The Kickstarter Journey: In Which We Get Funded And Very Overwhelmed

Well, as the title gives away, Peppercorn Mill was 100% funded! I am beyond thrilled and just indescribably grateful to everyone who donated, pledged, reposted the link and told their friends about it. I know I’ve already said it so many times, in person, on social media, via email, etc, but if you’re reading this and you supported Peppercorn Mill - thank you, thank you, thank you. From the deepest crevices of my heart I thank you.

The Kickstarter made August a pretty intense month. I had a constant pit of anxiety in my stomach, and every time I reposted about the book I just kept getting the feeling that I was driving everyone crazy by talking about it all the time. Around the three-week mark we had a significant lull and for a while there it looked like it wasn’t going to get funded, so I was trying hard to make peace with the idea of it not happening, and I started emotionally preparing myself for that and pondering what my next move would be.

As it turned out, I didn’t have think about that because the donations started trickling back in and more and more people joined in to help promote the campaign at the last minute. With just a couple of hours to go, we hit our 100% goal and ended up a few hundred dollars over the goal.


I took the rest of that day off.

But since then I’ve been working hard getting the final layout prepped for printing. A friend very kindly assembled templates for my cover spread and dust jacket, so I’ve been writing back cover blurb copy and the flap copy for the dust jackets and putting it all together in a way that hopefully will look good in print.

Next on the list will be to work out exactly what I need to do in order to fulfil all the other rewards. There are posters and postcards to order, bracelets to make, an audiobook to record.

Lots to do! Best put the kettle on!

Current Kickstarter status: FUNDED. Book is in pre-production. Kettle is ON.
Current mood: Grateful/exhausted.

The Kickstarter Journey: In Which We Launch and Feel All The Emotions

We are LIVE!!

After toiling through this process for so long, writing text for the campaign page, deciding on the reward tiers, pricing things out, and all the other things, actually hitting the launch button gave me such a feeling of relief. And then excitement. And then dread. Oh the dread. I think, after spending so long anticipating the launch, the launch itself transformed all my emotions in almost an instant.

The first thing I did was send the link to my best friend, because she was adamant that she wanted to be the first backer. After that, I posted it on all my regular social media, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram feed and stories. And then I sat there like a lunatic and refreshed the page a few bajillion times. We reached $461 on the first day, from 8 backers. Not bad. I'd read that you're statistically more likely to get 100% funded if you reach 30% funding within the first three days, so while that was a relatively slow day, it wasn't terrible.

Matthew and I have both posted the link several times over the past few days, with varying captions, and varying response rates. One thing that is very obvious is that Facebook response rates dramatically decrease over several postings. So that's going to be it for a while with regards to sharing the link with family and friends. At this point it seems certain that everyone has seen the link, so I don't want to bombard them with it.

So now we've probably exhausted our initial pledges from family and friends, and it's time to try getting word to reach the outside world. I've set up several Facebook ads and will be monitoring them for the next few days to see how they work out. I've also been reaching out to my local bookstores with social media presences to see if they would be willing to share the link (I'm offering them all eBook versions of the book in case they want to check it out first). So far I haven't heard back. The folks over at PrintNinja posted the link on their social media too.

So far I don't believe I've had any backers to whom I had no personal connection. So we'll see.

Here are the questions I'm pondering now:

- I know many people personally who fit the target market, who I know have seen the Kickstarter, but have not pledged. What would make them want to pledge?
      - is it my tiers? Is $25 too much for them to want to spend on a book?
      - is it my campaign page? Is something about the page not clear, not easy enough to understand?
      - is it the actual book? Does it just not look good enough?
      - is it something else that I'm not even realising?

- My Facebook ads are generating clicks, but so far nobody has pledged. What can I do to make my campaign page better?

There's a lot to think about.

Current Kickstarter status: $1054 pledged; 19% funded; 24 backers; 22 days to go.
Current mood: Thoughtful/nervous

The Road to Kickstarter: In Which We Make A Video

I really really really did not want to make a video.

I'll spare you the back story (mostly because there isn't one; I just have horrible stage fright and performance anxiety) and skip to the relevant part.

So at first I thought "I don't need a video, right?" "Not everyone has one, right?", because in Kickstarterland, the video is optional. But in browsing to see how campaigns handled the video aspect, it seemed that actually, everyone does have one and it's a pretty important part of the campaign page. DRATS!

It's not that I hate appearing on camera, I'm just generally a bit rubbish at it. Think of all the times you see English people on film. They're either the evil genius character or the bumbling British doofus character who comes across awkward and clammy. I'm that one.

But in watching everyone else's videos it was striking how much of a personal touch the video added to the campaign. It gives potential backers an insight not just into what they're backing, but who they're backing. Kickstarter projects can be so speculative by nature, given that we're asking people to commit to buying a product before it's even been created. So it seems that the least I could do is to tell people - personally - about the book I've created.

So first, I did what any good Brit-in-Crisis-Mode does - I made a cup of tea. And I sat down on my sofa, took a deep breath, and talked. And I think it turned out... not horrendous. So I'm going to call that a resounding success.

I've added some additional visuals to show some pages of the book, and Matthew is going to add music to it based on the music he's making for the audiobook.

All in all, I think it turned out well. But please enjoy these images from the video, in a series I'm calling: I Hope I Don't Look This Awkward In My Everyday Life


Current launch status: Campaign was submitted for review and accepted. Ready to launch. Putting final touches onto video.

The Road to Kickstarter: In Which It's All About The Money

You might think that, given that Kickstarter is a fund-raising platform, it might have occurred to me earlier than now that I actually had to, you know, think about money. And obviously, I knew it had to happen, but I've truly been so distracted by making sure the actual product is the way I want it to be, that it took me a while to get down and dirty with the numbers.

