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?
Make a list of everyone you think will be interested, and drop them a line about it and a reminder.
Don’t check on your progress every 10 minutes. It can get demoralising.
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!
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.
Are you always starting new projects but rarely finishing them?
Do you find yourself with an endless source of ideas and not enough time to dedicate to seeing them through?
Are you tweaking your website, testing out new newsletter providers, recording podcasts, and writing blogs but your book is still in outline/draft mode?
If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, then you might be suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.
What is it?
Shiny Object Syndrome is just what it sounds like—it is the culmination of distraction and procrastination.
We get excited about the latest and greatest technology, writing tool, or gizmo and zoom off to investigate, research, and experiment.
Some crafty people fuel their procrastination under the guise of learning. They sign up for course after course and webinar after webinar because they are convinced that they must learn more before they can get started.
I know…I’ve done it.
When the going gets tough…some people jump ship
At some point in everyone’s entrepreneurial career, we hit a point where the work gets hard. The project stalls a bit because we struggle and without dedication to seeing it through, we abandon the sinking ship and hop onto a new opportunity that looks like it’ll float.
We work on one project for a while until we hit another rough patch, struggle, and then we justify abandoning it because it wasn’t working.
This cycle will continue until you stop it.
We have to be disciplined and struggle through the unsexy parts of each project in order to see it through to completion.
How can we finish more projects?
Clearly define your goals
Are you setting project-based goals? Income-based goals? Whatever they are, clearly define them and then map out a process to tackle them.
Maybe you want to publish one book in the next 12 months year that is at least 75k words.
Your writing timeline needs to be truncated a bit so that you can allow time for editing, formatting, and publishing.
So, you need to write 75k words in 6 months. That’s 12,500 words/mth or 416 words/day.
Does that sound manageable?
Find an accountability partner (or hire one)
Would you go to the gym more often if you had a free gym membership or if you were paying $200/mth for a personal trainer?
I guarantee you would show up every day if you were paying $200/mth and guess what? You’d see results!
Accountability partners can help us reach our goals but not all accountability partners are created equal.
During the publication of my first book, my husband served as my accountability partner by asking me every day, “So, what are your plans for the day?” or “How is it going?”
But, as my business grew and my tasks varied between projects, I found I needed to hire someone who could direct my energy to profitable activities, not to tasks that kept me busy but not productive.
Start small and keep yourself accountable to your accountability partner. Prepare progress reports/updates like you would a manager in an office setting and check-in with each other on a regular basis.
Create both carrots and sticks
What will motivate you to reach your goals in the time you have set? If you set a certain income-based goal, reward yourself with something you really want when you reach it. Maybe it’s a trip somewhere warm and beachy or maybe it’s a nice dinner out on the town.
In order to stop deadlines from whizzing by you at an unstoppable speed, devise some punishments that provide real consequences for missing those deadlines. Be your own boss but be somewhat demanding of yourself.
If I don’t reach my writing goal each day, my usual veg-out and watch Netflix time will be used to write instead.
I will often deny myself social interaction with friends (I know, that sounds awful) until my projects are done.
“No, sorry, I can’t meet up for coffee even though I so desperately want to because I have to get this finished.”
We have to stop allowing deadlines to zoom by without consequence. Create your own incentives and disincentives.
Don’t allow yourself to change projects
As a fellow sufferer of Shiny Object Syndrome, I’ve decided to be even tougher on myself and not allow myself to even consider taking on another project until the first project is completed.
Yes, that means that some of my days are horrendously boring. Some days are incredibly frustrating and I feel like I’m barely treading water.
But, I simply cannot allow myself to abandon projects whenever I hit a technical snag or rough patch if I truly value and want to honor this idea.
Map out a full strategy for each project
Every book, course, collaboration, or blog post should have a strategy behind it. What are you trying to accomplish? We stop working on projects because we get overwhelmed by everything we need to do.
Break down the monumental task into bite-sized pieces and set a deadline for each task.
Map out your calendar and then add in a fudge factor for sickness, interruptions, and all of the things that are beyond our control that affect our work.
Set days aside for when you will take on non-project but still necessary tasks like admin, website edits, accounting, and complementary content generation, and then only work on those tasks on those days.
Minimize Your Distractions
I’m on social media a lot for my work and I found myself contributing to conversations that had nothing to do with my business.
