Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Author Interview: Longy Han on Crowdfunding Books

By Gayleen Rabakukk
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Longy Han is the author of two books, Gusto & Gecko Travel to Kenya, illustrated by Elinor Hagg (Longy Han, 2015) and Gusto & Gecko Travel to New Orleans, illustrated by Elinor Hagg (Longy Han, 2016).

Her publication journey began as a crowdfunding project, and the second book was recently picked up by Scholastic Reading Club.

What was the initial spark for your book?

My love for travel to exotic places, my appreciation for different cultures, and my desire to bring the world to young children!

Children’s books played a big part in my childhood - when I first arrived in Australia, I didn’t speak a word of English (and neither did my parents). So I submerged myself in reading children’s books before eventually catching up to other kids my age. It made learning English so much more exciting.

What was the timeline from spark to publication?

A little under two years. The first version of Gusto & Gecko Travel to New Orleans dates back to May 2015, and I successfully crowdfunded the project in November 2015.

A year later, I had a launch party for the book at Harvard Graduate School of Education, was accepted into the Venture Incubation Program at the Harvard Innovation Lab and now, Scholastic Reading Club is distributing it online. Yay!


How did the Scholastic distribution come about?

A friend of mine recommended my books to them and they got in touch with me. I believe the sales of my first book got them interested in my second book!

What were the major challenges (literary, research, psychological, logistical) along the way?

Distribution, by far, is the biggest challenge for self-publishers.

It’s so difficult to reach your target market especially if you don’t have a marketing budget or existing distribution network. It’s everyone's dream to sell directly to end customers but very few authors have achieved this.

On some days, I want to just throw in the towel because nothing seems to work. On other days, when I receive fan mail from kids with their scribbles of Gusto & Gecko, that just sends me over the moon and makes all the struggles worthwhile.

Which opportunities and challenges were unique to crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a great way to 1) test your idea, 2) build your fan base, and 3) raise the initial capital to self-publish.

One major misconception people have about crowdfunding is that the campaign starts on the day it goes live online.

That is false. Successful crowdfunding campaigns “launch” weeks before – you should have scheduled all your social media posts, told all your friends and family about the project, reached out to kidlit bloggers, etc.

A good rule of thumb is: the campaign needs to raise 50 percent of its funding target within the first 48 hours (otherwise it will most likely fail). If interested, this is a reflective piece I wrote about my experience.

Why did you decide to go that route?

Back in 2014, I spoke to an editor of a large publishing house about my first book, Gusto & Gecko Travel to Kenya, and she told me that they weren’t considering new authors for at least two years because their pipeline was already filled with published authors.

I’m not someone who sits around and wait for things to happen, and I guess the rest is history.

What did you learn from the process?

Persist until you succeed. And trust me, you will.

What advice would you give to someone else taking that route?

Look up other projects that have been successful and learn from them.

Look up Facebook pages on crowdfunding and get feedback from others in the community.

Remember, crowdfunding isn’t easy money but if you are committed, you can make it work.

Is there anything you'd like to add?

This is where I give a plug about Gusto & Gecko right?

But seriously, my email address is gustoandgeckoatgmail.com. If any readers of this amazing blog want some advice or got more questions about crowdfunding, feel free to contact me.

Cynsational Notes

Longy Han is a lawyer turned children's book author.

Naturally curious and mildly adventurous, she has traveled independently across seven continents, visited 40 countries and 100 cities. Longy has kissed a giraffe in Kenya, eaten rooster testicles in Budapest, swam with fish at the Great Barrier Reef and flirted with penguins in Antarctica.

She is currently studying for a master of education in technology, innovation and education at Harvard University. You can find her on Twitter @LongyHan. Watch the Gusto & Gecko crowdfunding videos on their YouTube channel.

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