Sunday, January 11, 2015

Interview with author T.M. Brenner about his successful Kickstarter campaign

On October 11, 2014, T.M. Brenner successfully funded his Kickstarter Campaign.  I had the pleasure of interviewing him about the process below.

What made you decide to crowd fund via Kickstarter?

I thought it would be a great way to allow readers to pre-order the book, and also as a free way of advertising the book. One drawback to the way Amazon handles pre-orders is that the stats for them don't occur on the day the eBooks are fulfilled, it occurs as they're being pre-ordered. By using Kickstarter, and then fulfilling all of the eBooks on the same day, the stats spike, so you get a lot more people seeing your book.

Was Sky Child your first Kickstarter project?

Lol, no. Actually I tried to do a Kickstarter for a movie project called 'Snakealanche'. I was shooting for 600k, but ended up with $150. Not my finest hour. It taught me a lot about how Kickstarter works, so it was definitely a good thing to have tried.

What kind of research did you do prior to launching your campaign?

I'd already spent some time looking at how Kickstarter works, and what makes campaigns successful. I spent a lot of time on Kickstarter, as well as Googling websites with helpful advice. Not a heavy amount of research, but a sufficient amount.

How did you market your campaign? (Through which channels? -social media, email lists etc.)

Kickstarter itself actually brought about 1/3 of contributors just through its search engine. Part of the sales were to people I knew, and another 1/3 came from advertising via Facebook's post boosting.

How far in advance did you begin to market your campaign?

I made the campaign run for about 2 months, and I really started marketing right when that first happened, so I had something I could point people to. Without having the campaign running, I didn't have as much to share with people. But that is why I set it for such a long running time, to make sure I could reach enough people.

What was the hardest part about managing the campaign?

It was fairly straightforward and reasonable throughout the process. What took the most work was the fulfillment.

What was the best part about managing the campaign?

Getting to talk to people I'd never met who were encouraging and helpful. I was really lucky that so many people were interested in helping the book get off the ground.

Who did you use to publish?

I'm indie publishing through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Who did you use as a printer?

Amazon's offshoot; CreateSpace. I like the quality of the books, and am versed with formatting through it.

I see you designed the cover yourself. Do you have a background in graphic design?

I have a fair amount of experience with graphic design; nearly 20 years. I've been doing it as an amateur mostly, although my various jobs have utilized my skills. I love pretty much anything related to art.

What made you decide not to use a video introduction for the project?

I had the capability, but it just didn't make sense to me to create one. I'm a bit of a perfectionist, and I figured that the amount of time it would take to put something together wouldn't be worth the payoff, and may not help in the long run. I'd want to make a movie quality trailer, and it's difficult to do something live-action when you're trying to hide the gender of the main character.

Minus expenses, were you able accomplish your goals with the revenue generated?

The whole goal really was to get word out there about the book, and increase my stats for the book on Amazon to get it noticed. It worked, as my book was in the top 7,500 books on Amazon for a little while, and in the top 100 in a few specific categories, which was cool. Counting the advertising costs, costs of fulfillment, etc. I would say I broke even financially, but gained a fair amount of traction for the book.

Was it easy to come up with your rewards?

Pretty easy. They say the sweet spot for a reward on Kickstarter is $25, and I figured a personalized, signed paperback was reasonable, including shipping costs. $1 got you an eBook copy, which was what I was really after so that it would help spike my stats on release day. I threw in the $50 level because I was so happy with how the cover turned out, that I thought it would make a cool poster. I had a few people do the $50 level, and they seemed to like what they received.

I’ve read that fulfillment is the hardest part of a campaign.  Was this true for you?

It did take a lot of work, but it excited me to send out so many signed paperbacks. I looked forward to every reader receiving their copy, and I took great pains to make sure that each copy arrived in perfect condition. No one has complained about damage to their books, so I have to assume they arrived safely.

I assume since you were signing copies that you placed a bulk order with your printer and had it delivered to you where you signed and shipped direct to your supporters. Correct?

Absolutely correct. Saved a little bit of money by purchasing a bigger chunk of copies through CreateSpace, then spent a few days putting the shipments together as information rolled in from the backers. That was one nice thing, not everybody got back to me immediately with their addresses, so I was able to spread shipping out over the course of a week or two.

Did you sell internationally or just within the states?

Just within the US for paperbacks, but the eBooks were available just about anywhere.

How did you calculate the freight into your expenses since you paid for it twice -once from the printer to you and once from you to the supporter?

