On today's Inspirational Indie Authors interview, I talk to New Zealand author Steff Green. She's a paranormal romance author, teaches self-publishing courses, and is also a children's author who just Kickstarted a Gothic Picture Book. It's a book about bullying called Only Freaks Turn Things Into Bones.
Steff talks about how she was bullied as a child due to her blindness, which gave her a deep understanding of how a bullying victim feels. And, like the main character in the book, she was a Goth kid. Steff also discusses how she successfully launched a Kickstarter drive to fund the book.
The New Zealander is a successful indie author with many interests and talents. Plus, she talk about her previous life as an Indiana Jones-style archaeologist (sort of).
A few highlights from our interview
On Why She Wrote a Book About Bullying
When I was little, I was bullied because I was different. And so that's why this book has a real personal connection to me; and the illustrator I worked with also went through similar things. So, it was kind of our way of trying to help future kids like us.
On a Successful Kickstarter Campaign
I was really surprised every single person that I approached said, “Absolutely. We would love to do that.” It was just amazing. We engaged our backers and we were always doing updates and showing them new art work and really encouraging them to share the project with their friends.
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Listen to My Interview with Steff Green
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About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcript
Howard: You're listening to Inspirational Indie Authors. There's so many ways I can introduce my guests today. I don't know where to start. She's a paranormal romance author. She teaches self publishing courses. She is also a children's author who just kickstarted a gothic picture book. Oh. And she's also from New Zealand. And joining me from New Zealand where it's already tomorrow is Steff Green. Hi Steph and thank you for talking to me today.
Steff: Hi Howard and hi everyone. Good morning from the future.
Howard: First, before we begin, I should also mention something else that is a part of who you are and I'll let you describe that.
Steff: Yes. So it comes into how I wrote this children's book, but I'm actually legally blind. I'm not completely blind, but I don't have any color vision and I'm extremely light sensitive and I'm short sighted to the point where I kind of can't see my own shoes.
Gothic Picture Book
Howard: Well, first, tell me what a gothic picture book is. And by that do you mean at least what we here in America call Goth?
Steff: Yeah, yeah, I do. So I definitely kind of that's sort of how I would probably identify myself a little bit like, oh, on the dark side. The kind of books that I read are in the gothic subgenre: haunted houses, women in big Victorian dresses running through the fields and things like that.
Poor Little Grim Reaper
Howard: Yeah. That sounds like a lot of fun. So tell me a little bit about the genesis of your book, Only Freaks Turn Things Into Bones. And I understand you have found a publisher after a successful Kickstarter program.
Steff: Yes. So I had the idea for this book for quite a long time, but I, because I'm not really, I can draw okay but I'm not a super great artist, never really kind of got off the ground. And then I was talking to an illustrator friend of mine one day, and she'd never done a children's book before. And we were kind of talking about this idea and she was like, “Oh, I love it so much.” So we decided to give it a go. The book is about a little grim reaper who has his first day of school and all the other kids are mean to him and they bully him because he is different. Every time he touches something, it turns into bone. So he touches a tree that they're building a fort o, and the tree kind of withers away.
Steff: And then he touches a little girl's pet bunny rabbit and it turns into a skeleton rabbit.
Howard: Poor little grim reaper.
Steff: Yeah, yeah. And so everyone's really mean to him. And the whole point of the book is about kind of celebrating what makes you different and not trying to change yourself to fit in with other people's idea of what's normal.
Steff: When I was little, I was bullied because I was different. And so that's why this book has a real personal connection to me; and the illustrator I worked with also went through similar things. So, it was kind of our way of trying to help future kids like us.
Howard: Now what is the secret to successful Kickstarter program? Did you already have a sort of a network built in or did you build it from scratch?
Steff: So I, you know, I do have, like, I do have a lot of followers, but they're all, you know, people who are fans of my paranormal romance work. So trying to get them to buy this kind of quirky picture book's a bit, you know, it was never going to be as big as if it was a paranormal romance book. So, what we kind of did was we looked at it a lot of other, what a lot of other book Kickstarter campaigns had done. And the thing about Kickstarter is that people, the people who are on it aren't really book buyers. But they, what they are is they are always looking for kind of gifts to give to people and things like that, which is why children's books, children's books with kind of a quirky, unusual concept tend to do quite well. So we fit into that category so, you know, that was kind of our initial research.
