Join Laurie and author Nicole Filippone as they talk about book marketing, kickstarter strategy and the ups and downs of the publishing journey.
A Full-time Writer at Heart
Nikki is a well know contributor of MANY author Facebook groups so chances are you already ‘know’ her.
She’s a part-time author on paper, but full-time author at heart. She spends nights, weekends, and lunch hours working on her author ventures and she loves it (most of the time 🙂 ).
Nikki wrote her first book in 2018 and published it in 2019. She chose to self-publish because she was too impatient to attempt the traditional route… and is so glad that she did.
My first book was cute, but not terribly impactful. It has done reasonably well but didn’t really stand out in any special way. My second book was quite the opposite. It filled a pretty large void in a very specific niche space. Once I figured out that this space was in dire need of more children’s books, I decided to focus my writing efforts there, and it has been such a rewarding experience. My marketing efforts have also exploded since I started focusing on this space.Nicole Filippone
Advice for authors:
What are you waiting for? Being an independent author means you get to do everything on your own clock… so, finishing your book shouldn’t feel too daunting because the next steps are yours to take whenever you are ready.Nikki Filippone
Have a listen to the show to hear about how much Nikki’s strategies have changed. And then listen to the next show, because there was just that much to talk about!
Want to understand marketing more?
Join the #wrightersclub on FB! An engaged community currently enjoying a fun bookclub.
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View episode transcript
Contributing to the world on a larger scale in a meaningful way is her fav part
Hello writers. Welcome back to the writers way podcast. I’m here. Actually. I never practiced your last name, Nikki. You say it shoots Phillip. Okay. Very phonetic. I just really, and you go by Nikki, right? That’s what you are on. I go by Nikki and the author groups. And I go by Nicole as my author. Name, your author name.
Okay. So welcome to the fabulous Nicole Fillipone, There I said it. Yay. Thank you so much for coming on with me today. Welcome. So, let’s start at the beginning and just, you know, how you got started on the journey of being an author. So tell us about you. Okay. Well, I started out, as a child. I think most of us did, I want to say.
I was obsessed with writing poetry from a very, very young age. And, there was a point in time when I didn’t go a day without writing something. And, I think when I hit my twenties, that kind of subsided, cause now I was in college and I had, you know, a lot of other things going on. and I put my poetry aside, but it always followed me around every time I moved and I moved a lot, My poetry came with me and we’re in our current house.
We’ve been living here for almost five years and I have ’em in my office, a bookshelf with my books that traveled with me over the years, including my poetry. And one day I was going through the shelves and I came across a poem. I had written actually came across several. They were handwritten. Then I decided I was going to transfer them to the computer.
So I would have them electronically. And I came across this silly poem that I had written, and I was like, this is really clever. Something about it just made me go. I want to fix this up. Cause, over the years my writing has improved. You know, when I was much younger, I had a certain level of skill and over the years, you know, got better at it.
So anyway, I decided to fix it up and I did, I read it to my husband one night and. He says to me, this needs to be a children’s book. And I never once in my life before that ever considered writing or illustrating or anything children’s books. But, so I never, I at that point in time kind of was like, that’s interesting, but what am I really going to do with that?
You know? I’m not at that point in time, I was not an illustrator. I had done graphic design, but no illustration, and there was no way in my mind to get that cute poem into a children’s book. And so, my husband said to me, I’d love to illustrate this for you. He’s an artist and he’s an amazing one.
And of course, time just flew by and he wasn’t able to do it. Life is busy. We have three kids, we have twins and you know, it’s really hard. Yeah. So, after about five or six months, He said to me, you know, sweetheart, why don’t you try illustrating yourself? And I was like, Oh, I can’t do that.
Just to clarify: do you have any artistic skills? Like, can you draw? I’m picturing somebody saying that to me.
You know, I can’t, I’m not, I’m not a draw. I’m not a hand drawn artist, but can’t do that. I have no formal artists, artistic background. Didn’t go to school for that. My husband does. He’s got an MFA or sorry, BFA, which is an art degree. And then he has a BSA in another type of art.
So, he’s like the artist and I was there going, I can’t, I don’t even know where I would even start, but I did do graphic design. I did some, logo designs and I did some other types of. layout designs and I was using a tool called Microsoft publisher, and I kind of, sort of knew how to create shapes.