After listening to hundreds of free webinars, and free video courses, I realized that I was past the “free” stage. Indie publishing is great because one can do so much on your own and I had but it wasn’t enough. I published two anthologies that were huge feats of collaboration among 50 women living around the world and I got pretty far considering I had more or less stumbled my way through the process. I was looking to elevate my game and take it to the next professional level.
The free webinars weren’t cutting it anymore but I still wasn’t ready to spend money on myself. I needed professional advice but I wasn’t willing to pay for it. All of the experts were saying that investing in yourself would pay off in spades but I saw that as self-serving.
“Of course, they are going to tell me to invest in their courses and consultations. They want the sale.”
And naturally, free content is used mostly to demonstrate that a particular person has expertise in a topic. I should know, I offer free webinars myself and try to make them as valuable as possible so my future clients understand that yes, I can help them reach their goals.
But despite all of that, I had to admit that there was value in getting advice from someone who had done it before me.
I needed someone to tell me what to do next. Someone who had either walked in my shoes or knew people who had.
What was holding me back?
After a few conversations and soul searching, I admitted that a few things were holding me back from hiring an expert:
– I wasn’t treating my business like a business
– My money mindsetwas focused on scarcity, not abundance (I was focused on everything I had to lose instead of what I had to gain)
– I was scared of spending money on something that might not work
– I was partially afraid of success. Hiring an expert meant that I was really taking the next step in my business
With those points mapped out, I could tackle them one by one. If I wasn’t treating my business like a business, why was I doing this?
Did I want to monetize my knowledge? Absolutely.
My money mindset was focused on scarcity and I was scared of spending what little money I did have on something that wasn’t guaranteed to increase my income. However, I kept hitting the same wall in front of me and I needed help to get over it and move onto the next level.
Like when I played video games when I was a kid, it was a different experience when I was playing by myself than when I was playing with my brother next to me who would warn me about what obstacles to avoid in the next scene. He’d tell me what was going to happen so I could be prepared and make the best moves.
Could I continue on my own? Sure.
But would I get there faster and easier with help? Absolutely.
Hiring an expert
After months of hemming and hawing and talking with other people who had done the same, I finally took the plunge and hired a marketing coach. I invested in myself.
It was scary and I said so during our first call but within seconds, all of my anxiety was addressed. I felt confident that I had made the right decision. Her excitement about what I had done so far gave me the boost of reassurance that I was looking for.
Taking the next steps outlined by my marketing coach would be my responsibility but she’d be there to amplify my actions and cheer me on.
I figured that if I was going to give my hard-earned money to someone, it might as well be someone who I knew and trusted. She was the perfect fit for me and her approaches to marketing resonated with my core values. Nothing salesy, only authentic.
After a few sessions with my marketing coach, I realized that other people started to take me more seriously.
They saw me investing in my business and were, therefore, more likely to invest in me. I sold more courses and I started receiving more queries for more private consultations.
When you pay for a course or service with real money, you take yourself more seriously, too.
I carved out time for marketing and created more content. I followed up with potential leads and started emailing more people who I hadn’t reached out to before.
I had someone holding me accountable and routinely checking in with my progress. I kept putting one foot in front of the other.
And then it starts to work.
All of the things your coach told you to do starts to get traction and you see results.
You make progress which increases your confidence, which leads to more progress and you find yourself in a place you’ve never been before doing things you weren’t doing before.
Success follows on success and the setbacks you encounter don’t seem so stressful anymore because deep down, you know this will work because you’re making it work.
So, does investing in yourself pay off or is that just something people say?
I think it does, or at least, it has for me, but I had to exhaust all of the free content options before I was ready to put my money on the table.
Not all experts are worthwhile, which is why it’s always good to do your research and ask their former clients about their experiences.
So, make your own list of what you think is holding you back from investing in yourself and see if any of it rings true.
What’s holding you back? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of spending money? Fear of admitting you need help? All of the above?
Getting folks onto your email list should be your #1 priority after you’ve created some content for your website.
Because nobody can rely on Facebook’s or Twitter’s algorithms to put your content in front of your readers. Sending messages directly to your readers’ inbox is the best way to deliver valuable content and create a dialogue with your readers.
Before we talk numbers, I just want you to know that I successfully Kickstarted Knocked Up Abroad Again with a list of only 110 subscribers. They were my core group of people who I reached out to to generate momentum on launch day of my Kickstarter campaign, but I also leveraged the readers of the book’s 25 contributors.
