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Humans of St. Louis is self-publishing a curated hardcover book of first-person portraits and stories about St. Louisans.
Humans of St. Louis is self-publishing a curated hardcover book of first-person portraits and stories about St. Louisans.
445 backers pledged $34,507 to help bring this project to life.

About

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$34,507

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“Don’t talk to strangers.” Those words are ingrained in us. But we chose to talk to strangers, despite the hurdles of approaching others, because we believe personal stories have the power to connect people and inspire compassion. With that in mind, we’ve been listening to and sharing personal stories of the people of St. Louis for the past 5 years. We’ve tackled important issues, created a platform for dialogue and discussion, and celebrated humanity.

As St. Louis’s story continues to be written, we want to take a snapshot of the past 5 years the way that we always have — one photo and story at a time. Typically, the Humans of St. Louis (HOSTL) posts only get a day of playtime on the page. But the stories are still relevant and timely and enjoyed by so many.

So we’re making a book! We’re self-publishing, and we’re keeping it local, from the stories to the team of creatives, from the printer to the distributor. And we’re inviting you to join us to make something truly unique of, by, and for St. Louis!

A mock-up spread of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS book.
A mock-up spread of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS book.

We’ve been blown away by the responses we’ve received while intimately documenting this city; that our Humans have received, by the connections that formed online, and by the powerful discussions that continue to develop on so many of our posts. Hundreds of hellos and hours of active listening have led to countless moments with humans who have had the courage to answer our questions, tell us a story, and trust us to share it with all of you.

This book will serve as a historical record of St. Louis, its Humans, and their stories at a pivotal time in our city's history, preserving and documenting these moments for generations to come — and your support will help make it possible.

What We’re Doing

The Humans of St. Louis book will share the stories of the people in this city as a colorful, contemporary, case-bound book that will include a spectrum of stories representative of HOSTL’s style. One of the great powers of a photography book is the time and space that it gives us to truly take in each image. There are nearly 300 Humans of sites around the world, and a handful of them have already published works honoring their cities.

A mock-up cover design for comparison.
A mock-up cover design for comparison.

All Humans of books to date have gone through a publisher. We decided to publish on our own in order to bring together a team of creatives who live here, rely on a printer and distributor who are in the region, and ensure that the money is supporting local talent and businesses here in St. Louis. We also thought it was important to be able to maintain the HOSTL voice throughout, accurately, honestly, and respectfully weaving the narratives together page after page. One of our goals in self-publishing is reclaiming the St. Louis narrative for St. Louisans. To tell the stories of our city in this new and nuanced way, we need to raise the funds to print the initial run. To do this, we’re missing one significant piece — YOU!

What We'll Deliver

  • We're offering 10 reward levels for backers in a wide range of financial levels
  • We’ll design and print an initial run of 2,000 breathtaking books (or more if we meet our stretch goals!)
  • We’ll send books and additional rewards to our Kickstarter backers (books pre-ordered through the Kickstarter will be the first books shipped)
  • We’ll distribute to local bookstores and shops, and make the book available on the Humans of St. Louis website
  • We’ll gift a free copy to each of the 250 or so people whose stories will be a part of the book, as well as each of our team members
A mock-up spread of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS book.
A mock-up spread of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS book.

Show Me (Where) The Money (Is Going)!

Eighty percent of our $30,000 Kickstarter goal is to cover an initial print run, shipping, and distribution of 2,000 books.

Our total cost, which includes paying the book team, marketing, and donating a small portion of the books to the community is $120,000. We can’t self-publish this book without a robust funding effort. In addition to this Kickstarter campaign, we’re seeking private donations. If you are as inspired by the work as we are, and want to contribute more than any of the levels listed here, please reach out to us — and if you know someone else who might be interested in helping HOSTL further fund this, please help us make the connection. Humans of St. Louis is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and donations are tax deductible.

Our amazing team of St. Louis creatives is so invested in this book that they’re contributing their time and expertise on a promise right now. We also have a group of talented volunteers supporting this project. Thank you to every single one of you! We can’t wait to get the book into the hands of our supporters, storytellers, and community. Reaching our $30,000 Kickstarter goal will help us make major strides towards that making this dream a reality, and we hope that you’ll join us.

We also recognize that there are individuals featured on the page who share their stories and may have a basic need that we’re not able to directly help them address for any number of reasons. We’re a small team that makes a big social impact, and we always try to connect viewers with a featured subject when the need arises. Kickstarter prohibits us from using any of the funds we raise here for charity, so after the book is printed and published, we’re committing to donate a portion of the proceeds from book sales to a different St. Louis cause or organization every month for the first year. 

A mock-up spread of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS book.
A mock-up spread of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS book.

Finally, through the sales of these books, Humans of St. Louis, as a nonprofit that serves the St. Louis area, will be able to secure organizational sustainability to afford to continue recording and publishing more compelling stories from our city streets as well as recruit and train the next generation of storytellers to interview and photograph for HOSTL.

