Crowdfunding a children’s book. Easy peasy?

 

Crowdfunding. Think raising money by asking people to pledge to financially support your creative project or business start up. It’s a global industry and almost exclusively done online. Google crowdfunding and you will have a host of websites like Kickstarter or Crowdcube pop up. The rest is then up to you.

I knew nothing about Crowdfunding when I decided to write and illustrate my first children’s book. Ignorance can often be bliss so I did some brief research on successfully crowdfunded children’s books then decided that I would go with Kickstarter as my project platform as a result. It was literally as quick as that. Then the work really began.

I’m going to briefly share my campaign with you so you can have an idea of how it worked. Bear in mind I am UK based, have a good personal social media network (this is very important) and had a strong vision of what I wanted to do, and how I would do it, from the outset.

What’s the catch?

With Kickstarter the catch is you set the amount you wish to raise, and if you reach this then you get your funding. If you don’t then you don’t receive a penny.There is a 10% fee on the amount you wish to raise so build this into your project. You also set your timescale for the length of the project to run. When it’s over it’s over!

What’s in it for supporters?

People who pledge you money are referred to as backers. They are giving you money to make your project happen. With Kickstarter you don’t give anybody a share in your business or have any financial commitment to them. But, you are expected to offer ‘rewards’ to backers. This is how you incentivise people to back you over and above them loving your project and wanting to see it happen!

In my case as an author I offered different rewards depending on how much people pledged. This ranged from thank you’s in my book to signed copies and merchandise I created such as greetings cards.

What’s the cost?

It’s free to set up an account online with Kickstarter. However, all the most successful campaigns do have films to share their story, often photography and details of the project. This means you will need to invest time in preparing a business plan and must consider whether you feel that having a film is important.

For me a film was a great way to share my story in four minutes so I invested £7.99 in a phone mic, borrowed a tripod and used the free movie making software on my computer which I learnt to use. I filmed and edited my own movie which took around 80 hours! This might sound a lot but compared to £2,000 upwards to buy in this service I was happy to invest my time. My background is also photography and digital design so I had some creative skills. This really helped. To give it a professional edge I bought some music but there are lots of free music sites where you can download royalty free songs.

raising money, easy peasy or arg?!

Network. Network. Network. Mistakenly I assumed that once my campaign was live I would get people from all over the globe loving my project and wanting to see it happen. Oops. My personal network across social media and website presence just wasn’t strong enough and I had no budget for marketing. I did have a couple of people pledge who I didn’t know, but to be honest 98% of people were known to me.

I kept people updated on what I was doing, why I was doing it and what the outcome would be through facebook, twitter and Instagram. This in itself meant my networks expanded in followers, even though these people weren’t pledging, but this would really help me if and when I launched my book.

The success rate for crowdfunding books is 30%. This means 70% of campaigns fail to raise the money. Like I said earlier, if you don’t raise your target by the end of the project timeline then you get nothing. It’s important to weigh this up when deciding if crowdfunding is for you.

what next?

Successfully raising the money from people who wanted to share in my vision was a fantastic vote of confidence in me as a new author. Of course I completely underestimated the amount of time and effort it would require to plan, run and complete the campaign. Then I had to actually finish the book and fulfil my backer rewards! None of this was income generating so you must be ready to invest a lot of your time for free to make your project happen.

I did meet all my deadlines and created my first book which I now sell through my website, Amazon, my local Waterstones and at local events and shows. A key pledge was donating a copy to primary schools across the Isle of Wight which I have done,  plus undertaking schools visits and expanding my merchandise range. I  am now working on my next book.

I had no idea that crowdfunding was merely the first step in being an independent author. Completing, publishing, launching and selling my book would be an even more challenging experience, but that’s another blog.

If you would like to look at my crowdfunding campaign click HERE.

If you have any questions about my campaign and crowdfunding then I will try to answer them on my facebook page Marianne Su Yin just post HERE.

SELF PUBLISHING AND BUYING IN PROFESSIONAL SERVICES

As an independent author self publishing requires a vast range of skills to take an idea to a finished book on a budget. Her crowdfunding campaign allocated funds to buy in services to fill in the gaps of her own expertise. In her case, choosing the right people to package the final manuscript into a professional publication was vital.

