Building a Business, Creativity, Kids Activities, side hustles

I Self-Published a Children’s Book and Used Kickstarter to Fund It.

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With small children, my days are filled with requests to read a book.

Especially before naptime or night time!

As a book lover, perusing bookstores for wonderful children’s stories has been a fun part of parenthood. I hope to instill a love of reading in my children and there’s nothing better than beautiful imagery to stir the imagination.

Do you remember in elementary school getting the little scholastic flyer with books you could order, and you’d get so excited waiting for your order of new books? Ahhh, such a good memory (if you liked reading of course!)

There are some amazing childrens’ books, and I’ve taken to buying independently published books like this incredible book by adventurer and photographer Chris Burkard. Check out his Instagram account, by the way!

Book Cover_front

Truth be told, there’s some shitty ones on my bookshelf as well.  And my kids pull those to read alllllllll of the time. Confession: I catch myself silently promising myself I’ll get rid of them secretly.

As a side note, never be afraid to get rid of the books you don’t like.  The whole point is to actually read to your children and if it’s a book that YOU don’t enjoy, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to read it to them, right?   I learnt this from reading the fabulous book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up.  Shoutout to Marie Kondo!

How I self-published a children’s book (step by step overview.)

There are so many things we can decide to do with our money.  

I’m fascinated by the idea of taking $100 here and there and doing totally unconventional things and seeing where that $100 can take me. In this case, it was $500.

What if you took some money and created a permanent, long-lasting legacy for them, by self-publishing a book just for them?  Honestly, it is such a cool thing to do, regardless of whether you want to sell the book later on.

I personally couldn’t find any beautiful fantasy-inspired children’s books with gorgeous artwork (I grew up loving fantasy stories, mermaids, Pegasus and other magical creatures) so that got me thinking, it would be nice to have one for my daughter.  I also wanted to start a bit of a conversation with my children around core values. There are many childrens books about core values, but I wanted one that was tied with what I want my legacy to be with my children. I think about this alot, as I lost my own Mum a few years ago and we talked about her core values and what she wanted to leave.

We all raise our children hoping to share the truths we’ve come to discover in our time on earth.  What are my core values?

-A beautiful, creative and magical imagination they can tap into and escape to.  I want my children to have a vivid inner world. I believe magic exists if you believe in it.

-A sense of stewardship and love for the natural environments they have the privilege of growing up in.  Our next generation are the caretakers of this earth.

A sense of adventure and playfulness.

-A connection with bravery and courage.  I want both of my children, both male and female to know that courage is being afraid and doing it anyways, and that the greatest rewards & growth come with the greatest challenges.

-The knowledge that they have a deep inner well of innovation and creativity.  I believe this is something no computer, no technology could ever replace, and it is our duty to encourage each generation to tap into their brain’s potential (the human brain is not used to its full potential yet, we have far to go.)

The importance of lifelong learning and the constant pursuit of gathering knowledge and wisdom.

Big stuff, right? I decided to put these into the story.

The project was daunting and in all honesty, I didn’t know where to begin. But it felt right.  And that’s an important point.  

You can have the biggest bucket list in the world but you also need to have an intuitive sense of when the time is right for one of those projects, and the patience to wait if it doesn’t quite feel right.

I thought about this for 2 years before I did it, and felt ready in 2016.  I consider this the biggest check mark off of my maternity leave #2 bucket list (I started it on mat leave #2 and finished it just before mat leave #3.)

HOW TO SKETCH OUT A STORY LINE FOR YOUR SELF-PUBLISHED CHILDREN’S BOOK

I started with sketching out some visual representations of the images I had in my mind for this story (many are based off of recurring dreams I have had since I was a child.)

No jokes, I drew them on a napkin one day at a cafe, I have the photo of that on my Kickstarter campaign home page in one of the very first updates.

FIND AN ARTIST TO TURN YOUR IDEAS INTO PICTURES

I turned to Deviant Art.com, an incredible community of artists, and found a spectacular fantasy artist who took commissioned work and who had a beautiful visual style that matched my vision for the book’s artwork.  Over a number of calls and emails back and forth, we decided on 8 different worlds and renderings for a negotiated price.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO DESIGN AND PRINT A SELF-PUBLISHED CHILDRENS BOOK?

Next, I researched how much it would cost to put the whole thing together and print it, using different size dimensions and options.  I went with a Canadian company to start with, because it felt right to do so for the first edition print which was for my Kickstarter backers, and it was also my first time doing it. Blurb is kind of a one-stop-shop and I just wanted to get it done, so I swallowed the higher cost. It worked out to about $2500 for the graphic design and printing about 50 copies.

On-demand printing seemed to be in the $30-$40 range per book, through blurb.ca (eventually I’ll find a more affordable printer but in the beginning my priority was to just get it done!)

RUN A KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR YOUR CHILDREN’S BOOK 

Obviously, I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around on mat leaves, lol, so I decided to put myself out there and launch a Kickstarter Campaign for my book. My goal amount was to cover the artwork and print about 50 copies for backers.

People ask me, what did you set as kickstarter rewards for a children’s book campaign? I set the reward to be a copy of the book. It was my goal to cover the graphic design and printing with my campaign, which I set at $2000.  I wasn’t in it to make a profit. I was in it to make a book for my daughter and break even on the cost.

I took time to print and read the Kickstarter guides but other than that, didn’t research Kickstarter a lot. I recommend reading as many blogs as you can on how to be successful on Kickstarter because it is a lot of work. You have to hustle, promote, post updates and engage your social media.

