Self-Publishing Through Crowdfunding: Why I Didn’t Wait For Permission To Publish My First Book by Jed Alexander

Speaking of crowdfunding and Kickstarter, our own Jed Alexander has some experience. I asked him to share his thoughts. Take it away, Jed!


Like many of you, I’d been trying to get a book published for a number of years. I did all the right things. I got Best in Show at my first local Spring Spirit SCBWI conference. Soon after I started getting work from Cricket Magazine. About three years later, I acquired my agent, Abigail Samoun, at then fledgling Red Fox Literary.

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Author/illustrator Jed Alexander

From the beginning, I’d always wanted to be an author/illustrator, and have had one foot planted firmly in both disciplines. I’ve always wanted to make my own books. So as soon as I got my agent, I immediately started submitting my book proposals and dummies. And I immediately started getting rejections.

But book dummies aren’t books. They’re half-formed. Half-finished. For years I’d started project after project and never completed them, a habit I swore I’d break. And here I was doing it again. I understood it was a necessary part of the process, that this was how it was done in the publishing world. But I was tired of waiting for permission. I wanted to make a book.

In SCWBI, we’re always warned against self-publishing. A self-published book won’t be taken seriously by a real publisher. You won’t be able to put it on your resume. And when I told my agent I wanted to publish a book using the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter, she let me know that we shouldn’t consider this my official debut. But for me, it was a question of: How long was I going to wait? At what point was this going to be real? I had just turned 40, and I wasn’t going to wait any longer.

It took months to prepare. I read as much as I could on the subject. I tried to glean as much as I could from successful crowdfunding campaigns. I did as much of my homework as I could until I knew I was absolutely ready. I made my video on my iPhone, editing it with the free software that came with my Mac. I researched the most economical way I could print my book—off-set printing overseas—and got the best prices I could for the T-shirts and posters I would offer as my rewards. I made sure everything was fairly priced.

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School Library Journal said, “…the images feel timeless and classic…The stories have wide appeal, and the limited use of words allows for broad exploration.”

The campaign was a great success. I had almost 300 supporters and raised over $10,000. My project became a Kickstarter Staff Pick, and a Kickstarter Pick of the Day. And eventually, through an old contact, I was able to get Alternative Comics, a small press comics publisher, to agree to put their name on the book and sub-distribute it.

While my book (Mostly) Wordless was, and continues to be, a modest seller, its publication has resulted in other opportunities. I was offered a regular writing gig for the site Pyragraph, I taught a class in crowdfunding for The Children’s Book Academy. And most surprisingly, 16 copies of the book were requested by a member of the Caldecott committee for review. I might not have come even close to getting the award, but now I’m on their radar, and I can’t wait for them to see what else I can do.

So yes, everything they said at SCBWI proved true. The book isn’t taken into account by mainstream publishers when I submit my manuscripts and book dummies. It’s not likely to go further than my modest first printing of a 1000 copies. But I made a book. A book I’m very proud of. And it has readers. And I still get e-mails from parents who have enjoyed the book with their children. It’s even been used by teachers to teach pre-literate kids.

If you’re at all considering self-publishing as an option, think about why you’re doing this in the first place. Do you really want to make a book, or do you simply want to be published? How high do you have to count before your book matters? How many readers? How many dollars? Very few people make a living from making books—even those who have been published by major publishers. So you can’t be in this for the money. And you won’t have readers unless you put your book out there. And with desktop publishing and crowdfunding, publishing is easier than ever. The only permission you need to make a book is your own.


After working for over ten years in the editorial field for such publications as LA Weekly, The Sacramento News and Review and The Santa Cruz Metro, Jed returned to his first love, children’s literature. With this new focus, Jed debuted his portfolio at The 2009 Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators North/Central California conference where he won Best in Show. He has since contributed to Nickelodeon Magazine and Cricket Magazine as both an author and illustrator.

Jed will be teaching a Self-Publishing Through Crowdfunding Course with Mira Reisberg at The Children’s Book Academy (10/24-11/21). He is also currently writing and illustrating a comic strip for SpongeBob Comics. Find out more about Jed at jedalexander.com.

‘Rebel Girls’ Breaks Kickstarter Record

40693-2Looking for a different kind of bedtime story, published in an alternative way? Maybe something middle grade about amazing historical female role models? Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, authors of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, have got you covered!

In this June 2 ‘Publishers Weekly’ article Judith Rosen explores the authors’ motivations, the themes in the new book, and the mind-blowing amount of money they raised on Kickstarter. Hint: Rebel Girls quickly became the most funded children’s book in Kickstarter history. At the time of the article backers were still pouring in, eager to get their hands on the book, which will ship in time for Christmas.


Rosen, Judith. (2016, June 2). Kids’ Book for ‘Rebel Girls’ Makes Crowdfunding History. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/70532-kids-book-for-rebel-girls-makes-crowdfunding-history.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=5a34fcf7d8-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-5a34fcf7d8-305871045.