And so one day I just, I sat down with a pen and paper. My poem was about a nose that could talk. So, I started joining the character. And then I took the character sketch, which was kind of not that cute. transferred it onto the computer. And in two weeks, I don’t know, I just illustrated the whole thing.
I don’t even know how or where that came from. It just kind of came together and, that’s how it started.
Wow. That’s incredible. That’s so nice. I know so many people who think, you know, I would do this, but I can’t because I can’t draw. So you’re very inspirational because, because
Laurie: [00:04:28] …but obviously you’re talented, but you worked at it.
Nikki: [00:04:31] I did work at it. And one of my, I think, I feel like this has to be what all creative people do, but maybe not. but I went online and I Googled pictures and I got inspiration, you know, in my, my first book that the book I illustrated out of nowhere, I needed a picture of a bunk, a bunk bed.
So I went and found a picture of a bunk bed and I traced it, you know, with my tool and I figured out how to do shading and I figured out what kind of colors I wanted. and it looked different than the picture I took, you know, but I used it as inspiration and I literally learned how to create sheets that way.
and so I feel like pretty much anybody could probably do that.
Laurie: [00:05:16] That’s fantastic. So Microsoft publisher,
Nikki: [00:05:20] …and honestly, it’s not a tool that I think anyone else uses for illustration, but it’s, it’s a Microsoft product. And Microsoft has a way of creating these sure, simple user interfaces I’ve ever come across.
Like anyone could pretty much figure it out. and so even though the tool is Microsoft, publisher’s kind of like Adobe InDesign it’s meant for layout and design. So once you have your, you know, let’s just say you scanned images and then you can put it into BS, you know, A book layout, and then put your text on it and do things like that.
And, but it also gives you the ability to create your own shapes and sell the shapes in with textures, which I love and, different shadings and all sorts of different things. and that’s how I create my work. So if somebody wants to see what that looks like, is that book called. Oh, I know. Yes. It’s called ‘If My Nose Could Talk’.
Laurie: [00:06:20] Yeah. So go check out on Amazon. Right. So if you want to see what it looks like, because if you’re in that space of, I would love to do this, but I can’t draw and I can’t afford an illustrator. And that’s your roadblock, then go check out Nikki’s book and see what you think of that. And it’s also, sorry, were you saying no, go ahead.
Nikki: [00:06:38] I was just going to say I did a very simple layout, so I’ve, I’ve illustrated, four books in total. At this point and I’m in middle of illustrating. My fifth, two of them were for other people. authors reached out to me when I started sharing my work in the groups and asked if I would do illustrations for them.
And so my style has actually evolved the very first book that I did. If my nose could talk. Is I think a very simple, version of what I do now. And I think it gives a good idea of what could be possible with minimal, you know, knowhow that’s exciting. And the two books. That you did for other people. How long did those take you to do longer?
Because they were much more detailed. So my second book that I did was called or is called ‘Adain McGee gets a case of the Actually’s’. And, I did that for Aaron McGinley and he’s in a group or one of the big groups, probably a few. And, it’s, it’s a much more intricate story with a lot of characters and.
He had a very strong vision, for the characters and the way that the characters facial expression were. I learned so much doing that book. He sent me an article that literally explained facial expression. Explained eyebrows, explain how the eye you want to draw them or what they expressions mean. It both.
Oh, like if you want to, create a character who looks confused, the eyebrows would be pointed in this direction and the eyes would be pointed that way. You want a character who looks proud that double chin is going to be pointed up a little bit. And like, there are lots of different things that, That create a certain expression.
Laurie: [00:08:29] Wow. And faces are so hard. Right? So that, yeah,
Nikki: [00:08:33] Actually, yeah, I think faces are easier than hands.
Laurie: [00:08:37] I think I’ve heard that about him.
Nikki: [00:08:39] I want to do an illustration. I just avoid hands the hands going off the page or how faces are, complex. But if you understand how expressions work you can do it,
Laurie: [00:08:52] that sounds really useful. Like super useful. Yeah. Cool. Okay. So tell us what came next. So you just started this randomly, not randomly, but okay.
