TLDR – Michelle is working to publish her first book. We went to Kickstarter to help fund and promote.
Before kids, before marriage, Michelle stopped working, set up a home office, and started writing. She quickly finished a book that was rejected by a few publishers. Then we had four kids, moved into a fifth-wheel, built a house, and moved to another country; basically loads of life got in the way. Michelle has always stuck with writing but never had enough dedicated time to finish any of her ideas. While on holiday in Spain when Ireland asked us to leave a few years ago Michelle and the kids wrote the outline a story about elves.
Fast forward to 2020 as the kids have become more self-sufficient with age, and life has settled a bit in Ireland, she’s started to find more time and finished the elves story from Spain. In fact, she has almost finished the second book in the same series. We went back and forth discussing what to do with the book and eventually settled on self-publishing. Self-publishing gives us more freedom and control of the property with a better return on our efforts per unit. The downside, It also means promotion and finishing is on us; loads of work. So far it feels like it’s taken more work to set things up to publish then it took to write the book.
After Writing – Finishing the book
Illustration – The first job after writing and rough edits was finding an illustrator. The book is a middle-grade book that should have at least one picture per chapter plus cover art. I went to Twitter asking if I knew anyone who knew anyone with mad art skills and time for a project. Turns out I knew a few people with skills, and not many with time. The person we selected was a random contact. About 30 illustrators direct messaged me on twitter offering services. Ola , was one of those DM’s she had a style we both liked that felt like a great fit for the book. We contacted her over twitter then email and worked out rates. For 15 black and white images plus colored cover art we settled on 800€.
Michelle wrote a small blurb about her vision for each image and the cover, supplied some samples, and we provided a PDF of the book. Ola has been brilliant to work with. Her vision for the art has turned out to meet Michelle’s vision well. Any feedback and requests we have provided to her have been accepted without issue. We’re hoping this relationship turns into a partnership that lasts for many books to come.
Audiobook – After illustration came Audio recording. Michelle and I both enjoy audiobooks and wanted an audiobook version of her story. I wanted to record it using the kid’s voices, and Michelle seems to have gone along with the idea. For audio setup, we bought a data recorder, microphone, and some other bits to convert the sauna into a temporary sound booth – see other post on this when I write it. The total cost here was about 700$ for the hardware and software.
Copy edit – The last cost before publishing is copy editing. A few people have read the book looking for errors and provided feedback. Knowing grammar and spelling can ruin books for some people we wanted to have a professional make sure nothing was missed. I personally know a few editors making this an easy hire. For 10,000 words the cost was 250$
Setting up Kickstarter
With all of the book publishing work outsourced and figured out now comes the selling part; the hard part. The plan is to publish via Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Simplest start to promotion is who you know, which means emails, phone calls, and social media. But before we can do that we need to know what to promote. We don’t have cover art yet, don’t have a finished sample chapter, and only recently decided on a book title. My thinking was Kickstarter. We can use it for promotional copy, use as a sales platform for preorders, it has its own built-in exposure, and we can help offset the published costs we’ve incurred.
When creating a Kickstarter campaign one of the things you need to fill out is risks. I’ve backed a number of Kickstarter projects but have never been on the seller side. It was a cleaner process then I had expected. It took a few weeks to get everything in place. Top of the list, because it would take the most time, is a video. From reading, most successful Kickstarter projects have videos, and it would be nice to be successful.
Michelle was not excited about the idea of a video. When I first brought it I could tell she was hesitant and nervous and did not want to do it. Knowing her well, I went with the approach of telling her the benefits and letting her think about it on her own time. A day or more later she let me know she had started on a script. A week or so later we set up lights, mics, and cameras in her office and she started recording and editing. – When she finished the first take I gave her a huge hug, and told her proud of her I was with some tears in my eyes. I swear it must have been onions.
The first take and edit said everything we wanted to say but was too long at 7 minutes. I felt like a dick asking Michelle to do it all over again. Thankfully she understood, put her makeup on again, and did two more takes. The final edit is around 3 minutes long and posted to the Kickstarter. At about 60 funding over 50% of the people who started the video finished it. Finishing is one of the stats you have access to on the Kickstarter dashboard.
While Michelle was creating the video I set up the project. The process is a well-oiled wizard step by step simple and clean process. First, you write the main page content and name the project. Next, you write the rewards. I copied from a number of other projects as a starter then changed to add our own twist and style. Wes and Michelle verify everything was good and provide input until we were satisfied. Once we’d finished the main page, and rewards, click next and on to verification. Kickstarter verifies your email address, mailing address, and bank information which must match the project owner name. All of this took a few days to process.
Being verified the last step is to submit the project for human review. The human review was completed the next day without issue. The video was added a few days later. All that’s left now is pressing publish and promoting the project. We pressed publish and posted to Facebook, and Twitter in less then a week we had made half the goal with friends and family and one backer we don’t know. Now comes the harder part. We are out of friends and family and need to find backers we don’t personally know to back the rest of the project. — see the next post for an update on how well that goes.