Hello, brave readers! As you may have heard, we Book Smugglers have been in the midst of our very first Kickstarter Campaign. On Friday, we successfully hit our funding goal–and while there are still four days and change left in our campaign before the clock expires and anything could happen (including not making our funding goal), we wanted to take the time to reflect today. Thanks to your support and readership, we’ve been able to keep this website going for almost ten years. (Ten years! That’s an eternity in website-time. It’s like dog years, but at a higher multiplier.)
Yesterday, we asked two female entrepreneurs to talk about their path to making their business idea a reality and experience with Kickstarter. Today, we wanted to take the time to answer our own questions–a self-reflection of sorts, on why we do what we do, and why your support means everything to us.
The Smugglers, circa 2010 at our first Book ExpoAmerica
What’s the underlying idea and mission? Why did we decide to take this idea into reality, and how did we get to launch?
We are readers. We are obsessed with the act of reading, of discussing books, and sharing new stories and voices with the rest of the world. We discovered, back in 2014, that we wanted to do more than just talk about books that others had published–we wanted to find, edit, and share new stories ourselves. That’s when we decided to enter the publishing game–the product of an annual State of the Union Book Smugglers meeting in which we simultaneously agreed that we should step up our game and start finding the new voices and nurturing them ourselves.
We launched our first cover reveal exactly three years ago today: Hunting Monsters by S.L. Huang. Our first season of short stories published fast and furious in the weeks that followed–we took our nascent publishing house from idea to reality in the span of months.
As female independent business owners, what are some of the unique challenges and opportunities we face?
We are two business partners running an independent publisher and website online with the added challenge of being on different continents and different time zones. Physical distance is a hurdle, but not an insurmountable one! We find a way to make the time zones work in our favor (i.e. when one of us is asleep, the other is working). Like any small business owners, we are always working–we have 8am conference calls on weekends, we are always thinking about the next thing that we need to write, the next piece that requires editing, the next database update we need to implement to make sure our site is up and running smoothly.
More importantly, we are two women and best friends, running a business in a traditionally male and large-publisher dominated industry. Our biggest initial challenge, as publishers, was establishing legitimacy–why should anyone trust us with their stories and their work? With a lot of effort and time, we think we’ve been able to overcome that initial skepticism and have established ourselves as a discovery outlet for new, diverse voices. We’ve been very lucky to have acquired amazing authors who have trusted us with their words–and who have also gone on to write for larger publishers with traditional book deals, like Roshani Chokshi and S.L. Huang. That’s an amazing challenge–and opportunity–all in itself.
In book world, we often hear about the importance of finding your niche or community. Who is your community? Why is it so important to you?
This is the most important thing: community. We got our start as bloggers and book reviewers because of the community of readers we met online and in person over the years. Our community is you–our regular commenters and readers, the quiet lurkers, the folks that follow us on twitter. People who care passionately about books, about science fiction and fantasy fandom, about representation and diversity in SFF from around the world. You are important to us because your words and your thoughts are why we do any of this–you keep us accountable, you make us smarter, and stronger, and better. Your passion fuels our passion, and makes this fandom the best goddamn fandom in the galaxy.
What words of wisdom would you give to other women or entrepreneurs thinking about taking their product or business from ideation to reality? Specifically, what advice do you have for those who want to use crowdfunding platforms, like Kickstarter, to reach their goals?
Crowdfunding is an amazing tool and concept–it allows creators to connect with their community, and empowers the community to support with their wallets actual projects they care about. For female business owners and creators this is particularly important, as there is bias in the fundraising and startup world, and platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo remove some of that investor funding bias from the equation.
That said, Kickstarter ain’t easy. It’s a marathon of tension, of constant tweaking and repositioning, and awkward self-promotion. You have to carefully plan out your P&Ls to cover costs, you need to have an outreach campaign ready to roll, and you need to be flexible enough to completely change course if something isn’t working. Everyone’s path to funding is different–just keep calm and smuggle on. That’s our motto right now.
Are there any other independent businesses, female-owned or otherwise, that you particularly admire?
Oh, there are many. We admire other website owners and bloggers–from The Mary Sue, to Dear Author, from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, to Lady Business. We admire Bea and Leah Koch, sisters behind awesome romance bookstore The Ripped Bodice, the brilliant mastermind Dominique Raccah (CEO and founder of Sourcebooks). We are in awe of designers and business owners like Grace Bonney (Design Sponge), Anna Bond (Rifle Paper Co), and Miriam Brafman (Packlane). To name just a few!
So there you have it–our self-reflected roundtable, as we think back on our own business. Our Kickstarter campaign is still going strong with just over four days to go until the project closes–we’ve still got some amazing rewards left, with stretch goals in sight. Thank you, to everyone, for supporting us!
We are, as always…
~ Your Friendly Neighborhood Book Smugglers