CreateSpace scales the cost per book based on how many copies fit in a box, and their weight. I didn't worry about it too much, as my main goal was just to get the book out there, honestly. I figured if I lost money on the process, it'd be worth it to generate interest, and I'd just consider it to be part of the price of marketing. I think the final cost was about $3 per book to ship it to me, coupled with the printing price of about $6 per copy. So each paperback cost about $9 per unit just to get them to me. Bubble mailers were about $1 a piece.

USPS has good pricing on ‘Media Mail’  were you able to take advantage of that?

I was, thankfully. Shipping Media Mail cost around $5 if I remember correctly. So that cost coupled with cost to print, each book fulfillment was around $15.

What advice would you give to a writer considering using Kickstarter to fund their book project?

Make sure to factor other costs, such as the fact that between Amazon and Kickstarter, they take a total of up to 10% of the money you generate. So let's say I only sold paperbacks for this project. It costs about $15 to fulfill a paperback, and $2.50 is taken out of the revenue from each book. So after everything is said and done, on a $25 book, you're only left with $7.50. With the few hundred dollars I spent on advertising through Facebook, it came out to be about even. You won't get rich using Kickstarter, but it's a wonderful way to generate interest in your writing.

Where can we find you online?

I have a blog at and a list of all the people that have helped out with Sky Child. I call them my 'Sky Children', and I hope to add many more people to the list.

Where can we purchase Sky Child?

Through Amazon as a Kindle eBook HERE

Through Barnes & Noble as a Nook eBook HERE

And as a Paperback through Amazon HERE

Sunday, December 21, 2014

How to add a barcode to your book or other published work

You need an ISBN # to purchase a barcode.  If you don’t have an ISBN #, check out my blog How to add an ISBN number to a book or other published work.

I purchase both my ISBN numbers and barcodes from Bowker.

Since you need an ISBN number to get a barcode, I’ll assume you have an account and simply need to log in.

Once you log in, click on your name at the top. This will take you to ‘My Account’. Click on ‘My Identifiers’.

Here you will see a listing of all the ISBN #’s you’ve purchased (I struck out my un-used and inactive ISBN #’s because I don’t know for sure if there is any theft risk) 
Anyway, find your title and click Generate under the barcode column.

This will take you to the purchase screen where Bowker is kind enough to offer other products and services.  Unlike ISBN #’s unless your publishing more than one manuscript in multiple formats at the same time, it makes financial sense to purchase them as needed. 

As you select your products and prepare to check out, you’ll notice that the barcode you’ve purchased along with the ISBN # you have already assigned to the title is just above the barcode.  Click Checkout.

You will see the above warnings.  Honestly, I don’t know how you could purchase a barcode without an ISBN -perhaps if you purchase more than one it queues them like it does the ISBN #’s.  It also mentions there is no need for a barcode with eBooks.  A helpful tip for rookies.

Check out and wait for the email...

And here it is! (sort of…you’ll need to scroll down to see the ‘Assign your barcode(s)’ box.

It will have you return to My Identifiers.

And click on the Generate button beside the title you’d like to assign your barcode.  At this point, I believe, the barcode you purchased is floating out there available to assign to any of your titles so take care to click the ‘Generate’ button beside the correct title.

It will take you to the Barcode Manager where you will be asked what price you would like to assign to the barcode.  I highly suggest you enter the retail price at which you would like to sell your book at this point.  I believe when you assign this price, a scanner at a book store will automatically pick up the price through the barcode.  If you enter zero, it does not assign a price and you cannot change the barcode once it has been saved.

You’ll get this notice.  Click OK

In the Manage Barcodes it says, Once a bar code is configured, it cannot be changed….so make sure you get it right (really, there is only one thing to get right, the price)
In this screen you can download the barcode and send it to your cover designer to fix to the back of your book…or whatever.

If you click on My Identifiers now you will see your ISBN # listing and beside the title you’ve assigned the barcode will be the word Manage rather than Buy Barcode or Generate Barcode. 

Now, any time you need to download a copy of that barcode, you can log in and click Manage on your chosen title….or download all of them and save them in a safe place on your computer (recommended).

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Customizing the columns for Scrivener in the outliner view

Can you tell I'm obsessed with Scrivener yet?

First, THIS is the outliner view.

You get to it by clicking on the far right 'Group Mode'

What good is outliner view?


Think of it like the corkboard view on steroids.  Not only does it show each chapter synopsis, you can create labels, update status', look at your word counts per chapter as well as add custom columns.