Luckily she had such a businesses on hand on the Isle of Wight. In her guest blog Marianne shares how her collaboration with Zoe Sadler and Krissy Lloyd of Inky Ever After Press, a small independent Press, created exactly the finished book she wanted.

BLOG: ON THE TRAIL OF A FIRST TIME INDIE AUTHOR

www.inkyeverafterpress.com

STEPPING INSIDE AN AUTHORS WORK WITH ‘OPEN STUDIOS’

Every Summer artists from all over the Isle of Wight open their studios and homes to welcome visitors as part of ‘Open Studios’. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet the person behind the work spanning the whole creative sphere from fine art to photography, sculpture to illustration.

In the case of Marianne she invited people to see the process of how she created her book. From the first notes to sketches, drafts, mock ups and even the editorial process – which involved a lot of red pen! Successfully crowdfunded and self published this was also a chance to for budding writers and indie authors to put their questions to her and meet one of the inspirations behind her book – the ‘real’ Spike the Vizsla!

BOOK LAUNCH SUCCESS!

Live music, Lindy Hop dancers and a special appearance by Spike the dog for pawtographs all featured in the launch of ‘On the Trail of the Missing Pets’ recently on the Isle of Wight.

Continuing her commitment to her local community Marianne  visited her son’s primary school, whose pupils provided some of the first reviews of the book prior to publishing, to officially launch her book. Children were treated to readings from Marianne and fellow Isle of Wight children’s author and illustrator Zoe Sadler with her book The Lighthouse Keeper.

Local 1940’s harmony singers Company B-UK performed to the delight of visitors who also took a turn on the dance floor with Lindy Hop dancers to recreate an authentic vintage feel.

Marianne then spent the rest of the weekend at the Royal Isle of Wight County Show sharing her book with visitors to the event including Major General Martin White CB CBE JP, HM Lord-Lieutenant of the Isle of Wight.

Visitors to the Island will have the chance to meet Marianne at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival in Cowes in October.

BOOKS GIVEN TO EVERY ISLE OF WIGHT PRIMARY SCHOOL

After a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign copies of ‘On the Trail of the Missing Pets’ are now available to buy through the shop and have been donated to every primary school on the Isle of Wight. Part of the campaign’s pledges were to gift books to local schools.

Uniquely blending a fictional story with fact boxes about social history at the time the tale is loved by children and adults alike. Teachers will find the facts at the end of the story of particular use when studying World War 2 as part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum. The book has also been used in Key Stage 1 when children have been looking at the topic of Pets. Especially as Spike is based on the authors own Vizsla with the same name!

One teacher says;

“Thank you ever so much for the copy of your book. It has already engaged one of my less excited readers, who as I write this is flicking through pages in sheer silence.”

Marianne is available to visit primary schools on the Isle of Wight for readings and quiz based workshops on the topic of World War 2 at no charge thanks to the success of her crowdfunding bid.

On the Trail of the Missing Pets available online now!

On the Trail of the Missing Pets is now available to order online as a paperback and hardback from the shop.

Set in 1940’s London during World War 2 this adventure story features Violet Vintage and her dog Spike as the face their first mystery in history.

Unexpectedly arriving in 1940’s London during World War Two they discover people’s pets are going missing? Can they find them all and get them home?

Written in easy rhyming verse for children of all ages to enjoy this is a charming story with detailed vintage style illustrations to bring history to life.

Uniquely it combines a fictional adventure with information about life at the time presented in fact boxes at the end of the story. Children and parents will enjoy reading facts about WW2 designed to help readers discover a little bit more about social history. From air raids to rationing, women at work and how people communicated it’s a great book for at home or at school.

Right. Write, rewrite.

I’ve been lucky enough to have my first manuscript draft viewed by several publishers and received really constructive feedback. It seems this is a rare and valued thing as they are busy, busy people. No publishing deal yet though;) Persistence, determination and every other word from the Thesaurus on post-it notes.

When I began writing and drawing I had an idea and a vision of how it would look. That it translated so easily onto paper was, quite frankly, amazing. I’ve met many different writers and artists often creating just for themselves so know how hard it is to start, finish and share work. To give it to others and watch expressions as someone reads through all those hours and hours of solitary work. It’s hard opening oneself up. As I learnt, creating a book is a labour of intensely personal love.