Steff: So we were like, “Okay, this, we think this is going to work.” So we kind of identified some different audiences that might be interested in this picture book. Like kind of looking at approaching the kind of the Goth community but also, you know, looking at it for the people who are looking for gifts for children and things like that. So we kind of identified these different communities and looked at marketing to them and also I back a lot of children's books on Kickstarter because I have nieces and nephews and I need to buy gifts for them. So, um, I already had all these projects that I'd backed and what I did was I approached all those people and said, “Hey, you know, I'm a backer. I loved your project. I wondered if you would consider sending out, you know, a little link to our project in your next update to backers.”
Steff: I was really surprised every single person that I approached said, “Absolutely. We would love to do that.” It was just amazing. We engaged our backers and we were always doing updates and showing them new art work and really encouraging them to share the project with their friends. And I was noticing on Facebook, you know, every time someone would share it, there would be people underneath commenting on it saying, “Oh that's really cool, I'm going to go back that.” So you know, kind of engaging the backers-
Howard: Makes them feel like they're part of the project.
Steff: Yeah, exactly. And also one thing we did right near the end, which I just suddenly thought, “Hey, that might be a good idea” is I said to people, “Hey, you've only got 3 days left. So if you, maybe you only backed up like a $5 level, but maybe you decided, actually I'd like a copy of the book at the $20 level, so if you want you can change your, change your pledge.” And so many people did that on the last few days. And they've never would have done that, if I hadn't mentioned, just casually mentioned it.
Howard: Now ordinarily I don't like to talk business on this show, I let the business experts handle those questions. I talk about writing, but on your site, you say, “I'm a six figure author, mainly by writing in a niche and publishing fast.” Now I want to know where do I sign up for that deal? What is the secret for writing so quickly?
Steff: That pretty much is the secret. Yeah, it's to write really quickly. And I didn't start off writing quickly. I worked up to it. So I use a timer and I sit down for 20 minutes. I have the timer on and I tried to shut out Facebook, and my husband and you know, all the distractions and I just write for 20 minutes. Timer goes off. I take a five minute break. I come back, write for another 20 minutes. And I just kept doing that and I found that, you know, I can write sort of 600 to 750 words in those 20 minutes. So if you keep coming back and you keep being disciplined in doing that over and over, you can do that kind of what I do, sort of 4 to 5,000 words a day, which adds up quite quickly.
Howard: Oh, and here are two more things that you are a former archeologist and museum curator and I'm sure you've heard all the Indiana Jones comparisons before. Is that what it's like, adventures and searching for the Ark of the Covenant?
Steff: Oh, totally, absolutely. No, a lot of the time it's literally just staring at dirt. But yeah, but sometimes it's used to be so much fun. It was a really exciting thing to be able to study but there's just, it's just very hard to find work as an archeologist, especially if you are legally blind. So no one wants a blind archaeologist looking after their artifacts. So yeah. So I became a writer instead, which is equally fun.
Howard: Do you use some of that knowledge of history in your books?
Steff: All the time. All the time. Anyone who reads reads my books will see a lot of archeologists as main characters. A lot of history kind of references, a lot of that kind of thing.
Howard: Wonderful. Well, can you read us a passage from your children's book?
Steff: I certainly can.
Howard: We'd love to hear it.
Steff: So I'll just read this one. Little Grim sat down next to a girl. She was hugging her pet rabbit. “His name is Fluffy,” she said. “He's so soft and cuddly. Can I hold him?” Little Grim asked. He loved animals. The little girl handed over her rabbit. As soon as Little Grim touched Fluffy's fur the rabbit skin shrunk away and he was nothing but moving bones. “Look at what you've done. Now he's not cuddly anymore,” The girl said. “He's a freak. He's weird. Don't play with him or he'll turn you to bones.” All through class the other kids whispered about Little Grim. They moved their desks far away. Little Grim's heart sank to his knees. He only wanted to have friends. He didn't want to cause anyone pain but he couldn't help who he was. He sat down on the front steps of the school, a single tear fell from his eye socket. “I'll run far away,” he thought, “that way I can't possibly hurt anyone ever again.” So that's kind of the sad bit of the story.
Howard: That's so sad.
Steff: It gets a lot better.
Howard: I'm sure it does. Yes. Well we all know that the freaks usually grow up to be very successful people, creative people because they know how to think differently.
Howard: Yeah. Well, thank you so much Steph. I appreciate you taking the time to talk to us and you have a good rest of the day in New Zealand and I am going to bed here in Michigan.
Steff: Thank you so much for having me.
Howard: Thank you. Goodbye.
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