Road to Kickstarter Part 5: Making a Childrens’ Book With My Daughter and Funding It Through Kickstarter

Reading Time: 8 minutes
How to Make a Chidren's Book and Fund it Through Kickstarter
Copyright 2017 Claire Jennings

Alright, have you ever had a moment where your kid brings it all home for you?

I was going to write today about the video creation training I have given myself over the last week, but that can wait. Instead, I want to go back to why I am doing this, and how I have to make sure I do it right. You see, last night, my girl reminded me why I am funding a childrens’ book on Kickstarter and who made this book.

The Making of the Children’s Book

You see, this is not my project, this is my daughter’s project, which it has been my great honor to help her with. This is a point she brought home to me last night as we were talking last night with a single question. “When can I help?” Four simple words. Followed by “I can read the book to people, I will have to practice.” Girl, way to bring it home. Don’t get lost in the mechanics, remember the heart. Okay, I can do this.

While this doesn’t change what I need to do to make her dream a reality, it does put the things I have to administer in perspective, and informs the decisions I make along the way.

Going back to the beginning.

This all started in December 2015, when I decided to bring Hour of Code into my girl’s Montessori preschool class with two books and two activities. For one activity, which I sanely decided was child’s play, was the most basic language of computers. You see, I had gotten the book A Robot Story by Lisa Seacat DeLuca, which counts from zero to ten in binary.  But I had to come up with an activity for the kids, something that might really help them understand that computers speak a language, and to start to understand that language. I came up with a binary counter.

Binary Counter
Binary Counter set to five. Copyright 2017 by Claire Jennings

It turns out kids understand binary much easier than untrained adults do. And they readily accept that computers can talk with these ones and zeros. With the binary counter, these four simple rules were all the preschoolers who could count to fifteen needed:

  1. Computers talk in their own language, called binary.
  2. In binary, everything can either be a zero or a one.
  3. To find the binary number, you count robots above the ones.
  4. Can anyone tell me the binary number for two (and continue until they are good)?

The kids got it, they took it home, and parents thanked me. That would have been the end of it if my daughter hadn’t wanted more.

Can you please fix this book?

I am sure Samantha had an advantage, having me show her how the binary counter works one on one before the lesson, but she really took to it. At this point, my girl got her counter out, then she got her copy of A Robot Story out. She reads through the story, flipping the binary counter to each number as she goes. She gets to ten. Then she looks at the counter, and back at the book.

“Mommy, A Robot Story is broken. You can count up to fifteen, and the book only goes ten. Can you please make a new book that fixes it?”

I just want to pause here for a moment celebrate how absolutely wonderful it is that at four, her first reaction to something she didn’t like was to look into making a book. She believes anything is possible, I have succeeded!

Okay, back to our project. I assure you, I could not say no to that perfect, innocent, wonderful request. I doubt anyone could. Someone else can teach her about the impossible. Here, I had a chance to teach her about the magic of belief in possibility.

A book was born.

It is with the goal of making my daughter happy that I sat down in early 2016, and started writing a simple counting story about robots. With a rough text written out, I then shared it with Samantha and did a draft of a picture. Every night for several months, we sat together with paper at first, and then on the computer, as we put together draft one of a book, 15 Robots Launch a Rocket Ship, 1111 Robots.

Current Greyscale View of a page. Copyright 2017 Claire Jennings

On my own, I flushed out the words, but Samantha owned the pictures, the colors, and actions. As we worked, I started teaching her tricks like going to grayscale to see if your pictures had good contrast, and how can you make fifteen some things different and the same.

Samantha wanted the book simple at first, and several people have suggested I have a professional illustrator take a crack at the images. That is something I cannot do, I would rather have a single book Samantha loved and the world rejected than take her dream, and her hard work, from her.

The imagination of a four-year-old.

One time, she saw the in-between of a robot, with no eyes and three arms. It was a split section as I was trying to get the robot from where it was to where she wanted it as she watched. This time, for some reason, she decided that was her favorite robot. With that Rose was born, which is currently in the first few pages of the book. I am so glad I trusted my child to the artistic vision so that it would be something that can come only from the mind of a child.

Samantha's Rose
Samantha’s Rose. Copyright 2017 by Claire Jennings

My girl is a ballerina, a dancer of multiple styles, and a performer. We had this little story, that was very structured, and when reading it, it almost followed a pattern. With this in mind, I decided to put it to music. Samantha would love to sing a song with it, as she loves any chance to perform. With some research on public domain music and a few changes to the words, we came up with a song singable to ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall.

With a basic book, Samantha happily read it on my computer and loved her book. And that was it for a year.

Time to share with the world.

When kindergarten starter, I decided to step up the computer lessons in Samantha’s class with regular lessons with the help of code.org. Even with the great lessons from code.org, I always included a book to read. When we got to loops, I brought in the binary counter again, this time with Samantha’s book. After all, counting up is a loop of +1 over and over again. Samantha loved it and revisited the book she had worked so hard on.

There are a number of changes she wants to make. For example, she wants Rose to appear on every page, but not inside the rocket ship. She wants to make the book a bit less visually simple and streamlined, a little bit more visually interesting. At the same time, people who saw the book liked it even without these enhancements. They want to see it come alive and be available for people to buy.