Nikki: [00:09:03] I’ll talk about what I did after I finished my book. So. I had this book, it was fully illustrated and I didn’t know anything about the independent, author space at all. I didn’t know anything about children’s books really. I just knew that he thought my book was cute and had a lot of people around me.
Of course they all loved probably me. Well, it was. And, that it was worthy. And so the question was what was I to do? And so I started doing what most people, I think. Try to do, which is to pursue traditional publishing because you don’t know that independent publishing is a possibility and you don’t really think about it, even if they heard of it.
They’re probably like, I don’t know. I don’t want to do anything with that. And so I started to, write query letters. I wrote query letters to any traditional publisher that was accepting. Unsolicited manuscripts. I started writing query letters to agents. and what I found the trend was you might, you might hear from us in 60, you also might not.
and so I didn’t wait. I was like, I cannot waiting six months for a maybe. so after probably like 30 or 40 of each type, like to agents and to. publishers, I started to consider other options. Now, at one point I, I did get, a response from a quote unquote publisher, and I put that in quotes because it was from a hybrid publisher, which is very similar to a vanity publisher.
And they’re not, they call themselves publishing. They’re not really. and so the, the name of the publishing house, or, you know, the hybrid company was called Mascot Books. And the reason I even got it contact with them was because I had purchased the book on Amazon that had been published through them.
And so I didn’t realize they were a hybrid publisher. I thought, Oh, this is legitimate. A friend of mine is in traditional publishing. She just started children’s space. But she said to me, find your favorite children’s books, look at the back, or, you know, wherever the publisher’s listed and try and contact them.
so that, that’s how I did that. And I got in touch with mascot books and they said they got in touch with me and they were like, Oh, we loved your story. It’s amazing. Our stations are great. we’d love to help you publish your book. And so they quoted me something along the lines of like $8,000, something for whatever number of books they want.
They, they thought I wanted. And, but it was about like $4 and 50 cents per book or something like that. And the main reason I even contemplated doing this up first was because of marketing. So they said, Oh, marketing is a part of the package. I was like, Oh, that’s great. I don’t have time for marketing.
I have twins. I have an older son, you know, I have a full time job. Who’s got time for marketing. So I, I decided to pursue that, but of course I didn’t have $8,000. So what was I going to do, but start a Kickstarter campaign. So this point in time, I was, I decided that I was just going to try and start my book.
But I really didn’t know anything at all about launching a Kickstarter campaign other than the research I did online. And so I was able to put together a really decent campaign itself. The campaign was decent. All the elements were there, the graphics were cute. the story was there. the rewards were decent.
Everything was there. Except I didn’t have any online presence. I didn’t have any social media following. I was not, nobody knew who I was. So I launched my Kickstarter and I got a ton of support from friends and family. In three days, I got about $1,600 and I had a, a goal of 10,000 because I needed to, consider the fees that kickstart starter was going to take out.
It’s like 8,500 that I needed. And, I, my goal was 10,000 and after three days, After I had hit up every friend and family member, I was like, I don’t even know where else to go from here. Like, I keep continued this campaign, which by the way, those three days were really intense. but yeah, I was like, I can continue going, but I don’t even know where I would go, who I would talk to where I would get this money.
There’s nobody. There’s nobody else. And so I decided after three days to cancel my campaign. So, that was a very interesting experience. I’ve learned a lot since they have a lot more that I could talk about, but I feel like I’ve been talking too much.
Laurie: [00:13:59] Well, that’s why you’re here. That must’ve been really hard to cancel it. Did you feel like giving up at that time or did you still know you were going to figure it out?
Nikki: [00:14:08] I didn’t know what was next. I just knew that Kickstarter didn’t work for me and I didn’t think I would ever do another Kickstarter to be very frank cause the three days were very grueling. And, so what ended up happening was I it’s interesting because, when you start going, when you start thinking about publishing, you don’t know anything about anything.
And you try to go the traditional route. You kind of, are you having in your head that you have to do it a certain way? So I had in my head that I needed hardcover copies, right? There was no, I didn’t even know that print on demand existed. Like, I didn’t know it was even an option until I started joining these children’s book groups.
