Sunday, 20 October 2013


When I first began getting published thirty years ago, being an author was easy. You wrote your book, submitted it to a publisher and when it was published, you sat back and waited for the book’s publicist to work her magic. Sometimes your publisher paid for advertisements in magazines or took you the author on an all-expenses-paid book tour. You didn’t even have to write the blurb for your book! More recently authors have needed to become heavily involved in book promotion and even more recently traditional publishers are asking authors to help subsidise publication and/or pre-sell copies of their books. With the advent of social media, self-publishing via the use of crowd-funding is becoming more and more popular through crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter, Pozible, Indiegogo, Zoshpit, and more. (As of 2012 there were over 450 crowd-funding platforms.)

Crowd-funding – sometimes known as crowd-sourcing – has been around since Shakespeare’s day when investors made it possible to stage his plays. Crowd-funding investors have helped make other projects viable, such as the Statue of Liberty or the Adopt-A-Classroom program to mention but a few. Basically how it works is lots of small investors (or several bigger ones) contribute to a nominated project by pledging x amount of money, for which they get y amount of 'perks' which, depending on value, range anywhere from a simple 'thank you' to copies of the work, merchandise, all kinds of things. Many thousands of people, including authors, have raised money towards their projects that way. Not only does it raise money, it also guarantees sales, readership, audience, and is a great promotion and publicity tool.

Motivation for consumer (“investor”) participation stems from the feeling of being at least partly responsible for the success of others’ initiatives (desire for patronage), striving to be a part of a communal social initiative (desire for social participation), and seeking a payoff from monetary contributions (desire for investment). There are, however, questions about the legality of taking money from "investors" without offering any of the security demanded by conventional investment schemes. Sites such as SellaBand hold funds in an escrow account as a failsafe. If the nominated target isn't reached, all funds are returned to contributors. In contrast, some sites such as ArtistShare allow projects to keep all the funds raised.

How you manage to excite investors depends on numerous factors, especially how clever you are in manipulating social media and talking up your project. It helps, too, if you have a writing reputation, a media profile and/or a wide range of contacts. Such was the case with Marcus Westbury, whom I heard speak at this year’s Ubud Writers’ Festival. Recently Westbury launched a crowd-funding project for a book he’s written; he gave himself six months to raise the requisite monies required to publish, but found to his amazement that his popularity as a broadcaster, media maker and festival director resulted in him reaching his goal only four weeks into his campaign. Another successful crowd-funding campaigner is Australian author Sophie Masson, who, with two artist friends, David Allan and Fiona McDonald, recently managed to self-publish a picture book. Sophie has a wide range of friends and writing colleagues and is well-known through her work as a journalist, print author and board member of the Australian Society of Authors. On the other hand, I know of a young woman who has been struggling to crowd-fund a board game she has devised but in the end has decided not to proceed with her project.

Interestingly, in 2012, crowd-funding websites helped companies and individuals raise $2.66 billion (from which $1.6 billion was raised in North America.) ‘Pozible’ is the biggest crowd-funding platform in Australia. Since its launch in 2010, it has already supported over 1,300 creative projects, raising over $2.5 million dollars in funding. The types of projects that are funded vary: it might be $60 for a university assignment pitch or $30,000 for a feature film.

Not every crowd-funding site is the same. With Kickstarter, the most famous of the sites, you need a US bank account so that is difficult for those outside of America who don’t have a US tax number.  Then there are different types of crowd-funding models, the 'fixed' or 'all or nothing' model, which sites such as Pozible and Zoshpit (for musos) work on, where you must reach your nominated funding target to be paid anything at all. (People who contribute to such projects get their money refunded if the target isn't met and the project doesn't get up); and 'flexible' funding, which Indiegogo functions on (though it also has a 'fixed funding' option if you want.)

Flexible funding means you get to keep the money raised, even if you don't reach your target, with a small commission taken out by your chosen crowd-funding site, of course—the commission is slightly higher if you don't reach your target than if you do.

