Hanna Kjeldbjerg is our “book mentor” at Beaver’s Pond Press, which means she is our editor-plus. She’s responsible for advising us on all editorial decisions (although Joan and I always have final say), but she is also our “project manager”: tracking deadlines, communicating with designer and printer, etc. She recently interviewed me for a blog post about our use of Kickstarter to “crowdfund” our book. You can find her final blog post here, but the full interview is below. It was fun to respond to her questions — and offers another behind-the-scenes glimpses of our book project.
And remember, through November 24 we are STILL seeking contributions on Kickstarter! We’ve reached our goal, but have still only covered 60% of our total budget. Pledging now is the best way to insure the project is a success for us … and the only way to guarantee you get a first-run signed copy of the book before Christmas!
Interview with Our Editor, Hanna Kjeldbjerg
November 13, 2013
HANNA: One of the most beautiful things about When God Was a Little Girl is that you created it for altruistic reasons, not solely to make a profit. Can you explain what drove you to create this book?
DAVID: Wow – that’s a complicated question with a lot of answers!
Here are a couple. I teach theology and have been deeply shaped by feminist theology. I believe the way we imagine God impacts the way we see ourselves and the way we assign value in the world. As a dad, I wanted my daughter, Susanna, to grow up being invited from early on (she was just five when I wrote the story) to see herself fully “in the image of God.” And because Susanna was always thrilled to do art projects, it seemed a perfect way to portray the creation of the world – as a project carried out with exuberant joy by a little girl.
Of course, while I wrote the story for Susanna, its message can reach little girls and grown women everywhere. In fact, one of my former college students told me that reading this “children’s story” is what finally gave her the confidence to claim her call from God to pursue parish ministry – and today she is a pastor!
Also, when I began my career teaching Introduction to the Bible, I always enjoyed helping students discover rich meanings in stories they had only ever known on a superficial level. I assigned my college students to read children’s bible story books and then write a review describing how well the author seemed to capture the meaning of the original story as we had studied it in class; most story books never even scratched beneath the surface. This story does. One small example: in the Hebrew it says God fashioned an “adam” (literally: earthling) out of some “adamah” (literally: dirt). Clearly the original author of Genesis meant to remind us we are kindred creatures to the soil itself – and ought to treat it like family. We completely lose that when the English just says, “God created man from the dust of the earth.” So in my tale God takes some rich, dark dirt, what we call “humus,” and fashions “humus beings.” The wordplay returns, along with the deeper – and more important than ever – reminder of our kinship with the earth.
HANNA: Thirteen years have passed from the first text to the final layout. Can you describe what it will mean for you to finally see this book in print?
DAVID: It is like the sweet ending of a long journey … and, at the same time, the beginning of a new one. There is a final sense of completion, but also the excitement that the finished book begins a whole new phase of the story. Ironically, Susanna is now a high school senior, and just as I brace myself (with excitement) to see her step out into the world on her own two feet, I will watch my book step out into the world on its own two covers, so to speak. Almost magically, Susanna, who was once so enchanted by art and earth will head to college to study chemistry because she finds so much “beauty” in the earth-patterns revealed in chemistry.
HANNA: Your Kickstarter campaign began on October 25, and in eighteen days you have already surpassed your goal of $5,000 and received the support of over 100 backers. Although many Kickstarter campaigns are successful, running one is not easy—it takes a lot of work around promoting and leveraging your networks, and exercising every connection you have to drive traffic to your page. How do you account for your (dare I say wild?) success?
DAVID: Hard work, undaunted determination, and (dare I say wild?) enthusiasm for our book. You’re right, only a relative handful of people actually search Kickstarter for projects to fund. And even posting it on your Facebook wall may only elicit a lots of “likes” to your post, but those “likes” rarely translate into pledges.
I learned during my first Kickstarter campaign, that you can either (a) be disappointed that so few of your friends immediately race over to Kickstarter and pledge, or (b) you can be so excited – almost like a little kid eager to show off a new art project! – that you’re willing to invite them to “check it out” as many times as you need to, until they actually do. I don’t know the data, but I really think that a good percentage of people who visit the Kickstarter project page itself get excited and decide to pledge. But you need to work hard to get them there. That’s just a given. But if you have wild enthusiasm, you know they’ll be glad when they finally reach the page.
