Tag Archives: Kickstarter

‘Every artist is a Kickstarter’

Mr Coconut has been a bit quiet of late. Actually he hasn’t been that quiet – since we’ve been making the book with him we can hardly stop him from talking. But we’ve been a bit quiet with updates. That’s because I broke the website. Quite badly.

But I think it’s all fixed now (if a bit slow). And even though there haven’t been any updates, we have been getting on with making sample pages of the book, and finishing the video for Kickstarter. We’re hoping the Kickstarter page should be all ready to launch by the end of January (so long as I don’t break the website again).

But whilst we’re finishing it off, I thought I’d write a bit about why I like the idea of Kickstarter so much, and why this Mr Coconut project has been so much more fulfilling than other book projects that I’ve tried to get off the ground before. Mainly it’s because there has been no let up in enjoyment, in the pleasure of creating this thing, since the story was actually written. I’ve written other stories before, for both children and adults, and once they are finished, once I have felt like they are ready to be shown to other people, that’s where the fun ends. Then it’s on to sending them off to other people, to publishers, to agents – even sending them to enjoyable local literary nights where you might do a reading involves a lot of printing, and posting, but above all, waiting. Often waiting for nothing, sometimes just for that good old rejection letter.

So deciding to publish a book via Kickstarter is about seeing the project through yourself, until you have the finished artefact in your hand, rather than waiting for someone else, someone who has no real care for the work you’ve done, to make it for you. The process of working out how to make a book has been rewarding in itself – not to mention the fun of learning how to make a video for Kickstarter. Because it has been constantly enjoyable, I sometimes feel I don’t now even really care if we make the pledge total on Kickstarter that we need to publish the book (if not we’ll just make the book anyway and print as many or few copies as we might sell to people).

I was greatly inspired by a recent book, F**k the Radio, We’ve Got Apple Juice, in which the author Miranda Ward details the life of the band Little Fish, and how they went from supporting stadium rock bands in the US to leaving their label to make the music they wanted on their own. She talks of the idea of ‘sustainable creativity’ – that so long as you have the time and money to continue doing the work you love to do, that’s about all that matters. You live cheaply so you fulfilled by the work you love. She says that ‘every artist is a Kickstarter’ – meaning Kickstarter is the natural way for any artist to put their work out in the world, just so they have control of the whole process, just so they can continue to do the work they want to do. Never mind if it’s just for a few hours a week, with a shitty job to support it. If you have the work as your focus that’s a meaningful life.

And part of doing everything yourself is to pass on information to other people who might want to do the same. I’ve learnt much from other people’s blogs (particularly Austin Kleon and Christopher Shevlin on self-publishing), and want to do the same if it can be helpful to others. Hence writing protracted essays such as this…

If you’re doing everything yourself there is of course the matter of how you get people to know about your project, that balance between self-promotion and keeping the process enjoyable.. And marketing, promoting yourself is rarely enjoyable (the word makes my flesh crawl). (I’m not always sure that I know myself when I’m self-promoting on when I’m writing a blog post, like this one, because I want to write it.) Because the first people you tell are you friends, and whilst I want my friends to know what I’m doing, I certainly don’t want to badger them to buy what I’ve done. I’ll probably witter on about this more in a later post…

So just a few more weeks of finishing up the sample page of the book and the video. Then you can see them…

First test shoot for Mr Coconut Kickstarter video

Our first attempts to use green screen to animate Mr Coconut for the video for Kickstarter…
Our intention is to publish the book with a Kickstarter campaign, and all of the Kickstarter campaign’s we have looked at show the project with a video. So we’re going to make one. Neither of us have made a video before, but we borrowed some equipment, and found that learning a new skill was not just fun, but gave us a whole new set of ideas for how to do the illustrations for the book.
Before making the video we’d imagined the illustrations would be a combination of sketches and Photoshop tweaking. But using Catherine’s Mr Coconut puppet for the video it’s become obvious that what we should really do is combine puppetry, props and a bit of Photoshop.


Mr Coconut was born…

The story of Mr Coconut started a number of years ago, when I was on holiday with my children: it was raining, we had no books with us, and they said they wanted a story. I said I’d tell them one but they had to come up with the subject, to which Eliot said, ‘it’s about a coconut’.

The story went down well, but when we came home I forgot about it. I’d written other stories, for adults and children, but I didn’t really think Mr Coconut was going to be one I wanted to publish. And then the studio in which Catherine and I work opened to the public as part of Brighton’s Artists’ Open Houses, and whist everyone around me had illustrations and photographs and such like to exhibit, I had nothing. So I made the Mr Coconut story into a story trail that you could follow round the studio (this was a couple of years ago which is why it looks somewhat fallen down in the photos).


And then Catherine and I talked about making Mr Coconut into a book. Catherine has published a few illustrated books before and she thought she might illustrate them in a similar style, using a combination of illustrations and textiles.


We had a vague idea that when we’d completed it we might send it out to publishers, or maybe just print a few copies for ourselves. Catherine made a puppet Mr Coconut to get an idea of his character, and sketched up a few pages of what the book might look like.

MrC_Spread3_rough MrC_Spread2_rough copy MrC_roughs2_p8_9 Mr Coconut first roughs

Then Catherine was called away to do a full-time job for a few months, and the book went quiet for a while. But in the meantime I discovered Kickstarter, and the idea of showing your progress to encourage people to finance the production of the work. And it seemed like the right kind of way to publish Mr Coconut: my paid work is in designing books anyway, and we had already made one book before between us for a project of Catherine’s when she was running school workshops. We even had a (shoddy-looking) publisher name of our own.

But we found that all Kickstarter projects are demonstrated to their audience with a video. And we had no idea how to make a video of Mr Coconut, this felt like making a film of a book which we had not yet made. But we began to come up with lots of ideas for a little animated film of Mr Coconut, where he describes what we wanted to do with the project. And the puppet Mr Coconut became the star of the video. I began to learn how to edit and Catherine came up with all these ideas for the backgrounds, making them out of material.

And through making the video the style of the illustration came together, a combination of puppetry, material props, photography and Photoshop editing. Without us ever intending it to, it seemed obvious that the illustrations in the book should be made in the same way as the scenery for the video.

So that is where we are up to: making the Kickstarter video in preparation for making all the other illustrations for the book.