Before you decide on your crowd-funding site, you need to work out how much capital you want to raise and the time frame for raising it. This means a budget for such things as editing, designing, illustrating, publicity and printing costs, depending on what it is exactly you want the money for. Then you sign up with your chosen site (it’s free to do so) at which stage you plan your campaign pitch. This consists of a written pitch introducing your project to your prospective financial backers and what exactly you're seeking support for (see above), as well as images and a pitch video. You don't need a pitch video, but all the evidence is that campaigns work better where there is one.

Some people have very elaborate clips, but you can do it simply and cheaply: using images from the book, a simple video-clip creating program (Windows Movie-Maker), a little bit of text introducing us and the book, and some music. The images speak for themselves!

You need to devise the list of the 'perks' to offer contributors, which is directly related to the amount they fund you for. For instance, a $25 contribution might give you a $25 perk of a signed copy of the book, posted (basically a pre-order for the book), while a $50 perk might consist of a signed copy of the book plus a signed limited-edition print of one of the illustrations; and so it goes on. English poet Salena Godden at the Ubud festival said that for a $300 pledge on her next crowd-funded book, she will take the contributor ‘for a night on the piss in London’ with her.  

In the crowd-funding process, you also need to decide on the length of your campaign. It might run from 30 to 60 days but Indiegogo recommends 45 days as being the optimum length. You also have to decide on such 'housekeeping' details as how your contributors might pay, such as credit card and/or Paypal, and enter all that information, for the benefit of Indiegogo or whatever crowd-funding site you decide to use (it is they act as the broker, collecting funds, and they who will deposit the funds into your nominated bank account, minus commission, at the end of the campaign.)

And then you take a deep breath, hit the Submit button, and your campaign goes live!

Helpful websites:

How to crowd-fund your film

Thirteen crowd-funding websites

Information about crowd-funding

Article on crowd-funding in Australia


Tuesday, 1 October 2013


One of the funniest performers in Australian schools is children’s author DC Green. Widely known as a surfing journalist for many years, DC is now better known for his very funny, fast-paced novels that are peopled by highly inventive, zany characters. Here DC talks about his latest book, Monster School, the first in a series.
Can you tell readers about your latest children’s book Monster School?

DC: Monster School is, literally, about a school for monsters! Monstro City is the home of vampires, mummies, giant spiders, five different goblin types, four million monsters all up – every monster type from every human civilization. Humans are the endangered species. The human prince Thomas’s horrible life is no sooner introduced in chapter one, when WHAM! He’s attacked by a monster assassin – Bloody Mary.

Plus every chapter features fantastic monster illustrations by Danny Willis!

 What inspired the idea for the book – and the series?

DC: This is my attempt to write a Lord of the Rings for the Twenty-first Century! So there are goblins, ogres, trolls and yes, a dragon! The setting is an island metropolis in a flooded world, so the potential conflict levels are ratcheted high in every overcrowded suburb. After I came up with the original idea, I spent months planning the city, allocating monster types, jobs, populations and histories. Monstro City was like a giant writer’s play-pen. So, my main inspiration is simple fun. I had SO much fun planning and writing and even rewriting this story. Hopefully that sense of fun bursts through to my readers.

 This is book one of a series. How many books are planned and what is the next one?

DC: There are three City of Monsters books planned. Each will tell a self-contained story that also forms an over-arching trilogy. I have plotted this for a lonnng time (fiendish cackle). Book Two: Mafia Goblins Rule!

You have a very distinctive writing style. Can you describe it and what you do to maintain a story’s fast pace?

DC: First, thank you! When writing dialogue, I must carefully select words that mimic consistently the voice, style, prejudices, slang and sentence structure of whoever is speaking. My style also alters depending if I’m writing a first rather a than a third person narrative, or describing thoughts rather than action. But I do have personal style rules I try to follow (mostly). For example, I like to use short, punchy sentences in action scenes and more expansive sentences when describing or entering a character’s thoughts.

I believe maintaining a story’s fast pace is crucial to retaining the interest of boredom-challenged young readers. All authors need to plan carefully to maximise every scene and keep their narrative engine rumbling. If an exposition info-dump is required, turn the minimum wordage required into dialogue and sprinkle through a fight scene. It definitely helps to keep conflict levels boiling in every scene, and to constantly raise the stakes and make bad situations worse. Also essential: editing brutally. If a connecting scene is dull or not pulling its weight on multiple levels, then cull, or add spice.

