Dreams are alternative timelines; a young teen boy is the genius son of physically abusive parents or he is the master of time; a teen couple, modified by aliens, rules humanity with tragic results or they are the most promising prodigies of the world; will love lead to a convergence of timelines or Oblivion?
Kill the Hype, What's This Project About?
It's about writing a science fiction/fantasy book that serves as a metaphor for kids that are born with a particular kind of wiring in their head. Some of these kids can do wonderful things. Some simply are targets for abuse for everyone from bullies at school to their own parents. The mainstream can't imagine how they think and neither can they imagine how the mainstream thinks. They have stereotypes about the mainstream and the mainstream people have stereotypes about these kids. For the kids, it's like being aliens on their own planet. More to the point is their question perhaps of why no one like them appears in a book. I have tried to create an entertaining and emotionally intense book to serve as a bridge between the two worlds. I say worlds too because the kids born with this wiring have a huge number of genetic variations resulting huge variances between the kids. They are not clones.
I know every author likes to say this, but believe me, you haven't read a scifi/fantasy book like this before. And you may or may not like it. In my test of my book series I've seen strong reactions both positive and negative (from both sides of the divide). Since this is not a mainstream book, only some people like it. It is a niche book --- I need to expose this book to a lot of people to find the niche of avid supporters. So what does this mean?
It means that first of all, I need to get the book two more professional edits: a second comprehensive one and final prepublication proof read. I then need to get the book into bookstores nationwide for real, not as part of some rip-off self-publishing scheme. Quite simply, I have to become a real publisher. With the funding of this Kickstarter, I will be able to do that --- not a self-publisher but someone who is connected to all the publishing data systems and can deliver books to the bookstores exactly the same as other publishers do. To start, I have to do a large offset print run of 3000 to 4000 books in order to get the book's manufacturing cost cheap enough to give the bookstores the profit they want and to pay for my distribution system. For this book, I have learned to illustrate (though I rely on a base of stock art images to start with). I have learned how to do professional book layout. In short, I have had some very experienced editors teaching me the fine points of writing, professional illustrators teaching me to illustrate (by examples and tips), and I have had help planning the logistics of this new business (like how to handle 14,000 lbs of books from a press). I have promoted this series by giving away over 1000 books. And now I am at this point in Book #5's development that I must get external funding. I have expended the $50,000 of my own money set aside to start this project and now I need outside money to make it to the finish line, so that this special book and other books in its series can reach the people it will benefit most --- on both sides of the great divide --- those people wishing to understand the great diversity of humanity and the great diversity within their own minds.
Who Are the Children of Sophista?
Sometimes great destinies cannot wait until the end of childhood, especially when aliens watching Earth decide they would like to reshape the planet. Humans may be afraid to tinker with human DNA but throughout time, aliens have been genetically altering humans to match their agendas — aliens who may not all share the same designs for humanity. Humans are the organic clay of the universe.
The randomness of human evolution has taken those changes and produced something unexpected by aliens and humans: The Children of Sophista. These children would like to experience the joys of their immortal childhood without being ostracized by humanity or exploited by aliens. But dissection, exploitation, and enslavement await these children — await them unless they can use their superior talents and knowledge to protect themselves and perhaps advance humanity into a peaceful existence.
As these children band together, they find that their talents and those of the aliens are so far in advance of humans that they are like magic. Perhaps the magic of these children can be used to relate to humanity in a friendly way. Magic is science that humans don't understand.
Journey with these children to discover whether their lives will be ones of happiness and discovery, or slow and painful eradication. Help bring the story of their struggles and adventures to the world of humans and perhaps in the process, these children’s magical hearts will touch yours. Support the Children of Sophista!
What Is “The Children of Sophista”?
The Children of Sophista is a book series that I began writing seven years ago. It is a blend of Science Fiction and Fantasy with an emphasis in realism. The story’s premise is that aliens throughout human history have been seeding humanity with small genetic changes. These alien genes evolved as humans evolved over many millennia. Today, a disparate group of children have suddenly developed talents as a result of this evolution. They are extremely intelligent and can teleport and hold telepathic conversations. The children have found each other and have come together in a group to receive an education for their advanced intellect and supernatural talents. Together, they use their supernatural talents to keep themselves safe against humans, who both fear them because of their talents and want to take them apart to see how their talents work.