And let me tell you something, it's HELLA STRESSFUL. I started pricing out all the things I needed, and getting quotes from different sources. For the actual book printing process, I got a few different quotes, and compared print-on-demand vs offset printing. Basically, offset printing allows a more cost-effective print overall, but also requires a larger fee upfront because you're essentially just buying a couple of hundred books outright. Which, yes, is a pretty terrifying thing to consider before you even know how many people want to actually buy your book. Ultimately, offset printing had a lot more options, and I'm really set on printing as environmentally friendly as possible (which does not seem to be an option at all with on-demand printing).

So I found this company called PrintNinja, who have been very friendly and helpful in answering my hundreds of questions, and I decided I will use them to print the books, should my campaign get funded. I ordered a sample box and they sent me a couple of books they've printed for other people, as well as a booklet of paper samples.. I was very pleased with the quality and the range of paper options, and they were able to offer FSC Certified paper and soy-based inks. HUZZAH! Book hippies of the world rejoice!

Anyway, as I add up all the expenses (with the help of my mathematically-inclined husband Matthew) it's totalling considerably more than I first realised, but I guess that's pretty much the Law of Buying Stuff. So I've been wracking my brain trying to figure out how to bring down my funding goal, because I just keep worrying that it seems like such a large amount of money. Realistically, though, I don't think I can reduce it. I'm not doing this to make a profit, after all. I'm basing my funding goal on how much things actually cost. And I suppose I'd rather have a higher goal and be aiming for a finished product I'm really proud of, than having to sacrifice the quality of the book in the name of having a more achievable goal.

I don't know. It's complicated.

But we'll get there soon enough.

Current launch status: Fingers crossed for August 1st or 2nd.
Current mood: Hopeful. Defiant. Distracted by the Billy Joel song that's stuck in my head, finding it hard to concentrate on my spreadsheets.

The Road to Kickstarter: In Which We Put Stuff On The Floor And Question Everything

I think there's as a part in any creative process where the creator steps back and says to themselves "What am I doing?!" For me, that was when I was sitting on the floor surrounded by all the hand-drawn pictures for Peppercorn Mill, with my recently-addended to-do list in my hands, looking at the to-do list item that just says "organise?" and not for the life of me remembering what that meant.

To-do: be clearer with to-do items.

Anyway, the item before the mysterious "organise?" was "confirm images and layout", which is why the pictures were on the floor. I don't consider myself a perfectionist, but I do like things to be the best they can be, especially when it's something I'll be sharing with other people. So I guess what I'm experiencing with the book now is the publishing equivalent of what I like to call 'leaving the house anxiety'. You know the thoughts... Did I leave the stove on? Is the back window closed? Did I unplug my hair straightener? So in the run up to finishing this project, I'm starting to feel the doubt, and I'm having to check and double check to make sure everything is absolutely as it should be.



But, back to the matter at hand. The pictures. All the pictures for Peppercorn Mill were drawn by hand and then edited digitally. The choice to do it this way was pretty obvious for me: I love making art but am not great at free-hand drawing. That's really all there was to it. I knew I wanted something visually striking and unique, so when I started experimenting with illustration styles, the first one I did that jumped out to me was the mouse on the tree branch, in the silhouette style. And something clicked, so I decided to continue with the silhouette idea.

In the story, the mouse sees a rainbow for the very first time, and is so enamoured with it that he begins a life-long search to recreate it somehow. The importance of the colours in the story also needed to be represented in the book, so in the final digital versions there are smatterings of colour throughout that grow as the story develops. For me, the illustrations had to complement and reflect the story without being too detailed - the story of Peppercorn Mill is quite wordy in itself, so I couldn't have the pictures detract from that, but they still needed to fit together.

I'm really excited about the way it turned out. Even though that little voice in the back of my head is saying Is it really done? Is that picture good enough? Are there enough pictures? Why don't you just have a professional illustrator do it for you? Did you unplug your hair straightener? I just have to trust myself on this one.

And whenever that question becomes the age-old all-encompassing existential crisis of "What am I doing?!" I just have to take a breath and remind myself of the truth: I'm doing something I love.

Current launch status: on schedule for August
Current mood: 80% calm. 20% "Did I unplug the hair straightener?"


The Road to Kickstarter: In which we recap and make a to-do list

Background info: I've been working on this children's book for probably the best part of a decade. Not consistently, mind you. But it's been a work-in-progress for a Very Long Time. I've stopped and come back to it more times than I can count. I don't really know why, it's just always been such a tough mountain to climb.

A few years ago I tried submitting it the formal way - the Real Publishing Way. As it turned out, none of the agents or publishers wanted to take it on, though I got some very kind comments, including that my story was "lovely" and "very cute". But apparently, they couldn't publish it.

I ended up illustrating it myself. That was probably the biggest hurdle. I've never done anything like that before, and the planning and execution took much longer than I anticipated.

So that brings us up to the present. I've edited, formatted, edited again, googled a LOT about using Adobe Illustrator, did some more formatting, had to google more to find out how to fix the mistakes I made in Adobe Illustrator... and repeat this sequence about a dozen times.

I am not good at learning new software.

As of now, the test copies of the ebook have gone out for review purposes. I've made a lot of lists. I signed up for a Kickstarter account (and promptly got distracted by all the other great projects on there and ended up backing three others instead of setting up my own - OOPS).

I've been making a to-do list all day and driving myself a little bit crazy as each thing that I think of to add to the list reminds me of even MORE things to add to the list.

So that's the round-up of activity so far. Not a lot has happened, but as I prepare to launch what is probably the longest-running personal project that I've ever completed, I thought maybe it was worth documenting these final steps, if for nobody other than myself.

Current launch status: on schedule for August
Current mood: positive