Monday, 02 July, 2012
(Read part 1, which deals with the process of creation for Kinds of Blue, and part 2, which deals with pitching, budgeting and crowdfunding.)
Obviously when our crowdfunding campaign reached 100 per cent, I knew that the project was going to go ahead. However, it still took a while for us to prepare everything for print. If this had been our main job, it probably wouldn't have taken as long. But both Bec and Guan were studying and in the midst of exams, and I was looking after an active baby pretty much full-time. So everything had to be fitted into the corners of our time.
The process looked a bit like this:
- Remember Bec had already laid out the entire book. (I think she used Adobe InDesign.) So I then gave her the pre-proofreading changes—stuff I had noticed when she had prepared the draft layout the previous year. Included in this were some other changes that had to be made—for example, additions to my introduction (which hadn't mentioned anything about the crowdfunding campaign and thanking our donors), updated bios for the contributors and the “Where to get help” section.
- When she sent the thing back, I double checked that they had all been done. (This is not a reflection on Bec; it's just standard procedure. Two eyes are always better than one.)
- When I was happy with it, I passed it onto Guan for proofreading. (Three eyes are better than two!)
- During this time, I started the process for getting an ISBN (International Standard Book Number). Obviously for a self-published book, an ISBN wasn't essential. But I wanted our book to have one. (Maybe it was my editorial stubbornness …)
- Somewhere around here I also sent the manuscript in its most up-to-date form to Professor Gordon Parker, who, at the time, was the Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute. He had given us some good feedback on the manuscript during the pitching period, and he had very generously agreed to our request for an endorsement for our back cover (should we find a way to publish Kinds of Blue). However, in order to write that, he needed to see the most up-to-date version that incorporated our changes.
- When the proofreading changes came back from Guan, I sent them to Bec, along with further changes that had come up in the interim, Gordon Parker's endorsement and the ISBN number. (Bec produced the barcode herself though because she had a program that could do it.) Again, I double checked everything when she sent it back. We went through this process a couple of times just to make sure everything was perfect.
- Then when I signed off on it, Bec produced print-ready files according to Whirlwind's specifications.
- I booked the job in with Whirlwind, confirming that the quote I had received was still good. (Actually, it was the revised quote for the larger quantity.) I specified my preferred delivery date, which Whirlwind were able to meet, and then they told me where to upload the files.
- Once they had received the files, their designer went through and checked everything, making a few changes that suited their processes. I don't quite understand this bit, but I do know that he made some of the blacks blacker and he identified one or two problems that we hadn't picked up (e.g. missing captions), which meant that poor Bec had to generate new files.
- Once both Bec and I were happy with the online art proof that Whirlwind sent us, we told them to proceed with the printing. I then went back and amended the website with the changes we had made to the book. Bec also sent me a revised PDF that we used for the e-book.
- Then the books arrived!
Here's the three of us celebrating (pic taken on Bec's phone):
Marketing and distribution
Of course, having a physical book in our hands wasn't the end of the story; we still had to get it into other people's hands.
I should note that at this point that marketing and distribution are not my strengths. I do my best, but I'm aware of how unsuited I am to the task. Furthermore, I'm sure there's a lot more we could have done to reach new audiences with Kinds of Blue, but we all have limitations on our time and energy, and sometimes it can feel like the task of marketing could easily balloon to fill whatever space you gave over to it. Because I want to get other creative projects done, I haven't devoted as much time to marketing and distribution as I probably could. That's my choice though; I acknowledge I can't do everything!
Anyways, onto talking about what I wanted to talk about in this section.
The first thing we did was a giant mailout to all the donors of the crowdfunding campaign. This involved:
- Downloading the names and addresses of all the donors who had specified print copies of the book in their reward tier. Pozible didn't have an automatic export addresses function, but one of their founders (Rick, I think) generated a CSV file with the data for me very quickly, which made things much much easier. Even so, there were people who didn't provide their mailing address (perhaps because of privacy reasons), which means that we had to chase them. (This is after we had sent several emails asking people to provide their addresses.) Even now we still have a couple of donors who haven't received books because we don't have their address details and they have not responded to our messages requesting them.
- Working out postage costs with Australia Post for single copies (domestic and international) and multiple copies (domestic and international).