I wrote this series not to be a superhero kind of series but from the point of view of the children: their difficulty coping with the world and their fear of being hurt by the world. Book #5, “The Owl from Oblivion” is a tale in which one of these children is beaten repeatedly by abusive parents and where the other kids and a professor who studies and educates these kids band together to help the beaten child escape his abusive relationship. The children struggle to understand their talents and themselves while coping with shifts between a brutal reality and a supernatural timeline where they are invulnerable.
Many of the scenarios in the book are metaphors for the challenges some intellectually gifted children of the real world experience in trying to adapt to mainstream society. It was my hope in writing these books that they would entertain and provide some comfort to these children while providing a ray of understanding to the general population. They are a bridge between worlds both in reality and in science fiction.
I have rewards to match everyone’s budget, from posters to books to T-Shirts. All T-shirt and poster artwork are based on illustrations from the book you are helping create, "The Owl from Oblivion".
I want to highlight a few reward features upfront. If you contribute $200 or more, everything but the T-Shirts are signed. If you contribute $1,500 or more, you get your name printed on a contributor’s page at the end of the book (if you want). Contributors at the $9,000 level receive special rewards which include having your name, if desired, printed on the Patron’s Page, which is a page inserted between the copyright page and the table of contents. At any contribution level, the contributor receives not only the reward unique to their level, but the rewards from all levels below theirs.
Rewards for contributions $900 and above are shipped free to anywhere in the world I am allowed to ship them and that the commonly available shipping goes. It will be sent via tracked shipping but the contributor bears the risk of the shipment not arriving (for US contributors, the shipment will be insured). International contributors are responsible for any duties incurred (I will ship it classified as a gift). Rewards for contributions less than $900 are shipped to US addresses only.
Level 1: $15 contribution
You receive the following 8x10 poster printed on cardstock.
Level 2: $25 contribution
You receive the following 8x10 poster printed on cardstock as well as the reward for the Level 1.
Level 3: $35 contribution
You receive the following 8x10 poster printed on cardstock as well as the rewards for Levels 1 and 2.
Level 4: $45 contribution
You receive the following 8x10 poster printed on cardstock as well as the rewards for Levels 1 - 3.
Level 5: $70 Contribution
You receive the LCX paperback version of Book #1, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 1: The Death of Innocents” plus the rewards of Levels 1 - 4 (all the posters).
Level 6: $120 Contribution
You receive the rewards from Levels 1 - 5 and all of your posters will be signed by me.
Aleah Reward Level: $150 Contribution
You receive the rewards from Levels 1 - 6 and both the book and the posters are signed.
Ty Reward Level: $200 Contribution
You will receive a signed copy of the book you helped to produce, Book #5, “The Owl from Oblivion”, HC (hardcover) Second Edition. You will also receive all the rewards from the lower reward levels, signed.
Stefan Reward Level: $300 Contribution
You receive a signed copy of the LCC paperback version of Book #2, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 2: The Rebirth of Innocents”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels.
Patrick Reward Level: $450 Contribution
You receive a signed copy of the LCC paperback version of Book #3, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 3: Paradise Lost”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels.
Syon Reward Level: $550 Contribution
You receive a signed copy of the LCC paperback version of Book #4, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 4: The Ceremony of Life”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels.
Paul Reward Level: $600 Contribution
You will receive a signed copy of the large HC hardcover version of Book #1, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 1: The Death of Innocents”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels. This HC hardcover edition of Book #1 has more illustrations than the paperback version and is printed on fine book paper.
Peter Reward Level: $900 Contribution
At this reward level, you get all the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels plus this custom T-Shirt.
Sophistan Reward Level: $1500 Contribution
At this reward level, you get all the signed books and posters plus the T-Shirt of the lower reward levels. You also receive two more signed copies of the hardcover book you helped to create and your name (if you desire) printed on a special contributors’ page at the back of the book, so that everyone will know you helped make this book happen. You also receive the T-shirt below.
Sun God Minion Reward Level: $2,000 Contribution
You receive the rewards of the lower reward levels including your name (if you desire) printed on the Contributors’ Page. You will also receive two more signed copies of the Book #5 you helped create, bringing the total number of signed copies of the hardcover “The Owl from Oblivion” to five copies. You will also receive the T-shirt below.
Tova Reward Level: $3,000 Contribution
You receive the rewards of the lower reward levels including your name (if you desire) printed on the Contributors’ Page. You also receive the T-shirt below.