Here is how to add custom columns:

Click on the Custom Meta-Data button at the bottom right of the inspector

This will bring up the Custom Meta-Data in the inspector.  To add or change fields, click on the settings button and select 'Edit Custom Meta-Data settings.

The Meta-Data Settings menu will pop up.

Here you can add custom columns in the outliner by clicking the +, giving it a new title and selecting if you want to wrap the text or color the text.  

When you are finished adding columns, click OK and viola, they will show up in the inspector.

You will need to fill in the information for it to show up in the outliner.

That's it.  You now have custom columns and can, at a glance, view important information about every chapter you've written.  Good stuff!

Do you have any custom columns you use consistently?  If so, please share!

Formatting a document, documents or entire manuscript in Scrivener
You've got a document in Scrivener you want to format.  Maybe some of the folders in the binder have different formatting types and you want consistent formatting throughout the entire manuscript.  Follow These steps:

This is the binder...typically on the left

First you need to set the formatting how you want it.  Go to:
Scrivener > Preferences > Formatting

Here you can set the formatting how you would like it. If you hit the Use Formatting in Current Editor, it will apply the formatting in the editor (main editing screen) that is currently open. Unless you want to apply the formatting of the folder open in the editor to the entire document, DO NOT click this.

Instead, click in the white area where the Nietzsche quote is then change the formatting using the buttons (bold, alignment, spacing etc.).  When this is how you'd like it, close this window.

Now go to
Documents > Convert > Convert Formatting to Default Text Style

you will get this pop up

To convert the document with the formatting you set in the formatting preferences
Scrivener > Preferences > Formatting menu,  (the settings you just customized -step 1,) don’t check anything.  Click okay.

Now whatever you have open in the editor will match the formatting you set in formatting preferences (step 1).

4. To convert an entire manuscript or multiple folders/documents within a manuscript, select the folders (or the entire manuscript) and repeat step 2.


This process took me some digging to figure out. Hopefully someone finds this helpful. Let me know if you do.  

Using Scrivener when working with your copyeditor -comparing snapshots

the scrivener logo
I know, this is quite different than my typical creative blog post...but I also know there are a few writers who read my blog and other Scrivener users (If I tag this right) who may benefit.

I'm quasi-new to Scrivener and wanted to use it with my editor to allow her to make changes as well as allowing me to view and approve the changes she made.  After searching on the web for a good explanation (and not finding one), I had to figure it out myself.

Note: I use a Mac

There is a video that is helpful (below) but it misses some things.

The first thing you have to decide is how you are going to share the Scrivener file.  My editor and I use DropboxDropbox is a file sharing site like Google docs only I like how it interfaces with my computer and portable devices better than Google docs.  Once you create a Dropbox account and load it onto your computer, it appears and behaves as a drive (on a Mac), which is very handy.

So we figured out how to share the file back and forth.  Now to view and approve changes.

I'm going to assume you are familiar with the Scrivener layout. (if not, watch this video)  Before you send your draft off to your editor, you'll need to take snapshots of the document (or every chapter depending on how you lay out your document).

In the inspector, click on the small camera Icon at the bottom.  This will take you to the snapshots view.

For some reason, I wasn't able to snapshot my entire manuscript at once.  I had to do it chapter-by-chapter.  In order to do that, click on the chapter content containing the text in the Binder.  That will bring it up in the editor in the middle.  From there simply click the plus.

Re-name the snapshot by clicking on the default title...or not, up to you.  When you've done this for all your chapters, you're ready to send it off to your editor.  I always copy the original file and keep one for myself and put the other in the DropBox shared folder.

Your editor can go through your manuscript, make changes, add comments etc. When she is done, she should do the same thing -take a snapshot.  When she moves it into the Dropbox folder, you can open the file and should see her snapshot below your own.

Now, to compare.

The editor allows you to view the two versions vertically (side-by-side) or horizontally (one on top of the other)  I prefer the vertical view.  To change go to:
View --> Layout -->Split Vertically (or horizontally)

You want to compare the original against your editor's copy.  In the inspector, select both and click compare.  You should see the changes in the inspector. You can change colors of the changes (red = delete, green = addition etc.) in preferences (watch the video above for details)

The thing is, you don't want to approve changes in this tiny screen.  You need to move a snapshot to the right panel of the editor in order to do a side-by-side comparison.  This is the part that I had trouble with because they didn't describe it in the video too well so PAY ATTENTION.

I don't quite understand why you must do this but this is how it works.

