Children who do not read proficiently by the end of third grade are four times less likely than their peers to graduate from high school. A startling statistic that many would assume they could do nothing about but Ashley and April Fox leaped into action. Their driving ambition is to make a difference in the lives of little readers, a passion that inspired the start of a publishing company Kafani Inc. which means unique in Swahili. The two, in serious pursuit of their mission rallied their network, raised money, and sold 300 copies of their book to families and schools before it ever printed.
Keep reading for how they did it
Ashley, working part-time as a teacher in Memphis has experienced how reading improves child development. She recently finished her Masters in Digital Media at Columbia University and joined Teach for America while working on a business plan to self-publishing children’s books. Shortly after, the idea for their first book Keisha Cane and Her Very Sweet tooth was born.
To start the business they found angel investor and funded $8,000 through a kick-starter campaign which exceeded the original goal of $6,000. The campaign created buzz and anticipation for the book launch. Ashley explains that she focused on activating her network. She reached out to everyone she knew – professional organizations, her sorority, teacher’s associations, and her former magazine industry colleagues. She made personal asks to share the campaign, buy a book or help support the tour.
There is no lack of children’s books in the marketplace so Kanfi leveraged their special sauce – April’s amazing illustrations. The pictures represent a mixed media approach of cut and layered drawings, fabric, paper, trims creating a visual buffet of beautiful colors and textures. Before finishing the product they held focus groups with both readers and teachers to get feedback on the drawings and story. Once the fundraising campaign closed the hard work of marketing the book began. Lucky, for these ladies they had a marketing plan in place which is something every small business and potential author needs to find and attract their most likely buyers.
It’s not easy to publish your own book but the key to sales success is having a plan and executing. There is no one fail proof formula for preparing to launch. Ashley and April used buzz through Kick-starter and activated their network. For additional push they planned what Ashley dubbed a blog tour, where different sites wrote articles about the their Keisha Cane book and it worked, landing them a piece in Black Enterprise Magazine.
The ladies used the idea of a traditional book tour but mostly visited classrooms across the country where they read the book to students and shared their message with teachers and parents. This was a nice touch because during the Kickstarter campaign many of the funders backed donations of books to the classrooms they later visited. The tour itself was an experience that considered every detail. The décor reflected the nostalgic experience of grade school filled with classic sweets, popcorn, a rainbow of cupcakes not to mention the Keisha Cane swag – bookmarks, posters and stickers. Whether you try self-publishing online or off Ashley and April’s story can give you a lot of actionable ideas.
What can be learned from the Kafani book launch:
Choose a single audience: Authors can always switch genres later or publish multiple works but it’s important to focus on launching one product at a time.
Create a pre-launch campaign: Put together a comprehensive marketing plan that will generate buzz and buy-in before your products or services even launch. The plan should include continuous outreach to your personal and professional network, social media connections and any events or contest that you plan to run and the expected return for each for example, number of people reached, cost and expected sales.
Pre-sell and cover publishing cost: The best way to gauge demand is to presell products and services before they launch. It allows you to test the market and make the customer part of the creation process. You can source their ideas and build an offer tailored to their needs.
Create a compelling story: People remember and connect with stories. What story can you share about your product that the ideal audience will connect to? Make it about them. Share the understanding of the most urgent problems or aspirations and how what are selling addresses them.
Inject your special sauce: There are not that many new ideas but there are new ways of executing old ideas. How can you add personality, style or design to differentiate your business in today’s marketplace. Leave them with something to remember that makes people what to spread the word.
Self-published authors don’t have it easy. Ashley would be the first to tell you that the whole launch process is a lot of work but extremely rewarding. The Kafani founders already have a solid idea for their next book and future plans for IPhone apps. The purpose-driven vision that these women have leaves no doubt in my mind, the future for young readers is bright.
If you have an interest in self-publishing a book I highly recommend, The Complete Guide to Successful Publishing one the best books to buy. I admit it’s a little old but It explains to process from start to finish and the process hasn’t changed the amount of printing options has. I used this book myself to publish From Payne to Power. After spending hours in bookstores for weeks, researching book’s that could help me self-publish this was a good find. it was the most simple to understand yet comprehensive guide that I came across.
Do you believe crowdfunding campaigns are a successful way to launch a book?