A huge thank you to everyone who has pledged to children's book Bruce Goes Outside on the Kickstarter page, and to everyone who has shared the link - as of today, we are 50% funded!
That means we're one paw step closer to turning Bruce Goes Outside into a real book.
Pre-order your copy on the Kickstarter page.
Below - check out some of the illustrations from the story.
It’s been a week since my Bruce Finds A Home book Kickstarter began (ok a week and a day... I kind of lost track of time for a while there), and I am already 68% funded! The Kickstarter goes for another three weeks (until 22 June) so I’m feeling quietly confident that I’ll reach my target.
Today I’m going to write about two things that have struck me over the past week – awesomeness and analytics.
First up, awesomeness. I have been absolutely blown away by the amount of support this project has received. It’s had a great reception in the media, with stories on Stuff.co.nz, in the Otago Daily Times, on Dunedin Television, in a cat blog called Katzenworld and in our local community paper the Rothesay News. (Credit for this goes to media maven Megan Martin, who crafted a killer media release. Shout-out to Megan's cat Mouse, who is still getting frisky with a laser pointer at the ripe old age of 13!)
The Kickstarter page has been shared by friends, family, colleagues, fellow writers and Bruce fans all over the world, and it is so nice to know that people are going out of their way to support this project. Thank you everyone – I feel like the luckiest cat lady in the world.
Now for something a bit less awesome but nevertheless interesting… analytics. Kickstarter has analytics you can tap into to find out about your customers, and you can also connect your Kickstarter to google analytics to learn about your site visitors. I found connecting my Kickstarter to google analytics a tad confusing at first, but this blog post soon sorted me out:
A simple guide to using Google Analytics for your Kickstarter
So what have I learned about the people who’ve visited the Bruce Finds A Home Kickstarter page?
Visitors to the page are coming primarily from New Zealand and America (not surprising – we’re based in New Zealand but most of Bruce’s fans are in The States). Although we've got a lot of lovely American backers, the majority of people who are pre-ordering books are currently from New Zealand (I wonder if the cost of shipping to the US is putting some people off).
It’s interesting that there is a very slightly younger skew of people visiting the page, when Bruce has a similar number of fans across most age groups on Facebook. Perhaps some younger people feel that little bit more comfortable using a platform like Kickstarter. I have to admit, it took me a while to get my head around it.
I know some people have had a few technical problems using Kickstarter, and other people have had ideas for different rewards, so I’ve put a comment on my page encouraging would-be backers to get in touch if they have an idea or if they need technical support. Hopefully that will encourage people to make contact - and I always love connecting with Bruce fans.
So that was this week… what about next week? From what I’ve heard, Kickstarters seem to follow this trajectory (see diagram below)... so I’m steeling myself for a nail-biting two weeks of little movement – while of course doing all I can to keep on moving that needle.
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.
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.
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!
I'd like to invite you to come on a crowd-funding journey with me.
On 24 May I'm going to launch a crowd-funding campaign to raise funds for my illustrated children's book Bruce Finds A Home. Over the next five weeks leading up to the campaign, during the four weeks of the campaign itself, and in the weeks afterwards (when I get into the nitty gritty of printing the books and fulfilling rewards) I'll keep you posted with insights and updates.
You're welcome to follow along and hopefully pick up some useful tips about crowd-funding and book publishing along the way.
In today's post I'll explain the rationale behind the decisions I’ve made so far, and fill you in on my secret weapons!
Why not use a traditional publisher?
I’m a writer of short stories that have found a small audience in journals and magazines. When I ended up with a famous internet cat, I suddenly had a much bigger audience – 28, 886 to be precise! Creating a children’s book about my cat Bruce seemed to be a good way to marry my love of writing and illustrating with an in-built audience of people who care about Bruce and feel invested in his story. I wrote the text, completed the illustrations and then looked into traditional publishers. After spending all that time on the story and the pictures, I really wanted to avoid the hassle of the actual publishing! But when I realised it might take a year or more to work my way through my list of traditional publishers, I decided to take matters into my own hands. This isn’t necessarily something I would have done if I didn’t already have an established audience – I feel more confident taking this approach because of Bruce’s existing fan-base.
I looked into self-publishing, but I was convinced that if I published the book myself I’d end up making a mistake somewhere along the line – and I want Bruce Finds A Home to be a quality product. So I was thrilled when I found out about Mary Egan Publishing, which enters into joint venture partnerships with writers. I contacted Mary Egan Publishing with my pitch and heard back from them immediately. It turns out that they were already fans of Bruce on Facebook and could really see the potential for this story. As an added bonus, they are well-versed in crowd-funding and have had considerable success with titles such as Tu Meke Tui and Feel A Little.
Thanks to this partnership I’m getting all the benefits of professional editors, award-winning designers and years of industry experience – but this kind of quality comes at a price. Bruce himself isn’t able to contribute financially to the book (he still owes us $3K for his vet bills!) so I decided to use crowd-funding to cover the book’s production costs.
There are some fantastic crowd-funding platforms in New Zealand, including PledgeMe and Boosted. Internationally, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two of the biggest. I am super keen to try Boosted sometime in the future, but the Boosted platform doesn’t offer rewards – and a key aspect of my Kickstarter is giving people the opportunity to pre-order the book. PledgeMe is also a highly-regarded platform, but because Bruce has an international audience I decided to go with a site that will hopefully already be familiar to more of Bruce’s fans. The research I did indicated that Indiegogo is more geared at tech projects. So that led me to Kickstarter – which also has the advantage of having a large inbuilt audience. What’s the disadvantage of Kickstarter? When it comes to getting your money, it’s all or nothing. So if I don’t reach my target, none of my backers will get charged. That’s great security for them – but nerve-wracking for me!
My secret weapons…
I have three secret weapons up my sleeve: interns, sponsors and resources.
Interns. A couple of weeks ago I realised that it would be way more fun to do this Kickstarter with other people. Not only to help share the load of the work, but also to share in the excitement, the trials and tribulations, and the successes. I put an ad on The Big Idea asking for interns and have since connected with three amazing people who each have unique skills that will be incredibly valuable for this project. In fact, ‘intern’ doesn’t do justice to their skills so we are coming up with new job titles as we speak! I’ll do my best to make sure they each learn kickass marketing, crowd-funding and publishing skills… and that they finish the project with excellent references under their belts.
Sponsors. The research I’ve done tells me that crowd-funding campaigns are exponentially more likely to succeed if they reach 20% of their funding target within the first week. (This is because everyone loves to ‘back a winner’ – so it pays to put your best foot forward.) I’ve put together a sponsorship proposal and I’ve been reaching out to businesses that I think might be interested in supporting the project in exchange for reaching Bruce’s audience. An all-star cast of sponsors have come on board already – hopefully I’ll be able to spill the beans as to who they are in an upcoming post! These amazing businesses are essentially the ‘seed funders’ of the project, and if this we reach target it will be in no small part due to their support. Thank you sponsors!
Resources. The internet is a wonderland of crowd-funding and Kickstarter resources. Many of these can be found on crowd-funding websites themselves:
Reading about what other people have done has also given me some useful insights into planning my own campaign. Here are some blog posts and articles that I’ve found particularly useful:
See you next week in my Four Week Kickstarter Countdown post!
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Kathryn van Beek has a doctorate on the topic of 'writing for positive change', and 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, and she was the 2023 Robert Burns Fellow and Winston Churchill McNeish Fellow. 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.