I must admit I chose my first readers carefully. Close, honest and compassionate friends. People who would be able to use words to inspire and encourage, but also critique and suggest. In fact my first reader put down my story, looked me in the eye and said, ever so gently. ‘Do you know anything about poetry my love?’ She’s a long and trusted friend so I laughed and replied. ‘Clearly not!’

Since then I have spent 6 months writing, rewriting, tweaking and cutting. I have flung my manuscript far and wide. The feedback I have received I have listened to and taken on board. I have learnt to step away from my work. Critique is fine, I can work with that. Mostly I agree, sometimes I don’t. My personal integrity is pretty important. The positive feedback is inspiring and something to remember on the days when I look at my book and think, ‘what a load of pants’.

The first public reading of my manuscript was with a group of primary school children. Now that was scary. I have never been so terrified in my life. They loved it (thankfully)and I had the best 2 hours chatting and learning from them too. We even sang and danced around the room to Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, which was recorded in 1949, played on my record player even though it was the middle of May. I love kids!

So I’m still fiddling with words and pictures. Soon I will enlist the help of professionals to fine tune then it’s really out there. In the meantime my youngest son keeps reminding me that he loves my pictures and book and scribbles his edits on the story board stuck up in our dining room. My harshest critic and toughest editor.

Now I’m ready for anything.

Pink Princesses and Puppies. Books girls read.

Not such a very long time ago, in a beautiful kingdom far far away (January in an international bookstore in Bangkok) I spent some time looking through books written for girls, around age 7, as something to read with my niece. This was a treat as I have two boys so female children’s fiction has not featured very strongly in our household. The chance to spend precious moments sharing a bedtime book with my niece is a real privilege.

It then happened in a moment of magic that I stumbled upon an extraordinary sentence in a book I had picked up. The catalyst which made me decide that I was going to write a children’s book, and the lead character would be a girl.

Let me share why.

Briefly, the story I was reading was about two beautiful young princesses (in pink and purple) who were searching for their friend. She had been kidnapped by an evil old lady driven by her jealousy of their youth and beauty. On the princesses journey to rescue their friend the two girls naturally met a couple of handsome young princes (who they would marry later). Then, lo and behold, in the middle of a wood ..

‘they found some puppies!’

I literally stopped in my imaginary tracks. Erm. Why?

Now, if this had been a story about animal welfare I would understand the context. But it wasn’t. And the puppies were neither mentioned before or after this event. I guess little girls must like puppies then? But here’s a strange thing, so do I, and my two boys, and pretty much those millions of people of all ages, race and gender who own a dog, like dogs, like all animals in fact, or just spend their mornings watching cute funny animal videos online (oops, that’s me).

The stereotypical themes of the book didn’t stop there. We had the notion that ‘old’ (insert middle aged ) women are all wizened and evil and jealous of youth.  I know! That’s another revelation to me at 46 as my kids think I am ‘old’, having just bought a record player I have no idea what they mean. That every young girl is searching for a handsome prince, who also happens to have a big white stallion, to make her life complete. Oh, and that girls must aspire to be a princess and wear pink and purple. Is that a career choice these days or am I simply completely out of touch, having boys and all that?

I assumed that perhaps this was just one book and it was merely written along the lines of a classic fairytale with girl/boy/good/evil etc. and that there are plenty of other books around to challenge it. But a few days ago a video popped up in my feed, shared by a group I am connected with though facebook, ‘Inspiring Women on the Isle of Wight’,  and it showed me that this was not the case. At all.

“The Ugly Truth of Children’s Books” is a film by Rebel Girls precisely about this issue. So far it has been viewed OVER 22 million times through their page!

Their film shows a fully stocked shelf of children’s stories. Once all the books are removed where female characters either do not exist, do not speak, or were not a princess, then the shelf is virtually empty. It was produced by two female authors to share why they wrote their book ‘Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls‘,  a children’s book featuring bedtime stories about the life of extraordinary women from the past and the present illustrated by female artists from all over the world.

So perhaps my instinct was right. I did want to create a book with a strong female lead who has an adventure (albeit with a male dog companion) and solves a mystery through determination and cleverness. She does speak, there is no prince, and yes, she does wear a dress, but it’s not pink or purple! Perhaps this will give more choice for parents in the bookshop and better role models for girls in children’s fiction which can appeal to both boys and girls.

