Learn from the best: How Kickstarter children's book creator Will Mason got his project funded in 24 hours
Q & A with Will Mason, author of The Boy with the Rainbow Heart
I'm in the great position of being in contact with fellow Kickstarter creators in the children's book arena and get to follow their stories as they progress. Well, I have a real treat for you today. One of the readers of my book was able to get his project funded in just 24 hours on the site! Hooray! I thought I should check in with Will Mason about The Boy with the Rainbow Heart to see if he had some other tips he's learned along the way.
1. What do you think has been the most important element in creating a book that gets backed on Kickstarter?
Without question, it is crucial to have a strong social media following before you launch. Make sure that you tell your friends, family, and as many people as possible about what you are trying to accomplish – they are your biggest audience & supporters early on. Without them, if you don’t have an email list or an audience already built – you most likely won’t get funded. Fortunately, I had been talking about my project for months with family and friends – and because of their understanding of my project – we had a great launch day and we were able to hit our goal within 24 hours of our 30 day campaign!
2. Did you do anything special to celebrate your launch?
Yes and no. I went out to dinner with my family the night before launch to remind them that we were launching the next morning and to gently remind them of the importance of their initial shares on facebook and other social media platforms. I wanted them to understand how important their own networks and connections were going to be to my success. After our launch day concluded, all I did was thank everyone on social media NON-STOP. You can never thank your backers enough.
3. Have you noticed anything about HOW your backers are connecting to the idea behind your book?
Yes – I think that was the most surprising part of my campaign. Seeing all of my friends and family sharing my video and posts was one thing – but seeing all of THEIR friends share it as well was very surprising. It showed me that people were very interested in what my project stood for (acceptance and love for all kids – especially LGBTQ children). Most backers were proud to make statements that they support the LGBTQ community – and supporting my project was their way of showing that.
4. What social media channels have inspired the most people?
Without a question, facebook has been the biggest driving force to get backers to my project. That might be because that is the only social media channel where I have a strong following, but nonetheless, that is where the majority of my backers came from. That being said, if you post video or picture on Instagram, you will see a lot of views/likes.
5. Why go on Kickstarter for this book?
Kickstarter allows a platform to connect with the world like no other. It allowed me the opportunity to rally all of my friends and family to believe in something that I also believe in: acceptance and love for all kids. Kickstarter allowed all of my networks to come together in one central area to get behind something to help to make it become a tangible reality. It not only helped fund my book, but it built a network of supporters that are now customers and believes in my book. The backers that have supported my project are now part of the book – forever. Without Kickstarter, this book wouldn’t have happened.
6. What has it been like being a Kickstarter creator for you? Have you been able to connect with others in the Kickstarting children's books community?
It has been an absolute rollercoaster. I didn’t sleep well leading up to the launch, and that certainly didn’t improve once the project was live. It was not uncommon to wake up several times in the middle of the night with anxiety – checking my phone to see if any backers came in and making sure that everything was going okay. It is one of the most stressful experiences that I have gone through – but it is also one of the most rewarding experiences, too. I have been able to connect with people in the children’s book community that I never would have had the opportunity to achieve outside of Kickstarter – and those connections have been invaluable. Would I do it again? Yes, definitely, but not for a while. You will understand after you launch!
We are so thrilled for you, Will! Visit the project (you can still back!) or download your own copy of The Ultimate Guide to Kickstarting Children's Books.
The Ultimate Guide is now on Facebook!
If you've ever tried to make a dream happen, you know that you can use all the support you can get. So last week I started a Facebook Page for The Ultimate Guide, with the hope that would-be creators and children's book writers can convene there to talk about all of the challenges and excitement on the journey of creating a children's book.
The group has about 71 people right now and growing as people find this page. I'm really stoked to see what people are working on there.
Visit the Facebook page and introduce yourself!
Something amazing happened last weekend. My little math picture book, Tessalation!, got added to a global compendium of math picture books called Maths Through Stories.
Forgive me the 's.' The Brits call it "maths," not "math."
After a tweet that got retweeted like a hundred times, I got to thinking about how, when you're writing a children's picture book, you really need to know whose world it is going to chance. You MUST think about the category you are writing in.
Think of it this way: You aren't just writing a picture book. You're writing a bedtime story. Or a math picture book. Or a daddy-daughter bonding picture book. Or an inspirational Go the F*ck to Sleep picture book.
The category matters, not just the age group. You need to know the context where you book has a use. You need to know how it will change a specific child's life in a specific moment.
Knowing what category your book fits in will help you figure out how to find the right readers.
What's your book category, beyond children's picture book?
Ok, I'm going to write about the elephant in the room: Money. Is it worth it to self-publish a children's book, or any children's book, through Kickstarter?
If you read this site often, you know that I had really modest plans for my own Kickstarter book. In the first place, it wasn't going to be a book, and it wasn't going to be on Kickstarter. I just wanted to publish an e-book, get it out in the world in a digital form and get on with my life. Some Kickstarter backers encouraged me to go on the site, and well, here I am, completely changed and with a book that is selling.