From the Ground Up: hatching a new picture book publishing company by Elizabeth Siggins

A little more than a year ago today my critique group and I braved the summer conference in LA for the first time. It was INCREDIBLE. We wrote poetry with Kwame Alexander, drew flamingos with Molly Idle, and were inspired in more ways than I can say. Gayle even wrote a piece about it for the Sept/Oct 2015 issue of ACORN. Luckily, we went again this year. I wanted to mark the occasion with this piece because something really special happened the first time we went. And it points to how  important these great gatherings of our tribe can be. One member of our group was so inspired she decided to act on an idea she’d been playing around with—starting her own publishing company. I asked her to start journaling about the process. Below is the first installment. Take it away, Elizabeth!


When the new editor of ACORN asked me if I’d be willing to write a series about starting a new publishing company, I was a little skeptical. What would I call it, I thought. Flying by the seat of your pants? Because the truth is—I am very much figuring this out as I go along.

If you were hoping for a “how to” about starting an independent publishing company, your search continues. But if you want to hear more about the ups and downs of one company’s experience, then I am excited to share this with you.

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Author & Callepitter founder,      Elizabeth Siggins

It all started about a year ago. I had been working on my own picture book manuscripts for about five years. I was getting great feedback about my writing style (voice, tone, character development, etc.) but I kept hearing “This isn’t a picture book.” Or “You should turn this into a middle grade novel.” Most of my stories are about kids dealing with relatively heavy topics—abandonment, racism, childhood trauma—you know, typical picture book stuff. Or not.

Then one day, my brother threw out the idea. “You keep talking about all of these books you wish were out there. Instead of trying to write them yourself, why don’t you start a publishing company?” I laughed.

But I kept thinking about that idea and it started to take on a life of its own. Then, last year, my critique group took a road trip to the SCBWI Conference in Los Angeles. We live in northern California. So we had about twelve hours in a car and several days in a hotel room to do nothing but dream. After that and a couple of very inspiring conversations with Kwame Alexander, I decided to do it. I was going to start an independent picture book publishing company.

Thanks to the good judgment of friends and advisors, I held off the temptation to start with the website. Instead, we needed to focus on some of the behind-the-scenes work. In fact, we are still very much in that development stage.

I can’t wait to tell you more, in upcoming issues, about the formation of Callepitter—a new picture book publishing company. While we are not exclusively anything, we plan, at least initially, to focus on picture books about real world topics (the kinds of things that can be tough to talk about) for slightly older picture book readers (and the adults in their lives). It’s also important to know that our books will be gorgeous.

The name Callepitter was inspired by my son. It’s what he called caterpillars when he was younger. It seemed perfect for what we are trying to do—a kid’s take on the most spectacular transformation that occurs right around us and yet often goes completely unnoticed. Magical, beautiful, and a little bit awkward.

Because picture books are pretty expensive to make, we are still finalizing the business model (an intentionally nontraditional collaboration between publisher and artist/author) and identifying the first books to launch our venture.

That website I wanted to do last summer? It’s finally under construction. More soon….


Elizabeth Siggins is the Founder of Callepitter—a publishing company for books that are magical, beautiful, and a little bit awkward. When she isn’t trying to reform the justice system, messing around with her own picture books, or launching a new business, Elizabeth can probably be found curled in a corner reading with her son. Her passion for picture books is fueled by everything she believes about how art heals and how young people can change the world.

 

 

 

Advice for Painless Assembly Intros

Ever been in front of a gym full of kids, ready to deliver a dynamic and exciting presentation, and had a less than amazing introduction? Do you want (and deserve) a snappy and fantastic introduction that will leave kids (and teachers) on the edge of their seats? Ahh, yes please. So, listen up!

Last month Alexis O’Neill and Janet Wong of SchoolVisitExperts.com shared tips on how to refine the sometimes clunky process of being introduced at assemblies and school visits. With a little effort, organization, and the rest of the article you’ll be on your way!🙂


Alexis O’Neill, “Taking the Pain Out of Assembly Introductions,” SchoolVisitExperts (blog), May 21, 2016, http://schoolvisitexperts.com/taking-the-pain-out-of-assembly-introductions/.

Amazon Store to Open in San Diego

Have you been to the brick and mortar Amazon store in Seattle? If not, don’t worry—it imgreslooks like more opportunities are coming. A new store is set to open in San Diego later this year, according to an unnamed Amazon spokesperson in ‘Amazon Set to Rival NYC Bookstores with Hudson Yards Spot’, a July 3rd article in the New York Post.

The article focuses on the likelihood of another Amazon store opening in New York City’s Hudon Yards shopping area, making it the first on the East Coast, but mentions the San Diego store opening as well.

For more details and the full piece by Jennifer Gould, click here.


Gould, Jennifer. (2016, July 3). Amazon Set to Rival NYC Bookstores with Hudson Yards Spot. Retrieved from: http://nypost.com/2016/07/03/amazon-set-to-rival-nycs-bookstores-with-hudson-yards-spot/.

There’s a New Press in Town

Peeko Press, a publisher of illustrated hardcover storybooks, debuted at BookExpo America in May. According to president Matt Gildea, formerly of Bendon Publishing and Hasbro, Peeko is looking for great content that fosters imagination. Sensing an opportunity? Read the full article by Karen Raugust here.


