Danielle Soucy Mills is the author of a children’s book titled Tina Tumbles. Tina Tumbles is a book about a little girl, who after seeing gymnasts on television, wants to try gymnastics herself. She tries to stand on her hands but falls initially. She tries to cartwheel and falls (initially). Tina is disappointed but she doesn’t give up. With tips from her coach, she tries again, practices and learns to tumble.
The book, in a way, is not only a story about a young gymnast-in-the making but a story that is relevant to the rest of us. It revolves around a message that things that are worth doing require time, practice and hard work to do well. It’s a message we do not hear enough of in our world where the focus appears to be to receive any and all things as close to instantaneously as possible. We come to understand in Danielle Soucy Mills’s book that the tumbles and falls that happen along the way are literally part and parcel of the art of tumbling (and life).
Tina Tumbles is illustrated by Kimberly Soderberg, a Cleveland-based illustrator who breathes life to the story with her wonderful illustrations of Tina’s tumbles and tumbling.
We first came across Tina Tumbles earlier this year when Danielle started a Kickstarter campaign to finance the publication of the book. Her Kickstarter campaign for the book raised over $8,000, and it is another inspiring testament to the fact that self-publishing can be a success – with the right book, good networking skills, and the right author-illustrator team willing to put in the time and hard work in marketing the book themselves. As with Tina’s tumbling, the keys seem to be persistence and hard work as well as being open to learning from more experienced mentors.
We are delighted to have Danielle Soucy Mills drop by today and chat with us a little about Tina Tumbles and how she has approached the marketing of her book, in particular her experience with crowdfunding her book through Kickstarter.
Thank you Danielle for taking the time to chat with us!
NS: Can you tell us a little about your book Tina Tumbles? How did you come to write it?
DSM: Tina Tumbles was inspired by my childhood, and many of the kids I’ve coached in gymnastics throughout the years. It is a story about perseverance, teaching kids to get back up and try again, not just in sports, but in whatever they do.
By the age of 3, I was swinging on the bars holding up my swing-set. My mom was so scared I would get hurt, so she enrolled me in gymnastics classes. When I was young, I pretty much knew that I wanted to be a writer and a gymnastics coach someday. When I started writing Tina Tumbles, I was also working toward my Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Chapman University in Orange, CA and writing my first novel for my Thesis, so I was pretty busy. I knew that many young gymnasts enrolled in the sport because of the same reasons that I did, and also that there were not too many fictional gymnastics picture books for younger kids. I remember gaining motivation from the kids that I coached to finally finish the story and send it out into the world.
In 2010, a small independent publisher picked up the book, which was how I met my illustrator. But things did not work out, and so I looked toward publishing the book independently after hearing #1 best-selling children’s author and international speaker, Sheri Fink, present at a Publishers and Writers of San Diego meeting.
NS: You had used Kickstarter campaign to help launch your book. What led you to choose the crowdfunding route?
DSM: My illustrator found Kickstarter after a friend of hers got his project funded through the site. She passed the website along to me and I thought, hmm, we could do this. I immediately began studying projects that were successful. Not by coincidence, I’m sure, I found another gymnastics picture book, Kika the Upside Down Girl, which had been funded in the previous month by 1984 Canadian Olympian Jessica Tudos. Jessica’s advice and motivation were invaluable to me. She really gave me the confidence to move forward with Kickstarter. View Jessica’s book and Kickstarter blog post here.
NS: Do you have any advice for other authors who might want to use Kickstarter as an avenue to publish and market a book? What worked well for you? How did you publicize your campaign?
DSM: At the time of my campaign, I was right smack in the middle of Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles. In one chapter, he talked about goal setting, and the importance of setting your goals high. Of course, he was not referring to Kickstarter, so I weighed the option of setting my goal smaller or halfway to where I needed it to actually produce the book. After all, Kickstarter is all or nothing and so you risk losing it all if you do not reach your goal.
There is no way of telling if I had set my goal lower what would have happened, but I do recommend finding a reasonable number that will not blow your stress level through the roof! I noticed that a lot of people purposely set their goals lower, but ended up going far beyond what they’d hoped for. The second I hit the launch button, I smiled and cried tears of joy as the pledges poured in, but the middle of the campaign was the toughest for me. I was in constant battle with myself. I can do this! No, I can’t! Yes I can! It was probably one of the most stressful 30 days I’ve ever had in my life. Through it all, I tried to stay as positive as possible.
