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.
I’ve written a children’s book, illustrated it, decided to run a Kickstarter to fund the book’s production through Mary Egan Publishers, and even got some seed funding confirmed. Now what?
Over the last week I’ve been determining crowd funding rewards for backers, planning this weekend’s Kickstarter video shoot, and getting tricky with Trello (and other project management tools).
The most common reward is usually the product itself. Backing the Bruce Finds A Home Kickstarter will enable people to pre-order the books. Some creators also offer merchandise (bookmarks, t-shirts, plush toys), but the blogs I’ve read have advised against setting rewards that are expensive to post. So along with books and a few flat things (magnets, stickers, cards) I’m offering digital rewards (such as the opportunity to get a custom video of me and Bruce reading the story just to you), signed and ‘pawtographed’ books, and the chance for people who might not want the book themselves (but still want to support the project) to donate a book to Dunedin’s Animal Rescue Network.
Other advice I’ve gleaned is to offer a range of rewards at different price points, and to include a custom image of the rewards that’s a more visually appealing than the default Kickstarter reward list. My fabulous Digital Coordinator is whipping up a gorgeous rewards image as we speak!
Here are what other people have to say about determining rewards:
Optimising rewards and perks
Choosing rewards for your crowdfunding project
9 habits of highly effective Kickstarter rewards
This weekend we’re shooting our Kickstarter video! Crowdfunding projects with videos on their pages are more likely to succeed, so most people view making a pitch video as a key part of the process. Over the past few months I have watched a LOT of Kickstarter videos. The videos that work are the ones that are personal, have decent sound quality, keep things snappy, and clearly explain what the project is about.
When it came to writing my script I choose a video I liked and used it as a template to help me get started. It’s morphed a lot since then because I’ve added quotes, kids… and of course, cats! Luckily I know an amazing videographer who’s kindly agreed to create the video for me. (In return, my husband and I are helping him paint his kitchen cabinets!) There will be both children and animals in the video… so I’ll let you know how filming went in next week’s post!
Here’s what other people say about crowdfunding videos:
5 must-read tips for your first Kickstarter video
How to make an awesome video
Project management tools
Knowing that I’m the kind of person who writes things on bits of paper and then loses them, and that I wanted to be able to collaborate with people living in different cities, I needed to find online project management tools. I’ve gone with using Trello for writing up all my tasks and assigning them to people (Planner, part of the Office 365 suite, is also good for this). I’m also using DropBox (OneDrive in Office 365) for sharing files. These tools seem to be working out pretty well so far.
See you next week in my Three Week Kickstarter Countdown post!
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.