Subject: Alternative Ways to Fund and Sell Your Books (Interview with Dennis Thompson)

I am delighted to present Dennis Thompson - an author/illustrator who found unique ways of funding and selling his books.

I persuaded Dennis to share his secrets, which he does below but first let me present him to your properly:

BIO: Dennis Thompson is an author and illustrator. His book 'The Tale of the Greedy Fish' was published with Kickstarter funding in 2014. The Kickstarter project was funded 151%, and raised over £4000.
Dennis helps others to prepare and run crowdfunding projects through his ‘Successful Crowdfunding’ blog where he publishes free articles regularly as well as promoting current crowdfunding projects.

Dennis sells his books via school visits while teaching children how the book was created, from scribbles and scanning paper, to coloring and compiling the pages on computers.

There are regular updates and special offers on the official website:

You’ve had great success in crowdfunding your children’s book “The Tale of the Greedy Fish” on Kickstarter and you are successfully selling it via school visits. Let’s talk about this but first, some background questions:

Why do you write?
I’m really not sure! I guess like any writer I feel that I have thoughts and ideas I want to share with the World. Whether the World will show any interest is another matter of course. I find myself coming up with ideas almost every day, and writing is a good way to release them from inside my head and driving me crazy. Once they are on paper, or most of the time on a screen, it’s easier to judge them and decide whether they are worth pursuing or strike off as a bad idea.

How long have you been writing?
Ever since I was a child I would write, not anything lengthy, but I always enjoyed poetry and rhymes. This obviously manifests itself in ‘The Tale of the Greedy Fish’; I have always been a little scared of ‘word counts’ so anything I’m writing tends to be quite succinct and to the point.

How long have you been in the self-publishing business?
Since I self published Greedy Fish in 2014 - it was quite daunting at first as far as ISBN numbers and setting the book up for print, but there’s lots of help and advice out there from people like yourself. It’s not too hard to find answers to any questions with the help of the internet.

Is writing/publishing your full-time job? If not, what is?
I work in a stonemasons office 9-5 Monday to Friday ordering memorials for funeral directors and crematoria. A bit different to making kids books, but they are knd enough to allow me time to visit local schools to promote child literacy through book readings.

What is your daily work schedule?
Rarely, if I am up early (and before my 3 year old Heidi is up) I may arrange a little promotion for either my book or blog, then head off to my regular work to start at 9am. Once home in the evening and Heidi has had her dinner, had a bath and a story I can do some ‘Author’ work from around 8pm! I try to learn as much as I can from YouTube and sites like during my lunch breaks and some evenings. I don’t have a rigid schedule for any writing and illustrating at present, but I do plan on structuring my time better in the future so I am working on one thing at a time instead of twenty.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten (or read)?
Perhaps to be prepared for lots of rejection letters. We all think our work is fantastic, but agents and publishers have huge amounts of this ‘fantastic’ work landing on their desks daily in varying degrees of fantastic-ness. The first few letters were heart breaking. To put all that work into a project to be told ‘this does not fit in with our current portfolio’ or similar was hard to deal with at first. If you really believe in your work, and you trust the judgement of others that like your work, then self publishing may be something to consider. Unless you are really lucky or write something genuinely groundbreaking, it’s a much more assured way of your book appearing on a shelf somewhere, even if it’s just your own shelf.

What is the best marketing advice you’ve ever gotten (or read)?
I have some advice that I have realised myself along my own journey, and that is to give at least some of your work away for free as much as you can. If you can give away electronic copies of your work it costs nothing, or in my case use the crowdfunding money so it doesn’t cost you to give away a physical product. Everyone loves a freebie, and if your work is good you will get interest from your book being out there. Then when it comes to selling signed copies, or a new edition in the future, people will already hopefully have heard of your book and be willing to support it.

What has been your best marketing decision so far?
I have started playing with Google AdWords and Google Analytics - only at a very basic level, and I have started to notice which searches people are using to find my book online, and on which devices (mobile phones/desktops). I am not sure if paying AdWords is going to prove worthwhile yet, but I can cancel that at anytime and even if I just end up paying about £30 for the first month it has given me some really useful information that I can use to update my website and make it more visible in the future.

