Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today it’s my pleasure to be speaking with Maggie Pajak the writer and mother behind the latest Kickstarter book project, “Jellybeans Morning, Noon, and Night.” Thank you for joining us today Maggie.
Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to get the chance to talk to you about my book. As a mom of boys, I’m usually talking about Nerf guns, Spongebob or Minecraft.
[Laughs] Well I’m normally talking about “My Little Pony” with my daughter so I know what you mean. With a name “Jellybeans” it’s pretty obvious you’re either a candy campaign or a children’s book, would you care to describe your project?
Although the name, “Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night” is a sweet title, the book is more than about candy.
I wrote this book several years ago when my husband was deployed in Iraq. This story was the bribe that got my son to sleep in his own bed at night. Sleep was hard to come by as it was. Having a two year old rolling around all night in your bed didn’t exactly bring a restful night either.
So, to me this book is more than a story about two brother’s love for jellybeans and their plan to get Mom to let them eat them morning noon and night. It is more than a lesson of moderation and letting your kids learn a lesson on their own. To me it brought a few giggle filled moments with my son at the end of some very long and trying days.
As a former marketing director it would seem you already know how to get a book “out there” why come to Kickstarter?
My experience as a marketing director definitely helped me manage the production of the book, working with the editor and illustrator. But I have learned that marketing a children’s book is a lot harder than it seems (on my own), even with my background. Working for a magazine publishing company, it took a whole team of people to accomplish our goals. It also helped that we had budgets and a database to market to as well. I on the other hand am an army of one, which is why I have brought my book to Kickstarter. I need to finance a decent size print run to lower the cost of my book so I can distribute it more. I also need funds to help market the book, expand my reach. One person can only do so much.
As a working father who knows how much stress my wife is under with the kids alone when I’m gone I can barely imagine what it was like with you with your husband gone for months in Iraq! How much was this book a coping tool for your time alone? What suggestions do you have for other mothers in your situation?
When my husband first got home, I thought that we would just forget that we were ever apart and start back up right where we left off. I was wrong. Being apart changed us. There isn't a day that goes by where we don't think about that time.
What I came to realize was that (in our experience) it changed us for the better. Don't misunderstand, the time that my husband spent on deployment was very stressful for all of us, but it made us stronger as a family. That time is not something we should forget, but remember and appreciate.
I guess coming to this realization is what finally motivated me to publish this book ... to celebrate that time we spent apart (if that makes any sense whatsoever) and to remind myself that it is OK to laugh and giggle and have those moments, even though my husband may be away. So, yes it was definitely also very much a coping tool for me AND my son.
What’s the long term plan for this book? Do you just want to publish this one book or do you have more in mind? Are you trying to get the book out into the distribution chain or only online direct sales?
I would love to be able to profitably sell books, both in print and online, that would hopefully allow me to publish other books. I am already in production of my second book, “Elf Under Cover.” I just started blogging (www.ElfUnderCover.com) about the progress of the book. It is currently being illustrated. I also have plans for an app, unrelated to these books. So I do have lots of plans and goals, but how many copies of the books get printed, how many people end up hearing about the books will ultimately be determined by how much funds and/or sales I am able to generate - starting with this Kickstarter campaign.
How different is it writing “down to” a kids level versus just writing as normal? What kind of challenges did you have to overcome just to write this book?
Writing the story was the easy part!
After writing the story, which was about 8 pages typed in length (remember it's a children's book), it needed to be edited. I don't just mean correcting any grammar mistakes, I mean editing the story down in length. Having worked in publishing, I luckily had a friend who agreed to do this for me. Without her (and the help of the illustrator), parents all over the world would be skipping page after page as they read my story to their kids. "And they lived happily ever after ... the end." (You know you've done it before. I know I have. You can admit it).
Editing the story down to fit on 25 scenes (spreads) was quite a grueling process at first. I thought that the illustrator would just find a way to make ALL my words fit onto her illustrated pages.
In reality, I had to find a way to make my words fit on her illustrated page using a lot fewer characters than I had planned. It required re-working and re-editing the manuscript, quite frankly too many times I care to remember (I try to block those memories out).
At the end of the torturing, I mean editing process ... when all of the red pencil marks, the back and forth, the debating on what to keep or the arguing about which way sounds better FINALLY stopped, what I had left was still MY story - just better (and shorter). Even more importantly, I learned a lot about the process of writing and editing a children's book, which is helping me as I venture to self publish my second (Follow the progress of that experience at ElfUnderCover.com).
You show “Before and after” pictures of your kids acting out scenes from the book and then how it shows up as art in the book, but who does the art? Is it all digital or are there physical prints floating out there?
Now this was one the most unexpected lessons learned along this book publishing journey - illustration! I naively thought that the illustrator, Marni Backer, would just draw the scene, scan it into the computer, add my words and the page would be done. WRONG! So so wrong.
Every illustrator is different, but with technology these days an illustrator can do so many things with Photoshop layers. Marni would hand sketch parts of the book, then scan them into the computer, then adjust/enhance them in photoshop, then print and do more sketching over that and so on and so on. Some pages in "Jellybeans Morning, Noon & Night" are made up of over 100 layers. The layers on many pages added depth to the scene or gave me the flexibility to change something if I didn't like it, without having to re-sketch the entire page. (Like I said - I was very naive).
Looking at the before and after images now just makes this journey all the more worthwhile. Look at how far this "idea," this silly "story," has come - from and idea to an AMAZING illustration.
What suggestions do you have for others writing their own books or comics and are thinking of bringing it to the public?
My best advice would be to do it! If writing a book is something that you have always wanted to do, then you should do it. This journey has been so satisfying. My husband, kids and family and friends are all very proud of my accomplishment and so am I.
A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer. How are you engaging your backers? What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on? Interviews? Videos? Stories from the project?
I think the hardest part of running a Kickstarter campaign is asking for help, for pledges. It is definitely outside my comfort zone. But that is the whole idea. The crowdfunding community I am learning really is a community. I have been backing and promoting a few projects (besides my own) and they have been helping to promote (and sometimes back) mine in return. I spent months putting together my SWEET REWARD packages, getting my book reviewed and doing interviews. I also put together a video book trailer that appears on my project page. I have been messaging backers to thank them and to ask them to help spread the word about the book. I have added a BONUS reward if the campaign reaches past the minimum goal. I also have a surprise in the works (but I can’t tell you yet). And of course, I have been blogging at www.JellybeansMorningNoonAndNight.com.
What kind of media attention have you received with your project? How are you spreading the word? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Youtube? Advertising?
My book is # 1 on the KickTraq HOT LIST in the children’s book category. It is also “Popular” in children’s books this week on Kickstarter. I have been tweeting, I feel non-stop, since the campaign launched (@maggie_pajak and @lovejellybeans). I have been posting on Facebook, as well as running Facebook ads and promoting posts trying to get people to fund. I have also been reaching out to local media and messaging Facebook pages that I think would be interested in sharing my story (or the story behind my story), like military and moms. I have been creating personalized image Thank You’s and tweets to those who have backed. I could go on and on here. Running the project has been non-stop, but a ton of fun!
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?
Overall, Kickstarter is a learning process. - no matter how much planning you do. I am daily watching what other campaigns are doing and trying to apply those same successful tactics to my campaign and that would be my best advice - Do your homework and learn from others!
Thank you for spending your time with us! Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?
I’ll just leave you with a KNOCK KNOCK joke:
[Laughs] Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!