I think it’s also fair to say that the uniqueness of our project helps sell itself. If you’re a woman, or if you have daughters or granddaughters, there just aren’t a lot of stories out there that so playfully and beautifully offer a glimpse of God as a divine feminine. I hope the story appeals beyond just women, but, let’s face, that’s over half the population – and bible stories have underserved them for a LONG time!
HANNA: What different sources have directed traffic to your Kickstarter page and resulted in donations?
DAVID: Let’s see, Joan (the illustrator) and I have used Facebook, email, my blog, and old-fashioned little paper cards that I can hand out whenever it comes up in conversation.
HANNA: This is not your first Kickstarter campaign—you also used Kickstarter to help fund your book of hymns “for a church hungry for welcome,” To the Tune of a Welcoming God. This Kickstarter campaign ran from the start of Pentecost season to the end of Pride weekend because, as you mentioned on your blog, “both of these festivals are about God reaching out to claim God’s children and bring them home.” The project not only successfully reached its goal of $1,066, but people continued to donate after the goal was met. The campaign ended up raising $3,540, which is absolutely astounding. What did you learn through that first Kickstarter campaign?
DAVID: First, that project was for a CD, not a book. Easy to get confused because it shares its title with an earlier book of both essays and hymns by me. (People can find these at www.tothetune.com) But this was a CD recording of those hymns. Mostly I learned … through a couple of anxious low funding weeks) the need – and the payoff – of abundant one-to-one messages. Kickstarter offers name-recognition, trustworthy credit card security, and a great platform to show off your work. But you need to drive people there.
HANNA: One great thing about Kickstarter is that it jumpstarts the excitement for your book’s release. You already have over 150 signed copies that have been pre-ordered through the campaign. How does it feel to be aware of the buzz for your book growing?
DAVID: This is so cool. We have a book that can sell itself once it gets into your hands. And to know that yet this year 150 copies will be launched like little marketing events each time it gets read, that’s very cool. Of course, Joan and I hope to make back our initial investment and even earn a little something from the book, but what really excites both of us is the chance to see our words and our images change the world by touching one imagination at a time.
HANNA: What does it mean to you to receive the financial support of the Kickstarter campaign?
DAVID: This is both affirming, but also absolutely critical. Joan and I both live on very modest budgets. Neither of us has the capacity to fund a project like this on our own. Even borrowing the total amount would put our respective family budgets in a tight place. So this HAD to be a community project. We needed the financial support simply to make it possible. But to see it come in so strong has been a powerful affirmation of our work across so many years. Of course, I need to say, too, that OUR CAMPAIGN IS STILL GOING (visit it at: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/209579395/when-god-was-a-little-girl). So far we’ve met our Kickstarter goal, but that only covers 50% of our total budget. It was a big milestone to reach, but with 10 days still to go, every contribution helps us get closer to funding the rest of the project – and there’s still plenty to fund! Plus, anyone who pledges to the campaign at $30 or more will get their own signed copy of the book in time for Christmas!
HANNA: What wisdom or advice would you give to other authors who are looking into doing their own Kickstarter campaign?
DAVID: Gosh, I’m hardly a crowd-funding guru! I guess I’d offer the following. (1) Do it. You will learn the most by doing a campaign. Even if your first one fails, you’ll learn more by running a campaign than by reading about it. But here are a few other tips. (2) Offer a clear budget. People seem more willing to projects that can state clearly what the money is paying for. (3) Be realistic and conservative with your “goal.” Kickstarter process all your pledges IF you meet your goal; they process none of them if you don’t. It makes good sense (you can read their philosophy on their website). But it does mean you shouldn’t necessarily have your goal match your budget. And that’s a tricky dance. I think on our book project we set our goal a little too low, because funding excitement can slow down if people see you’ve met your goal. But it does feel good to now our pledges are secure; we just need to keep the buzz alive. That’s it. Crowd-funding can be nerve-wracking, but it’s also exciting because it builds buzz for your project the same time it brings in funds – and, without question, it reminds you that people “out there” some of whom you may never meet, are eager to join in your work.
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Remember, through November 24 we still need your support at Kickstarter — thanks!