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Posts Tagged ‘Jessica Yinka Thomas

I’m thrilled that author and friend, Jessica Yinka Thomas has stopped by to share her recent, and super successful, crowdfunding experience for her forthcoming thriller, How Not to Make Friends, a sequel to How Not to Save the World. Crowdfunding is often an overlooked and underappreciated opportunity for authors to raise their profile, engage with an audience and raise money for their passion projects. I’m inspired by what Jessica has accomplished and excited to learn from her!

 Crowdfunding To Launch Your Next Novel

 “I will publish my second novel by the end of 2018.” That’s the goal I set for myself back in April of this year. I began thinking about the best way to raise funds to self-publish How Not to Make Friends and to publicize the book. After consulting with numerous friends, including fellow authors and entrepreneurs, I came to the conclusion that the two goals could be combined through a crowdfunding campaign. Running an effective crowdfunding campaign is a lot of work with many pitfalls along the way. But, I found it to be a very effective strategy to raise $8,000 in 30 days while strengthening my fan base.

My initial goal was $5,000, enough to break even, covering the costs of the campaign, professional editing, cover design and the initial print run. I was very fortunate to raise that goal several times over the course of the campaign. I think a huge part of my success was having an existing fan base and incredibly strong support network based on the success of my first novel. Knowing that I would be primarily speaking to existing fans and friends made it a lot easier to reach out and ask for support. If you’re considering putting together a crowdfunding campaign to launch your next book, here’s what I learned from the process.

Build your network

The platform that I used, iFundWomen, estimates that about 2% of your potential backers will actually make a contribution. When I combined my personal contacts who might be interested in the novel (500), the mailing list I built from publishing my first novel (800), personal social media contacts on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn (4300), social media contacts through my novel Facebook page (1000), I had about 6600 potential backers. The estimate of 132 backers was pretty accurate, particularly considering the overlap in the various contacts. Every last one of the 103 contributors to my campaign were friends, fans or friends of friends.


Don’t depend on the kindness of strangers. In my experience, very few, if any of your contributions are likely to come from strangers who are browsing the crowdfunding campaign platform that you select. Before getting started, make sure you’ve built a strong network of friends and fans on social media, through your blog or website and in your email distribution list. Give your network a heads up that you are planning to launch a campaign before it kicks off to begin to generate some excitement.

Select the right platform

Picking the right platform to launch your campaign is critical. Kickstarter is the largest crowdfunding network out there but it has an all or nothing model. If you don’t raise your goal amount in the time frame you’ve set, all the funds are returned to the contributors. Kickstarter charges a 5 percent fee on projects that reach their goal. Indiegogo, one of the larger platforms gives you the option of all or nothing model or a flexible goal. Keep in mind that if you reach your goal, Indiegogo takes a 4 percent cut; if you don’t, the fee jumps to 9 percent. Most sites charge a credit card processing fee that’s around 3 percent.

I decided to go with iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform for women led startups and small businesses. iFundWomen provides a supportive platform with a rich set of free resources from expert coaching to in-depth campaign management tools. Not only can you make your goal flexible, but they have excellent customer service where you can change the closing date or even the goal amount of your campaign with a quick email. Every month the platform reinvests 20 percent of their standard fees back into live campaigns. I was fortunate to be one of a handful of campaigns to receive funding from the platform back in September. iFundWomen charges a 5 percent fee.

Pick engaging rewards

For a novel crowdfunding campaign, there is a pretty compelling reward, the actual book, once it’s published. I offered several different versions of my new novel at different price points: $10 for an EPUB version of the book, $25 for personalized autographed copies, and $50 for personalized autographed copies of my first and second novel. I was pleasantly surprised that the most popular reward was at the $100 level, an opportunity to be listed in the acknowledgement of the book along with autographed copies of both novels. I used the themes of friendship and international exploration from my novel, naming the reward levels after translations of the word “friend” in different languages represented in the novel.



One of the rewards was a book club bundle, 8 autographed copies for a $250. I was surprised that no one selected that reward, but later realized that it would be tough for a supporter to get their book club to agree to read the book during the brief campaign period.

The reward that I was most excited to try out was the opportunity to name a character in the novel. I was thrilled that 5 people select this option at the $500 level.

Market the heck out of your campaign

The crowdfunding campaign is your opportunity to tell your writing story. It’s an opportunity to share what motivates you to write and what you hope your readers take away from your novel as a way to engage and inspire your network. Once you’ve got your campaign in place, it’s helpful to send it out to a few close friends, both to get feedback and also to secure a few key initial donors. You want to demonstrate some initial momentum when you first share the campaign with your broader network.