Mature Topics in Middle Grade

More and more middle grade books are dealing with topics that, in the past, have been reserved for an older audience.

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Author Donna Gephart

“I don’t think there are any taboos anymore,” says David Levithan, v-p, publisher, and editorial director at Scholastic. “But the litmus test for me is whether you contextualize40184-1.JPG something so that a kid understands what’s going on. Some issues are very hard to contextualize for an elementary school level, but it can be done.”

Read Sue Corbett’s May 6th article in Publishers Weekly  for more insight and a deeper examination of the issue.

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Corbett, Sue. (2016, May 6). Middle Grade Books Take on Mature Topics. Retrieved from: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/70304-middle-grade-books-take-on-mature-topics.html?utm_source=Publishers+Weekly&utm_campaign=ad33f89975-UA-15906914-1&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0bb2959cbb-ad33f89975-305871045.

Sneak Peek of Keynotes for LA

Are you ready to sparkle? Get registered (or at least get on the waiting list) and head to LA for TONS of amazing information, inspiration, and FUN!

via Lee Wind at SCBWI: The Blog

SCBWI’s 45th Annual Summer Conference, July 29-Aug 1, 2016, will feature keynotes from these bestselling and award-winning authors and illustrators:

Marie Lu

Sophie Blackall
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Neal Shusterman

Carole Boston Weatherford


Deborah Halverson

 Ellen Hopkins 

Drew Daywalt 
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Jon Klasson

Pam Munoz Ryan

and
Jenni Holm

Registration will go live at scbwi.org on April 19, 10am Pacific Time!

We hope to see you there.

Illustrate and Write On,
Lee

About Lee

About Lee
Completely honored and grateful to be recognized as SCBWI’s 2015 Member of the Year! I work in children’s publishing/media, but I’m not blogging here in that position. Here I’m a kid lit blogger and author, a former co-Regional Advisor for SCBWI Los Angeles, the Captain of Team Blog, and your official SCBWI blogger!

Writing is Like Baseball by Erin Dealey

Confession: I missed SCBWI CA North/Central’s Spring Spirit this year. >SIGH<

As my mother used to say, “I can’t be two places at once.” (Right again, Mom.)

I envisioned you, dear SCBWI pals, sharing good news and sparking your creativity during the always-fabulous Spring Spirit workshops.

Meanwhile, I did my best to share the #kidlit spirit and kick off Independent Book Store Day at Laurel Books in Oakland CA (Thanks Luan Stauss!). That afternoon, I had the honor of speaking to an entire MP Room-full of young authors, grades PreK-8th from 33 schools, at the Oakland Diocese 24th Annual Young Authors Faire, and boy were they proud!

Over 500 students submitted books they had written. Honors and awards were given out in every age category, and covered eight genres. The joy beaming from these kids as they showed their books to their equally proud parents lit up the room. Their excitement mirrored ours, SCBWI pals, as did the question first and foremost on their minds: What do I do now?

I know that look. That question—the one that pops up after a contract is signed (or not), a manuscript critique goes well (or not), a book is launched. So I took the podium and shared a few vignettes about authors from J.K. Rowling to Christopher Paolini, 9-yr-old Alec Greven, and me. Because no matter where our #kidlit paths have taken us, we share several commonalities:

  1. Our parents own small publishing companies. (Just kidding.)
  2. We strive to listen to our muse. That gut feeling. The story that won’t let go.
  3. We write because we cannot NOT write.
  4. No matter whether it’s our first success (or not) or our books are now a theme park (or not), WE KEEP WRITING.

Baseball players don’t quit after they strike out.

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Author Erin Dealey

Nor do they stop after their first home run. (Seriously—writing a children’s book is sort of like baseball: Anyone who’s ever thrown a ball thinks they can coach, right? But I digress…)

Unlike my young author friends, we are so fortunate to
have our SCBWI tribe. Whatever our #kidlit path, our SCBWI community helps us keep going. Because just like in baseball:

You win some,

you lose some,

and some get rained out.

But you always suit up like it was the real thing.

Keep suiting up!


ERIN DEALEY (@ErinDealey—Twitter~Instagram~Pinterest) writes in many genres, from board books to YA, including DECK THE WALLS (Sleeping Bear Press) a kids’-eye view of the holidays. Among her five forthcoming picture books are BABIES COME FROM AIRPORTS (Kane Miller/ 2017), and PETER EASTER FROG (Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Atheneum, 2018). Her first picture books with Atheneum, GOLDIE LOCKS HAS CHICKEN POX, and LITTLE BO PEEP CAN’T GET TO SLEEP have taken her to school visits as far south as Brazil and as far north as Tok, Alaska. Dealey is an experienced K-12 Language Arts/ theater teacher, actor, former Co-RA of CA North/Central, frequent conference presenter, 12×12 faculty, and the social media/ PR Coordinator for East West Literary. She lives in northern California and lasted one full day as an employee at a Pineapple Factory in Hawaii. If you’re still reading this bio (thanks!), check out her FB page WRITE NOW! An Occasional Day in the life of author Erin Dealey and her youtube Writer’s Rap at Writers – Erin Dealey