And so I was in the groups and I’m hearing people talk about this, that and the other. And at one point in time, I realized, Oh, I can just do print on demand. I’m not looking to make money with this because at the time I had my day job, you know, I didn’t need this to be a source of income. I just, I had this cute book I wanted to share with people.
I thought it would make little kids smile, you know? So I, I ended up putting my book on Amazon under the print on demand options. So KDP and it’s been there ever since then, I’ve sold a decent amount of copies get a regular royalty check, but it’s nothing to write home about, but It was a start and had I not done that? I wouldn’t be here. I’ve done a lot since then. and none of it would have been possible if not for all of that, all of that.
Laurie: [00:15:42] So then what happened?
Nikki: [00:15:43] So you got it up there and you realized you could do it. So, I’m trying to think of how to. Explain what happened next? Good. A lot of different things were happening at the same time in my personal life. I, like I mentioned, I have twins. this was about at this point about two years ago. So I have they’re girls.
They’re about to be six. So two years ago they were about to be four or, and one of them was, An extra handful and we didn’t know why at the time it took, it took us a little time figuring it out. But, so kind of just skipping ahead, we discovered that she has sensory processing disorder and that she essentially seeker and that a lot of her behaviors, which were making her a handful, like her hanging upside down off the fireplace mantle and, you know, whatever, all the crazy physical things she was constantly doing.
where’s tied to this. And so I started doing my own research and figure it out. I read the book, the out of Saint child, which, is what really opened my eyes to what that was. I discovered I have it. but a different version of it. but so what ended up happening was, as I was learning about this, I was realizing how little information there was, in the children’s book space about this.
Cause now I had, you know, my antenna were up about children’s books. So I was doing my research on this topic and I’m like, where are the children’s books? And I found you that were about century avoiding SPD, which is what I have, but like one about century seeking SPD. And it just wasn’t, it wasn’t very good and it’s not studied easy to find.
And so. I decided I was gonna write a book about this. And, it became honestly became overnight passion. Like this is going to be something that I’m going to do and that’s going to help people, you know, this isn’t, it, it really never really was about making money for me. The money part of it is what hopefully will allow me to continue to create.
More books for people that will help people. but it was always about how can I get more, more content out there that could help. and so I started writing this book at the time. It was called little Rosalie has SPD and, The book was written in a way that where every line started with little Rosalie, I just thought it was true.
You know, my daughter was fourth time, so it was just the cute, appropriate thing. But I think actually, one of the most significant things that happened to me during the process of writing this book and illustrating it was getting feedback from someone, it was unsolicited in that she said to me, She signed illustration of mine that I posted somewhere.
And she said, I would love to read your story and give you feedback I’m in the space. and I’m just really interested to see what you have. And so of course at that point, I was like, please, you know, I’m happy to accept any feedback. And so the feedback she gave me transformed my story, it became from, it went from little Rosalie, has SPD to Rosalee, to seeker, which is a much stronger title.
She pointed things out that I never even contemplated. Like the word little is used a lot for girls, not for boys. And so it, you know, it’s all subtle and it it’s, you know, it all contributes to the way that. Little girls grow up. And so I know it was a very, Transformational experience, which came out of nowhere.
Laurie: [00:19:29] So she into space, sensory processing disorders, or like an editor’s, like a,
Nikki: [00:19:34] no, she was in special needs space. Okay. And SPD is considered a special need. Yeah. So she’s like, I know a bit about how the special needs space refers to thing. She had her chief feedback around certain terms I was using, And so helpful.
She also mentioned that, in the special needs space, and I don’t know how many authors need to know this, but in the special needs space, they’re starting to use, they’re starting to use identity first language as opposed to person first language. So instead of saying, this person has this, this disorder, they’re saying.
You know, well, in the case of autism, they’re saying this person is autistic. and I have little RoseLee has SPD. And the person was saying to me, I think you should avoid using this type of language. So I change it to RoseLee to seeker and then subtitled at the sensory processing disorder story. and I think it’s overall a much wronger title and to the authors listening, my advice to you is to seek out feedback and be open to hearing it because you, there are things that you will never think of on your own that could totally transform where your story goes, where your book goes, how it’s received.