Right now, you've got two vertical screens with identical contents in them and the changes showing up in the inspector. 
To get the changes to show up in the right side of the editor you need to first click anywhere in the LEFT side of the editor.  Now, go back to the inspector and click on the ORIGINAL snapshot (the one with the oldest date).

Now, click and drag that snapshot to the top menu bar of the right panel in the editor.

STOP! Before you do this you must press and hold the option key (Alt)... but don't hit it first.  Click, start dragging then press and hold option, continue dragging and drop it in the top menu bar.

Now you will have the changes appear on the right, the original on the left.

I have no idea why you drag the original snapshot when you want to compare the newest'd think since the original is already in the left panel that you would drag and drop the newer snapshot.  I also have no idea why pressing option before you click and drag doesn't just doesn't (for me, anyway).

Compare old to new, you can make changes to the version in the left panel (which is the most current version -the one your editor has updated, saved and put into Dropbox) or not depending on whether you want to accept the changes.

When you're done, save and TAKE ANOTHER SNAPSHOT.  This will ensure the editor can compare her changes with any changes you have made when she does another pass.

I don't believe this is as robust a method as provided by Word via track changes (Scrivener can import and export Word docs with ease...but that's just one more piece of software, one more step) but the benefits of Scrivener far outweigh this quasi-cumbersome method of comparing versions.

If you know something I don't, please share!  I am a relative rookie to Scrivener and always appreciate hearing from people with more knowledge on the subject.

How to add an ISBN number to a book or other published work.

I purchase my ISBN numbers and barcodes from Bowker.

If you have an account, log in.  If not, create an account.

Once you’ve set up your account, you can purchase ISBN #’s either individually or in groups. Unless you plan to publish one manuscript in one format (eBook, hardcover etc.) you will need more than one.  If you foresee needing more than three, it makes financial sense to purchase a group of ten. You may assign them to whatever you’d like to publish whenever you’d like.

Regarding barcodes, you first need an ISBN before you can assign it a barcode.

This is my group of ten ISBN #’s. (I have no idea if there is a theft risk in showing anyone my un-used ISBN #’s so I scratched out my unused ISBN’s.

As you can see, during the ‘Assign Title’ process it will ask you about format, allow you to upload a cover image as well as other things.  I’ll walk you through it.

1. Click ‘Assign Title'

You only need to fill out the fields with the red *’s and truthfully, I’m not sure whether filling out more gains the title any SEO exposure….another blog topic, perhaps. 

2. Enter your title, any other info you’d like and click Go to: Contributors

4. In Contributors I seemingly always make the mistake of adding myself (the author) the first time around so…do that FIRST.  You can also add illustrators, editors etc. You can also add your cover designer -don’t forget to show them some love! When finished, click Go to: Format & Size

5. Here you need to enter the Medium (I selected E-book for this example) and Format. You’ll also need to choose a primary subject. It can’t hurt to choose a secondary subject if there is one that fits your manuscript.  Again you can add more information however at this point you most likely won’t know everything regarding packaging etc. 

When complete, click go to Sales & pricing

6. Nothing you enter here is in stone so don’t get stressed about getting the price right, limiting where the title will be sold etc. etc. If you don’t know the publication date, put a date in the future. Select your target audience and choose ‘Forthcoming’ as the Title Status.

7. Click submit and return to ‘My Identifiers’ page

The ISBN you just assigned should show up with your title and a little yellow and blue arrow in the status column.  Once the title is processed, it will turn into a green and white check (like below)

The good thing is you can, if necessary, go back and change your entries. Just click on the title to do so. There is also a cool feature called CLONE.

This allows you to duplicate the information you’ve already filled out onto another ISBN #, which is handy when you are getting ISBN #’s for multiple formats (eBook, hard copy etc.)

To add a barcode, check out my blog post ‘How to add a barcode to your book or other published work'. 
(coming soon)


Writing. Funding. Publishing

About this blog, Writing. Funding. Publishing.

I have an author blog.  Its content is focused on my readers who, in general, are not writers.  I have created this blog for my technical post about the writing craft (which may be a boring topic for my readers).

 My topic plan here will cover everything from Scrivener tips, copyrighting, ISBN #'s, barcodes, indie publishing and even crowdfunding through Kickstarter.  

If you'd like to check out my author blog, click on the link above or the tab: My Author Blog.

Please feel free to ask questions and request topics.

Thanks for following!

J.R. Wagner

No, that is not someone from the Russian mafia or a Viking warlord.  It's the winter...cold in winter especially outside.