Book and Counter
The book and counter before Samantha’s latest change requests. Copyright 2017 by Claire Jennings

Samantha is all for this and wants to have a booth in front of the library to share the book. I will check with Samantha’s librarian about us doing a book reading at the library, but maybe I can help her reach more people with a Kickstarter. Just like the book helping her to learn about the writing and design of a picture book, I now have the opportunity to share with Samantha the process of selling a book, and everything that comes with that.

Kickstarting the Childrens’ Book

I hesitate to bring a kid’s project to Kickstarter, as I have seen some half done kids’ projects quickly put up by their parents for a quick buck. The last thing I want to do is take this wonderful project Samantha and I have created together, and cheapen it for her. I need to make good decisions for the Kickstarter, but I need to include her.

“Can I help?”

Why yes, Samantha, you can help, as you have helped with everything else. With any luck, you will have a hardbound book to hold in your hands when you are done. I have to make sure I give you this opportunity. I need to look at every stage of the process, and at the very least, share it with you. You started working on the artwork at age four, and I needed to help you understand the way the pictures were put together so you could help me create them. Now, I will have to help you learn how to do a Kickstarter so you can help me with that too. No matter what happens with the Kickstarter, doing it with you is all the reward I need. Thank you for reminding me of the most important things in life.

But I now need to look at the parts of the Kickstarter, and figure out how to include her. In my first post, I list four things that are needed for a good Kickstarter: The idea, a way to deliver it, solid financials, and solid outreach. I need to consider each of these topics, and how to do them with Samantha in the best possible way.

The cultivating of the idea.

The first one is the easiest for me because we started that path when Samantha was just four years old. The idea was Samantha, and she has been deeply involved in every factor of this process. I just need to keep this up as we come to the final version of the book.

The one area that we have had outside help with is editing, and even here, I was able to show Samantha how you can bring your idea to life with help, instead of trying to do everything yourself.

15 Robots
Meet the 15 Robots. Copyright 2017 by Claire Jennings

Delivery, moving beyond the lemonade stand.

Being six, my daughter wants to sit where people are and offer them her book, sharing her vision with the world. I think I need to find a way for her to do this in person, possibly with the help of her librarian whom she has a strong relationship with. But at the end of the day, this will not work for a good means of distribution.

I need to show Samantha the internet way of reaching people. This means I need to explain print on demand to her, and how stores will then be able to look up her book and buy it to sell if they want. I can show her how many of these people would never see her book, as they don’t happen to live where she does. Basically, I get to give my daughter a business lesson. Okay, I can do this, but I will have to do the heavy lifting for this part of the project.

Illustrated by
Samantha is proud to e a creator of this project. Copyright 2017 by Claire Jennings

You mean we can earn money from this?

While Samantha is good at many, already understanding negative numbers, addition/subtraction into the thousands, beginning multiplications/division, and story problems, balancing the many pieces of a financial statement is still perhaps a bit beyond my six-year-old daughter’s abilities. I will show her this, but I will not expect her to do the actual math this time around.

That said, this is Samantha’s project as much as my project. Samantha has been actively involved in the making of her book and wants to be actively involved in sharing it with people. I have to take into account the costs, but there is a chance there will be net profits. My husband and I have long since talked about how it is that she gets a portion of the profits from this book if it ever makes it into the marketplace. I have done some heavy lifting, written the book, and helped Samantha with every part she has done. Most would say I should get more than half of any profits.

However, all that (except writing the story) falls under the category of being a good mom. I need to be able to explain the split to her in 1st-grade terms and keep it simple. I wrote the book, she owned the pictures. That is a 50/50 split, we each did half. That sounds fair, and so that is what I will do. However, like any good mom, if there is a financial loss, I will pay for it, and not expect my six-year-old to earn her way out of it.

Letting my daughter shine in social outreach.

I have been working hard to figure out all the technical aspects of social outreach, most recently with the video. People like to see and relate to project creators. I have a daughter who loves to perform. This is a match made in heaven if I let it be. I will help Samantha practice. She knows the importance of practicing, she has practiced for many a stage performance. Then I will video her. I will let her be the face the project since it is her original idea, and as much her project as mine.

People will also want access to her. Here, I will put up a slight gate. I will let media that asks interview her, but I will be present. I will find ways to allow backers to ask her questions, without giving anyone complete access to my only precious child. I will be responsible for making sure people treat her with the respect she earned by creating this project, not let people judge her by her age.

I will give Samantha what she wants. I will keep her involved in the project she has more right to be involved in than I do.

Samantha
Samantha, the heart and face of this project. Copyright 2017 by Claire Jennings

Looking Forward

This next week will be a challenge to me. I need to figure out how to act upon all the things I have said here. I will most likely start picking Samantha up from school early a few days a week to work on some of these with me.

That said, Samantha made this little project much more real for me. There is something about having your child look up to you, and ask to be included that makes you want to move mountains just to make sure it happens.

If you liked this post, check out the other posts in this series.

Until next week,
Claire

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