Gone live!

Flier with TinyURL and QR code

My original plan for this week was to write about the very interesting and enjoyable interview that I had last Friday with Michelle Thomas in the cafe at Crystal Palace railway station in south London. Michelle is four or five months into a crowd funding campaign to publish her book I Will Pay You 1 Pound for Your Story. However, my own crowd funding campaign just went live and – more to the point – I’ve been working with it almost without a break since getting back from England. For this reason I’m holding Michelle’s interview over to a time when I hope I’ll be able to do it more justice.

I was sitting on the edge of my seat with my laptop revved up at 8 o’clock this morning. That was when the campaign site for My Gothenburg Days/Dagar i mitt Göteborg went live. Up until that moment I did not know whether it would work or what it would look like exactly. Most importantly, I did not know whether the TinyUrl and QR code that I had made would work, even though I’d printed them on 500 flyers.

I made the TinyURL and QR code because the actual URL that the website gave me was this:
Which I think you’ll agree is a bit on the long side.

Before the website went live there was no way to test them.
I’m pleased to say – they DO work! (Try them yourself.)


The crowd funding website that I have ended up going with is FundedByMe. I can say that I’ve had very good advice and help from a number of different people that I’ve been in touch with there. On the other hand, I haven’t found their instructions or their website for creating the campaign 100% user-friendly. It is my impression that they would prefer to run campaigns that are equity or loan based and I think they see themselves as an international player in competition with Kickstarter.

Unlike Kickstarter, FundedByMe has no category for Publications so my book campaign is categorised as “Other”. If you look back and read earlier blog posts you’ll see that I chose FundedByMe because it seemed the most professional crowd funding website in Sweden, but I did look seriously at Kickstarter and only rejected that website because as a resident of Sweden I could not run a campaign through them. However Kickstarter is now accepting campaigns from Swedish residents. (Am I starting to kick myself? I think it’s a legitimate question.)

My next campaign (!) may very well be a Kickstarter campaign. Although, who knows. If I manage to raise the money I need for my photo book with FundedByMe perhaps loyalty will keep me on their site.

Meanwhile we are in the run-up to Gothenburg’s Book Fair which opens tomorrow morning (Thursday, 25 September). This afternoon I have to get down to Svenska Mässan to help out with the Egenutgivarna’s stall (A03:50 if you are attending and want to visit). I have to make sure that my flyers – the ones with the QR codes – are stuffed into the advertising folder that we’ll be giving out, I have to make sure that the cover of my book is visible somewhere on the stall, I have to learn how to use the iZettle credit card payment system we have, and I have to try on the T-shirt that I must wear when I am acting as “crew” on the stall.

“How big a T-shirt do you think you’ll need,” they asked.

“Well, I can get into extra large T-shirts – better make it a double extra large,” I said. Now I’m wondering whether double extra large was really large enough. Maybe I should have gone for triple extra large. Too much beer and fish and chips when I was in the UK. On the other hand, I did walk around a lot. Maybe I’m no bigger now than I was before. (And, let’s face it, that’s pretty big.)

At least I know the shirt fits that I’m wearing this evening to go to the Book Fair Press Night. (Though I’d better try it on just to be sure.)

Enough from me now. Till next week, cheerio!

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

Adventures in Crowd Funding

I sat up till after midnight on Friday sketching out a front cover for another putative book. This is one I’ve only been thinking about for a couple or three weeks. (A tip of the hat to my fellow #Blogg52-er Eva Ullerud.) But Adventures in Crowd Funding seems like a good idea.

Adventures in Crowd Fundingfront cover essay
Adventures in Crowd Funding front cover essay

At the moment it seems like a good idea.

(In three months, I’m sure I’ll be wondering whatever possessed me to start a second self-publishing project while still working on my first.)

The logic is this. In the process of crowd funding My Gothenburg Days/Dagar I mitt Göteborg I am learning a great deal about crowd funding and the campaigning that goes with it. I am, in effect, marketing my book before it has been printed and published. Quite a lot of people have expressed an interest in knowing more about what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. There doesn’t seem to be a road-map (though having said that, I’m now expecting people to bombard me with titles of other books on the subject). Howsomever, this is my journey and my adventure and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to document it.

