reflections on the new year
Happy 2016, everyone!!
Things have been very busy in our household since November. Unlike previous years when I used to be all prepared for the Holidays with special hand crafted treats for everyone, this year I did not do cookie baskets or create home-made gifts for loved ones. Even the 10 holiday cards I felt most necessary to send were mailed about December 20th! Yet, I know everyone was happy, because it kept the sentiment intact and allowed me to focus on family time.
I was also thinking about work - getting Crack the Code out to more people, even if it meant a 100 more people. Crack the Code had been written and an ebook published in October… but it seemed like such a waste if only a handful of people could appreciate it. To get a book in the hands of people meant finding a way of reaching everyone and having the finances for mass production.
It was a time when everyone was focused on Thanksgiving, travel, Black Friday deals, presents and gifting. Having worked with the Kickstarter community once before, I knew that if I stayed realistic, I could raise a small amount and pair it with a small chunk of my savings to make those 100 copies for showing and sharing. After we settled from a very busy October, I spent two whole weeks thinking through Crack the Code again, about Kickstarter, writing the campaign pieces, setting up rewards, getting the video pieces stitched together where they made sense.
At midnight on November 22, I hit the ‘Submit’ button. My eyes were ready to fall out, figuratively speaking.
And then some magic happened. Although I had the experience with Kickstarter from ‘A Dozen Ways’, nothing could prepare me for the massive waves of acceptance from a global community … they were going to help make this book ‘real’.
If you’ve missed it because you weren’t on social media, here are some links.
I am thrilled that ‘Crack the Code: Cook Any Indian Meal with Confidence’ is finally going to be made into a print book. As I post this, there are a whopping 600 backers, 400+ print book recipients, 400+ ebook recipients and so many more packages of masala boxes and such going out in the month of February and March 2016!
I got many emails through the campaign: backers telling me how excited they are for this project, marketers trying to sell me their services and fellow creators asking me for advice – from ‘me’.
Then I got another email - the Kickstarter staff asked if I’d provide some notes for their ‘Creator Handbook’ about what reading material one should read when preparing for a campaign. It took a little while to scrape away the inferiority complex of self-doubt, subversively dusted over the psyche that had caked up over 4 decades, but here is what I wrote to them:
While preparing for the launch of the first campaign of my first cookbook 'A Dozen Ways to Celebrate', I was nervous and tried to read as much as possible... business magazines, food magazines, blogs (everything other than crowdfunding). Every article I read made me afraid. It seemed like I was bound to fail, because at that time, in 2013, there appeared no legitimacy to such a process, especially among those following conventional methods. Instead, I did not fail. The community picked up my project as a Staff Pick first and then it made their Newsletter. The campaign was completely funded about 50 hrs into the process.
Once I had gone through it, I discovered the wealth and value of this experience... which helped me shape the next campaign.
When I launched my second campaign two years later, for my second cookbook 'Crack the Code-2', I was less nervous. I had kept up with most of my reading, but also found it important to trust my gut feeling for the ‘product’, and what I wanted to achieve out of going through the Kickstarter engine again. The project was a 'Staff Pick' (again) and funded within its first 48 hrs.
My goal has been clear from day 1 of the project: to create something that people can use, revisit, improvise with and enjoy using over time. This goal guided virtually every conversation I had with peers, every article I read during the time I was preparing for the second campaign: newspapers, cultural readings, conversations with friends and neighbors, clients and testers. My favorites included insight by Richard Branson, snippets of wisdom from Steve Jobs from some article, TED talks, TED-Ex talks, Entrepreneur Magazine, Inc., Fast Company, Money & Time.
I was routinely skimming news for information that would make my creation better than it had been the previous day. When I finally had a revised version of my idea, I had tested it out among strangers and came out with good results because I had started with a clear goal in mind - usability.
That is when I took it to the Kickstarter community who received it with open arms and generosity. It was not about polishing a presentation to where the viewer was lured into the campaign, finding marketers, or even dealing with the stats - it was being confident that the ‘product’ I had created was worth someone’s' time and money, because I had given it enough thought.
I still think there is no dearth of news articles, magazines and blogs that can help shape a project creators' project.
My best reading material suggestion: read your own product-blueprints. Try to read it in the still of the night, in the quiet of the day when you are not being swayed by another persons' opinion. What makes it different? What makes it the same as something else on the market? If you can write the answer to the question... and are happy to read what you've written, then you should have no problem with your ‘product’ or your campaign.
Those who have endured the growing pains of being a self published author or have followed my experiences through any of my accounts about creating a book, know first-hand that is a tough road. But the process offers tremendous growth opportunities, which are both fulfilling and immensely satisfying. I remain grateful for everything.
As I prepare for new experiences this year with ‘Crack the Code’, I also acknowledge that I am behind on finishing ‘Counting Beads’. It will be finished at some point in time, when I choose to give myself a lull between cookbook projects, but I cannot say when. I have written short paragraphs here and there, written intros to chapters lest I forget the storyline but here is an excerpt that captures something really significant for me this year, moving on.
Excerpt from 'Counting Beads', chapter: Crossing Over.
Ana had left Kumar several missed calls and he never called her back. It seemed that Kumar was on a career path and she had become part of a head-count of acquaintances but not part of his life. They were heading back into Mumbai. As they stopped for lunch, Ana made one last ditch attempt at reaching Kumar. And he answered the phone.
Ana: Hey, I finally got through to you! How are you?
Kumar: Good.. good… how are you? Arey (but) how long are you here?
Ana: Kumar, I am leaving today…
Kumar: What?? That’s impossible… you must be kidding.
Ana: No, I am flying out tonight. I have to go. I thought you would have found time to meet with me over the past two months that I was in India.
Kumar: Don’t say that, you don’t know how busy things have been… Why do you have to go? You sound worried… are you alright?
Ana: No, I’m not alright – Ravi was laid off and it’s been keeping me up at night. Could have used a friendly conversation with an old friend but you were too busy to even answer my call!
Kumar: No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. You know I would have called you back if I had known?! Look, I have something very important to tell you. That’s been keeping me preoccupied… can we meet? This is best done face-to-face.
Ana wondered: What does he have to say now? It’s too late for anything – I don’t have the energy to deal with some new curveball you are going to throw my way, Kumar.
Kumar: Hello, are you still there? We do need to talk . . do you have time now? At least I can talk with you on the phone…
Ana: Kumar, the past 20 years of our friendship has been based on our phone conversations… what do you have to say to me now?
Kumar: I am getting married.
She was taken aback.
Kumar: Oh, what?
Ana: Oh, congratulations… that is news!
Kumar: Yes, isn’t that exciting. Her name is Shruti, and she is……
Kumar carried on with details that did not register for Ana. She had to break into that monologue about destiny.
Ana: Hey, Kumar, it is all great, but I need to go.
Kumar: What, you are not going to stay back and meet Shruti?
Ana: No, not this time. We are running late, and I have to go. Ananta is waiting for me.
Kumar: No wait….
Ana: Good bye Kumar.
Ana hung up the phone. She was cold with emptiness. She did not feel the happiness one should feel for a friends’ upcoming nuptials. Without allowing herself the time to brood over the loose ends of conversations and many unfinished walks that she and Kumar had shared, she deleted his phone number from her phone once and for all. It was time she truly left.