Money and creativity are a weird thing. When I wrote the Ultimate Guide I got some kickback from one Kickstarter creator who absolutely did not want me to mention her book anywhere ever, with this project. The idea was that you shouldn't make money off of creative projects.
But here's the truth. Money is part of impact. I am a professional writer working on professional projects. I seek to have an impact on readers and change their lives through my work and to do that, I'd like to sell a few books, sure.
Time is also money. I probably spent six months preparing my Kickstarter launch, time I could have spent contacting influencers or doing other paid work. It's an opportunity cost. So I wrote my guide so that no one else would have to waste the time that I did researching all of this stuff every second of the day. I hope to save people time in this process.
How is my book doing after nine months? I've sold about 700 copies, gotten my first royalty check, connected with people all over the world, got listed in a math stories compendium, taught a TON of people about tessellations, the subject of my book, and will probably have to go into a second printing because I have an order for a math subscription service for a couple hundred books.
Not bad for a little self-published math picture book.
So to answer the question: Can you make money through Kickstarter? I'd say, don't go into it thinking about that. Think about what you're willing to give your project, the best birth into the world possible. If you do that, then yes, there might be rewards down the line that are even more powerful, but can also include, getting paid for your work.
Final judgment: Can you make money through a Kickstarter book? Yes, yes you can. But your project won't work if that's your primary goal. The goal for every creator should be to make the super awesome thing for the people who need the thing and will be changed by it. If you do that, you will probably make money in the process.
Do you have any questions about this process? Post in the comments!
I used to think that everyone had a novel in them. Now I understand that everyone really does have a children's book in them -- a story they have told their children again and again, a book idea they long to see out in the world.
Not everyone is going to make writing children's books a lifelong career. Many people, professional writers and non-professionals alike, just want to explore what they can produce themselves and give it a little life out in the world.
That's why I wrote the Ultimate Guide. I am convinced that crowd-funding is the perfect solution for small projects and the best way to make a dream happen without committing to becoming a full-time children's writer. I have this drive to see more projects with more interesting characters, hooks, writing, illustration and design on Kickstarter in the children's book category and I've committed myself to helping people do it.
Both the Ultimate Guide to Kickstarting Children's Books and the accompanying workbook are now available.
Want to see if crowd-funding is right for your project? Sign up for my free, 5-day E-course in the signup box at the upper right of this blog.
I just added the final version of the workbook to my store. Hooray!
Why do you need it?
Well, it pays to stay focused and to have all of your dreaming and inspiration for your Kickstarter campaign all in one place. That was my own impetus for putting this thing together.
I read a ton of e-books myself, and somehow the actionable items always end up getting highlighted on my Kindle and then forgotten. With this workbook, readers will be able to organize their thoughts and have a devoted space for exploring their ideas around their Kickstarter campaign.
I hope you love it as much as I enjoyed making it!
Get the workbook here.
How do you know whether kickstarting is right for you? How do you actually pull the trigger on your creative work by taking it to Kickstarter.com?
It's hard to know whether you really want to go through the process of Kickstarting a book. I get it. It seems like a lot of work. That's been my motivating for chronicling the experience in this book -- to really break it down into steps so you don't have to feel as overwhelmed as I did.
But for people who are on the fence, I've put together this free course (5 days) that will help give you a sense of whether you're reading to do this.
How do you launch it? Sign up at the upper right of this page. Over the next five days, you'll be getting an email from me that will teach you a little bit about Kickstarter and inspire you to test your idea a bit before you take your project to the crowd.
Easy peasy. By the end of the 5 days, you should have a good idea of whether or not this is something you actually want to do.
To sign up for the 5-day E-Course How to Kickstart a Children's Book, put your email into the form in the upper left corner of this site.
Writers, meet Canva.com. It's a place I only recently discovered, where you can make all kinds of professional graphics using a simple online tool. For Photoshop flunkies like me, it's a godsend. I am already convinced it is going to make creating JPEGs for future campaigns SO much easier.
Since I heard from you all that you want a workbook to go with the E-book I just finished writing, I've been working like a crazy person to put it together. Right now I have about 47 pages of workbook, and have everything in a PDF document ready to go out to my beta readers.
Do you want to beta read both the workbook and the e-book? Sign up for the e-mail in the column to the right.
The workbook will have sections and worksheets to help you brainstorm how to get your campaign out there in the marketplace of creative ideas. It has sections like:
Do you want to beta read? Join the list in the upper right-hand corner of this page.
Last week, I polled some of the subscribers of my email list to see what kind of bonus content to include with the guide I'm writing. (Not on the list? Subscribe in the right-hand corner!). The winner was clear. For those of you interested in Kickstarting a children's book, you want a workbook to go along with it.
I'm really stoked to make it. In fact, I got up early last Saturday and started the thing, and I'm already at p. 44.
This first version will just be a PDF file. I am sending it to everyone who signs up for the newsletter, along with the book I'm writing, The Ultimate Guide to Kickstarting Children's books. My goal is to get at least 100 beta testers for this system, or at least, people who are interested in reading, commenting, or just telling me if it's just plain awful :)
Do you want to beta read The Ultimate Guide to Kickstarting Children's Books and get a free workbook? Get on the list!