I’m now going to be launching the campaign to fund My Gothenburg Days at the Gothenburg Book Fair. I’m going to be displaying my wares at the stall run by Egenutgivarna, the Swedish Indie Authors’ Association. For this occasion, I was preparing a text about myself and My Gothenburg Days to be included in a brochure and to loop as two slides in a longer slideshow on screen at their stand. No matter how I worked on it, I couldn’t cut down sufficiently the number of words I felt I needed. Then I realised I was trying to say something both about the projected photo book and about the crowd funding process.

The solution, I decided was to include a third slide, but that would mean a second book. Thus was Adventures in Crowd Funding born. I’m not quite sure what it will have in it yet, but I’m thinking a combination of little stories about what I’m doing and discovering (hopefully amusing) and some useful checklists and “things to think about”. (That is to say – things I wish I’d thought about for longer than I did before I got myself into this.) Perhaps also some interviews. I’m thinking to make it only as an e-book – and at the moment I think it’ll only be in English. Because trying to write in Swedish would guarantee 1) that it never gets written or 2) that – if written – it never gets read.

Ah! Swedish, my Achilles heel!

My short Swedish language texts for the Egenutgivarna’s brochure and slideshow have been passed by my Swedish editor (as in these contexts I call my wife). The first version, produced with the help of Herr Google, caused her first to hide her face in her hands and then to slowly lower her head onto the kitchen table where it lay for a while cradled in her palms. It wasn’t quite the reaction I’d been hoping for.

The new version has been passed as “still a bit odd, but it’ll do”.

Once I’d got the text the next thing was to find a picture to stand in for a front cover. A slide with just text is a guaranteed turnoff. Almost any picture is better than none, but of course a picture that is actually relevant to the text is even better. (A picture that conveys everything in the text in an impactful and memorable way is best of all – but I am trying teach the perfectionist in me to cultivate an acceptance of the good-enough.)

I tried three times, and the result (which you find illustrating this blog entry) is the best I could come up with. It’s not perfect, but there’s a crowd (of sorts), there’s money (kind of), and the title and author text has a (more or less) effective contrast with the background. Good enough – for a late night effort anyway.

So, after last week’s dip, here I am sitting back up and feeling hopeful again. (Do you think I’m going to keep it up?)

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

Fear of freefall

On my way to work three or four days a week I pass Gothenburg’s Liseberg funfair and hear the happy screams – I must suppose they’re happy – as people drop in freefall or spin around at multiple gravities or turn upside down as they loop the loop. It’s a good 40 years since I last experienced any of the more extreme rides at a funfair, and longer since I enjoyed any of them.

Fear of freefall
Fear of freefall

About 10 years ago, having refused to try out any of the real rides, I was persuaded by visiting friends to go on Liseberg’s virtual rollercoaster. Along with about 40 other people I was strapped into chairs that moved and vibrated facing a wide projection screen, and taken on a ride through a fantasy gold mine, spinning through tunnels, leaping over broken bridges, plunging down shafts. I spent most of the time with my eyes closed, teeth clenched and fingers clawing at the armrests, willing it to stop.

I am put in mind of all this because, ever since I started writing about crowd funding, I’ve had the sensation of being once again strapped into that chair as the ride takes me ever closer to a cliff edge.

I’ve not written about crowd funding for a couple of weeks partly because I had other things I wanted to say, partly because the ride hasn’t picked up much speed yet. But I can feel an acceleration and there’s no getting away from it any more.

Having rejected Unbound for the time being, I’ve been focusing my attention on FundedByMe.com.

One of the main contrasts between the two crowd funding websites – apart from the fact that one is dedicated to book publishing what the other is open to all sorts of campaigns – is that the FundedByMe site sets a 45 day limit for any crowd funding campaign. In other words from the day the campaign starts, a campaigner has 45 days to attract the financing he or she is seeking. By contrast Unbound has very open limits (which they do not share) which mean that campaigns can take months or even years. I don’t like the idea of a campaign that just drags on into the sunset, but I have to say that 45 days strikes me as a bit restricted.

However, I have now been thinking in terms of a 45 day campaign for a couple of weeks and I’m coming around to seeing how I might manage it.

As all this is in aid of publishing a photo book about Gothenburg, it makes sense to start the campaign with Gothenburg’s Planket in mid-August and end with the Gothenburg Book Fair at the end of September. Just about 45 days.

