When I had the idea for Five Little Zombies and Fred, I decided to go the self-publishing route because I wanted to keep full creative control and not wait up to two years for my book to hit the shelves. I was fortunate because I already knew what was required to make this happen — from the first step of coming up with an idea, to the final step of hitting publish on various print and distribution platforms.
In part one of this series, I talked about everything involving the concept of your children’s book. Now, it is time to make your idea a reality.
1. Find an illustrator
Communicate very clearly your expectations for this book. Not only from a visual standpoint, but also a sales standpoint. When I contacted my illustrator Matt Schubbe, whom I have hired for many projects, it helped him immensely that I already had a very clear idea of how I wanted the book to look and feel.
Matt Schubbe’s “Toys in the Attic”
I also had to be honest with him regarding money. The book would need to be finished before we reached the funding stage. If funding was not successful, I had to tell him that he may not get paid for his hard work.
2. Research publishing and distribution platforms
Amazon’s CreateSpace is a very popular print-on-demand publishing and distribution platform. But, beware. If you purchase an ISBN through a print-on-demand publisher, instead of through your federal government, there may be restrictions on how you can republish and distribute your book. In Canada, ISBNs are free. If you are not Canadian, maybe you know a Canadian who would be willing to set up an account and publish your book under their publishing house. CreateSpace is not the only option. Finding all of the avenues for your location requires a lot of research. If you also plan to do an electronic version of your book, Kindle, Kobo and Nook have self-publishing avenues. Smashwords is a great publishing and distribution hub for your eBook.
3. Research crowd-funding platforms
Kickstarter is not the only crowd-funding website. There is a good chance that it is the wrong platform for you. An alternative to Kickstarter is Indiegogo. Indiegogo is great if you do not want to be restricted by geography, an approval process, payment options or an all-or-nothing funding model. Because Indiegogo allows for flexible funding, it is great if you are willing to pay any extra costs out-of-pocket, or if your illustrator is OK with not getting paid if you do not reach your full target. Kickstarter’s only advantage is that it allows for stretched goals and is more widely known. Do the research.
4. Decide on perks, and carefully plan your crowd-funding goal accordingly
This cannot be stressed enough. A lot of people make the mistake of creating a crowd-funding campaign without properly accounting for how much perks will cost to manufacture and ship. The more digital perks you can offer, the more money will go directly into your project. If you are going to offer physical perks, carefully research all the different manufacturing options such as Zazzle, Spreadshirt and CafePress.
Don’t forget to include the price of setting up distribution, paying your illustrator and marketing into your crowd-funding project. Remember crowd-funding is not to be used as a way to make immediate money. That is supposed to come later with sales. Your budget should only include the bare minimum required to get your book into the market.
5. Create a pitch video
It doesn’t matter how goofy or self-conscious you feel about your video, creating a video for your crowd-funding project will attract more backers than using a still-image. It may seem small, but this is probably one of the most important things you will do for your project. I had a strong dislike for my video. But, people loved it. The most frequent compliment I received was the fact that people could tell I was nervous. This made my plea genuine and endearing.
6. Carefully plan your crowd-funding campaign. You need to plan when you are going to give updates – regularly updating your campaign is so very necessary. Any extra videos or gifts need to be created before you launch your campaign. For my campaign, I released a video revealing a percentage of the finished pages from Five Little Zombies and Fred. You should also have a finished book before launching your campaign. If you do decide to fund your project on Kickstarter, you’ll also need to carefully plan your stretched goals. It is also a good idea to create a website for your book.
7. Launch your campaign and broadcast, broadcast, broadcast
I don’t know about you, but I am a terrible self-promoter. For me, this was the most difficult step. Every time I had to broadcast my campaign on social media, I felt as if I had to be extra-Canadian and apologize profusely. Bury those feelings of guilt. Reach out to every contact you have and personally ask them for their help.
8. Hit publish and celebrate!
For Five Little Zombies and Fred to become a reality, it took four months from concept to publication. But, that was only the result of an already established relationship with an illustrator and very careful planning and execution. Your mileage may vary.
If you do decide to use Kickstarter, the above is not fail-safe. However, if you use Indiegogo’s flexible funding model, then your book will be published if you are prepared to pay for part of the project. If you are willing to look at crowd-funding as partial seed money and set your goals accordingly, your book idea will soon become a physical reality.