Pulling the trigger—Sending your first email to your list
Over the years, I’ve struggled with finding topics to send my newsletter recipients. Should I send them links to my blogs? (Yes.) Should I send them links to affiliate courses or products by other people I know, like, and trust? (Yes.) What should I actually send my newsletter recipients?
In short, you can send anything to your readers as long as you are delivering meaningful content. Make it valuable, insightful, or emotional and people will open, read, and share your emails.
I feel most comfortable with sending no more than two (2) emails a month. I have enough to include in each email—blogs, podcasts, articles, etc.—and I can be consistent with bi-weekly emails.
If you’re just starting out, I’d start with monthly emails and see how it goes from there.
Be authentic. Be yourself.
As long as you offer up high-quality content that your readers find valuable, people will stay on your list.
Your readers are smart
Almost everyone knows at this point that if you register for a free webinar or e-book, your email is going onto someone’s list. There will always be folks who hop on your list for a short time to grab your freebie and then unsubscribe right away. Don’t worry about those people.
Focus on delivering quality content or insights about your writing process that will keep your readers engaged.
Ways for indie authors to create valuable freebies
Using MailChimp or Mailerlite, you can create sign-up forms and use automation to deliver digital content as an incentive to increase your subscribers.
Here are some ideas specifically for indie authors but you should use your creativity here (go crazy!)
Podcast about a specific topic related to a popular blog post
Narrated version of a short-story
Special interview with a special guest (video or podcast)
E-book with tips for your readers on a topic related to your book
Special access to digital content that enhances the reader’s experience with your book
Animated short featuring a character from your book
First chapter of your book with a link to purchase the full book
Coupon code for your book or other items you might sell
Anything you can think of that your readers might want
In short, have fun with your content creation and create multiple avenues for people to get onto your list. Send out consistent high-quality content, and be yourself.
It’s no longer a dirty word to utter or admit in entrepreneurial and corporate circles. In fact, many entrepreneurs and businesses are embracing sharing stories of failure because they understand the value of these stories.
Sharing what doesn’t work is just as valuable (maybe more) as sharing what does work.
In science, it is every researcher’s dream to test a hypothesis and find statistically significant results confirming that they were right. However, publishing research findings showing that there were no statistically significant results for those elements is equally important to the research community. It shows that those confounders aren’t relevant to your problem.
Failure in a Public Health Study
Case study: In 2005, Michael Watson and his public health colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial where 3,400 some odd families with children under 5 were provided child safety equipment to prevent injuries.
They studied whether a child in the family had at least one injury that required medical attention and if they sought hospital admission for injuries over the course of a two year period. Their hypothesis was that providing safety equipment and medical advice to these families would reduce the number of injuries seen in the family. Afterall, safety equipment provides a protective effect, no? Seems logical.
However, they found NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in the number of medically attended injuries between the families who had the safety equipment and those who didn’t. Basically, kids will be kids regardless of the safety equipment they have. You can satisfy your nerdy side with the full article here.
Was their study a failure or did it provide interesting results?
I’d argue that these non-significant results were very helpful in directing future researchers to various study designs when it comes to studying families and child injury prevention. Their study informed pediatricians and crafted the advice doctors gave their worried parental patients.
One can argue, quite successfully, that publishing non-significant results (or stories of failure) are extremely valuable in how we view our world and test our own hypotheses.
Failure is the new trend in business
“I’m still shocked at being considered an authority on robotics when I’m known for making robots that don’t work.” – Simone Giertz
Fail stories are finally being seen as something of worth in the business world and entrepreneurs are embracing their failures with open arms. Failory.com provides written interviews with start-up founders to dig into the reasons why their ideas failed. Entrepreneurs are sharing their F**kup stories on vlogs with Stefanie Koch on We Fucked Up, and the videos are entertaining to watch and reassuring to see.
Because learning what not to do is as valuable as learning what to do in business, young entrepreneurs are gobbling up failure stories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
On Alie Ward’s Gizmology podcast, she chats with Simone Giertz from Shitty Robots (a super entertaining YouTube channel, by the way), about how her robot fail videos made her famous. Simone admits, “I’m still shocked at being considered an authority on robotics when I’m known for making robots that don’t work.”
Failure makes you human. Failure makes you relatable.
