In this post I speak to Sophie Masson about Eagle Books crowdfunding campaign for Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff. Coming from a book publishing background, I have a very strong interest in watching authors and independent publishers use crowdfunding. Expect to see more from me on the blog about this particular niche of crowdfunding as it’s set to grow over the coming years!
Eagle Books is the new fiction imprint of Christmas Press. From their site: “We will specialise in fantastic adventure novels for readers 11 and up, and will publish a mix of classic and modern writers, authors of exciting, well-written novels with vivid characters and gripping plots of adventure, whose settings may be historical, contemporary, or fantasy.”
Their crowdfunding campaign running now on Indiegogo is for their launch title. It’s not their first crowdfunding campaign though, so I talked to writer Sophie Masson – one quarter of the collective of creators that launched Christmas Press Picture Books. The others are illustrator David Allan, illustrator/designer Fiona McDonald and writer and editor Beattie Alvarez.
Crowdfundit: What made you decide to crowdfund when you launched your first project for Christmas Press in 2013?
Sophie Masson: We wanted to dip a toe in the water of publishing – to see if there would be any interest in the kinds of titles we were hoping to publish, and so we decided to crowdfund the print run of our launch title, to see how people would react to it. We only did a small print run at first, and the funds we raised paid for 2/3 of the cost of that, plus we had pre-orders and lots of buzz which meant that when we published, that first print run sold out in 6 weeks and so we were able to reprint! That book is still selling steadily, two years down the track.
Crowdfund it: Was the experience of crowdfunding what you expected? Were there elements of it that were harder than you expected?
Masson: We didn’t know what to expect really, that first time – unlike my business partners I had contributed to crowdfunding projects myself before so I knew what they should look like but I’d never organised one before. We researched it pretty thoroughly and decided to go with Indiegogo flexible funding as our project was going ahead anyway and the funds raised would be a help no matter what. Based on my own experience of contributing, we knew that most of the people who’d contribute were likely to be family, friends, fellow writers and illustrators and other contacts in the publishing world, so also knew that aspect of it – having to be the salesperson to your circles of personal and professional networks might not be the easiest thing in the world! We always tried to frame it so that people wouldn’t feel pressured, but gently persuaded! And when people did contribute, we sent personal emails of thanks as well, we didn’t just rely on the generic Indiegogo thanks for your contribution message! Remembering to update regularly too was important.
Crowdfund it: Did you receive any feedback about a new small publisher using crowdfunding – positive or negative?
Masson: All positive – people were intrigued and supportive. There may have been people who thought negative thoughts but if so they didn’t pass them on!
Crowdfund it: You have another campaign – Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff. How have you found crowdfunding the second time around? Are you seeing a new set of supporters, or are people returning to pledge support for your new imprint Eagle Books?
Masson: Though like the first one it is on flexible funding and is a launch title as well (for our new imprint, Eagle Books) this is a different sort of campaign as it’s a new translation of a classic 19th century French adventure novel, instead of a new original text as was the case with our first campaign. So the campaign had to be framed slightly differently, and emphasise the book’s cultural importance as well as its creative appeal. The campaign focuses on the production of the collectible limited edition of the book, so that’s also another aspect that we emphasised. Re the supporters, several of the supporters of our first campaign have also supported this one, but not all – and we have seen a whole new set of supporters too including several from overseas, as Jules Verne is known internationally. Once again we’ve had great support from family, friends and fellow creators, and the book’s translator Stephanie Smee also brought in a fantastic network of contributors, so it wasn’t just us spruiking the campaign! We’ve had some really great support too with publicity and promotion including from official French cultural services, for instance, the French Embassy put it in their quarterly newsletter, and we even had a mention in New York from the French Consul there (they had picked up a mention of it from Publishers’ Weekly). The campaign has also had mention in Books and Publishing, the Sydney Morning Herald, and Good Reading magazine, and has been tweeted by lots of people. Despite this, most of our support has come from people who were approached personally, either by email or personal Facebook message.
Crowdfund it: What would be your advice for a small publisher or independent author thinking about crowdfunding?
Masson: Do your research well ahead of time. Go for flexible funding if you are certain your project will go ahead. Make sure your perks are attractive. Don’t expect too much or even anything much from Facebook or Twitter ads – we have found them pretty much useless in actually attracting support though they supposedly ‘reach’ so many people. Send contributors personal thank you emails. Update with interesting bits and pieces about your project and continue to update even when the campaign is over. And hang on tight, it can be a bit of a rollercoaster!
Thank you Sophie Masson for sharing your experience of crowdfunding as a small publisher!
I’ve supported this campaign, and you can too – look at the campaign on Indiegogo and spread the word.
You can find out more about Christmas Press Picture books on their website, Facebook page or Twitter. Their new imprint adventure fiction for young people imprint Eagle Books can be found online or via their Facebook page.