- Purchasing satchels and registering with Click and Send, which we thought would streamline the process. The frustrating thing was that even though we ordered the satchels way ahead of time, we couldn't start generating the mailing labels that showed that postage had been paid for until the satchels arrived. We were doing this in the week leading up to the launch so that everyone would receive their books at the same time, and I was really worried that the satchels wouldn't arrive in time to do the mailout. (It's worth noting that to make this mailout happen, I arranged a day for Bec to come over and help me [Guan unfortunately wasn't free], as well as Mary and her little girl, and later, Annelise and Moses, to help watch Astrid while we did everything in my lounge room.)
- Once we had registered with Click and Send, I had to find a way of getting all those mailing addresses into their system. This meant tweaking the CSV file so that it could be imported, and then checking every single address after the import was done. (This was for local people only; I had to do all international addresses separately.) I forget how many addresses that entailed. To complicate matters further, I also had to account for the all complimentary copies we were sending out (these went to all the contributors who worked on the book, but there were also a few I sent to people to say thank you for various things, e.g. Professor Gordon Parker).
- Purchasing all the stuff we would need for the mailout—bubble wrap, tape, photo paper to print the bookmarks on (as at this stage, we didn't have those promotional postcards).
- Acquiring a post office box for any returns as I didn't want everyone to know my home address.
Then on mailout day, Bec and I wrapped all the books in their various quantities in bubble wrap (we also threw in a bookmark or two), generated mailing labels in batches (domestic for single books and domestic for multiple books, which you could do by weight on Click and Send. However, parcels to be shipped internationally had to be taken to the post office as they were going to multiple locations all over the world), applied the mailing labels and wrote the return PO Box address on the back. Part-way through the day, things looked like this:
Fortunately we finished sooner than I expected. And Bec very kindly took all the parcels away for mailing. This is what the back of her car looked like by the end:
Then there was the launch. I won't spend too long talking about that, but basically the following had to be organised for that:
- A date: This had to work with our chosen launch venue (Maynard's Café in BerkelouW Newtown, which I chose for sentimental reasons [it's the place where Bec, Guan and I meet to write, and most of Kinds of Blue was written there]) as well as with Greg Clarke (who I wanted to launch the book as he has been something of a mentor to me writing-wise), Bec, Guan and various family members. (I decided that to make the whole thing work, I really needed the grandparents on board as I wanted Astrid to attend the launch, and they were all away during September.) Fortunately Monday 17th October 2011 worked well for everyone. And as a bonus, a large number of the contributors, who had never been in the same room before, were able to make that date too.
- A launch-er (Greg, as I said above).
- Catering: We decided to cater it ourselves. My friend Georgina pointed out that it could be done if we asked 10 people to bring something that could be divided into at least 15 pieces each. This was because our chosen venue wouldn't have held more than 120 people. For drinks, we bought ice, water, juice and soft drink, as well as plastic cups (and napkins for the food). We had been thinking of providing wine (as some thought that a book launch wasn't the same without some wine), but the cost of the venue and public liability insurance ruled that out. The plus side was that we didn't have to worry about having someone on hand to serve it who had their RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol) certificate. In the end, we had a very decent spread and quite a lot of leftovers!
- Music: the café let us plug in an iPod with a playlist I created for it. They also had a microphone and PA system we could use.
- A sales point with two volunteers (George and Elsie) who could take care of selling books all evening (so Bec, Guan and I didn't have to). For that, we had receipt books, a float (so we could give change), print copies (obviously), a sign and some promotional materials that people could flip through (e.g. a nice table cloth underneath, a folder full of process art, more bookmarks). People who told us they were attending the launch could also pick up their copies from this table.
- Advertising for the launch, which we did through our Pozible donors list, our mailing list, Facebook, Twitter and word of mouth. We were really touched by the number of people who showed up; we packed the place out!
- An MC (Guan)
- A photographer (Bec), and you can see all the lovely photos she took
- A launch speech from me
- A program for the evening—which basically looked like this:
- Guan as MC would give a brief welcome and then introduce Greg
- Greg would give a speech (about 10 minutes long) and then launch the book
- I would then give a speech (which was also about 10 minutes long)
- Guan would wrap things up.
