by Kristen Hall-Geisler, Indigo collaborative editor and writing coach, freelance journalist
Many of the readers of Indigo’s monthly newsletter (as well as the author of this article) have gotten help with the publishing process from our own Vinnie Kinsella. Now he’s publishing his own project, an anthology of personal essays called Fashionably Late: Gay, Bi, and Trans Men Who Came Out Later in Life, and using a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for its publication.
With so many options available, why did Vinnie choose this particular route to publication? I asked him the questions so many authors have about their own projects. Here is our interview, edited for clarity. Also, because we’re editors. It’s what we do.
KHG: Why self-publish this book? Surely you have the knowledge to publish the book yourself, but you also probably have contacts in publishing.
VK: It was a no-brainer to self-publish. Ultimately, though, it was a matter of the time investment. If I wanted to go the traditional route, I’d first have to pitch agents and publishers. That’s a huge part of the process, and there’s no guarantee that I would find a publisher who has a place for my vision for the anthology. If I spent a year pitching the idea, that’s just time spent getting someone to agree it’s the book we want to make. It’s not creating the content. I knew I could publish it; I do have skills and confidence in them.
KHG: Did you create a timeline for your book at the outset? Or do you have this process so down pat that you can kind of wing it?
VK: I did create a timeline. I am incredibly far off it.
I tell my clients all the time you have to have a publication date, a finish line, in sight or you won’t actually run the race. I took my own advice. If I knew when it was supposed to come out, I could work backward. Having a timeline keeps me from sitting on my butt and doing nothing. It also creates less angst and forces you to make decisions. There’s less room to play around with doubt and uncertainty.
KHG: How did you end up being far from your timeline?
VK: I had to decide to have a second round of submissions. I wanted specific thematic elements that weren’t covered in the first round, and I got way more submissions in the second round. But that required me to add some time.
KHG: How are you moving through the process of publication without freaking out?
VK: One of the benefits of having my experience is knowing how to prioritize. I know what’s important to do now and what’s not important now. A lot of authors don’t have that; you just don’t know. That’s why you use Indigo!
I have checklists, but whether or not I use them…. They do keep me on track and remind where I need to focus today and tomorrow. Surprises creep in, and a checklist helps me remember what still needs to be done—even pleasant surprises like people wanting to do interviews. It helps me when I get diverted.
KHG: How did you decide to use a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the project?
VK: I see crowdfunding not just as a means to make money but also as a means to generate interest in the book. Having people find the book early and invest in it helps the overall marketing. When it comes out, there’s already four hundred people or whatever who backed the project. It gives the book legs to stand on right off the bat. Money is certainly a big part of the appeal, but it generates publicity, marketing, and direct access to readers.
KHG: So what are the drawbacks of using crowdfunding?
VK: Kickstarter is so stressful! The frustrating thing is there’s no way of knowing if your campaign is doing well. Am I on track? Am I doing great? Are the Kickstarter people saying, “That’ll never make the goal”? The learning curve has been huge. I did find it helpful to talk to people who’ve had campaigns, and I’ve gotten feedback on my campaign to implement.
As a self-published author, you can’t tell if what you’re getting is good advice. Kickstarter is the same way.
We wish Vinnie all the best as he continues through the Kickstarter campaign (it ends October 11!) and the rest of the publishing process. Stay tuned for a pub date announcement in 2016.
When Kristen Hall-Geisler isn’t editing for Indigo or writing articles for the New York Times and various other publications you have surely heard of, she writes her own books. In 2013, she independently published, with Vinnie’s guidance, Take the Wheel: A Woman’s Guide to Buying a Car Her Own Damn Self. She is currently on the traditional publication track for two other books.