My book is now in its final draft. I’ll let you know if it meets these aspirations at the end of the month after I have completed a workshop with a group of Year 4 and Year 5 pupils at my son’s primary school on the Isle of Wight.

Then hopefully girls in fiction will live a much more interesting happily ever after.

THE END

 

Why I read the books I do

Today is World Book Day, a chance for children to dress up as a character from their favourite book  and mums and dads to whip together an outfit in 10 minutes before the school run (or is that just me?). Then find the book to support the costume choice. No stress there then. Mmmmm.

After I dropped my 11 year old son off to school dressed as a spy, MIB meets James Bond because he couldn’t find a scarf which would make him Where’s Wally? and his actual favourite books Diary of a Wimpy Kid are in black in white which is not helpful in outfit planning apparently, I went home, made a large coffee and tweeted @worldbookdayuk.

Incidentally on the way I did explain to my son and the other child in the car that James Bond was a character in a series of books written by a chap called Ian Fleming before the films were made. They were surprised at this. Nevertheless, spies are cool, as are sunglasses, a black suit and tie and converse boots when you are 11.

Once home after 20 minutes of navigating a selfie stick for my #shelfie photographs for various social media accounts a tweet pinged into my stream and caught my attention. It was from Kidscape, a charity whose aims are to prevent bullying and protect children. It said,

Tell us which book inspired/helped you as a child/teen win books from for a child in your life!

 

This made me think.

My World Book Day posts were of my favourite grown up book, I Claudius by Robert Graves. A tome of a novel which gloriously brings to life the Roman Empire through the eyes of an unlikely and somewhat unwilling Emperor Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus etc. He’s different. He stammers, has a limp, is thought to be stupid (but really isn’t), a true anti hero. I love the way this incredible work, first published in 1934, blends fact and fiction in such a readable narrative, as history is really not my thing unless it is delivered in an imaginative and visual way.

But the Kidscape tweet really made me think about why I read the books I did when I was a child, and why I read the books I do now.

I know my favourite childhood authors instantly, Beatrix Potter when I was at Primary School, and James Herbert when I was a young teen.  I sought solace in those books to take me to a different world, as a child the illustrations drove the story then the sheer fright factor kept me hooked as I teened.

Miss Potter’s books showed me somewhere where bad things can happen but in the end everything turns out OK, but not in a perfect fairy tale way. Remember naughty Squirrel Nutkin losing his tail or poor Jemima Puddle Duck’s narrow escape, and I can still feel my finger tips tingle remembering how Jeremy Fisher sucks his fingers after the prickly stickleback lands on his lap!

With the horror novels I realise now that the feelings of fear they give us were emotions I was experiencing in my daily life and so was relating to (I was bullied which may explain why these books appealed to me so much). Pop over to this article ‘Why do we read scary books?’ by Lou Morgan for The Guardian which explains this much better than I can for those of you who wonder why teenagers like horror books so much. She talks about how this genre allows us to explore our feelings of fear, wherever they come from or whatever they may be.

Today, as a happy mother of two boys I do still reach to my bookshelf when I need some help, inspiration, or just to learn a bit more about something which has sparked my interest. I may choose Eat, Pray, Love or The Alchemist to find some emotional grounding and strength or Lord of the Rings when I am feeling indulgent and can devote the time to letting my creative mind run wild. An Agatha Christie or Jenny Colgan when quite frankly my brain needs a rest and an easy read, or the amazing historian Alison Weir when I really am feeling intellectual (which happens briefly after coffee for about 20 minutes).

The beauty of a book, apart from the fact you can take it in the bath and still works if it gets wet, is that you can always find a story which suits how you feel, and you can always read and re-read the good ones and still learn something more .

I still treasure my Beatrix Potter books on their original bookshelf, and even the residue sticker marks on the bottom where I would write ‘I hate (insert name of bully)’. It makes me smile now because if the stress of my day is finding a costume on a deadline for my child then really, life has turned out well. And with two happy children who are healthy, have friends and enjoy school then I guess that at this point in time I do have a fairy tale ending.

My favourite book for World Book Day

World Book Day Shelfie

My childhood Beatrix Potter Peter Rabbit Bookshelf with original books

Childhood Bookshelf