The "Bruce Finds A Home' Kickstarter is now live - you can check out the page and the video here.
This evening we launched the Kickstarter at Startup Space Dunedin. My speech is below - it gives a bit of an overview of the journey getting to this point. The Kickstarter will be live until 22 June, so this is the first of four installments as I go on my Kickstarter journey. Thanks for following along!
Hi, I’m Kathryn van Beek, also known as Bruce the Cat’s “mum”. Over the years I’ve been in bands, produced plays and written fiction. So I’ve been involved with lots of projects that I would have liked to have gone viral. But in the end, what went viral was my cat.
I found Bruce on a footpath in the rain when he was just one day old. My boss let me work from home a couple of days a week so I could look after him. On the other days I packed a ‘mom bag’ and he was looked after by my friend Kalee, or by Carol, an Otago Polytechnic Vet Nursing student. I made a Facebook page for Bruce so my friends could follow his progress. The next thing I knew, I was in a meeting when one of my colleagues burst in. “Bruce is on the front page of The Herald!” she cried. Soon after he was on The Dodo, then he was on Love Meow… and now he’s got 31,000 fans all over the world. Most of his followers are in New Zealand, The USA, England and Germany, but he also has fans in Austria, Thailand, India, Peru, Japan, Pakistan… you name it.
So I had a curious problem – finally I had a huge audience, but I had no way of really maximising it. Creating a children’s book had never really been on my radar but I’ve always loved writing and drawing, so I decided to write and illustrate a children’s book that’s a fictionalised account of Bruce’s story.
In the book it’s a little girl called Kate who finds the kitten on her way home from school. She has to find out where he belongs before a rainstorm drenches both of them. Her neighbours Miss Conduct, Sir Real and Rev Olding are little help, but Kate and her mum are able to save the day.
Because Bruce has been such a hit on online I’m turning to the internet to get Bruce’s book published. I’m crowd funding through a platform called Kickstarter to raise the funds to print the book. Kickstarter enables Bruce fans to pre-order copies. There are all sorts of other rewards too – including the ability to donate copies to Dunedin’s Animal Rescue Network, a charitable trust dedicated to helping stray and abandoned cats and kittens. You’ll be glad to know that your raffle ticket has put you in the draw to win a candle, not a kitten. (But if you would like a kitten, speak to Sharon.)
I’d like to say a huge thank you to the organisations that have come on board as partners: Royal Canin, Black Cat Interiors, Humanimals, Quick Brown Fox coffee liqueur, Blackcat Educaton, Pet Doors R Us and to principal sponsor Otago Polytechnic. Thank you to the Startup Space for hosting this launch, and to Invercargill Brewery who donated the Pitch Black beer in honour of a certain pitch black cat.
Thanks to Megan Martin for working her magic with the media, to Hayden Parsons who created the amazing video that I’m about to show you, to the kids at Port Chalmers Primary School who helped me develop the story, and to my three expert children’s book consultants Lena, Atticus and Myla.
Thanks also to the Digital Content Coordinators who have helped me bring the Kickstarter to life: Shamintha Kumar, who has contacted pretty much every cat blog under the sun, and Laura Sutherland, who has been creating incredible GIFs and graphics. (Laura also happens to be the CEO of Black Cat Candles.) And of course thank you to my husband Tim who has been on this crazy journey with me for the past year and a half.
Publishing a book this way is an amazing opportunity but it’s also incredibly scary – because Kickstarters are all or nothing. If we don’t reach our target, no one gets charged and we won’t get any funding. If you’d like to pre-order a copy that would be great, but another way you can help is by sharing the link to the Kickstarter campaign, which will be available on Bruce’s Facebook page this evening.
Now I’ll show you our Kickstarter video, and after that we’ll draw the winners of the candles, you can pre-order a book if you’d like to, and I’ll be around to answer your questions over a glass of Pitch Black beer. Thank you.
The last week has been action-packed and I’m sure this week will be too!