Now let’s talk about your Kickstarter campaign. Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?
I made my book ‘The Tale of the Greedy Fish’ for my daughter Heidi’s first birthday as something she could keep forever. I thought initially it would just be an electronic book as I could not afford to get just one copy printed. A friend told about, a crowdfunding website, and I started converting my pages into a printable format. I aimed to get funding for 1000 books which meant I could get them at a reasonable price per unit. I managed to reach 151% of my target which meant I could afford 2000! It still cost me a bit in the end with deliveries, ISBN’s etc., but I got the copy for Heidi, and thousand’s of other children are now enjoying the book too.

What were the main challenges of your crowdfunding campaign and how did you overcome them?
My main challenge was not having a clue what I was doing! I was almost completely unprepared for running a fresh and interesting campaign for 30 days - all the promo work, posters, online adverts and sharing to social media networks meant I was up early each morning, and up late every night posting and preparing things every single day. This is one of the reasons I have started my successful crowdfunding blog - to help others prepare better from all I have learned in my own experience of crowdfunding.

What should authors know/do before they start a crowdfunding campaign?
Be prepared! You really have to be visible to everyone you possibly can before the project starts as far ahead as possible, and anything you can do to get each days promotion ready before you start will make the job a lot easier. Decide what you will do, where and what you will post on each and every day the project is running. Plan interviews and any press coverage well beforehand - not on the fly like I did!

Any other advice on crowdfunding for authors?
Learn all you can from other crowdfunders, read my blog, and get involved funding some projects yourself so you can see how others communicate with funders and promote their projects from start to finish. Take note of the good and bad to tailor your own to be the best it can be.

Now let’s talk about school visits. How did you get involved in these?I was actually asked by one of the original funders if I would visit a school and present a copy of the book to their grandson. I did this, and got a great response from donating 20 or so copies to the school. I was then asked by others to visit their children’s schools as well. It was never planned, but has become one of the most enjoyable parts of the whole experience.

How can an author get an invitation to a school?
I often get asked directly by the schools, but also send copies of my book offering a visit. As simple as that! The only thing you may need is public liability insurance just in case of an accident - dropping a box of books on a child’s foot could really spoil the party.

What do you do during a school visit?
To begin with I stand up nervously as the teachers introduce me to the class or assembly! I always get a little stage fright. But once I start reading the book and seeing the kids enjoying it I relax and enjoy it enormously myself. Afterwards all the children get a chance to ask me questions about the book, (and some totally unrelated questions about their pets and video games), I sign copies of the books for anyone that might like one, and then I head back to work.

Do you get paid?
I never take any money for the visits, and I always give a free copy to the school for their library. Lots of the schools I visit do not have the funds for many new books, so the free copies are always welcome. My only income is through book sales and as long as the cost of the book printing is covered then I can carry on in this way. Children and parents get a bargain book, and hopefully I might inspire a few future authors and artists.

How many books do you sell at school visits? Do you offer discounts?
I offer signed copies of my book as discounted as I can afford to anyone in schools that would like one after the readings, which covers the cost of the printing them. I also sell the books on and through my website which occaisionally has some kind of discount available.

Any tips for authors going on a school visit?
Have fun! The kids love to join in and heckle and laugh, so give them every opportunity to do so. These kids are your potential future audience, so any encouragement to get children reading will only do good for authors everywhere.

What else would you like to achieve as an author?
I have a number of other projects I am working on, so there may be another illustrated children’s book (not about a fish!), and if I ever get the time I have an adult novel I have been preparing all my life - it would be nice to finally get that out. I would love to be published and be a ‘paid’ author, but if I can encourage a few children to read along the way doing what I am doing now then I will be happy with that.

Thank you!

Would you like to replicate Dennis' crowdfunding success? Checkout the Crowdfunding for Authors online training by yours truly:

Do YOU have a success story too? Let me know and you might be featured in this newsletter!

Join thousands of subscribers getting exclusive content, private Q&As, giveaways, and more. No spam, ever. Just great stuff.