One of the most helpful aspects of my campaign was that it was not just me putting everything together. I was incredibly lucky to have the help of my illustrator. I also pledged for other campaigns around mine, and gained information from them on other ways to publicize. My illustrator found Inkspokes through another Kickstarter campaign. I was also introduced to Get Funded: A Kick-ass plan for running a successful crowdfunding campaign, by Nicole Delger. I looked up many articles online. (I recommend looking up articles on Kickstarter and taxes too). They say that creating a professional-looking video is also a great way to lead a successful campaign. I ended up making my own video/picture slide show using iMovie, and had a lot of good feedback on that. Another important aspect of Kickstarter is the reward levels. They tell you to come up with all sorts of creative rewards, stuff people will only be able to get for supporting you on Kickstarter, but I found that a lot of people just wanted books, so I tried to offer a little bit of both.
Also, be sure to check the Kickstarter Dashboard for valuable information on where your pledges are coming from, your average pledges, and other helpful information. Spreading the word through Facebook had a huge impact on my campaign. Just over 50% of my pledges were directed to Kickstarter through Facebook.
Working in several different gymnastics schools throughout the country, I was lucky enough to know plenty of people who were interested gymnastics pictures books too. For those people that I didn’t know, I created bookmarks and fliers to hand out and hang up anywhere I could think of including libraries, schools, and gyms. When I found that the kids of an instructor at a gym got bookmarks from our local library, I knew that the word was spreading. Everywhere I went, I imagined that I was planting seeds to grow something big and amazing.
NS: What did you find most challenging about doing a Kickstarter campaign for a book?
DSM: I think one of the most challenging things about doing Kickstarter for a book was not having the official product in front of me to show people. I did have a print out of “the book” on computer paper, and was able to read it at several schools, allowing kids to enjoy the story, but it was nothing comparable to the hardcover books we printed as a result of a successful campaign.
NS: Tina Tumbles ties in to real life gymnastics – especially for aspiring young gymnasts. Has that tie-in helped in the promotion of the book and, if so, how?
DSM: Having connections to many gyms throughout the country has helped me tremendously, not just in my decision to successfully take the crowd-funding route, but also in deciding to publish the book independently.
To promote, I turned to an international gymnastics forum called Chalkbucket for ad placements, attended gymnastics meets, and passed the word along through friends both in and out of gymnastics. I was lucky enough to recently gain the support of America’s most decorated gymnast, 7-time Olympic Medalist, Shannon Miller and her company Shannon Miller Lifestyle, and I also had some books signed by 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Gold medalist Kyla Ross, 2000 U.S. Olympic Team Bronze medalist Jamie Dantzscher, and my co-worker, Cuban World Championship bronze medalist, Charlie Tamayo. The book is now being sold in at least 5 gyms in San Diego, and a few more on the east coast. International Gymnastics Camp, one of the largest gymnastics camps in the world will have some for sale as well in their canteen and gym school. Our goal is to get the book into gyms in every state! Thus far, my illustrator and I are so thankful for everyone who has supported us and helped to spread the word.
NS: What feedback have you received from readers now that your book has launched? Any thoughts on a sequel? Are you working on other book projects?
DSM: The feedback has been absolutely incredible. I knew that family and friends would enjoy it, (because they have to, right?!) but I was so beyond grateful to receive a 5 star review from Readers’ Favorite. The reviewer actually commented that she was going to get the book for her daughter! To know that kids are enjoying the book makes me so happy; it is really a dream come true. As for a sequel, Tina Loses a Tooth has gone through my critique group several times. I received very positive feedback from a literary agent after completing a Writer’s Digest Webinar, and I look forward to getting that book out hopefully by this time next year; perhaps creating a Totally Tina series. I have a few other children’s manuscripts which are going through my critique group now, and I plan to release my novel, Illusion of an Ending, soon as well. As scary as it has been diving headfirst into the independent publishing world, I am so happy with the way things have worked out, and I am so excited to finally be living my dream.
(This interview was conducted by Nelson Suit for Inkspokes. We were provided a free electronic copy of Tina Tumbles in connection with our review and as background for this interview.)
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Information on illustrator Kimberly Soderberg may be found on Kimberly’s website.