I’ve received the final video from ace videographer Hayden Parsons, I’ve finished my Kickstarter profile and submitted it for approval, I’ve done some maths (not my strong point) to work out shipping costs, and I’ve set up Google Analytics for my Kickstarter page - all in between looking after the real life Bruce the Cat, who is currently on antibiotics as he recovers from a suspected rat bite!
My Digital Content Coordinators have been doing great things too. One has contacted pretty much every cat blog under the sun (there are LOTS) about this Kickstarter, and the other created this delightful Mother’s Day GIF which went off on Bruce’s Facebook page and was shared a whopping 328 times.
A late breaking development came via a suggestion about using US instead of NZ currency on my Kickstarter page. That sounds like a sensible course of action (I am guessing the audience for the book will be about 50 / 50 American / New Zealand, and I figure kiwis are more used to using American currency than Americans are to using our currency). So I’ll look into that over the next few days.
Over the next week I’ll be preparing for Wednesday’s launch. I’ll be stamping goodie bags with my paw print stamp, whipping up presentations and figuring out what I’m going to say to the kids at Port Chalmers School when I go and visit them earlier that day. (I went and met them last year as part of their Book Week and it was one of the highlights of my year, so I am really excited about seeing them again.)
Speaking of the launch – you are warmly invited to the official launch party, which is being held at Startup Space from 5pm this Wednesday 24 May. If you can’t make the launch in person look out for it online – I’ll be making a bit of a song and dance about it in cyberspace too.
Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival write-up: Zine Scene, Introduction to Gecko Press, Picturing Words and Wording Pictures, It’s Personal
What a weekend of fan-girling and inspiration! It kicked off at Friday’s Zine Scene where one of my niece’s zines (about a boy trying to hold in a fart) had been shortlisted by Kate De Goldi and Paul Beavis. Although the event was aimed at kids I got heaps out of it too. Paul said, “Work small, work fast and don’t be afraid to throw things out,” and Kate talked about the importance of noting down all those moments you experience and thoughts that come to you and referring back to them for writing ideas later. Paul also told the story of getting Mrs Mo’s Monster published. It took him seven years and involved many, many rejection letters and re-workings. He managed to make this terrifying story funny and inspiring!
Saturday was a glorious Port Chalmers morning, made all the better by Julia Marshall of Gecko Press who gave a talk at Port Chalmers Library. It was wonderful to get better acquainted with Gecko books, which are primarily translations of the best of the world’s non-English books. Julia talked about the difference in tone in tenor of books that come from other countries, including trends towards more ambiguous endings and heavier themes. Julia is a fan of the ‘triple twist’ in a story – neatly illustrated by a deliciously pared-back book about a girl following a line that is being drawn by her older brother. (Gecko is currently running a PledgeMe which you can check out here.)
Then it was into town where I picked up Rants in the Dark by Emily Writes (promptly devoured and already lent to a mum friend) and Can you Tolerate This by Ashleigh Young which I cannot wait to read.
Picturing Words and Wording Pictures featured three writer / illustrators: David Elliot (who happens to live just down the road from me and who was gracious enough to let me visit his studio a while back), Paul Beavis (who had really impressed me at Zine Scene) and Sarah Laing (total goddess). These three giants had some excellent tips to share. Paul talked about 'three' being the magic number. He said you could break almost every spread down into a ‘beginning, middle and end’. He also spoke of the power of using a triangle as a composition device. David said he gets intrigued by characters and keeps drawing them as he develops them. Sometimes the characters hijack his story ideas and he follows them where they want to go. Sarah recommended working in a cinematic style – letting the images tell as much of the story as possible.
Today I went to It’s Personal featuring Adam Dudding, Ashleigh Young, Sarah Laing and Hera Lindsay Bird. Adam said he admired first person journalists and he believes that intimate or quirky details make writing interesting and honest. He also said that divulging some less-than-flattering secrets about yourself can make you feel better about sharing other people’s stories.
Key takeaways for me – keep up the journal work... and consider getting some graphic design training!
There are just two weeks until the ‘Bruce Finds A Home’ Kickstarter begins – and you’re invited to the launch!
