Rachel Tribout is an illustrator and author based in Hobart, Tasmania. In 2014 she crowd-funded the development and printing of her first children's book: The Monsters of Tasmania. The book follows the adventures of Captain Blueberry as she sets out to prove that mythical creatures truly exist.
We caught up with Rachel to chat about the challenges of crowdfunding and self publishing.
You've been a designer and illustrator for many years, having illustrated a few books for other authors along the way. When did you decide to write your own children's book?
I have only had a little experience in the publishing world. I have illustrated a book of poems and a children’s novel, both self published. When I first decided to create The Monsters of Tasmania, my idea was to create a portfolio that I could show to publishers.
At the beginning I had a few different goals. Ultimately I wanted to publish this book, but when I started it was really more of a personal project to teach myself. I figured the best way for me to learn to illustrate a kid’s book was to actually do one.
At first the book didn't have any text and I wanted to do the storytelling with pictures only. Later on the text grew organically around the illustrations with the help of my husband Daniel.
Where did the idea for Monsters of Tasmania come from?
It’s hard to recall exactly how it started. I think The Monsters of Tasmania is a mix of inspirations from my childhood, my personal interest and living on this island. I see faces in everything so it’s natural for me to imagine the landscape alive with giant creatures.
I decided to focus on Tasmania because it is where I live now and it is what I know. The landscape here is dramatic and the constantly changing light means it’s always presenting itself anew – especially Tasmania’s coastline. I grew up in a continental place, which means that as a kid I didn't see much of the sea. The ocean is a mysterious and powerful thing and I love to imagine what scary creatures inhabit the depths.
I try to get out discovering new places as often as I can and this inspires me. We go on a lot of adventures in the bush and my favorite walks are the coastal ones.
How long did it take you to create The Monsters of Tasmania, from concept to final draft?
The first illustrations for The Monsters of Tasmania were done in December 2012, around Christmas when I had a bit of time. At that time I created the first four pictures and did a rough mapping of the book.
From then, I didn't have much of a routine and I would try to fit time when I could between work and study. Weekends, evenings — I worked some long hours!
It changed a bit along the way and I added some pages halfway through. I finished illustrating by December 2013, and finalised the design in February 2014.
You chose to self-publish and seek crowdsourced funding to launch your book. Why did you go down this avenue?
I decided not to seek a publisher for several reasons.
Firstly, I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted this book to be exactly as I choose, for example by having a few more pages than the usual 32-page standard.
Designing it myself was part of the fun for me and I was interested in learning the full process, from concept to production. I wanted to produce the book completely in Tasmania and in the end I worked with a great local printer to put together the limited Explorer’s Edition that includes some extra pages and a three-colour process cover. It looks great!
I was also conscious that being Tasmanian focused, it would have been harder for a publisher to market it outside of Tasmania. At the same time that meant I could do it myself down here fairly easily because of the smaller scale.
My next book project probably won't be focused on Tasmania and I might try to contact publishers then, with The Monsters of Tasmania as my portfolio!
You reached 100% funding with 25 days to go – which is pretty impressive when it comes to crowdsourcing campaigns. Did you have to change or stretch your goals as the campaign progressed?
Crowdfunding with Pozible was a great experience! After we reached the target in the first week, I increased the goal. The extra money was very welcome as the initial amount I asked for wasn't enough to cover the full project cost. I was worried I wouldn't reach the target so I had brought down the target to make it more achievable.
What was the hardest part of the crowdfunding experience?
I guess the hard thing was to put it out there and the fear of failure. It was a big test, and I had no idea how it would be received.
Promotion through social media like Facebook was key and it was heartwarming to get a lot of help from my friends and family. I must also thanks all the people who helped out a lot in getting the message out.
The rest was pretty straightforward; it was a lot of work, setting Pozible up, making it ready, and then promoting it, but it was fun. Now that it is over it’s still a lot of work: organising the rewards for supporters and the logistics of having more than 150 books to distribute and mail around Tasmania and beyond – it’s a big job for me. As usual I do that after my work hours, so I do look forward to a bit of a rest!
If you were to crowdsource again, what would you do differently?
Each crowdfunding campaign would be different depending on the project – I'd have to adapt and make it relevant and unique. I guess one thing I would like to do next time is make sure I've got a bit of space in my life during and after the campaign so I can look after my supporters as well as possible.
Once you have fulfilled your Pozible orders, what are your goals for the book, and how will you market and sell the remaining copies?
Black Gum Distribution will be distributing my books around book shops and gift shops. Meanwhile, I will also set up an online shop via my website, and I will be down at Salamanca Market selling it too. If things go well I am hoping to do a second print order later in the year – fingers crossed! And in the meantime, I’m dreaming about starting work on my next children’s book!
Rachel has recently published a blog post full of tips for running a crowdfunding campaign, and you can find out where to purchase Monsters of Tasmania on Rachel's website.