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Kickstarting a book: an interview with J.M. Frey


Days after the official launch of her picture book (it’s not just for children) Andrea and I sat down with author J.M. Frey to talk about the inspiration, the process, and the funding, of her first picture book: The Dark Lord and the Seamstress.

She also wanted to let GEEKPR0N be the ones to announce her Halloween Colouring Contest!

Not so helpful imps!

Not so helpful imps!

GP: What was the original inspiration for the book?

JM: The idea for this book is 12 years old, 12! That summer I had a mindless job reshelving books in several elementary schools. I’d take breaks and read the Robert Munsch and other books. At the same time I was reading through Lord Byron’s epic poems and bemoaning the fact that no one wrote like that now.

Never one to skip a challenge, she spent one lunch hour writing an epic poem and the Dark Lord and the Seamstress was created.

It’s a story of what makes people attractive to each other, it’s a story of skill, of bad fashion, and of imps!  When asked what her favourite stanza is, she cited:

For it was notorious,
Then although the Dark Lord did well
At snatching souls and cursing Gods,
He couldn’t sew worth Hell.

I liked the word-smithing which that stanza required. Anyway, I shared the poem with some on-line friends. Some asked if I was going to publish it, but who was publishing  epic rhyming poetry? Remember self-publishing was years away from what it is now.

One artist friend sent me a doodle inspired by the poem.  and I loved it!

Twelve years later, that doodle grew into the art for the book done by Jennifer Vendrig.

She hand drew and inked each page, then scanned it and sent the file to me. What surprised me most was the gorgeous cover, again hand drawn and coloured with pencil crayons. I couldn’t have expected that level of detail!

GP: Were there any disagreements between you and the artist?

JM: As I said I’ve known her and her work for over 12 years, and her’s is the style I wanted for the book, even if I had to convince her of it! It was great to help such a talented friend have her first professional job. We had discussions about the style of the borders, and if it would be text then picture or trying to incorporate them both on the page. But no disagreements.

GP: Tell us about the Kickstarter campaign!

JM: The key frustration was that the product was a book. A ten dollar book, so it was hard to convince people to donate more than the value of that. I had to figure out what I could offer that wouldn’t cost too much to make or send, yet encouraged people to donate at a higher level. It was more challenging that I thought.

For one level, I’ll have to do a silly song on YouTube.

GP: When can we see that?

JM: Once this cold is over, I promise!

We talked briefly about her campaign, which had 99 backers and raised over the $5000 goal. The most popular level was the $35 – with the perks of an autographed paperback copy of the book as well as your name in the thank you at the back of the book and a personal tweet.

GP: What about the Challenges of Self-Publishing?

J.M.: *Laughs*Actually it was the placement of the ISBN number. The artwork for the back cover had an important detail where the ISBN traditionally goes. It just wasn’t something we’d thought about.

As it was the first book design project that both myself and my designer had taken on. So there was a learning curve for both the computer program and practical factors. Luckily, we’d earlier decided to the size of the pages, so the art already fit. As I mentioned, the decision to alternate between the two made the interior design a much more straight forward process.

GP: Would you produce another picture book?

J.M.: I would, but it would have to be something different. I’d look for an investor.

Would you use Kickstarter again?

J.M.: Thank god for Potato Salad! That silly campaign and its news coverage make Kickstarter a household name.  What Kickstarter is good for is a form of advertising. I was lucky in that my project was chosen as a “Staff Pick” which meant many more eyes saw my campaign, and even if they didn’t donate, they might remember its existence. This is why I choose Kickstarter over Go Fund Me or Indigogo. So, yes I would use Kickstarter, but not for a book. Mostly because the value of the end product is hard to justify larger donations levels, so there’s a  return on investment disincentive.

Well you have a strong following, wouldn’t your autograph add value?

J.M.: *another laugh* I’m not Neil Gaiman! I have very loyal, very nice, very intelligent fans, and I appreciate it immensely but I don’t have the legion that others do. I don’t think of my autographs of having monetary value. For me, an autograph is more about a moment to look the purchaser in the eye and saying thank you. It’s a moment of connect between the creator and the reader.

A moment of connection, between reader, writer, artist, funder. The center of a perfect storm, the end result is a perfect book.

And if you want to buy the book it’s available at here

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