Laurie: [00:21:03] And, And you could be inadvertently offending a whole community when your intention is to help and to bring awareness. But yeah, I,
Nikki: [00:21:13] I definitely think that’s the case. I don’t think that most children’s authors need to worry about offending or maybe, maybe, I mean, it’s, we’re in a very sensitive world right now.
I understand it. but I think that feedback is just such a huge part. the process of putting out a good book and had I not accepted the feedback that I didn’t even ask for, but had I not accepted it, I would have a very different story right now. so that, that I feel is really important. Just, yeah.
Laurie: [00:21:47] And then on the other end, people who want to give their feedback, you also have to give it in a way, right? Like you said, I didn’t ask for it. There’s a lot of people not asking for it. I tried to say now, do you want me to comment on this or do you want me to motivate you?
Nikki: [00:22:00] I think that I totally agree with you. Feedback is tricky.
In some cases, feedback, isn’t helpful. Like if the story’s already, if the book is already in print, Yeah, that’s, it, it might be helpful if it’s in print. if there’s like a typo and a person who can fix the typo, but if you’re commenting on the illustrations that the person paid a lot of money for, and it’s done, like they’re not going to redo the illustration.
I don’t know how helpful that is. I’ve seen people start posting. I’m not asking for feedback about this. I’m asking for feedback about this one thing. In other words, simmer down about my illustrations or about my character or whatever, but that’s for sure.
Laurie: [00:22:45] So you went ahead and did a second Kickstarter, so it’s about how that one went compared to the first one.
Nikki: [00:22:52] Here’s why I did my starter. even though I was convinced that we’ll never do another one, I had people begging me for this book and, to the point where I became confident that I would be able to, that I would be able to fund this book. But I also found, I found out, I don’t know how to phrase this.
basically a lot of it had to do with what I learned in the children’s book author groups. And so when I first ran my other Kickstarter, I was under the impression that I needed $8,500 to print my book. That wasn’t the case. I found a printer that would print for way less than that. And I was able to run a Kickstarter for like a fraction of that amount, you know?
And I also had built a social media following. I learned so much. So in, in the author groups, a lot of people did Kickstarters and. If you pay attention to what they’re doing and the advice they’re giving, you can learn a lot from that. And I really did. I learned a lot from that. I learned from people who did it successfully.
I looked for help from people who did it successfully. I learned from, Lisa Ferland who’s, you know, the guru and the groups. She’s constantly posting, advice. And she’s always. Giving feedback on posts when it’s people ask for it. And I basically became confident that if I were to launch a Kickstarter about this specific book, I would be much more likely to succeed.
And it came down to a lot of factors, but I feel like the main one was that I found a space that had nothing in it. And my book, which would be the only one in that space. And so I found a lot of people really wanting it. And I thought to myself, if I find my way in front of these people, they will jump at the opportunity to get a copy.
And so between that, between having started to really build up an audience, I think when I launched. My second Kickstarter. I had about 2000 Facebook followers, which isn’t a lot, but it was enough I’m engaged. They were engaged with what you were saying. They were, they were very, they were very engaged.
it all came down to the fact that I discovered the space that, that I had discovered to the special needs space, the specific topics. That was in dire need of being covered in the space and the audience that wanted this, these books. Are there more so, so you got in front of them on social media before the Kickstarter, which is what gave you the confidence that was needed.
Were you already in those groups as a parent of a child with SPD? Yeah, so I was, So you knew they existed and you, did you join some more that you weren’t in? I’ll say that again. Did you join some Margaret’s that you weren’t already not originally. It’s very interesting. So I developed a pretty, pretty potent strategy, which I call the group strategy.
because it’s really all about groups and going to the place where your audiences and engaging with them. But originally I was in a lot of these SPD groups as a parent, with a child with it and myself. and I was trying to get support. I was trying to learn about it. And when I started developing my story, I did post, but it was very tricky because they don’t allow for self promotion.
So I had to be very, very careful in the way that I posted about it. I got away with, you know, sharing the cover originally that I, it was not the same cover as it is now. In fact, it was like not good, but it wasn’t good my first version, but, it was enough to really get people interested in what I was doing.
And so. People started asking questions. They started reaching out to me, private messaging me. And when I still, when I launched my original, so I did, I did my first Rosalie campaign. And then I ended up doing a second one later, but I’ll get back to that later. But when I did my first RoseLee campaign, I.