Planket is an event run annually by Gothenburg’s Photo Club in association with Göteborgs kuturvecka. The photo club hire the palings around Trädgårdsföreningen Park and then rent out three-meter-wide sections to photographers where they can display their work. I took part last year and it was great fun. Suppose I was to take part again this year and exhibit not only some of my photos, but also have a dummy of the photo book to show off, and advertising for the campaign?

And then if I took part in the Book Fair, perhaps as a member of Egenutgivarna, and again was able to show the dummy to anyone who was interested?

I’m already booked to take part in Planket, but that only costs 200 Skr. Participating in the Book Fair and getting a share of the stall that Egenutgivarna run costs rather more – 3750 Skr – so I haven’t taken that step quite yet. I’m hyperventilating before I release the brake and let the rollercoaster roll.

It’s also difficult to make up my mind what my financial target should be for the campaign. I have written a description of the book as I would like it to be, and a letter to various printers asking for quotes, but as yet I haven’t received any replies. I have used a couple of websites to make a rough calculation, though, and I think that I’m looking at a target of 150,000 Skr. That’s 21,880 US dollars, 16,300 euros, 12,850 British pounds. Sometimes (usually as I’m falling asleep) that seems like hell of a lot of money.

At other times it seems quite reasonable. If I can persuade 1000 people to pledge me 150 Skr I’ll be home and dry!

Except of course that I won’t be home and dry, because if I reach my target within 45 days it means I’m committed to printing the book and distributing copies to everyone who has pledged money. I have to be very careful not to make promises about when the book will be published since I have absolutely no idea how long it’s going to take from the decision to go to print to getting the final version in my hand.

Of course, if I don’t reach my target within 45 days I won’t have to do anything. The whole project will be cancelled, everyone who pledged will get their money back and I’ll be left with fond memories and small debts.

The only fly in the ointment regarding this 45 day period between Planket and Bokmässan is that I have a 10 day holiday planned in England right in the middle. Perhaps I can try marketing the project also while I’m in London.

Anyway, that’s where I am at the time of writing. For more on this, check back later.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

One third

It struck me the other day that I’ve now posted seventeen blog entries At the Quill tagged Blogg52 and that means I am one third of the way through the 52 week challenge. Perhaps a moment to pause and review.

As ever when I start a new project that requires a regular participation I wasn’t sure at the outset that I would manage to see it through. I’m still not, but I am a great deal more hopeful now.
As I’m the only blogger taking part in this challenge writing in a language other than Swedish, I’m fortunate that English is generally accessible to Swedes. Although I write in a foreign language, I still have readers from among my Blogg52 colleagues. I’m grateful for that. In a way, it would have been a better idea to have found a blog challenge in English – and I did look – but I couldn’t find anything small enough. WordPress, for example runs a weekly challenge, but so many people participate that it seems like each individual is drowned out by all the rest.

Besides, here I am in Sweden and although I don’t write in Swedish a lot of my references are to a Swedish or a Scandinavian context.

Well, some of the above is generated by hindsight. The truth is that Blogg52 came up as an option for me at the right time and I jumped on the bandwagon. I only went looking seriously for English-language blog challenges after I’d started, and by then I was already getting comfortable with Blogg52.

I did take the precaution of asking Susan Casserfelt, one of the curators and a fellow member of the Swedish Association of Independent and Self Publishing Authors, how she felt about an Englishman muscling in on the challenge, and she was very welcoming. Susan’s attitude has been echoed by several of the other bloggers, I’m pleased to say, so I don’t feel too much like a cuckoo in this nest.

Of course, there’s a question about what I bring to the feast. Beyond one’s weekly blog contribution, the idea behind tagging one’s entries and using the hash tag (#Blogg52) to advertise each of one’s newly minted efforts on Twitter and Facebook is of course to spread the word. To attract readers from outside the circle. I’ve been doing this of course, but I wonder how many of my social network have been looking at the other bloggers. Hopefully some at least – I do count a number of Swedes among my contacts after all.

