After I got divorced from Eliza's dad and came out to my family, I was looking for books to read with Eliza to help explain what it meant to have a gay parent. I did a lot of Googling, and spent quite a bit of time researching LGBT children’s books. I was really excited to find several books featuring gay parents and we read several (link). However, none of the books that I found really reflected our specific situation. All of the books had characters with two moms or two dads, which just wasn't the case for our family. Eliza has a mom and a dad, and I have a girlfriend. I felt pretty strongly that I wanted Eliza to know that we weren't the only family in this situation (because surely we weren't!). After this experience, I joked around to a few people that maybe I should write the book myself. I suppose I was partly serious, but not really confident in my ability to take on such a big project. My writing experience was limited to bad high school poetry and college essays, so I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to write a children’s book. It was my girlfriend, Beck, who really encouraged me to take on the project. I guess I needed someone to believe that I could do it before I could believe it myself. That was really all it took - I jumped into the project feet first without having any idea what it would entail. I posted on Facebook, asking if anyone had any connections or new anything about writing a children’s book. My friend Laura commented that she had always wanted to illustrate a children’s book, and from there, we were off and running.
Let's get this story started!
To get started writing, I used a comic strip template that I often had my students use to summarize visually what we’d read in class and started drawing stick figures with little captions under them. I wrote out the basics of what had happened in my story, including the marriage, the divorce, and the time when my daughter asked her dad why I kissed girls. I wrote down everything I could think of. At the start, the book was 14 pages long and about as rough as it could get. After I had some ideas down, Laura and I got together and started to collaborate and turn the outline into an actual story. It was really helpful that she had been there with me through the entire experience, so she knew where I was trying to go with the story. It was the most fun I’d had in a long time!
Publishing. Who pays for that?
Once we had a story, the next step was figuring out publishing. We knew that traditional publishing was a long shot, so we decided to go with self-publishing. I started researching self-publishing companies based on recommendations from other blogs, and compared products, services and prices. Laura and I finally decided to go with Archway Publishing. We chose the middle of the road package (Inspire - $5,000), which offered quite a few services, but wasn’t going to completely bankrupt us.
Give us all of the money.
The next step was to figure out how to pay for it! We knew that we were going to try crowdfunding, but neither of us had actually done it before. Laura and I talked quite a bit about whether to use Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Again, we spent time researching both and trying to figure out which would best fit our needs. Kickstarter seemed more geared towards business ideas and products, where GoFundMe felt more like what people would use for personal things, like medical issues or going on a trip. However, Kickstarter also required the creators to provide incentives and we weren’t really sure how to make that work. All we had was our book, and if we gave those away, then we wouldn’t be able to make the money we needed to fund the book in the first place. For that reason, we chose to use GoFundMe.
Making a GoFundMe Video is not as easy as one would think!
After setting up our initial campaign on theGoFundMe site, Laura and I decided to make a video to include on the page. That was one of the parts about Kickstarter that we really liked, and we wanted to have one to post with our campaign. Our friend Karina Tobin teaches video production at the local middle school and has a photo/video business on the side (www.ktobinvideo.com), and she volunteered to make the video for us. Here was yet another thing that Laura and I had never done before, but got to learn about. Luckily Karina did all of the technical parts, so we just had to worry about what to say in the video. Laura and I wrote up a script, put on our best “give us your money” outfits, and went to Karina’s home studio to film. Let me tell you, I have never felt so awkward in my life! Karina set us up in her studio, but it took several (ok, probably like 20) false starts before we even got anything usable. I had the worst case of the giggles and my memory was nowhere to be found. I would say one or two words and just completely forget what was coming next (and this was after spending an entire week practicing my lines, of which there were maybe 10). Eventually, we had to prop the script up on the camera so that we could just read it, otherwise Karina would have had to edit together one word frames. She also got some shots of Laura and me “discussing the book”, as well as my daughter, Eliza, and me reading together on the couch. The whole process took about 2 hours for a 1 minute video! But the final product far exceeded our expectations (click to watch the video:https://vimeo.com/130656206).
Successful crowdfunding takes time and dedication. And a complete loss of dignity.
Our campaign went live live in June of 2015, and almost immediately, donations started coming in. Every time we got a new donation, Laura and I posted something about it on Facebook. We wanted our donors to know how grateful we were while reminding others to donate as well. This strategy worked really well - the donations would come in waves, and the more we got, the more posts we had, which lead to more donations. The support that we got from our friends and family was amazing!
We did also experience some “dry spells,” so we posted periodic updates on our progress in the hopes that they would lead to more donations. We were pretty relentless. I’m sure our friends and family got a little tired of seeing our endless posts, but we needed to continue putting the word out if we were going to reach our goal.
As a final thank you, we made a “Donor’s Page” in the book. We wanted to make sure that everyone who donated was recognized, and that our readers would be able to see how many people helped to support the process. It was a humbling and incredible journey and I’m so glad that we got to do it!
You can read more about the process from Laura’s perspective in an upcoming blog post!