Monday, January 12, 2015

My Journey to Kickstarter and Self Publishing

Guest Post by Lucy Ravitch

I'm a children's book writer (and mom, blogger--Kids Math Teacher, entrepreneur, wife, Secretary of CBW-LA, and lots of other good stuff)!  After much thought, years of revisions, many conferences, I've made my choice: I'm running a Kickstarter to independently publish my book!  I hope some part of my experience might motivate and inspire you to reach for your goals.

I'm excited do this guest post for the Pen and Ink blog--they are some amazing people and dedicated writers!  Before I go into my story and share my Kickstarter tips/advice/experience (so far), here's my KS video!  If you get a big black space - instead of the video, here is a link to the video on Kickstarter.

First Menu Book Made as College EL Ed Class Assignment 1999
It was a simple format, but has now gone through tones of revisions.

I thought it would be totally fun to have a book like this when I was a kid!

Fast forward 5 years (to 2004), my 3 and 1 year-old kids would play with that book and it gave me the idea that there could be a whole collection of them.

Fast forward to child #3 going to preschool (2009): I finally had a bit more breathing room (AKA time) and I decided to pursue getting the books published.

From then on I've been going to SCBWI events, writing, joining and running critique groups (mostly on-line, since family life made attending regular ones almost impossible--Plus, two more kids came along! Yes, five in total!), helping CBW-LA grow, goal setting, etc.

What I tried to get my book published and how I came to choose Kickstarter.
When I first started writing, I only worked on the Kids Menu Book series. After two years I decided I to work on other writing projects too (it's good to have more than one idea, right?).  So, I thought I love math and I want to help kids like math.  I'll write about math concepts in books--but in a fun hands-on way.  For me, that works.  I'm always impressed with people who can write different genres. During the next three years I wrote/planned out about a dozen math-related books, some picture books and some novelty books.  I can't wait until I get to share them all with you!  I want to help kids enjoy learning (hence my writer business name--Enjoy Learning Something--more commentary on that in this blog post, along with ideas to help the campaign if you're reading this and it's still January 2015)

Over the last 5 years as I've schmoozed, listened to, and learned from and with aspiring writers, published writers, and famous writers, I've noticed a common theme: Don't give up!

You'll hear it everywhere and I'll tell you too! Follow your dream--your passion!  We're in it to make a difference in kids' lives--yes, some monetary compensation would be nice, but we want to share our talents and hope it helps someone somewhere (At least I feel that way. Maybe some books seem pretty out-there, but even those are someone's--someone who took time to create something).  Writing/creating books is an art and, with all art, you will find people that love it or hate it and have feelings about your work along that whole spectrum.  You might notice, the more you do it the better your work is (Thank you revision!--even though we have a love/hate relationship).  Lots of good things take time (unfortunately. Don't we all want things and we want them now?!).

Do what you want to do, what you feel compelled to do, and what you are passionate about.  While it's good to take into consideration what critiques you get, you still need to stay true to what you want your creation to be and become.  It's going to be a LOT of work, but if you love it, you can't give up!

For the longest time I had hopes that Scholastic would be the one to take my menu books.  In December of 2012 I submitted the text and a sample dummy to an editor I met at an OC Editors Day (submission #49). (Note that at this point I didn't have finished drawings since I was not sure if I would be the one illustrating it--they only had simple sketches.)  I got a response four months later which wasn't a rejection.  I was asked to take some things into consideration and re-submit if I wanted.  (Way big grin! What every author wants to hear!)  I happily made revisions I could live with and waited seven month before finding a contact email for the editor.  He quickly replied and researched that my submission had gone to another editor who left on maternity leave, chose to not return, and whose position was open for a few months.  The position was just filled and hopefully the new editor would get to it shortly.  He was sorry for it taking so long.  After another couple months I changed the layout completely for the dummy and wanted to bring it up to Scholastic.

Eventually they did pass.  I was glad to have closure so I could keep on moving forward.

