Toucan play

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Here’s an understatement: The world of publishing is changing. Actually, it’s transforming. Tsunami-like. As a result, writers, graphic designers, artists and all involved in content creation are scrambling to find the next best platform, the next biggest “thing,” the ultimate technology to showcase a story or book or magazine.

One of the fastest growing phenomena is self-publishing. Once called “vanity press,” it’s now mainstream. According to an Oct. 2012 article in  Publishers Weekly, between 2006 and 2011 the number of self-published titles rose 287 percent.

Publishing once required expensive set-ups and printing presses, but now multiple platforms for self-publishing, electronic storage and on-demand delivery — plus hundreds of companies eager to help — have sprung up. The new technology’s versatility and the temptation to skip the traditional agent/editor/publisher step is compelling — and its changing the publishing world.

New technologies have also allowed authors to market directly to potential readers and that’s exactly what two members of the Madison community — one alumnus and one professor — have done.

David Keltonic (’06), originally from Richmond, Va., has a BFA from JMU and a career as a graphic designer. James Arthur Williams, PhD., is a JMU professor of hospitality management. Both are in the process of publishing books, and they’ve exploited new technologies to further their goals.

David’s book, Toucan Play, is a fun, graphic children’s book. James’ book, From Thug to Scholar, is an inspiring memoir of personal transformation.

David Keltonic ('06)

David Keltonic (’06)

Both David and James used a crowdfunding site — Kickstarter — to raise money to fund the publication of their books. Kickstarter is an online site  where anyone can feature a project —  not just books. Many types of projects would qualify. (There are some guidelines.) Project promoters set a target monetary goal and a limited number of days to meet their goal. Then the public at large “votes” by backing projects they want to support. With Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing. Meet the goal and get the money; fail to meet the goal, get nothing.

Recently, I was in touch with David who lives in Nashville, Tenn., with his wife Julie and 1-year-old son Conner. Here’s what he had to say about his book, about Kickstarter and about his decision to go a non-traditional route.

After graduation, I started working as an in-house graphic designer for an entertainment company based out of North Carolina. I also do a fair amount of freelance design work on the side. When I started coming up with the idea for Toucan Play, one of my goals was to write and illustrate a book that children AND their parents would enjoy. I love how Pixar (the animation studio) has taken kids movies and turned it into a genre that is universally loved and enjoyed across all ages. I want to do the same thing for children’s books. 

Toucan Play is similar to an Aesop’s Fable, but with a twist of humor. It’s about a proud Toucan who’s hanging out in the jungle, bragging about how great he is. A mischievous monkey over hears him and decides to join in. Without giving too much away, the situation escalates quickly and climaxes with a outrageous ending that readers will find hilarious. 

My main goal for Toucan Play was to build a fan base and get the word out about the book. Secondly, I wanted to give people the opportunity to pre-order the book before it’s released later this year. Kickstarter was the best solution for these goals. I plan to eventually pitch Toucan Play to publishers and use the results of Kickstarter (as well as other marketing strategies) to bolster my pitch to them. It’s hard to say whether Kickstarter will become the norm for self-publishers. That said, in my research before launching the campaign, I saw quite a few Kickstarters for children’s books, many of which succeeded beyond their goals. 

In addition to his work as a graphic design, David has done pro bono design work for non-profits and ministries that benefit those in need. He says, “I love this type of work, as it serves a great cause and purpose. I feel it’s the best use of my gifts and talents, and I’d love to be able to do this full time some day.” If Toucan Play is a hit, there will likely be other creative books from David.

He adds, “I absolutely loved my time at JMU. Besides getting a great education in my desired field of work, I also met my wife there. JMU has an outstanding design program and fantastic professors that I can’t praise enough. Because of them, I felt very prepared to enter the job market after graduation.”

Both David and James met their fundraising goals through Kickstarter, and both are tackling the next stage — publishing.

In a future blog, I’ll tell you more about James and his book. It’s a story as inspiring as David’s book is funny and endearing.

You can check out both Kickstarter projects at the links below:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1791906522/toucan-play-a-picture-book

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1526161331/inspirational-book-from-thug-to-scholar

About grahammb
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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