While our immediate need is monetary funding, we are also open to exploring other avenues, such as: 

  • Event spaces — for book launch events and panel discussions 
  • Event-based fundraising — such as restaurant happy hours, private parties, or other creative ideas 
  • In-kind services — such as volunteering (i.e., pickups and deliveries, shipping, event assistance, etc).

Join Us!

Become a part of this by choosing a reward and backing the book.

Pledge Rewards

Mock-ups of the book as the team starts to narrow down the stories, layout, and design.
Mock-ups of the book as the team starts to narrow down the stories, layout, and design.
 
Mock-ups of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS postcards.
Mock-ups of the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS postcards.
If you choose a level to receive large prints, we'll email you with options for choosing your print. Or, send us an email with which ones you prefer from those that have been published on the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS Facebook or Instagram page.
If you choose a level to receive large prints, we'll email you with options for choosing your print. Or, send us an email with which ones you prefer from those that have been published on the HUMANS OF ST. LOUIS Facebook or Instagram page.

More Ways To Show Your Support

Don’t have a lot of ready funds? Already bought a book? There are so many other ways to help us get this book made:

  • Share this page on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, go back in time and make it a hot Vine, email it to your Aunt Maude, or hire a skywriting plane...
  • Email this webpage to your friends (especially your rich friends!) and tell them how great it is...
  • Email your enemies and tell them how much you hate us and you hope no one donates to us...
  • Like us on Facebook, or follow us on Instagram or Twitter, or just around the city (just kidding — don’t follow Lindy, that’s not cool)...
  • Tell your next Tinder date about this great Kickstarter you just saw (us — tell them about us)...
  • Celebrate your birthday by giving to HOSTL on Facebook! (Mark it for the book specifically, if you’d like)...
  • Hold a private fundraiser anytime from July to November. We’ll send a HOSTL team member to co-host the event, share the behind the scenes of all the HOSTL magic, and explain how their support helps...
  • Invite HOSTL to give a presentation about documentary street photography, interviewing strangers in St. Louis, or the art of storytelling, specifically here in this city...
  • Interested in partnering with HOSTL? Reach out to us with your ideas to collaborate: humansofstl@gmail.com

HOSTL By The Numbers

“All it takes is one person to make a change and that person is you...Keep up the good work, you inspire me to go find something I can do.” —Katy W., HOSTL follower
“All it takes is one person to make a change and that person is you...Keep up the good work, you inspire me to go find something I can do.” —Katy W., HOSTL follower

We can count the number of likes, loves, laughs, and wows on each post, but the real beauty of this project has been creating an intimate space for everyday St. Louisans to be seen and heard, and for you to express yourselves and talk to each other.

Now we’re ready to take our storytelling to the next level by sharing these authentic insights and stories from real people about what life is really like in St. Louis. And we’re inviting you to partner with us on a journey of mutual discovery in this book of, by, and for the people of St. Louis.

Budget

Stretch Goals
If we can raise enough money to increase our first print run, we want to take full advantage of the opportunity to print as many books as possible. If we exceed our goal, every additional $7,500 we raise will pay for an additional 1,000 books and and labor, including paying the team and the distributor.

So if we can reach $37,500, we'll print 3,000 books; at $45,000, we'll print 4,000 books; at $52,500, we'll print 5,000 books, and so on.

The Team

During this campaign, we’ll also be releasing photostories from the Book Production Team and the vendors to introduce these talented professionals to you and share their work, thoughts, and perspectives in St. Louis. In the meantime...

Behind the scenes with some of the HOSTL team from filming to looking at layouts and designing the campaign together.
Behind the scenes with some of the HOSTL team from filming to looking at layouts and designing the campaign together.

Team HOSTL

Lindy Drew: Co-Founder, Photographer, Lead Storyteller - lindydrew.com
Caroline Fish: Co-Founder, Editor, Board President 
Dessa Somerside: Editor, Board Vice President 
Chris Ferrara: Board Treasurer 
Justin Smith: Board Finance Director

The Book Production Team

Annie Martineau: Creative Director, Book Designer - Analog Studio 
Tunde Ogunfidodo: Photostories Editor and Copywriter 
Hannah Burtness: Project Coordinator, Editor, and Design Support - hannahburtness.com 
Andrew Doty: Kickstarter Content Coordinator - Editwright 
Anna Shabsin: Proofreader 
Maleeha Ahmad: Website Designer - Maleeha Samer 
Jon Alexander: Videographer - Chill Season 
Justin Barr: Aerial Photography - STL From Above
Alana Flowers: Video Editing - iamalanamarie.com

Vendors

Publicity and Marketing: We Are Novella 
Printer: Versa Press 
Distributor: TBD

Additionally, the following team members are generously volunteering their time for this project: our HOSTL Board (including editors, the treasurer, and the financial resource manager), the proofreader, and the drone photographer.

A heartfelt thank you to our volunteer review team and focus group that have weighed in with their helpful feedback during the various steps of this process, too! And to Brandon Stanton who started Humans of New York and continues to allow storytellers to amplify the Humans of movement through their pages around the world. And most of all, thank you to the viewers and Humans who make this storytelling project possible, and to the backers who will make this book a reality!