Had a Trello board, which is just a way to try. It’s like an Excel spreadsheet on steroids. I had a Trello board that had all of the names of the people that have private message me and expressed an interest. And so my original strategy going into my second campaign, my first Roseli campaign was to have a.
One on one conversation with people and say to them, you mentioned, you messaged me about this book before just letting you know it’s available for preorder now, that kind of thing. and it was relatively successful except the coronavirus situation came out of the blue. About a weekend to my campaign.
So we can, my campaign, I was already at 4,000 and that campaign I had gone, I think I had an $8,500 goals. So I was just under 50% and, and all of them, it’s not cool to be asking people for money. Really. I just feel right. People, right. Husband was one of those. It didn’t feel good to me in you to push this campaign when there were heavy, you know, that first week of coronavirus, it felt heavy.
I felt it was like, I remember people like super style only saying to people, are you okay? You know, they held it at the end of every conversation is, you know, be safe. But there was this weight to it at the time. Like now people say it and we’re back to the way we were four where, you know, it’s, there’s this kind of like, we, we there’s positivity behind the wishes.
There’s not a heaviness of, I really hope you don’t go. You know, I’m really sorry. I really hope you don’t go home and touch various. Yeah. yeah, it was palpable the first month, at least even online. Yeah. So, yeah, I canceled that campaign. It was like eight or nine days. Yeah, I had done quite well, but, I do, they want to push, it was a 30 day campaign.
Right. And I just couldn’t do it. And there was a few authors that did that, and I feel like that really is, authentic, you know, you, you didn’t push through and keep it. It just sort of been totally Def I think. Yeah, not to say that anybody who carried on was wrong, but, but there were, there was a huge issue happening in the world and just to carry out because some people did carry on and not just authors.
Right. The email lists that are automatic and we all kept getting them. It was like, no, you need to pause that there were, and I, you know, I don’t, I don’t judge them. You know, there, there were people who carried on successfully. So obviously there were people that could afford to back and campaign. Yeah.
But I just didn’t feel comfortable, you know? Constantly putting out more information about my campaign. Like that was so important when obviously there were other way more important things going on. Yeah. Yeah. But you did start it up again. Yeah. So that was back in March that second campaign first RoseLee campaign and.
In between March and may I found an even cheaper printer. Oh, basically is what it came down to. I was like, I, back in March, I was like, I still need about eight, that little, 8,000 minus the Kickstarter fee. So I was like, I still need about $7 or something. and then, I found a printer in China that.
Got, you know, friends recommended me to them or referred me to them. And, I was able to print a much cheaper run basically, and was able to cut my goal in half. Okay. So I basically said to myself, I had enough backers the last time to fund about $4,000. If I redo my campaign for $4,000 and I only get half of them, I just need to get another half, you know, I just need to get another two grands, you know?
Yeah. Yeah. I felt like I could do that in seven days. So I decided that I was going to, and I also emotionally couldn’t I knew that I couldn’t do a 30 day campaign. I just knew it was going to be too much. So I ended up. I’m deciding to do a seven day campaign for $4,000. I think I did. I don’t remember if it was for 4,500.
but in the middle of this 7day campaign this, the short period of time, I kind of like, I don’t know my current, my group strategy. At on day, one of the campaign was different than it was on day seven of the campaign. I had completely transformed this group strategy in the middle of the campaign.
Laurie: [00:32:35] Oh my.
Nikki: [00:32:36] Like two or three days then I know it was so crazy. Cause so day I actually was fully funded on day -.I want to say it was either one or two, I forget which, but I was fully funded very quickly.
Laurie: [00:32:50] Had you reached individually, like you were planning again?
Nikki: [00:32:54] So I reached out, I reached out to all the people that, supported me the first time I posted on social media.
I posted in a handful of groups that I knew were okay with promoting. I posted in a lot of garage sales type groups, which are all about, buying things. Yeah. and I called local businesses and I, I was able to get fully funded in one or two days. Wow. But that’s not how I, ended up getting instead of the four 4,500 that I was looking for, I ended up getting 9,500 by the end of the seven days. Wow.