After that, the challenge is finding creative ways to regularly reach out to your network via email, social media, text and yes, even phone calls, during the campaign period. iFundWomen has a comprehensive tool that is an end-to-end campaign planner from putting together your pitch, to mapping your network map, to laying out your campaign goals, to planning each week of the campaign. iFundWomen’s coaches playbook was essentially my business plan for the campaign.

Don’t’ discount the importance of the video as part of your campaign. I resisted putting together a video for several weeks, thinking it would be too much work and wondering who would watch it anyway. I spoke with several friends who had completed successful campaigns along with the coach from iFundWomen who stressed the importance of the video. Some people prefer to watch a brief 2 to 3 minute video, others will scroll through your campaign text. It doesn’t have to be complicated. I worked with a fantastic local videographer through Iron Worx Media, to pull together a series of photos capturing my writing journey, overlaid with an audio recording. I got some great feedback on the video during the campaign and now it lives on my author website.

Follow through

The campaign turned out to be a very effective commitment device. I had 103 people expecting to receive copies of my novel before the end of the year! The campaign also provided me with the funds to move forward with two rounds of professional editing to polish up my novel. I had the opportunity to work with The Book Smugglers on development editing and with Lystra Literary Services on content editing. I was able to work with the very talented Jen Rhoton on the cover design. And I’ve now published the novel on, my favorite print-on-demand publishing company.

The result was a beautiful product I have now been able to share with all of my crowdfunding campaign supporters. Last weekend, I autographed almost 200 copies of my first and second novel, over a long weekend, in the middle of a snow storm. I’ve started to see posts on social media from delighted fans and friends who have now received their long-awaited rewards. I can’t wait to hear what they think!

Jessica Yinka Thomas

Like many superheroes Jessica Yinka Thomas leads a double life. By day, she teaches social innovation and sustainable business at the Poole College of Management at NC State University. By night, she is a social justice novelist, author of the How Not to Save the World series. Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures.

Jessica’s iFundWomen campaign:





How can we pay attention to our lives—our real lives, not the outward trappings that are often labeled as life—if we have distractions at every turn? Our minds provide a lifetime of distractions to work with. When we combine our own natures with the sensory overload most of us live with every day, we have more than enough work to do just trying to hear our own voices—something essential for every writer. Laraine Herring, Writing Begins with the Breath: Embodying Your Authentic Voice

I’m delighted to welcome writer Jessica Yinka Thomas in the ‘Love Your Creative Self’ series. You’ll find prompts based on her reflection.


Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept that honors all things imperfect by finding the beauty in the imperfections. My tendency to flip on a ‘Housewives’ show of one metro area or another when I need a distraction is the great imperfection in my writing practice. I’ve learned to love this imperfection. It gives my brain a well-needed break from thinking and can even provide inspiration for a blog post. So I love my Wabi Sabi Housewives, but only for a tea party or a shopping spree. Then, it’s back to the page.

Jessica Yinka Thomas is a novelist with a background in mechanical engineering and social entrepreneurship. Information about her new novel How Not To Save The World can be found on her website.

Jessica’s post reminds us that while trying to create we will face distractions. We’ll often fantasize that if only we could go on a retreat and escape our obligations we could create without interruption. What we forget, however, is that we can never escape our mind’s ability to notice and focus on sensations. Instead of being frustrated about this inevitable dance, Jessica asks us to chose the one distraction that we enjoy the most, revel in it (briefly), and then return to our work refreshed. Instead of choosing our distraction with intention, we usually get pulled over a waterfall of distractions. We don’t just watch ten minutes of a favorite show or play a computer game, it’s an hour we lose and then we turn to the laundry and then call a friend, etc. After a few hours, we’ve dissipated our focus so much that we can’t get back to the internal world we were trying to create.

Today consider: What’s the distraction that’s satisfying and refreshing enough to indulge in once during your allotted creative time? Then later when you’re feeling antsy consciously chose that distraction. Freewrite about your choice. Did you rebel?

If you have trouble reconnecting with your material after a break writer Laraine Herring advocates narrowing your focus to specific sensory details.

Here’s what I have tried: Look at where you stopped in your writing. Get up close and personal by describing one detail that you overlooked when you first began writing: a gesture of a minor character, the chill of the air, your main character’s socks, the laugh of an aunt, what the character just finished eating, etc.

If you are still stuck try one of Herring’s suggestions (both exercises below are from Writing Begins with the Breath):

Describe a full moon from the point of view of someone who cannot see.