The other thing one commits oneself to, joining a challenge like this, is to visiting other Blogg52 blogs, reading the entries and commenting – either on the blog itself or on Facebook. The Blogg52 rules (here, on the site of the other curator Anna Hellqvist) suggest that you comment “some” (något) posts weekly. For me this is a challenge also for my Swedish. I have sometimes commented in English (especially when I attempt poetry), but I feel as a matter of courtesy I should try to use Swedish. I’m not sure what quality my written Swedish has as it comes with what I know is the poor help of Google translator, or the Swedish language suggestions my mobile phone provides. I hope, if nothing else, my mistakes raise a smile. (And maybe my written Swedish will improve.)

Publication day is Wednesday. When I manage to get a blog entry written earlier, I schedule it to publish in time, otherwise I find myself (as now) scrambling to complete the entry on Wednesday morning. Once published, I advertise it on my own Twitter and Facebook streams and share it on the #Blogg52 Facebook page, and then – onlly then – I let myself start looking at what other people have published.
Obviously, over the last eighteen weeks, I’ve discovered bloggers who I particularly enjoy reading. Some people write about subjects that interest me more than others, just as some people write in a way I find more engaging, and I am more likely to read and comment on these blogs. However I make a point of visiting and reading blogs from people who are new to the challenge and I keep a list of blogs that I miss reading one week in order to make sure that I put them at the top of my list to read the following week. It has to be said that I am more generous about visiting and commenting people who have once commented on my efforts.

Because I’m working again now, I very often find myself reading Blogg52 contributions on my mobile phone on my way to or from work. Jolting along on the tram does add a further level of complexity to writing comments! I usually manage to read a few entries on Wednesday and a few more on Thursday. Then I try to find time to read the remaining blogs on my computer when I’m at home on Friday. Sadly though, if I haven’t managed to read a blog entry by Saturday, I probably won’t manage it all. I usually try to let people know I’ve read their entry – even if I haven’t commented – by “liking” their promotional post on Facebook.

Apart from the content of the blog entries, accessing and looking at so many different blogs with different equipment (I mean sometimes a computer sometimes a smartphone) is interesting from a technical point of view. It is fascinating to see what different people favour in terms of blog design and layout, and educative to try to read and navigate different blogs. On my Android phone at least it’s possible to use the little green R symbol in the address field to open a reader which makes it easier to read text on the phone. I realised how much I use this when I stumbled across a “mobile” website that blocked it as an option. I made a mental note to stop worrying about whether I should set up mobile sites to run in parallel with my websites.

This has also sent me back more than once to look at my own websites on different equipment to see how they function. Let us just say: I see room for improvement.

I started out this entry by congratulating myself on having managed to produce an entry every week. That’s not quite true. I missed one week when I was stressed out by work. Let me conclude this by acknowledging the blogs that have fallen by the wayside. I’m not sure how many of the blogs listed on Anna’s site are no longer participating, but I’ve weeded out a number from my own list (here in the column to the right) because they haven’t updated with a #Blogg52 tag for several weeks. It’s not an easy task, this challenge. You need to have the motivation to keep it up. Commenting one another’s blogs, offering encouragement and giving “Likes” on Facebook are all ways to help one another keep motivated, but to succeed I think you also need to know why you’re doing it and what you hope to get out of it.
My original objective was simply to get back into the swing of writing a blog article on a regular basis. In June though I discovered a new motivator: learning about crowd funding and reporting – maybe – on my own crowd funding project to publish a photo book. Expect more of that in future entries.

Cheerio for now!

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

Back to Pompeii

Back to Pompeii - coverBack to Pompeii by Kim Kimselius is the first in a series of novels that follow the adventures of Ramona, a schoolgirl, and her boyfriend Theo in different historical periods and places. The series has been a success in Sweden and some of the earlier volumes have been translated into other languages. Back to Pompeii is the first English translation (by Jennifer Lee), and was published in 2013.

Ramona, a Swedish schoolgirl, is taking part in an educational trip to the ruins at Pompeii with the rest of her class. Plagued by a headache, she steals away from the tour to rest in the cool shade of a bakery. She falls asleep, and wakes to find herself 2000 years back in time, in a very lively Pompeii on the eve of the volcanic eruption that will bury the city and its people in ash.

Ramona is torn between delight and fear. Delight at finding herself in ancient Pompeii among the living people whose plaster death-casts she has seen in the museum, and fear of the coming destruction. More, as she has no idea whether she will be able to return to her own time, she fears even if she survives the eruption that she may be stranded in this ancient world for the rest of her life.

