I think I might be the luckiest writer in the world - I have not one but TWO books coming out this August!
Pet is a dark and humorous short story collection that explores our relationships with children, lovers, and other animals. In these 18 stories we meet a girl in a standoff with the neighbourhood goose killer, a druggy who turns possums into pop culture icons, and an emotional support animal gone wild.
Visit Goodreads to learn more.
Bruce Goes Outside
Kate’s tiny kitten wants to go outside. He struggles with the cat flap, annoys a bird . . . and ends up on the wrong side of the fence. What will Kate do? Bruce Goes Outside follows on from Bruce Finds A Home, which is based on the true story of Bruce the Cat.
Visit Goodreads to learn more.
I wrote and illustrated both of these books, which have both been labours of love. Bruce Goes Outside took me about two years to finish ... and Pet took a few more years than that! I hope you enjoy them.
Pre-orders will be available soon ... watch this space!
Thank you so much to everyone who came along to the Auckland book launch for Bruce Finds A Home - and to everyone who helped me organise it. An extra big thank you to the lovely ladies at The Dorothy Butler Book Shop who made the experience so special.
I'm looking forward to the Dunedin book launch this Saturday 17 February at the University Book Shop from 10.30am. All welcome!
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'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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I'm looking for an intern to help out on the Bruce Finds A Home Kickstarter project. You can find the job ad below and listed on The Big Idea. Please get in touch if you'd like to find out more... or share the ad with anyone you know who is looking to gain marketing or publishing experience.
This will suit someone who wants to develop their creative, entrepreneurship, publishing, marketing or business skills.
You will work for 2 - 4 hours per week during April and May. Your responsibilities will include creating content for social media, liaising with bloggers, and some administrative tasks. You will be enthusiastic, creative and have excellent attention to detail. Ideally, you will have good written skills, a good eye for design... and like cats!
This is an unpaid role, but it's a genuine networking and learning opportunity. You will learn about book publishing and about running crowd-funding campaigns. You will have access to all the crowd-funding and publishing details (eg budgets, timelines, web analytics) which you can later apply to your own projects. You will also receive written and verbal references. Other benefits can be worked through with the successful applicant.
This is a Dunedin-based opportunity, however it should be possible to work on this project remotely. So if you're interested but live elsewhere, please get in touch and we can discuss options.
Mama mia - I'm going to the Bologna Children's Book Fair!
The Dunedin City of Literature has a stand at the fair and the information sheets about my children's picture book will be on display! I've been head-down finishing the cover of the book over the past week, so the enormity of this opportunity is only just sinking in now.
I won't be at the fair in person (I'll still be in the best town - Port Chalmers - of the best little city - Dunedin - in the world) but it's so exciting to think of my illustrations being in Italy... and possibly even catching the eye of a children's book aficionado while they're there.
This is the evolution of the children's book cover I've been working on over the past week. I hope you like it!
I'm mocking up potential covers for my children's book, Bruce Finds A Home, which is based on the true story of how I found my famous cat. I'm going to whittle these down a bit more and hopefully a front-runner will emerge... Let me know if any of them are jumping out to you!
The National Writers Forum
17 – 18 September
University of Auckland Business School
I arrived at the inaugural National Writers Forum (NWF) with a sheath of beautifully printed pitch documents and visions of pressing them into the open hands of delighted publishers.
By the end of the first session I knew I would be doing no such thing – but I also knew I was in for an enriching, enlightening two days. The NWF had a practical focus on improving your writing, placing your writing, building your reputation and finding an audience. A collegial tone was set by keynote speaker Chris Cleave (UK), who spoke of the importance of storytelling and supportiveness in our turbulent times. (You can read Chris’s full speech here. It’s well worth your time.)
During most time slots there was a choice of three different sessions. I’m currently finishing the illustrations for a children’s picture book I’ve written, so I choose the sessions that related to publishing. I wanted to find out more about how to pitch to traditional publishers, and how to self-publish. Below are the key messages I took away from the sessions I attended.
The Perfect Pitch
Melanie Laville-Moore (Allen & Unwin), Duncan Greive (The Spinoff), Kevin Chapman (Upstart Press), Harriet Allan (Penguin Random House), Scott Pack (Unbound).
Copyright and Contacts
The Future of Publishing
Scott Pack (Unbound), Dominic Hoey (Boosted)
Publishing 101: Making a book
Kalee Jackson (Kalee Jackson Design), Karen McMillan (Publicity), Malcolm Nell (Kobo), Martin Taylor (digitalpublishing101.com), Jenna Todd (Time Out Bookstore)
Elizabeth Heritage, Publicist
Support, sustain, survive
Siobhan Harvey (Writer), Malcolm Nell (Kobo), Anne O’Brien (Auckland Writers Festival Director), Rachel Jean (South Pacific Pictures)
I wish I knew when I didn’t know…
Patricia Grace, Stephen Daisley, Kate Pullinger, Chris Cleave, Paula Morris
Along with these notes I also took away new ideas, new confidence and new friendships. The NWF was superbly well-organised and well worth the time and money.
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.