Risks and challenges

From the moment the creative content team began working together last year, we have been stretched and challenged with the book-building process, from figuring out how to communicate our values to each new team member, vendor, and partner to the actual logistics of how we’re going to bring this book to life.

Another challenge that we’ve been navigating is building a book that boldly tells the story of St. Louis and unflinchingly tackles the issues that we encounter every day without “virtue signaling” or patronizing certain segments of the population. We want this book to invite our audience to question assumptions and build connections.

We as a team are committed to delivering a beautiful end product that will be accessible on the shelves of libraries and retailers throughout St. Louis. While we’re still in the process of editing this book, choosing from thousands of stories and endless possible layouts, we’ve made a majority of the creative decisions and done much of the work.

That said, we recognize that there will be challenges that may shift the logistics, budget, and even the vendors with whom we work to complete this project. It’s entirely possible that unforeseeable snags could delay the production and delivery of the final product. We intend to get it into production this fall and delivered in December, just in time for the gift-giving season. If we do encounter delays, we’ll be sure to post prompt updates and keep you apprised, with the intention to deliver the book and other rewards as soon as possible.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge US$ 5 or more About US$ 5

    The High Five!

    Pitch in five bucks to help us reach our goal. We'll be sending you good vibes, virtual hugs, and high fives in return!

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    6 backers
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  2. Select this reward

    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    The Neighbor

    If you're just looking to pitch in to contribute to the book fundraiser, we appreciate you, and this reward is for you. You'll receive:

    • our thanks in a livestream shoutout the last day of the campaign
    • 1 postcard with a Humans of St. Louis photostory
    • acknowledgment on the Humans of St. Louis website

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    12 backers
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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $35 or more About $35

    The Reader

    Buy the book, get a postcard and our thanks! You'll receive:

    • 1 copy of the book
    • 1 postcard with a Humans of St. Louis photostory
    • acknowledgment on the Humans of St. Louis website

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $105 or more About $105

    The Buy 1, Give 2

    Part of our goal is to donate a copy of the book to each of the ~250 people who shared their stories in the book, plus the members of our team. This reward level is your opportunity to help us do that. You'll receive:

    • 1 copy of the book
    • 3 postcards with Humans of St. Louis photostories
    • acknowledgment in the book and on the website

    AND, this will purchase 2 copies of the book which will be donated to the book's Humans and team members. Donated copies will be allocated to the Humans first, then team members, and then any additional copies donated via this reward will be reserved for good causes.

    (If you don't want to be acknowledged in the book or on the website, just let us know!)

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $140 or more About $140

    The Gift Giver

    The book will cost $35, but if you buy 4 copies (because you know you'll want to give some to friends and family), we'll send you an extra copy! You'll get:

    • 5 copies of the book
    • 3 postcards with Humans of St. Louis photostories
    • acknowledgment in the book and on the website

    (If you don't want to be acknowledged in the book or on the website, just let us know!)

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    35 backers
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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $314 or more About $314

    The 314

    "314" backers will receive:

    • 3 copies of the book
    • 1 Humans of St. Louis photo print (26” x 35”)
    • 4 postcards

    (See what we did there?)

    Plus, you'll be acknowledged in the book.

    (We'll email you with options for choosing your print).

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    8 backers
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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    The HOSTLer

    $500 backers can choose one of these HOSTL experiences:

    EITHER:
    • Join Humans of St. Louis one afternoon to help gather stories in your neighborhood
    — OR —
    • Receive a personal one-on-one interview and photo shoot session with Humans of St. Louis photographer Lindy Drew

    PLUS, receive:
    • 1 copy of the book
    • acknowledgment in the book and on the website

    (We'll email you within a week to ask which option you'd like. If you don't want to be acknowledged in the book or on the website, just let us know!)

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    The Show Me

    Pledge $1,000 and receive our thanks, as well as:

    • 1 matted, framed Humans of St. Louis photo print (26"x35")
    • 5 copies of the book
    • 5 postcards
    • acknowledgment in the book and on the website

    (We'll email you with options for choosing your print, and if you don't want to be acknowledged in the book or on the website, just let us know!)

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    The St. Louisan

    A $2,500 pledge will earn you our appreciation, as well as:

    • 2 matted, framed Humans of St. Louis photo prints (26"x35")
    • 5 copies of the book
    • 5 postcards
    • acknowledgment in the book and on the website

    (We'll email you with options for choosing your prints, and if you don't want to be acknowledged in the book or on the website, just let us know!)

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    The Philanthropist

    As the highest-level Kickstarter backer, you will receive heaps of love and gratitude, as well as:

    •3 matted and framed Humans of St. Louis photo prints (26"x35")
    • 5 copies of the Humans of St. Louis book
    • 5 postcards
    • featured acknowledgment in the book and on the website

    (We'll email you with options for choosing your prints, and if you don't want to be acknowledged in the book or on the website, just let us know!)

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Funding period

- (22 days)