You are warmly invited to attend the launch at 5pm Wednesday 24 May at Startup Space, Dunedin (thanks Startup Space!). The launch is being sponsored by Invercargill Brewery, who are providing us with Pitch Black beer (in homage to a certain pitch black cat). You can check out the launch details here.
Postage and packaging
Postage and packaging seems to be the Achilles Heel of many a Kickstarter. Postage costs count towards your Kickstarter goal (eg if someone buys a book for $20 and postage is $4, that $4 counts towards my Kickstarter fundraising total), so it all has to be factored into the budgeting. It gets a bit complicated once you factor in international shipping (a lot of Bruce’s fans are in America, Germany and The UK), but I think I have found my postage box supplier (Quick Brown Box), and the team at Mary Egan Publishing recommended checking out GoSweetSpot for shipping.
I am thrilled to reveal the ‘Bruce Finds A Home’ sponsors:
Premium Sponsor: Otago Polytechnic
Gold Sponsors: Pet Doors R Us, Black Cat Candles
Silver Sponsors: Blackcat Education, Quick Brown Fox, Black Cat Interiors, Humanimals
Bronze Sponsor: Royal Canin
And of course many thanks to Invercargill Brewery who are supporting the Kickstarter launch.
Digital Content Coordinators still smashing it
My Digital Content Coordinators are riding a wave of creativity this week. One’s written a couple of awesome blog posts for Bruce to share, and the other one is working on some Pusheen-inspired animations. I can’t wait to see them!
Giving Bruce’s fans the good stuff
And of course I’ve been trying even harder than usual to provide Bruce’s fans with content they love so they’ll keep coming back to his page and come along on the Kickstarter journey with us. Here’s the latest video – a round-up of Bruce’s cutest photos ever.
They say not to work with children or animals, but I worked with both during the making of my Kickstarter video last weekend and all of them (one cat, two kittens, and four kids of various ages) behaved and performed exceptionally well.
I’m not exactly a natural in front of the camera but for the sake of my (AMAZING) videographer I tried to say my lines with a minimum of self-consciousness and faffing about.
With the exception of one kitten having a little “accident” the shoot went without a hitch and I can’t wait to see the final video in a week or so!
The kittens were courtesy of The Animal Rescue Network, a local charitable trust dedicated to helping stray and abandoned cats and kittens. The Bruce Finds A Home Kickstarter rewards include the opportunity to purchase books to donate to the Network, who can then use them for their own fundraising. With the help of Bruce’s supporters, hopefully I’ll be able to donate a nice big stack of books to the Network to help them care for other kittens in need.
Over the past week my Digital Content Coordinators (formerly known as ‘interns’) have really smashed it out of the park. One DCC has out-of-this world graphic design skills. She’s created a beautiful image of the Kickstarter rewards to include on our profile page, and she’s also made a version of the cover that we’ll use as the basis of a colouring-in competition. Meanwhile, my other DCC has a real writing and marketing bent. She has filled in a gigantic spreadsheet with the names and contact details of blogs that might help us promote the Kickstarter – and now she’s working on a blog post of her own. They are on fire!
As for me, I’ve been feeling a bit tired this week and I’ve had to remind myself that even though I have an epic to-do list, this Kickstarter is a long game (three weeks to go, four weeks of campaign and then the reward fulfilment… and finally a book launch!) so I’ve been trying to balance taking it easy with being productive (haven’t quite nailed it so far though, I must admit).
Over the next week I’ll be organising the launch event and cooking up some Kickstarter promotional activities such as book readings, competitions and giveaways.
I’ll update you next week in my Three Week Kickstarter Countdown post!
Follow my journey here:
5 week Kickstarter countdown
4 week Kickstarter countdown
2023 Burns fellow Kathryn van Beek has an MA from Victoria University Wellington - Te Herenga Waka’s International Institute of Modern Letters. She is a winner of the Mindfood Short Story Competition and the Headland Prize. Her collection of short stories, Pet, is available as a podcast, and her work has also appeared in Overland, takahē, Newsroom, and the Sunday Star-Times. She lives in UNESCO City of Literature Ōtepoti Dunedin with her two rescue cats.