Kickstarter is littered with self-published authors and small presses, crowdfunding a couple thousand bucks to launch books. But rare is the author who turns to Kickstarter after already having a book deal. But also rare is Lucy and the Anvil, the book created by Chicago author Adam Kline and Scottish author Brian Taylor. The two had already collaborated and published a book together—Escape from Hat—with boutique publisher ZOVA Books, but when the time came to publish their next book, they decided to go it alone.
“I think the short answer is that we wanted absolute control,” said Kline, a screenwriter living in Logan Square. “Brian had a very clear visual aesthetic that he wanted, and I knew exactly how I wanted to tell this story.”
The children’s story is of a little girl named Lucy who befriends an anvil; the anvil finds he can’t play with her the way he thinks a friend should, so he hides away. But when a giant storm blows through, the anvil saves Lucy by anchoring her through the winds. The book is beautifully printed, with Taylor’s gorgeous illustrations bound between old-fashioned endpapers. Having that control over the production was important to Kline.
“It was very important to me that it was printed in the United States, which seems increasingly rare,” he said. “Preferably I wanted to support a Midwest business, which we ended up doing (the book was printed in Michigan).”
What’s astonishing about the story of Lucy and the Anvil isn’t just that Kline and Taylor turned their backs on traditional publishing, it’s how successful they were at doing so. While traditional literary Kickstarters fund a few thousand dollars (last year, local Orange Alert Press raised $2,000 for a book with the lowest level of support at $1), the pair raised more than $35,000 for theirs.
“Brian was terrified of failure,” Kline laughs. “We knew we were asking for a lot, but Brian needed money to live on while he was finishing the art and design of the book. He was super-nervous that we’d get like $27,000 and miss the mark.”
Kline has learned that going it alone certainly doesn’t make the process easier. The book has taken two years for the pair to complete, and because Kickstarter requires escalating rewards for backers, Kline and Taylor created toy anvils for high-level supporters, which meant they suddenly found themselves in the toy manufacturing business. And now that the books are on hand, Kline has spent the Fall walking his one-year-old boy to the Logan Square Post Office.
“I was there so much, I got to know every single person by name,” he says. “In order to maintain their sanity, I had to give everyone who worked there a book for their children and grandchildren.”
Kline says they’re still working on a distribution channel so non-backers can buy the book, but he hopes to start having local events. Despite all of that, Kline says they’re already working on their next book, again to be published through a Kickstarter campaign.
“I don’t think there’s any reason in this day and age to go through a publisher if you don’t want to,” he says. “So we’re already working on our next Kickstarter for January.”