It's hard being an author! I'm not hurt my favorite publisher passed. I was ready to move on and see how else I could get this published.  By this time, April 2014, I had several editors and agents validate my book, saying they thought it was a good idea and such.  Many said they don't rep education things, or "I'm not sure how I'd sell it", so I continued on the stream of rejections.  With the roller coaster or emotions and self-doubts I still felt I couldn't and can't let kids down--they need my book!

In June 2014 I saw LeVar Burton run a Kickstarter for Reading Rainbow (right after I had read an SCBWI Bulletin with an article on crowdfunding) and I was getting the inkling that maybe, just maybe I should do it.  I had also had another writer friend, Sheri Fink, who is so, so happy with her choice to be independently published.  She presented to CBW-LA (Children's Book Writers of Los Angeles--the non-profit writing group I'm part of) just after I decided to take the plunge into going indie with this book series.  I had looked into using Create Space, but I didn't care for the limitations of book size and quality of the print.  So, with this indie, I'm talking about doing it all... buy ISBNs/barcods, format it, work with a printer, handle shipping and distributing (or hire someone), the whole process.  Sheri did it, she's inspiring, and she is loving it!  I know with my family life I might not be able to go to as many events as some other authors, but I'm going to publish it independently.  It's worth a try.

So, from June on I researched IndiGoGo and Kickstarter and I liked Kickstarter better.  I worked on finishing the illustrations (waking up early to draw and using the skills I've learned through blogging to digital manipulate layers and format the pages).

I researched to determine my funding goal, getting quotes from printers (I'm using MCRL), getting shipping/packaging quotes from an indie postal shop (Joe's 24/7 Postal Center in Redondo Beach), hiring a copy editor (Pat at The Language Delegate), hiring a graphic designer from Odesk (Sam) for my logos, and more.

Doing a Kickstarter is a mad dash from the time you launch.  Part of it is luck, lots of it is consistently reminding people, and a good idea/product is key. Not everyone will be willing to support, but having them share it with others is all you can hope for.  Getting the word out there is the hardest part.  We always hear about things going viral, but in reality that is a small percentage.  (Remember, don't get your hopes up--once you put your mind to it and commit to a goal, keep focused on the goal. Trying new things is good, most of the time a learning experience, and if you never try you'll never know what it's like.)

Expect that lots of people you know who have influence (i.e. large mailing lists, lots of supporters, have made a name for themselves) are not willing to promote you because they are scared that if they do, then everyone else will ask them for their support and they will be feel obligated to promote everything.  I'd like to say to them, I get it, but if you truly like an idea/product use a fake name to back a project.  Using Kickstarter is a grassroots plan.  It is going to be a lot (and I mean a LOT) of work--emailing, contacting (call, text, whatever), writing, and probably lots of praying and hoping too.

As a silver lining, there are enjoyable things about planning a Kickstarter:
Brainstorming all the exciting 'additional' items you will offer as rewards! (so proud of my Ultimate Fun Pack)

Coming up with rewards and envisioning people loving your stuff was, and still is, super fun : )
Talking to people about my project that I love is awesome too!

I hope you enjoyed part of my story and adventure.  Best of luck with your writing/projects/etc.  I can't wait to see what the future holds for us! Thanks for your support (and especially if you took the time to read this all--it took quite a while to put together : )

The best way to reach me is using the buttons in the header of my Kids Math Teacher blog.

Wishing you all the best!  Thanks for having me as a guest Pen & Ink blog!

Thank you for guesting, Lucy. If you would like to support Lucy's Kickstarter, here is a link to Lucy's Pledge Page  You can see how she set it up and maybe contribute a dollar or five or . . .

If a hundred readers contributed a dollar each, that would be amazing.
Follow your dreams.


  1. Hi Susan, thanks for posting about Lucy's plans, goals, dreams. I'm so impressed with all she's done. I'm looking at self-publishing a couple of my books, too, so this is great info. I wish her the very best of success and I may just follow her example! Thanks for sharing. Penny Anne Cole (

  2. Thanks for Visiting, Penny. I'm afraid of the self publishing road. Lions and Kobo and ISBN! Oh my.


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