Describe the taste of broccoli; the smell of clothes fresh from the dryer, the smell of earth after a heavy rain; the states of chocolate to someone who has never eaten it; describe a physical pain (don’t say it hurts!) describe a fight between a husband an wife witnessed by someone who can’t hear.

Photo Credit: Google Images

I’m so excited to introduce readers to newly minted novelist Jessica Yinka Thomas. Her novel How Not To Save the World is a social justice thriller. Jessica Yinka Thomas is a novelist with a background in mechanical engineering and social entrepreneurship. As managing director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, she has authored several award-winning academic articles. Jessica has also worked as a designer of interactive educational toys, as the director of a social enterprise business plan competition and as a program manager for a community development nonprofit. How Not to Save the World is her first novel.

Jessica’s writing highlights her twin passions for technological innovation and for creating significant social change through entrepreneurial ventures. Growing up in West Africa and traveling around the world has provided her with a rich background from which to draw in her writing.

Her main character, Remi Austin is a fundraiser for the African Peace Collaborative (APC), a conflict resolution nonprofit founded by her late mother. Frustrated by her inability to raise funds and faced with the imminent closure of the APC, Remi turns to a life of crime to keep her nonprofit afloat. From Sydney, to Tokyo, Geneva and Cape Town, Remi transforms from a fundraiser too shy to speak during staff meetings into a daring international art thief who must stop a war from breaking out and figure out how to save herself from a life behind bars.

I think Jessica has single-handedly invented a new genre—the social justice thriller.

I came to know Jessica through The Creative Tickle, my coaching practice. She was finishing her novel when we worked together. She focused on time management issues and juggling her many commitments including job responsibilities, creative writing and new motherhood. I’m thrilled to see her work in print and that she is making her writing dreams come true.

1) Where did the idea for your novel come from?

 I started out writing nonfiction travel stories as I traveled around the world in my twenties. I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron while traveling across Australia and wrote in big letters at the close of the book, I WILL WRITE A NOVEL. That was 13 years ago. Since then I’ve taken my inspiration from the world around me and from the parts of life that I love. I weave my travel experiences into my writing, my passion for technological innovation and my personal vision for creating large scale social and environmental change.  The story in How Not to Save the World evolved from a desire to create a compelling story that would include all of those elements. That kept me going for 8 years!

2) What does your writing practice look like?

 Juggling a day job, a family, a social life in addition to writing is a delightful challenge. I have to be very strategic about fitting in my writing. Recently I’ve had the flexibility to scale back my day job to half time. So these days I can usually commit at least 2 hours to marketing and promoting my first novel and two hours to working on the second novel. Part of my marketing strategy includes getting book clubs to read the novel. This has actually provided fantastic feedback for me as a writer and as I work towards completing the sequel. The time I commit to writing, I don’t have a special place. I’ll often write on my lap using my laptop on my living room couch or the local library if I’m going to put in several hours. Much of the writing process for the sequel involves idea generation. The woman who runs my fitness class is probably frustrated that I will often pick up my iPhone in between sets and make notes about dialogue, character development, settings, etc. She probably thinks I’m texting my friends, but it does help my productivity and keeps my mind distracted during the bicep curls.

3) What (or who) inspires you to write and why?

I’m inspired to write because I see storytelling as a compelling mode to engage people in big ideas. My hope is that everyone who reads my work will think about how they can find their personal path to leaving this world better than the way they found it. I also just love writing. I’ve never had a moment of writer’s block. The page is the one place I can funnel all of the ideas swirling around in my head. With a generous amount of editing, those ideas can be transformed into a story and even a novel, or two or three.

4) What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Write every day! Even if it’s only 5 minutes on the computer or 30 seconds on your iPhone. This Year Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley was an inspiration to me and that was one of the core concepts.

5) Will we see more of your main character? What’s your next writing project?

Absolutely, we will see more of Remi Austin. I have laid out a plan for a 3 book series with How Not to Save the World as the first Remi Austin Adventure. I’m hard at work on the second, tentatively titled How Not to Make Friends. I’m shooting to release it in September 2012.

6) Who is one writer that you’d love to know was reading your work?

My father. He is an economist and would never define himself as a writer although I have a shelf full of his academic publications. He has committed his life to demonstrating how technology can be a powerful tool for social change. His work has changed many thousands of lives for the better. He is my writing role model in many ways. I would love to know that he was reading my work. He has read the first novel and I hope he feels compelled to keep reading.

Find out more about Jessica and where to buy her thriller!

Jessica Yinka Thomas

Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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