The Old Guard (looking at you, my lovely gray-haired/bearded experts in your field of choice) have kept their mistakes a secret—always wanting to be perceived as the all-knowing, wise, and knowledgeable specialists. But, when those all-knowing experts are always on the conference call, they stifle their colleagues’ desire to speak up and offer their ideas.
Former Florida State Epidemiologist, Richard Hopkins, is a tall, white-bearded man who would regale me with stories about his bassoon playing vacations in Bozeman, Montana. During a “long table discussion” (you know, those where all of the experts sit at a long table and rabble on at one another) he pulled me close and whispered in my ear, “I’m not going to answer any questions so, you’d better be ready to speak up. You know as much on this topic as I do.”
Other people’s fear of failing in front of an expert actually hinders growth and progress.
Being a young, relatively inexperienced female epidemiologist sitting at the table next to a veritable expert with over 30 years of experience, I took his permission to heart. I was grateful that he explicitly gave my ideas equal validity as his own despite the discrepancy of years of experience in the field.
Later, during one of the coffee breaks, he said, “I’ve found that whenever I offer up my opinions on a topic, it shuts everyone else down and a lot of good ideas go unsaid. We need more new ideas coming to the table, not less.”
In short, other people’s fear of failing in front of an expert actually hinders growth and progress.
This is why we need more experts to share more of their stories of failure with their colleagues and especially with people seeking to enter their field. In doing so, we will all understand that growth cannot happen without failing and that it is only through failure that we can improve.
Share your failures story with someone and you’ll find that sharing your mistakes makes you more human, more relatable, and more empathetic toward others. You’ll gain more admiration and respect in your field of expertise.
Failure shows persistence
Tim Ferriss sent his 4 Hour Workweek book to 25 publishers before someone finally accepted it. Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers before it was accepted. Walt Disney filed bankruptcy after starting several businesses and failing at them all. Continuously failing means that you improve the next time and the next until you reach greatness.
So, head out there and fail your heart out. You might just inspire someone.
Are you ready to learn from my mistakes? I share all of my failures with my clients so they can learn what not to do when it comes to self-publishing and crowdfunding their book.
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 Canvaaccount 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.
Nicholette Thomas writes at mixedfamilylife.com about her interracial marriage and family life.
Erin and I first connected when we were both live with our Kickstarter campaigns. (You can see hers here.) Activities during a crowdfunding campaign involve reaching out to strangers and supporting one another on the platform, and I absolutely loved what Erin was doing with Behowl the Moon.
UPDATE: Erin has launched another Kickstarter campaign for her second book, The Wild Waves Whist that is live now until May 19, 2018 so be sure to back it!
I mean, how many Shakespeare board books for babies are out there?
What I loved about what she was doing was that it wasn’t really for the babies. I mean, it was a book for babies, but the book was just as much designed for the parent reader. Believe me, no baby is going to appreciate that artwork like an adult.
As Erin is a Kickstarter creator of a children’s illustrated board book and a self-published author; this interview covered a lot of topics.
You have experience with traditional publishers so why did you go the self-publishing route?
I thought I had a fairly strong idea, but there was no reason I could think of that a traditional publisher would want me to do that idea.
This was something I wanted for myself, and I knew other people like me would want for themselves, but I didn’t know if it was a big enough market segment for a traditional publisher to take a risk on it.
Board books are expensive [to produce] and almost nobody debuts with a board book.
For me, I would pay $25 for a board book instead of $3 for something I really wanted, and I knew that if other people were willing to do the same, then we could do it ourselves.
| Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. |
I have an extensive background in traditional publishing and I’ve done a lot on the editorial side. I knew how it was done distribution-wise and the technical details regarding the printing, so I wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of doing it myself.
Self-publishing meant that I got to pick everything—the illustrator, the title, the content. I wanted to have creative control for my project.
Self-publishing was a really empowering option.
Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?
Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. If I hadn’t done the crowdfunding, I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to push it so far.
We had 384 backers for the project so we weren’t trying to please the entirety of the world. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I know my audience is extremely sophisticated and has high standards for quality and production.
My illustrator was fabulous. And I also worked with a very talented professional book designer. I understand the need for getting the technical details right, but I don’t know how to make the book spine a certain width or how to reverse a template—she does.
Someone who is creative but not experienced in this industry wouldn’t know how to make my vision come to life like she did.
No one really wants to compromise on their project except in areas where you don’t know any better.
I really liked Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing approach because I wouldn’t be able to produce the book with only $5K. We truly needed to reach 100% funding to put this book together.
