The Roller-Coaster Ride of Book Production

I looked back at my blog the other day and realized that the last entry still read “Our Kickstarter campaign is nearly to our goal…” Somehow I never actually updated the blog—even after we completed our campaign as the second-highest funded fiction project ever on Kickstarter!

The reason for that is simple—from the time we started our campaign, I didn’t have a spare moment to blog! Keeping Facebook and Twitter updated was about all I could do. It has been a wild, roller-coaster ride of huge ups and downs all along the way. I want to share some of them—both in gratitude and to possibly caution and help others who might set out to do something similar.

When a Kickstarter is going well, there’s no feeling like it! Not even the money, although that helps, but the sense of support, the feeling that other people have faith in your work. It’s like having a wind at your back—everything you do feels just a bit easier.

But it is still a lot of work! And much of that work involves things that honestly, I don’t like doing—constantly promoting it, asking your friends and colleagues to promote it, calling in favors and racking up debts. I don’t recommend launching one when you are also travelling, teaching a fourteen-hour-a-day program, and trying to read and correct proofs of the manuscript at the same time!

I had wonderful help from Alli Gallixsee, who did an incredible job orchestrating the campaign and figuring out how to build it and make it work. Here’s another nugget of advice—if you’re not a digital native, if you aren’t savvy about the ins and outs of social media, find someone who is. I could never have done it without her. I also had great support from Philip Wood, who edited the video, and Jessica Perlstein, who made the wonderful cover image for a book that didn’t yet exist!

But that was done—and reaching the goal, and closing out the campaign well above our goal, was a definite thrill!

Then came the book production. Actually, that began well before we launched the Kickstarter, as I didn’t want to get people excited about the book and then have them wait ten months to get it. I really wanted people to get it before the holidays.

Well, some of you did!

So I borrowed money to begin the editing and copy-editing before the Kickstarter launched, as they take weeks and months to do. It was a gamble, but I was reasonably sure I could raise the money to pay back the loan.


As I look back on this little period of time, it seems like an endless set of decisions to make without having adequate information for making them—especially around things like how much it would actually cost to produce the book. Just an example, we couldn’t get a firm cost for printing the book until it was edited, copy-edited and designed and we knew how big it would be. We couldn’t get a firm cost for postage until the book was printed and we knew how much it weighed. We couldn’t know how many books we would need to print until the Kickstarter was completed. NOT printing books and simply doing Print-on-demand would have been much less expensive, but since we had promised books as a Kickstarter reward, and we needed something like 1200 of them, printing them seemed like a good idea.

Jennifer Ruby Privateer, whom I enlisted to manage the project while I was travelling, found us a wonderful printer, an employee-owned company in Wisconsin called Worzalla. We also hired them to do fulfillment—to package and mail all the reward books. Originally I had planned a marathon session in my garage with friends—but that would have added a week to our tight timetable and we thought having Worzalla do it would be quicker, although more expensive. However, we neglected to ask them a key question—how long will it actually take? I was appalled to discover, a month after I’d flown back there to sign all the copies that needed to be signed, that they were still slowly mailing and shipping books—and that they’d left the foreign books, which take longest to arrive, for last.

With all the guessing, and the comfortable sensation of having money in the bank, it was easy to make a whole series of decisions, each of which increased costs somewhat, without realizing how they were all adding up. In retrospect, I should have also recruited some hard-nosed financial manager type to crunch numbers as we went along. In any case, sometime in December, when I got the final estimated bill from Worzalla—for fulfillment, not including all the postage—the money ran out.

The roller coaster crashed. I cried.

But there was a reason I wrote the book, and invested so much in having it edited and designed, and worked so hard to make it good. And that was to have people read it. And as the books got sent out, and responses came in, that little cart on the roller coaster began to ratchet up again. Because people genuinely love the book!

As a writer, you expect your friends to tell you they like your work, even if they don’t. But you soon learn to discern the responses that mean they really, really like it! It’s the comments like, “My roommate’s light was on at 4 am and she was still reading it” that let you know you’ve told a story that engages people. And overall, I’ve been very, very happy to know that I’ve reached people with the story.

Will it work out financially, in the end? The jury is still out on that one. If the book sells, and I can eventually pay myself for even some of the years I’ve spent on it, I’ll be able to buy myself some more writing time to do another. That’s my hope.

I also haven’t forgotten the audiobook. That’s my next project, on top of the tour that will launch this month at Pantheacon in San Jose and continue on the East Coast in the coming weeks. Later I’ll be in Portland and Austin.

If you’re considering a similar project, here’s three pieces of advice:

1) Get someone savvy about Kickstarter and social media to help plan any campaign of that sort.

2) Get some humorless, curmudgeonly, mean and meticulous person to manage the money.

3) Don’t put a tight deadline for yourself on a project that involves a high learning curve with a lot of unfamiliar aspects. (My brother warned me about this—you were right, Mark!)

Now, as we begin to launch the book for real to the general public, I can feel that breeze on my back again. I’m hoping to turn that roller coaster into a nice, level train track (running on solar electric) that will deliver me to some peaceful place where I can dive into a new writing project.


City of Refuge is now available on Amazon as an Ebook, and will soon be available in physical form. Official publication date is March 1, but your local bookstore can order it now from Ingram Book Company. Here’s how you can help support the book:

  • Ask your local bookstore to carry it.
  • Post a review on Amazon or Goodreads.
  • Tell your friends about it!

Thanks so much for your support—it makes the wild ride so much more fun to know you’re coming along with me!

7 comments to The Roller-Coaster Ride of Book Production

  • Jo Butler

    I was so happy the Kickstarter campaign was successful. When the paper book delivery was delayed, I was glad for the eBook. I had no idea that money ran out. I am so sorry. Is it possible to help you financially? Is there something the many of us who have read ‘City of Refuge’ can do? I would be happy to send another $25.00 because your work has lifted my spirits and given me hope. Could there be a Kickstarter for your book tour, since you have to pay your own way? May your way be opened with blessings and light.

    • Jo, that’s incredibly sweet of you! I received so much great support with the Kickstarter, I don’t feel like I want to ask for more, but the offer is so kind! What would be wonderful, now that the book is available, is simply to order a copy for a friend. The book tour will pay for itself, as many of the events will pay me money, but the more copies of the book that are sold, the better the Amazon rating and the more people will hear about it. Thanks so much!

  • Thanks for this blog, Star. I love the picture at the top of this page. You look vibrant. I will order the book from Copperfields. I can’t wait to read it.
    Love, Linda

  • sharon jaffe

    What is the ISSN/ISBN number so I can request my library to buy it?
    thanks & shalom

    • There’s a whole other blog to be written about the pricing/discount glitch which at this point has me earning only 18 cents from every book bought through Ingram Book Company. That will change in April, so when it does, I’ll be sure to post the ISBN. For now, the best way to buy it is either through me directly at an event, or through Amazon. Sad–but the behemoth is better to an author than the bookstores.

  • Anandita

    I tell so many of my tribe to read The Fifth Sacred Thing how happy I was to hear about the City of Refuge is there a hard copy available

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