How do you go about writing a book? Do you plot meticulously or does it simply evolve? As a general rule, what is your starting point – character, setting, etc?

DC: First comes the idea: a city of monsters. Then comes plotting. Lots of plotting. With an entire city of monsters, I knew I would need plenty of research time and world building. I wrote over 200 pages of background notes before I even started my story. I think that qualifies as meticulous!

Can you talk about humour and how you achieve it in your books? What do you think makes kids laugh?

DC: I’ve loved making people laugh since I was a primary school class clown. It’s an honour as an author to bring laughter and cheer into the lives of so many kids who might not otherwise have many such opportunities. As for what makes kids laugh? That’s the million dollar question! I believe, as children grow, their senses of humour become ever-more complex, requiring different types of humour. My Erasmus James books (for ages eight and up) had more word-play, slapstick, insults and the odd gross joke, while the humour in Monster School (ages ten and up) is more organic and dialogue-based. But then, I also thought Monster School was easily my most ‘serious’ children’s book and have been continually surprised when readers tell me how many laugh-out-loud moments they experienced through the story.

How do you keep coming up with preposterous ideas for characters and stories?

DC: If by preposterous you mean remarkable, then… easily! I love mixing different story elements (e.g. a school and monsters) to create something new. I have to force myself to stop thinking of novel novel ideas for fear my brain will drown and I will never live long enough to craft them all into stories.

 What sort of feedback have you had so far from readers and reviewers?

DC: As I type this, the book isn’t in stores yet. But, amazingly, the feedback I’ve received so far has been universally positive. Jenny Mounfield called Monster School ‘a beautifully illustrated and tightly-woven read… filled with snappy dialogue and wonderfully witty characters,’ while Ian Irvine dubbed the book, ‘A wild, wise-cracking ride. I loved it.’ Best of all, though, were the replies from my junior beta readers. I received multiple 10/10 scores and glowing praise. Many kids even wrote their own monster stories and sent me detailed artwork of their favourite monsters. Their inspiration has in turn inspired me.

 What other children’s books have you published so far?

DC: I’ve had five other children’s books published. Three Little Surfer Pigs is a fractured fairytale picture book with amazing artwork by Simon McLean. Erasmus James and the Galactic Zapp Machine is a funny and fast-paced fantasy, and is the first in a three-book series for primary school kids. Similar to Monster School, Stinky Squad is a slightly darker tale for ages ten and up. It is also features the world’s grossest teen superheroes, and an apocalyptic gawk at John Howard’s Australia.

Can you talk about the work you do all around Australia as a schools’ performer?

DC: Every year I hit the road (and airport) to perform for several weeks in schools. I’ve done the world’s worst rap in every Australian state and territory from Groote Eylandt to Australia’s southernmost school on Bruny Island. I think next year I’ll reach my thousandth show! I feel privileged to be an ambassador for reading and writing and always try to bring my A-game. I also try to balance my shows with funny material that will entertain and motivate the kids, while also introducing ample creative writing tips to keep the teachers grinning too.

What did you do before becoming a children’s author?

DC: I’ve worked in a range of jobs, but have always been at least a part-time writer. For many years I had a freeloading career as a surf journalist. I still can’t believe I was paid to surf exotic surf spots around the world and laze in hammocks with the superstars of surfing. The job also had bleaker times though with psychopathic locals, double shark attacks and covering the Bali bombings.

Do you have any advice for new children’s writers? How do you go about getting a book published, for instance?

DC: Two things. One: love writing! There is not a lot of money in children’s writing, but the community of children’s writers is wonderful and I’d rather be poor and happy doing what I love than rich and miserable. Plus, loving what you do, you’ll enjoy every step, and rejection will sting a little less. Two: keep learning. Join a writers’ group, do writing courses, read writing articles (you have much wonderful advice on this very site, Di!) and don’t give up without a fight.

Anything else you’d like to add?

DC: Yes, I have lots of links I’d like to share:

My blog, with all the latest blog tour updates:

My publisher’s site (for book orders):

My other publisher: (for a kindle Monsters):


Thanks for being the opening act of my Monster Blog Tour, Di!


Happy writing