The launch went wonderfully well. I felt really out of it the entire evening, so I was so grateful for Bec and Guan who handled event management on the night and liaised with the staff, as well as to all the people who helped with catering and all the people who came to support us. All I had to do was turn up (bringing a few things) and do my speech. It meant that I could really enjoy the night—talk to people, meet new people and so on.
Oh, and we got a group photo of all the collaborators who were able to make it, which was hugely cool as we had never been in the same room before and most of them had never met each other:
In addition, as a surprise gift, Bec bought this framed print for me and got as many contributors as she could to write messages on the back. She said that when she saw it, she felt like it was very very “me” (because it says “Invite everyone who cares to work on what's possible”). She and Guan presented it to me after my speech and I was very touched. It's now the first thing you see when you walk into our place:
I can't remember if I did this before the launch; I think I did. I converted the website into a selling point instead of a fundraising thing. This meant:
- Getting the e-book (in PDF form) from Bec and uploading it
- Registering with PayPal
- Working out how to use PayPal's code and buttons on our site for the different “products” we were selling—i.e.
Fortunately we didn't need to install shopping cart software because what we had wasn't very complicated.
- e-book (in PDF form)
- print copy (shipped to Australian addresses)
- print copy (shipped to international addresses)
- Adding a link to the sale page on each page of the site
- Checking to see that the whole thing worked!
Other things we did to market and distribute the book included:
- Making and printing promotional postcards (which, as I said, we should have done earlier, but never mind)
We gave these out at every opportunity. If I was speaking at an event (like Pozible's “Let's Talk Crowdfunding” information evening), I would bring a stack to give out to audience members. I've even started carrying them in my purse because often opportunities will come up to give them to people.
- Having a sales table at Moore College during morning tea (as Bec and Guan were studying there at the time)
- Having a table in Artists Alley at Supanova Melbourne and Sydney. (We will have one in Brisbane in November too.) We also tweeted about the book using the Supanova hashtag during the two weekends so people knew we were around. We feel very privileged that our budget allows us to do things like this as it means that we get to reach out to a different kind of audience in three major Australian capital cities.
- Plugging the book on Kapow!, the comic book review show (which I heard about thanks to Tim McEwan, who I feel is the hub of all that is Australian and comics-related)
It's also worth noting that sometimes things happened that did not originate from us that still generated sales (for example, RUOK? linked to us on their Facebook page, which brought us a lot of traffic and some interesting feedback). This was wonderful as it brought in readers we would not have normally reached through the channels we had access to.
As I said earlier, there are a lot of other things we could have done. But there are only so many hours in the day and only so much energy I can devote to doing this. And as I said before, I have other creative projects I want to work on, and in my mind, those take priority.
At this point, of the 600 copies we printed, we only have about 100 left, which is pretty good, in my humble opinion. (Please note that not all of those were sales: some were complimentary copies to contributors and various friends of the project.) If and when we manage to move those last copies, we will not reprint as that's an expensive process that doesn't really have a waiting market. Instead, Kinds of Blue will live on digitally. We have started the process of investigating e-book conversion through Graphicly, who say on their website they can do the panel-to-panel transitions that make the Comixology app such a pleasure to use. I'm not sure how things will go with Graphicly, but if things work out, it will be interesting to see how Kinds of Blue fares in e-book markets, and whether we will see any revenue from that stream.
Speaking of revenue, I mentioned in part 1 that I asked all the collaborators to work for free and that they were quite willing to do so. But since we were able to raise our print and launch costs through crowdfunding and generate sales as a result, I've actually been able to pay all the collaborators something for their work. The amount is not as much as professional rates (from what I can gather about professional rates—see for example what the Australian Society of Authors says on the subject), but it's at least something. And I know that some of the collaborators have picked up further work through exposure in Kinds of Blue.
Overall, I'm really thankful for my experience on Kinds of Blue. It's taught me heaps—heaps about collaboration, editing, the process of making a book, crowdfunding, budgeting, and so on. It's made me appreciate the work of those in the publishing industry so much more. It's also helped me to understand how the publishing landscape is changing. I understand some of the advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing, and how they correlate with the advantages and disadvantages of working with an established publisher. I may self-publish again one day (and it could be that if I do, the terrain will look completely different). I may not. But at least I'll be going into the venture with my eyes wide open.
/Karen/ had a thought at 10:52 PM
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