One theme of Back to Pompeii is the value of friendship. Ramona’s fears are quietened when she meets and is befriended by Theo, a boy of her own age. Theo is an upper-class Roman who is first beguiled by Ramona’s bare legs. (She was transported back in time dressed exactly as a modern teenager on holiday in Italy.) Theo borrows appropriate clothes for her from his rather haughty sister Livia , and then presents her around as a cousin from Rome. In Theo’s home Ramona is welcomed as his friend.

The story is an enjoyable and easy read (it is quite a short book – about 50,000 words) and it wears its historical costume lightly. By this I mean the book conveys a deal of information about life in Pompeii – about dress and custom and what may have happened when Vesuvius erupted – well integrated with an exciting story.

Ramona is a believable teenager, and for the most part so is Theo. If Theo’s family and friends seem surprisingly laid back about Ramona’s sudden appearance and Theo’s friendship with her, then that is perhaps explained away by the conventions of the genre. This is a time-slip novel that isn’t interested in the how or the why of the slip. It is neither science-fiction nor fantasy (no time machine, no magic), the slip in time is simply a vehicle to put a modern girl into an historical milieu.

Ramona’s attempts to explain certain things modern kids would take for granted are quite funny. An aeroplane, for example.

“Airplanes look almost like that bird… but they have engines… An engine is like a donkey… It gives power to the airplane so it can fly. Just like the donkey gives the stone power to grind the corn.”

“A donkey on a bird? … Anyone can see there’s not enough room for a donkey on a bird!”

Kim Kimselius is rather good at pulling her readers up short, making them reconsider their assumptions about their own time and about the historical period her characters are living in. Speaking for a moment as a teacher, I can see a particular value in the novel as a teaching tool to introduce the idea of prejudice and to give concrete examples to debate without personalising the issue.

The book highlights one particular aspect of ancient Roman society: slavery. To begin with, Ramona fears she may be sold as a slave, a fear that recedes as she gets to know Theo and his family. But the presence of slaves as a class in Pompeii is never allowed to fade away and at a critical moment Ramona’s early fears are made real again when she and Theo are separated. The threat of violence and sexual abuse that Roman slaves must live with runs like a cold current just below the cheerful surface of this novel.

The impending doom that hangs over Pompeii is another undercurrent that takes a dramatic centre stage in the latter part of the novel. In good disaster movie fashion, Ramona sets out to save the lives of the people she has met – and the reader cheers her on. But she is frustrated at (almost) every turn. No one believes her. How is it possible that Vesuvius, green with vineyards, is really a dormant volcano about to blow its top?

Yet it does, and the choking ash that finally and inevitably lays a suffocating blanket over the city is frighteningly described.

Obviously, Tillbaka till Pompeji was written with a Swedish audience in mind. How would it work with an English audience? I imagine a frisson of curiosity when a young English reader realises that Ramona and her fellow school children think of and talk to their teacher as “Elisabeth” rather than, say, “Ms Andersson”. However, most of Ramona’s other assumptions would, I think, be shared by English-speaking girls of her age.

The translation is generally good and appropriate, though at times the vocabulary seems to hover between British and American. For example, the school children “queue” for ice-cream (rather than “stand in line”), but Ramona talks about “airplanes” (rather than “aeroplanes”). Still, I don’t suppose these uncertainties would be disturbing for most readers in the target audience.

One language point that caused me confusion – at the most dramatic point in the story – are the references to flying “chunks of lava”. To the best of my knowledge, lava is molten (liquid) rock, and as such cannot form “chunks”. The rocks spewed out by explosively erupting volcanoes are better described as hot rocks, surely? If a technical term is called for then they are pyroclasts or tephra. (Yes, I looked that up!) I am not sure whether this slip is the responsibility of the translator or the author.

However, these small quibbles aside, Back to Pompeii is a good read and a book I would happily put in the hands of any 12-to-15-year-old. (And it wouldn’t bore the pants off their parents either.)

Kim M. Kimselius is the author of Back to Pompeii. Visit the author’s website to contact her or learn more about her books (English). Or visit her blog (Swedish).

Buy copies of Back to Pompeii from AdLibris or Bokus.

Read reveiws of her other books (various languages) on the GoodReads website.

This review was written as a contribution to the Swedish Egenutgivarnas Recommendation Tree project.