I also looked at campaigns for books that I had bought for my kids and studied what they did.  I’m sort of glad I went in there so naive and overly confident.  It’s a lot of work to run a good Kickstarter campaign and children’s books is a saturated market place. Once it got going, I threw myself in with daily updates, sharing of the story and development as it went along. I consistently spent an hour a day working on some facet of the Kickstarter campaign or the back-and-forth design of the book.

The Gates of Kintara Childrens’ Book Kickstarter campaign was successful.  To be honest, you have to hustle hard on Kickstarter and social media to raise funds in time (Kickstarter prefers you stay within a 30-60 day window btw.) . The deadline definitely comes up fast and it’s a bit of a race to the finish line, because Kickstarter works on an all-or-nothing basis. 

You have to meet your stated goal.

I was so grateful for my network of family and friends who were incredibly supportive and generous – they were the primary source of startup funds (95%) with a few random donors  (5%) from the Kickstarter world!

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DEVELOPING THE ARTWORK FOR THE GATES OF KINTARA

The process was very fun, it was probably my favourite part of the whole experience. We’d take each image idea and then the artist would develop the structure (as I sent her the text and my mental image), then we’d set the colours, and then I’d send the text for each image.  It is a surprising amount of work. We had a shared dropbox folder and would number each draft and we had weekly skype calls. We went one image at a time, and I’d say there were 3-4 drafts of each image.

I spent every lunch time at work, over the course of a year working on the book, but what a cool way to spend lunch hour! I’m a big fan of accomplishing goals over your lunch hour.

Here’s an example of the forest world and how we developed it.

In this world, the little girl (who is actually my daughter in this book!) meets a queen who encourages her to take magic (caring for the natural world) back to her earthly life.

Each world is the landscape of recurring dreams I’ve had since I was a child.

FORMATTING AND PRINTING A SELF-PUBLISHED CHILDREN’S BOOK

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This is where things got technical and if I’m being honest, super frustrating because this is where I hit a wall with technical ability. Formatting a children’s book may be fun for some but this was the worst for me, and where I had to get help and sink some money.

I simply couldn’t get the hang of how to use the Blurb Book formatting software or In Design software, and I found the terminology completely foreign. The help guides made no sense to me.

  Not to mention at this stage, I was very pregnant and about to go on maternity leave #3. Man, I was sooooo done at this point.

My brother has graphic design knowledge and saved.the.day with the formatting.  I pretty much sent him the artwork and he managed to get it all into the dimensions and pdf format for printing. I printed my children’s book through Blurb.Ca. This is *not* the cheapest option out there but it worked for me. I just wanted it done. lol.

The thing with blurb is that they offer discount codes of up to 40% so WAIT until one comes out and THEN get to printing your children’s book.  A 40% off code was conveniently released just in time and the second it came out, I jumped on it. 

WITH the code it still cost over $30 per book for about 42 pages and hardcover, so anyone serious about self-publishing and selling printed copies should definitely consider other means, as you simply cannot compete with the children’s book market at those prices. China is where it’s at.

Getting an ISBN for your Children’s Book and Printing a Bar Code (In Canada)

In Canada, you have to register (free) for an ISBN Code (ISBN = International Standard Book Number) and all of it is done through the Government of Canada website for no cost. Simply follow the steps and it is a very quick (less than 2 weeks) process start to finish.  I did this step right before formatting the final book for printing.

You’ll want to put the ISBN on your book cover (I put it on my back cover.)

FORMATTING A CHLDREN’S BOOK FOR KINDLE DIRECT PUBLISHING

Once the hardest part is done (formatting for printing) I had to think about formatting for an E-Book and selling my children’s book on Amazon.

I approached the project as three parts:

1.) Develop the book (1 year)

2.) Get the first edition printed and Kickstarter pledges fulfilled (2 months)

3.) Share the second edition with the world 🙂

THIS IS WHERE I AM AT IN 2019, STEP 3.

What is on my 2019 Checklist?

– Edit a second edition (I am picky and want to edit the fonts and story now that I have read it to my children many times.) I have hired someone from Upwork to do this! I totally recommend hiring someone from Upwork to format your children’s book for Kindle Direct Publishing.

– Find cost-effective printing to make it commercially viable. I am choosing to publish and print through Amazon KDP where you can select royalty amounts.

-I’m going to record a youtube-version of the story with the imagery as just a nice gift to the world. Maybe a podcast episode too once I get the hang of this podcasting thing down!

-List the 2nd edition on Amazon as a paperback and E-Book

So you can see, this has been a journey.

Two years of thinking about writing a children’s book.

One year of writing a children’s book.

Two years break once I self-published my children’s book.

Two months of editing, re-formatting and releasing a second edition of my children’s book on Amazon KDP.

I hope this gives you some inspiration!  You can see it was a labour of love, but it was only an hour over lunch and was a fantastic creative project. There is nothing cooler in the world than getting a knock on your door and a box fresh off the printing press of YOUR OWN BOOK.

YOU can do anything your heart desires and if you approach it the right way, it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to self-publish a children’s book.  I did mine for less than $500 net cost when all was said and done.

I have a beautiful book written for my children now (my daughter loves that it is her in the book!) and a permanent legacy to leave my children.

I put together a very DIY Youtube video about the Gates of Kintara. 🙂 I was still learning iMovie and Youtube at the time, so forgive the novice-like production value, ha ha.

https://youtu.be/XQ_qyhzkzgg

Now go out there and create!

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