We Need to Talk About Pewp

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No, the new parent life hasn’t driven me bonkers. Hear me out.

Pewp is a children’s book, written and illustrated by Kenton Blythe and Nathan C. Younger. It’s about the titular wizard named Pewp, who’s exceptionally talented but ridiculed due to his name.

He is, after all, called Pewp.

It’s an interesting premise and there are some great lessons here for children. Don’t mock the person with the different-sounding name, for a start.

But what caught my attention with Pewp is its publishing history. 

It’s a children’s book, self-published exclusively through crowdfunding instead of traditional publishing avenues.

What is Crowdfunding?

In case you’re not familiar with crowdfunding, it’s a process by which a person, group, or company requests financial backing from folks on the internet. This is done by creating a campaign on an official crowdfunding website like Kickstarter.

If said ‘netizens’ like the idea presented, they can donate to the project. Those who donate will typically receive exclusive goods in response. This could be a signed copy of the product, early access to the final product, or perhaps even credit as an official backer.

Not to mention that crowdfunded products are typically on a limited run, so it’s an opportunity for backers to get their hands on some exclusive goods.

It’s easy to see the appeal. 

As a creator, you can call upon community funding to realise your dream. 

As a consumer, it’s an opportunity to acquire something truly unique and play an active part in its creation.

And if there’s strong demand, people will pay.

The Challenges of Crowdfunding a Book

Whilst crowdfunded publishing is not an entirely new concept, I was unaware of it being done for a children’s book. 

One of the major benefits of Kickstarter is that creators can communicate with their backers (and vice versa). This allows creators to receive feedback from prospective backers and plan their campaign accordingly.

But with a children’s book, you’re marketing to parents rather than the actual beneficiary of the product (i.e. toddlers). The market research simply isn’t as easy.

Then there’s also the issue of getting buy-in from the parents.

It’s one thing for a parent to go to a bookshop and pick up a couple of books for their child, to aid their development now. It’s another matter entirely for them to financially back a product that may not even achieve its goal, or that if it does show up later, whether it will even resemble the initial pitch.

It would seem that there are a range of challenges for authors when it comes to crowdfunding a children’s book.

Pewp’s Crowdfunding Adventure

To get a seasoned and experienced opinion on crowdfunding vs traditional publishing, I got in touch with Pewp’s author, Kenton Blythe.

We spoke about a range of topics, but on the process of bringing Pewp to market, he had the following to say:

I submitted to about a dozen [publishers] in Toronto, a few more in other provinces here in Canada, and some in the US; and was consistently rejected. The vision I had for the book really didn’t look like what publishers were producing. I realized I was spending a lot of energy writing cover letters and doing research on publishers, when I could be spending the energy making the book.

So instead of publishers, I started researching what I would need to make the book myself and how much that would cost. Once I had a figure, I looked to crowdfunding platforms and how to run a successful campaign, as this was the most accessible way to make the amount of money I needed. 

One of the many advantages to crowdfunding, is the product is more in the hands of the creator. This book looks exactly how I wanted it to, and that is not always the case when you traditionally publish. I’m thankful for that. 

Kenton Blythe, Author (Pewp)

For many budding authors, this tale of repeated rejections from publishing houses will feel very familiar. Traditional publishing can be a glass ceiling. It’s expensive, time-consuming, and demoralising.

But writers are innovative people. So it’s no surprise that the traditional publishing method (via a publishing house) is no longer the only game in town. 

In fact, it hasn’t been for quite a while.

For example, some authors use Amazon’s self-publishing service and achieve great success from it. Andy Weir’s The Martian is a great example of this! Weir published his debut novel via Amazon back in 2012. It’s now a bestseller and has been adapted into a Hollywood ‘flick starring Matt Damon!

In many ways, self-publishing via Kickstarter is not all that different. It’s just another way of self-publishing. Both require exceptional marketing. The key difference is that Kickstarter gives you a hand with the upfront publishing costs, so long as you provide a clear roadmap and manage potential readers’ expectations. 

If you manage this successfully, and the book idea generates enough demand, you’ll get the backing.

And in the case of Pewp, there certainly was strong demand! Blythe and his team successfully raised the $5000 dollars required in under a month! Impressive stuff.

Impressions on Pewp

Let’s be clear. Pewp is a stunning little book for very little people. 

It’s witty, charming, and the illustrations are very vibrant.

I was kindly mailed both digital and hardback copies by the author and whilst Pewp certainly looks decent on-screen, I was genuinely impressed by the print quality of the hardback. The level of detail and depth of colour is exceptional – and it really brings out the best in Younger’s illustrations.

A word on the illustrations – they’re perfectly designed for grabbing a child’s attention. 

The characters have large, expressive faces and each page is packed with stimulating action. Characters are either in motion, gesturing wildly, or performing magic.

The writing is witty and it’s actually more challenging than expected it to be, so Pewp is a great book for helping children pick up new vocabulary too.

Pewp also features a diverse cast of characters, including a woman of colour as the captain of the ship, as opposed to the usual bearded Captain Birdseye impersonator we’re typically used to! I mention this because a recent report by the UK’s National Literacy Trust found that  1/3 (33%) of children don’t see themselves in the books that they read. 

For a book that’s only 27 pages long, Pewp manages to get diversity right, without tokenising characters, falling into cliché, or presenting itself in an overbearing way. Recognising that some people are different from you is an essential part of a child’s development.

And that is the theme that sits at the heart of Pewp. It’s a simple tale with a straightforward message – don’t judge people because of their names. I know an adult or three who could learn something from this!

Disclaimer: a copy of Pewp was kindly provided by the author. My opinions are my own.

Pewp is available to order via Amazon.ca or directly by
emailing pewpthewiz@gmail.com.

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