Sun God Reward Level: $9,000
You receive all the rewards of the lower reward levels except having your name on the Contributors’ Page. Instead, if you desire, your name will be listed on a special Patrons’ Page that will be placed between the copyright page and the table of contents page in the front of the book so that everyone will know you are a major contributor to this project. You will receive five more signed hardcover book #5, bringing your total to ten books. You will have plenty of books to pass out to friends to prove how generous you are in your support of this project. You will also receive a handwritten letter of appreciation from me directly. In addition, you will receive the special T-shirt with the poem I wrote about the book series, as shown below. The artwork on the shirt will be signed. You will also receive 9 additional sets of 8x10 posters printed on cardstock, all signed.
So that’s all the rewards. Remember that rewards for contributions $900 and above can be shipped internationally for free.
Give Me the Project Details
My project is to improve “The Owl from Oblivion” with further professional edits beyond the one I have already paid for and to get the book into bookstores nationwide by becoming essentially a peer to professional publishing.
Book #5, “The Owl from Oblivion” has been released in a POD or print on demand version. Like most self-published books, it is practically invisible to the majority of the public. Since this book appeals to a niche group of people, when I do the math, I find that it would almost be impossible for someone in the niche to come across the book. The book series’s Facebook page has over 20,000 followers but that is a drop in the bucket compared to what is required to actually sell the book. Consider a best seller with a phenomenal one million readers. One million readers are about one-third of one percent of the US population. So even a best seller depends on being in places that readers frequent and a considerable amount of person to person promotion by a large publishing salesforce. The alternative is that the book is so mainstream and so viral that word of mouth becomes a viable way of promoting the book. These forms of promotion are out of reach of niche books unless…
Unless I use some of the tactics of large publishers. Which means becoming a publisher in the business sense of the word and displaying my books in physical bookstores nationwide. In a bookstore, a person can thumb through a book and decide if it matches their taste. For a book such as “The Owl from Oblivion” containing a very detailed world build, intricate life issues with children, and a deep philosophical subtext, it is not possible to attract its readers with simple online book blurbs. The large numbers of illustrations and gripping book excerpts need a chance to work their magic.
Getting a book into bookstores nationwide where you cannot be present to make a personal appeal is not an easy feat. First of all, there are financial and manufacturing quality barriers. The bookstores want 40% of the retail price as their profit. They want you to ship your books to them for free, giving them effectively a 90 day loan. And they want to be able to return any unsold books for free, damaged or not by customers looking through them. Sometimes the return rate for books can be as high as 50% of the ones shipped.
Except for extremely small book stores, most stores are run using one of the numerous bookstore point of sale systems. The bookstore does not want to have to enter each book it sells into its inventory system. It wants them to magically appear there. A POD system can accomplish some of this but frankly, they are going to take you and you will not make much of any money and more than likely, you will go out of pocket, enriching many self-publishing companies in the process. The whole process will limit your books to being buckets of text with epic style books being prohibitively expensive.
In order to have the economics required to be sold in bookstores, my book must be cheap as dirt to manufacture. “The Owl from Oblivion” is not a bucket of text. With over 27 illustrations, 640 pages, and colored text for designating telepathic conversations, it must be printed using a full color process. It is not just a simple read but a “complete artistic experience”.
In order to make the book’s manufacture cheap enough and the quality higher than that of a POD, I must print at least 3000 books in one long print run on an offset press in Shenzhen, China. Unlike the US POD printing process, this press in China will stamp the book using heavy printing press ink onto fine glossy paper that is twice as heavy as the POD paper. When printed this way, the illustrations are stunning and the print is dense and crisp. The binding of the book is sewn and glued to cloth with such quality that it makes POD bindings look like they were done in someone's garage. Including shipping from China, the manufacturing cost per book is about one-third that of the POD printing alone.
Before “carving the book into stone” by printing large numbers of it, I also want to give the book a second pass of professional editing and a professional prepublication proofreading pass. I have already paid $3000 out of my own pocket for the first professional editing pass I did prior to POD publication. My editors are not amateurs. They are selected from a pool of editors with an average of 10 years publishing industry experience. They are skillful enough to edit both the American English and British English dialog contained in the book. I like to use as authentic a dialog as I can with my characters.
