The story of Jack

I’ve always loved superheroes and comic books.  So it’s no surprise really that about two years ago, when Philip Patston and I were driving back to Diversityworks HQ after a meeting, I turned and said to him “wouldn’t it be cool if we wrote a book about a kid who used a wheelchair…but his friend thought that he was a superhero?”

I think I must have watched the X-men movie one too many times not long beforehand.  Luckily, Philip loved the idea and together we sat down and wrote the story for “My Friend is a Superhero!”

However, we didn’t really know where to go from there.  No one knew much about having books illustrated or published, and with a million other projects going on the book dropped off our radar.

That is, until last year, when Philip approached comic illustrator Sam Orchard to see if he’d be interested in working with us.  Sam loved the idea of Jack and his friend, and we began to workshop some ideas about what the book could look like.  We wanted to include things like Jack’s friend being gender neutral and give the book a distinctly kiwi feel, with the pukeko and cabbage trees.

Sam worked on the illustrations over the next couple of months and turned “My Friend is a Superhero!” into a gorgeous full colour mock-up.  We were thrilled with the result and I can’t give enough credit to Sam for his amazing work.

Next step: what on earth to do with it?  Printing estimates were pretty high, so we ended up just printing a small trial-run at the end of 2012.  At this stage we had no idea who would be interested in buying or reading the book, or if other people would even like the idea.  However the 20 books we had printed disappeared within a week and everyone we showed it to loved the idea of Jack as much as we did.

Excited by the positive feedback, we met with Linda Vagana of Duffy Books in Homes to see if we could get the book distributed even more widely.  Linda let us know that Duffy has 500 Decile 1, 2 and 3 schools across New Zealand, to which they donated books yearly.  She said Duffy would be happy deliver our books to these schools.

The final step in the process, and probably the most difficult, was to raise the money for printing.  We decided to create a PledgeMe campaign to try and crowdsource the funding needed.  Within a month we had raised over $4000, well over our original $3500 goal, and suddenly everything has become a reality!

With the money we will be able to print 1000 copies of the book: 500 will go to schools through Duffy Books, about 200 will go to those who donated as rewards, and the rest we’ll have for sale on the Diversityworks Trust website.  Any money raised from sale of the books will go towards future printings.

All in all, that’s not bad for a small idea that came to me in the car on the way home from a meeting.  There are three big things I learned from this whole experience:

a) It’s important to share your good ideas with others, they might think they are good ideas too.

b) Even if your idea goes nowhere at first, keep it in mind.  Eventually the time will be right.

c) Don’t forget to ask.  It was only by asking: first Sam, then Linda, then our pledgers, that we were able to make this happen.

I’m overwhelmed with the success of the PledgeMe and the fact that the book will end up in schools that really need them.  On behalf of myself, Philip and Sam, we’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who supported us.  You made it happen, and we’re stoked!!

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