How much work did you do before the campaign?
Before the campaign, I did a ton of research on where to find potential backers.
I tried to think of every possible audience who might be interested in this book and how I was going to talk with them (Marketing 101, right?).
Then, I started finding where Shakespeare people were, parents, board book people, theatre people, kids who are into theatre, and then all of the blogs, websites, friends, etc. and made massive lists of every possible angle.
During the Kickstarter campaign itself, I tried reaching out to multiple groups each day so I wasn’t exhausting one interest demographic, but I was connecting with new people every day.
Did you do it yourself or did you have a team of people helping you?
I had a few wonderful friends and relatives who were interested in the project who helped me out sharing and looking for places to share.
Shakespeare Geek, who has been blogging since the dawn of blogs, picked up my campaign from Reddit, and he was my first stranger cheerleader.
It’s so incredibly compelling when someone else in the void of the internet likes your idea and has the authority of a background in your topic.
Neil Gaiman tweeted about the book and then did it again as the campaign was closing. I really admire him as an artist, and it was extremely exciting to see that momentum build.
At the same time, I was like, “Yeah, I need 100 more backers or all of this is for naught.”
You reached 100% with a few days to go in your campaign. Were you sweating it out?
Toward the end of the Kickstarter campaign, I’m thinking, “I have already said everything I can think of to say to everyone I can think of who might be interested. I have run out of ideas. What’s going to happen here?”
You get hung up at 92% for a few days, and it’s stressful.
How did you set your different reward tiers?
Crowdfunding campaigns are incredibly short, and there are only so many people who are going to back you at the higher reward levels in the short amount of time you have. It’s simply the nature of crowdfunding. You’re only going to reach so many people at those upper levels in the time you have.
People who really love you or your project may support you at the higher levels, but it has to be viable with a reasonable number of supporters at not too high a contribution point.
What’s your advice for authors with illustrations?
If you’re selling a print to go along with your book, you’re selling either a souvenir of the campaign, in which case they have to really like the campaign; or a physical piece of artwork, in which case they have to really love that piece of art; or a way for them to support your campaign, in which the actual piece of artwork doesn’t matter at all.
It’s hard to know what motivates people to choose a print, so you have to cover all those possibilities when you’re making your decisions about production and shipping.
Some people will want to buy the print, and some people will want to support the campaign at a higher level.
| Too many options weaken your entire campaign. |
Kickstarter always gives you the option to donate to the campaign without any rewards. But too many reward options weaken your entire campaign. For me personally, I like the stuff, so I designed my rewards based on stuff that I like.
The artwork is beautiful and calls to mind a fairly beloved play, and the artwork was one of the main items I was trying to fund, so postcards and prints turned out to be the most practical and transportable with the highest added value.
The success of the campaign filled me with all of this gratitude, and I wanted to send everyone everything related to the campaign. But you also have to keep an eye on costs, and postage is one that will add up fast.
I had one quarter of the artwork paid on spec (by me) for the campaign, and we did the rest of the artwork as soon as it funded. I was seven months pregnant, so I needed to get that book off to press!
We finished in November 2016 and went to press December 12, 2016. My daughter was born two days later. I was approving final carton markings in the hospital! But then I had a couple of months where the book didn’t really need anything from me.
What’s next? Can readers expect another Behowl the Moon anytime soon?
Yes! I just sent out a survey to my backers to see if they would be interested in a second one, and the response was so positive and gratifying.
I have a new project percolating along now. I’m hoping to announce some details soon, and if anyone is interested they can find out about it from my mailing list: http://drivelanddrool.com/contact.
What would you say to someone who wants to farm out their publishing or crowdfunding campaign to someone else?
The misery of rewriting is the author’s alone, and I think that applies to crowdfunding too. If you try to outsource it, it’ll end up “okay” and okay isn’t good enough.
You have to own the entire process, and if you want the victory, you have to go through the slog.
Not that the slog guarantees victory…
But I love seeing the content that is out here that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for crowdfunding. It really does democratize so much.
Erin Nelsen Parekh is an editor, writer, and copywriter with experience in book and magazine publishing, both business to business and consumer-facing. She has always loved kids and kids’ books, and now that she is a parent herself, she finds it particularly fun to explore children’s literature with a tiny critic in her lap.
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.
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.
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.
In this interview, I sat down and chatted with Kiran Prasad, author ofA 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.
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.