There is also a publishing software and networking component included in this Kickstarter. For book discovery and to allow a book to automatically be entered into the bookstore’s point of sale system, I need to become a member of the Edelweiss system. This system also allows reviewers to electronically review the book and for the reviews and details about the book to be viewable by the bookstores buyers. It also discloses the purchasing terms and the identification number of the publisher, so the bookstores know where to send the orders. In addition, there is an EDI system called Pubnet which interfaces with most bookstores’ point of sale systems, allowing them to send me orders electronically from their terminals. I am also including a year’s worth of subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud, which allows me to layout the book and produce the illustrations for it. Finally, I have also included a year’s worth of cost for Quickbooks, which allows me to track who needs to pay and who needs to return books.
Part of the book's profit is allocated to these fixed costs to allow this process to be self sustainable. So when I quote how much profit a book makes, that is the profit after these fixed costs have been deducted.
Base Goal: $85,516 Book created, goes to stores
Stretch Goal #1: $105,555 Bigger print run, book sales are profitable
Stretch Goal #2: $109,642 Illustration tablet to improve artwork
With the initial goal of $85,516 the sales process is self-sustaining (see risks) free of any further Kickstarter money. However, with the book’s list price (hardcover) of $29.99, that will yield only a profit of 12 cents per book. See the chart below to determine where the per book money goes:
While this will sustain the sales of the books, at a print run size of 3000 books, I will never be able to achieve a profit which will finance the production of future books. This situationchanges drastically for a 4000 book sized print run, the $105,555 stretch goal.
The profit rises from 12 cents to a $1.93 per book. Here is where the money goes for the stretch goal:
The risk mitigation amount goes up as a percentage of the costs because part of that cost is subsidized by me, up to $10,000. So if the project totally fails, I stand to lose $10,000 of my own money. I wanted to show you that I am very serious about this project by putting some of my money on the line. However, the potential risks go up the larger the print run. Since my contribution is capped at $10,000, the portion paid by the Kickstarter goes up as the number of books printed goes up. See the risks section for details on what this section contains.
I have a second stretch goal of $109,642. This goal adds the purchase of a QHD graphics drawing tablet. This tablet is a quad high definition display with a pressure sensitive screen designed for illustration styluses. It links to the powerful illustration software on my desktop PC. It would be an aid that could significantly improve my illustrations. I put the tablet in this goal because if you have enabled me to do further books, this will allow me to improve the illustrations in them.
Any money received above these goals will be escrowed in a separate account and earmarked for production expenses of future books. These future projects could be a book #6 or a rewrite of book #1 to make it much more in-depth. For either of the projects, if there is any money left, I will use it to put the books into the bookstores.
The press in Shenzhen, China that I am using is represented by its American arm, PrintNinja. They will be handling the print order for Book #5, "The Owl from Oblivion".
The editing for "The Owl from Oblivion" will be handled by Scribendi. This should not be viewed as them endorsing my book.
Risks and challenges
There is very little risk to the production of the book. I am dependent on PrintNinja, the book manufacturer (the press) and on Scribendi of Canada, the provider of editors. If they were to disappear, it would be difficult for me to replace them. I have allowed some pad to minimize the risk but there is likely not enough pad to replace PrintNinja with an American press. I am also exposed to currency exchange rate risk since my vendors are international. I actually anticipate the dollar getting stronger (meaning their prices getting cheaper) as time goes by so currently I think the wind is blowing at my back on that.
Part of this project requires me to fulfill bookstore/retailer book orders. I don't anticipate a problem there but any time you sell something, there are always rules to be obeyed and fees to be paid. I already have an online legal paper preparer creating the paperwork I'll need and submitting it to the proper authorities. But hey, I live in California and there are always unknowns to be dealt with on that front. I didn't wait for Kickstarter and paid this out of my own pocket because it takes a long time to get that stuff done and I wanted to be ready to go, should my campaign be successful. I'm just saying some government entity might hit me up for money I didn't anticipate.
The budget includes a year's worth of warehouse rent and publishing software/network subscriptions, so there is no risk there for at least a year. In general, because of the economy not being so great, I planned things so that I could be in this for the long haul. If the economy tanks for a year, I am likely to survive that and be able to survive another year.
