdfunding publisher, Unbound, to bring a cafe run by monsters to life for children.

The Monster Café is a humourous tale that deals with pre-conceptions, pre-school excitement and pre-tty big monsters.

Unbound is a UK-based publisher that utilizes crowdfunding to drive pre-orders for their book. You can see Sean’s Unbound campaign page here

Curious about how Unbound worked from the creator’s perspective, I asked Sean some questions and he was kind enough to describe his experience crowdfunding with Unbound.

Questions About The Monster Café

 
Why did you decide to go with Unbound rather than crowdfunding the book on your own and self-publishing it?
 
I was attracted by the fact Unbound is a publisher, so they deal with everything; editorial, printing, publishing, distribution, fulfillment etc.
 
They deal with all the wholesalers and shops as any publisher would and have a manuscript review and approval process.
 
 
Did Unbound provide crowdfunding campaign assistance to you as an author? 
 
They did. I was invited to a workshop before I kicked off my campaign. They provided the video team who filmed and edited my pitch film. They run the page and do all the fulfillment. 
 
 
Do they help you strategize your crowdfunding marketing plans before you launched?
 
Yes, this was dealt with in the workshop.
 
 
What was your book’s total funding goal (this isn’t available on the website, only the % raised)?
 
I’d rather not divulge, as each Unbound author will have different totals, depending on their books and needs.
 
 
How long was your Unbound campaign live? Their website says 3-6 months which must’ve felt like an eternity. (Most crowdfunding campaigns are only 30 days long to prevent marketing fatigue).
 
It went live March, and I was fully funded in the December, so almost 10 months. Yes, it was a slog.
 
 
What was the most surprising thing that you learned about crowdfunding as you went through the process?
 
Just how much effort it is. I knew it’d be exhausting, but the constant reminders were the worst. People DO forget!
 
 
What 3 tips would you give to an author considering crowdfunding their book?
 
  1. Make a list of everyone you think will be interested, and drop them a line about it and a reminder.
  2. Don’t check on your progress every 10 minutes. It can get demoralising.
  3. You’d be surprised just who will pledge. Don’t write anyone off!
 
Would you do the same model again or try something different?
 
Given it was such a long process, I would rather not. But I also would love to write more books. If I have to I will!
 

Bio

Sean Leahy is the flesh-and-bone edition of wonky tweetsmith, @thepunningman.

He writes very short and occasionally hilarious jokes to wild acclaim, featuring in Playboy’s 50 Funniest People on Twitter, and appearing on Buzzfeed, Comedy Central, The Poke, Huffington Post, Funny or Die and TimeOut among others. Sean lives outside the gates of Hampton Court Palace with his wife and two children.

Click here to pre-order the book

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

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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.

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.

A New First: Learning New Skills when Self-Publishing

People always ask me if it was a lifetime dream to publish a book and honestly, it was never a dream of mine.

Throughout my academic career, I have written so many papers, technical reports, and research articles that the thought of writing a book had never crossed my mind until relatively recently.

However, once the idea was in my head and I discovered that there were a lot of viable options to self-publish a book of high-quality, I knew I had to do it.

Academia— always on someone else’s timeline

I’m used to the “publish or perish” mindset in academia—which insanely combines high quality with a sense of dire urgency. You must put out your best work before your colleagues. 

Academic publishing can be brutal. You are at the mercy of multiple rounds of revision, fact checking, and peer-review testing that are beyond your control and yet, you are expected to publish before everyone else.

There is a lot of hurry up and wait when it comes to academic publishing. Your best work is almost always in someone else’s hands.

With that in the back of my mind, I knew that if someone else published a book with the same idea and concept, I would be upset with myself for not pursuing it.

I relished the idea of being in control of the timeline but I was a harsh (still fair) boss and I held myself to self-imposed deadlines.

As much as I hate to admit it, it was the drive to be the first to publish the idea in book format was what spurred me to work those long nights for months on end. Because let’s face it, there aren’t many firsts left for most adults.

A new challenge

As an experienced professional, I had already gone through the ringer from graduate school, learned how to behave professionally in a traditional 9-5 office job, and presented at enough conferences to shake off the nerves.

The idea of creating and publishing a book was a new challenge.

A new set of steps to figure out and an exciting hike off my usual beaten path.

I felt confident that I could leverage my experience with traditional publishing in academia and apply my project management skills in self-publishing. I wasn’t leaving anything behind—I was taking all of my skills and utilizing them in a new way. It felt refreshing. It also jazzed up my daily tasks.

“You don’t have many “firsts” these days, babe. I’m proud of you.”

My husband made a valid point. As professional adults, a lot of our “firsts” are behind us. I’m a huge believer in always learning, studying, and researching new things but the idea that publishing a book would be a new “first” stuck with me.

The first time…

Self-publishing a book would be the first time I ever held a book in my hands with my name on the spine.

  • The first time I took an entire project from start to finish on my own inertia.
  • The first time I cared more about a project than anyone else.
  • The first time they were my deadlines and not someone else’s.
  • The first time I could create the sequence of steps and follow them how I wanted.
  • The first time someone else wasn’t asking me for project updates—I was the one managing a team.

My book wasn’t anyone else’s project. It was mine.

My first.

And it felt great.

If you’re looking for a new “first” and are considering self-publishing a book, let’s have a quick chat to see if I can help.

Want to do it on your own like I did? Check out my comprehensive course on self-publishing.