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Author J.S. White Raises $6,000 through Kickstarter for “RayJak and the Devil’s Halo”

I had the pleasure of interviewing author J.S. White on his latest title, RayJak and the Devil’s Halo (a perfect Christmas gift for the juvenile/ teen/ fantasy readers on your list). J.S. is a gifted, imaginitive author of 15 books, but on this one, he tried a new approach in publishing, using Kickstarter…and raised $6,000 to self-publish and market his book. (I thought that would catch your attention.)

J.S. tells us about his wonderful new book, and provides great information on writing, marketing, and using Kickstarter.

J.S., tell us about RayJak and the Devil’s Halo

This is basically a story about a young devil (Ash) who wants to become an angel. The story follows the young angel Rayjak as he decides to help Ash and gets caught up in a chase for the world’s most powerful relic–a “devil’s halo.” As the boys get to know each other and learn to trust each other, they decide to do what no angel and devil have ever done: join forces. They have a common enemy, and have to work together to thwart him.

What inspired you to write Rayjak?

I’m a huge fan of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, so I wanted to invent a similar world with angels and devils as the main characters. (By the way, the story is entirely fictional and shouldn’t be interpreted theologically.) It’s a magical world filled with unique settings (the Aetherworld and the Netherworld), creatures, gadgets, and powers. As crowded as the youth fiction market is right now, I think there’s still plenty of room for something fresh and different, and I haven’t seen any books with this specific approach to angels and devils.

Who is your target audience?

I wrote Rayjak for 9- to 12-year-olds, but I like to think any age could enjoy it.

How has Rayjak been received so far?

I’ve been getting great feedback from kids who are saying it’s one of their new favorites. It’s got 3 very positive reviews on Amazon so
far (two 5-star and one 4-star), and these are from people I don’t know personally. I’m sure most people wouldn’t tell me if they didn’t like it, but I’ve been overwhelmed with positive responses from readers so far.

You are a published author with a mainline, commercial publisher, so why did you choose self-publishing this time?

I’ve published about 15 non-fiction books, but this was my first novel. I tried to find an agent, but didn’t have any success (they don’t even respond anymore!). But I’ve been reading that publishing has really changed in recent years, making self-publishing a much more viable (and affordable) option than it used to be. I’ve also read about authors who are having better success publishing their work on their own, and even making more money. They key is finding and building an audience, which is what I’m trying to do now. It’s not easy, but I’m confident that after a couple of years and two or three more titles in my Rayjak series, I should be able to build a fan base. It’s definitely doable, if I’m willing to put in the hard work to make it happen.

J.S., I would like to encourage readers to check out RayJak and the Devil’s Halo. Thank you for providing these links:

RayJak Website (Authors, take note of this beautfiful website.)

RayJak on Amazon

RayJak on FaceBook (Be sure to stop by and Like this page!)

J.S. White on Twitter (Be sure to follow J.S. on Twitter!)

Author J.S. White

You raised $6,000 to publish Rayjak, using Kickstarter. How does Kickstarter work?

It’s a fundraising site for creative projects–anything from films, music and books to games, fashion and food. You send Kickstarter a proposal for your project, and if they approve it then you can go for it. You decide how much money you want to raise (as little or as much as you want) and how long you want to run your project (typically 30 days). Then you start promoting your project to everyone you know. You set awards for different contribution levels, so everyone who gives you money gets something in return. At the deadline, if you reach your goal, you get all the money you raised (and Kickstarter takes a 5% cut). If you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get anything. Interestingly, 90% of projects that get at least 30% of their funding end up getting all of their funding.

What was your key to success in gaining that significant amount of money? 

I was honestly very surprised and very pleased with how Kickstarter worked for me. My project was to raise enough funds to publish and market my book. I put together a short promo video using iMovie. I set a goal of $4,900, which was enough to cover the costs for the awards and to publish and promote the book. My awards included $7 for a PDF of the book, $22 for a paperback copy, $55 for a paperback and a t-shirt, and some higher rewards, such as $444 editions with hand-drawn illustrations. My biggest reward was for $777, which included lots of goodies plus the Mac laptop that I wrote the original story on. I was seriously shocked when someone funded that award. I ended up beating my goal by about $1,000.

At first I was surprised and frustrated that I didn’t really get any help from Kickstarter in promoting my project, but it turned out that I didn’t really need it. There are three key things I think helped my project be successful.

1. First of all, I think the project and the book were well done. (J.K., I agree.) I think it makes a big difference to put a lot of high-quality work into your project, and I was proud of my work and happy to put it out there.

2. I had to be brave enough to approach just about everyone I know to ask them directly to support the project. I used Facebook, Twitter and email to promote the heck out of it during the 30-day period.

3. I was creative with the rewards. I tried not to overdo it with too many rewards, but I offered enough variety to attract different levels of supporters. I tried to make the most attractive awards at the $50 and $100 levels, since that’s where I ended up with the most backers and funding.

One other thing I think helped a lot was the amount of research I did before I started. I read lots of blogs and other KS projects to get a solid
understanding of what worked, and I followed their examples.

Were most of your backers friends and family, or did others join in? 

I ended up with 76 backers, and about 2/3 of them were friends/family.

I am curious about that pitch email you sent out. Can you share that with us? 

Sure, here it is: I’m writing to tell you about a new project I’m launching today on Kickstarter.com.

My goal is to raise $4,900 for the publication of a novel I’ve been working on the last couple of years. It’s a juvenile fiction book (ages 9 and up) called Rayjak and the Devil’s Halo, and you can see all the details about it at this link:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1722194184/rayjak-and-the-devils-halo

If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, it’s the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects–things like films, games, music, technology, and books. Anyone can support a project by becoming a “backer” and receiving a specific reward for their support. It’s all-or-nothing fundraising, meaning if I reach my pledge goal, then I get the funds for my project. If I don’t reach my goal, I get nothing.

Writing has been my number-one passion for most of my life, and getting Rayjak published would fulfill a lifelong dream. But it’s really just a start. Like the name implies, “Kickstarter” is only a first step in getting a project off the ground. I’d love to write more Rayjak books for years to come, and getting the first one on the market would be a giant leap forward.

Would you consider supporting my project? (My lowest pledge level is $7.) I’d also love it if you could share it with your friends, family, and social network. The more pledges, the more likely it can reach its goal. And you will have my eternal gratitude.

Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you take a minute to look it over.

Thanks for joining us today, J.S.! I wish you and your book well. Keep us posted!

Thanks, Jim! Let me know if there’s any other info I can give you. Thanks for highlighting this in your blog! You are a truly awesome human being.

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