I have designed my financial model of things so that if the books sell, I get all my Kickstarter money back and I can do this again and again without further external funding. So here are the really tricky assumptions that can lead to disaster if things go horribly wrong. I make the assumption that 40% of the books will be returned with half of those being destroyed by customers thumbing through them (or careless bookstores handling, some small publishers complain a certain large bookstore's returns look like a forklift had been driven over them). You might think that's an outrageous number of books but frankly, it's not. I have read some publishers claim that they consider a book a hot seller if they get only 50% of the books returned. I wasn't kidding in the video that the books need to be cheap as dirt to manufacture. My books are going to cost $8 - $10 to manufacture which is really cheap compared to the sales price of $29.99. But a big publisher's cost per book is $1 to $2 and they typically just recycle returns instead of digging through them like I intend, trying to sell the ones in good shape. So this depends on me managing the order flow so that a store/retailer doesn't order a ridiculous number of books before paying for some. This is frequently known as "allocation". Allocation sometimes hacks off a retailer/store so there is that risk. And there is the risk that I will not be able to manage the order flow to prevent a retailer from burning me.
Now the horrible boundary cases. 1. All books ordered and returned. That's where the Risk Mitigation item comes into play. I would be out $10,000 of my own pocket and the money in that item would be used up. 2. No sales at all. This is the most likely outcome. The budget takes this into account and I can pay warehouse rent and publisher software/network subscriptions for a number of years if I have to. In a slow sales model, some of the pool of money reserved for the 90 day wait to get paid (or not) can be used to pay the fixed costs to keep things going. But eventually, the party has to be over.
Crazy success case. This can kill me just as quickly as anything else. It takes 10 weeks to get another order from China. There is not enough money in this Kickstarter to do a concurrent order. I have to get the majority of the books paid for before reordering. So I could make bookstores angry by making them wait for order arrival, possibly causing them to go elsewhere.
Ty Reward Level - A SIGNED copy of the book you helped create, HC (hardcover) Second Edition Book #5, "The Owl from Oblivion". The book and posters of the levels below, all signed. Book #1 and posters ship earlier.
Stefan Reward Level - Signed copy of the LCC paperback version of Book #2, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 2: The Rebirth of Innocents”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels. Everything but Book #5 ships earlier.
Patrick Reward Level - You receive a SIGNED copy of the LCC paperback version of Book #3, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 3: Paradise Lost”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels. Everything except for Book #5 ships earlier.
Syon Reward Level - You receive a SIGNED copy of the LCC paperback version of Book #4, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 4: The Ceremony of Life”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels. All items other than Book #5 ship earlier.
Paul Reward Level - You will receive a signed copy of the large HC hardcover version of Book #1, “The Saeshell Book of Time Part 1: The Death of Innocents”, as well as the signed books and posters of the lower reward levels. This HC hardcover edition of Book #1 has more illustrations than the paperback version and is printed on fine book paper. All rewards except for Book #5 ship earlier.
Peter Reward Level - At this reward level, you get all the signed books and posters of the previous levels plus custom T-shirt #1. All items except book #5 ship earlier for the US only. International shipments wait for Book #5 because of packaging requirements.
Sophistan Reward Level - At this reward level, you get all the signed books and posters plus the T-Shirt of the previous levels. You also receive two more signed copies of the hardcover book you helped to create, Book #5, and your name (if you desire) printed on a special contributors’ page at the back of the book, so that everyone will know you helped make this book happen. You also receive T-shirt #2. All items except book #5 ship earlier for the US only. International shipments wait for Book #5 because of packaging requirements.
Sun God Minion Reward Level - You receive the rewards of the previous levels including your name (if you desire) printed on the Contributors’ Page. You will also receive two more signed copies of the Book #5 you helped create, bringing the total number of signed copies of the hardcover “The Owl from Oblivion” to five copies. You also receive the T-shirt #3. All items except book #5 ship earlier for the US only. International shipments wait for Book #5 because of packaging requirements.
Tova Reward Level - You receive the rewards of the previous levels including your name (if you desire) printed on the Contributors’ Page. You also receive the T-shirt #5. All items except book #5 ship earlier for the US only. International shipments wait for Book #5 because of packaging requirements.
Sun God Reward Level - You receive all the rewards of the previous levels except having your name on the Contributors’ Page. Instead, if you desire, your name will be listed on a special Patrons’ Page that will be placed between the copyright page and the table of contents page in the front of the book so that everyone will know you are a major contributor to this project. You will receive five more signed hardcover book #5, bringing your total to ten books. You will have plenty of books to pass out to friends to prove how generous you are in your support of this project. You will also receive a handwritten letter of appreciation from me directly. In addition, you will receive the special T-shirt with the poem I wrote about the book series, T-shirt #4. You will also receive 9 additional sets of 8x10 posters printed on cardstock, all signed. All items except book #5 ship earlier for the US only. International shipments wait for Book #5 because of packaging requirements.