The creative journey of Henry Herz and his sons.
When my sons were five and seven years old, and I wanted to share my love of fantasy literature with them. One day, I came up with a way to share the joy of entering the magical realms of fantasy. I would draft a fantasy book for them.
Nimpentoad is the story of a courageous and resourceful little Nibling who leads his tribe through the perilous Grunwald forest, overcoming obstacles and encountering strange creatures along the way.
What I did not anticipate was that my boys would give me feedback on the story. They devised some of the character (“Nimpentoad”) and creature (“Neebel”) names, and made plot line suggestions. And who better to help make the story appealing to kids than other kids? My sons also helped with the art direction. Our artist would give us a rough sketch, and we would provide feedback on details and color palette. My goal of interesting my sons in fantasy transformed into also encouraging them to participate in the creative process.
Of course, collaborating with kids is a very different affair than collaborating with an adult. Their work ethic is, shall we say, less disciplined. This can be mitigated by making the working sessions more like play sessions – we’re telling a story, not crafting a manuscript. And once we began creating the artwork, the boys’ interest grew as they saw images of Nimpentoad and the other fantastic creatures come to life.
Eventually, we had a good book, but no readers — the challenge facing all self-published authors. So, we then embarked upon the most arduous part of our journey – promoting Nimpentoad. While I handled the web-based promotional activities, I wanted my sons to be involved in the live events. Once again, I had to train and encourage them – this time to become good public speakers. By starting with small groups, like elementary school classes, they learned to be comfortable in front of a crowd, and to make eye contact and use voice inflection to enhance the reading experience for their audiences. They have also participated in several phone interviews for web radio shows.
Once they mastered public speaking, the next learning opportunity for my sons was mastering the sale. We’ve found selling our book at farmer’s markets to be surprisingly successful. Imagine trying to coldly walk past two charismatic young booth operators who ask “would you like to see the book WE wrote?”. But as before, they needed guidance. They had to be coached about engaging effectively with passersby — smile, sit up, and speak to them. My sons learned how to answer commonly asked questions about the book and their participation in its creation. And how to change a twenty dollar bill, or deal with someone who tries to haggle on price.
At the risk of infringing on child labor laws, I booked my sons as much as their school schedules would allow. We’ve done readings, giveaways and signings at San Diego libraries, elementary schools, farmer’s markets, La Jolla YMCA, the New Children’s Museum, the San Diego Comic-Con, Mysterious Galaxy Books, Readers Books, Warwick’s Books, and Barnes & Noble.
All these experiences have further enriched the journey for my sons. They understand some of the aspects of running a business and publishing. They are now comfortable meeting new people, doing public speaking, and rubbing elbows with famous authors. It has been a great ride.
The Nimpentoad authors have been written about in Entrepreneur Magazine and Wired Geekdad. The book’s artwork was a semifinalist in an art contest sponsored by Warner Brothers (and judged by The Hobbit movie staff). Nimpentoad recently received its 82nd Amazon 5-star rating. The book is available in paperback and Kindle format. Our website is http://www.nimpentoad.com
But my kid’s learning journey didn’t end there. As Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek, and Game of Thrones fans can tell you, there just aren’t many sci-fi books written for younger kids. So, what’s a geek parent to do? Well, how about writing a sci-fi picture book for all those young future geeks?
Finstin is a 32-page science fiction picture book. The story takes place on the distant planet Nubnub, where the alien boy Finstin gets lost. As he navigates his way home, he meets some amazing creatures with incredible talents. Shhh, don’t tell the kids, but the book also encourages interest in animals right here on Earth. Wanna’ know what else is cool about this project? My sons helped write the book!
Right now, we are using Kickstarter to crowdsource the publication of this book. Kickstarter is an online funding platform for creative projects. Kickstarter is full of innovative and imaginative projects that are brought to life through the direct support of others. Every project creator sets their project’s funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers’ credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged.
The Kickstarter campaign will pay for the illustration of Finstin by the talented Ken Meyer, Jr. Ken’s work has appeared in a range of books, DVDs, card games (Magic the Gathering, Vampire the Eternal Struggle, Dune, Dragonstorm), roleplaying game books (White Wolf Games, Wizards of the Coast), magazines (Heavy Metal), and comic books (Marvel, Dark Horse, Image, and Revolutionary).
By helping publish a book by kids and for kids, you will be promote reading, writing, and entrepreneurship. I’d like to tell you that the young authors’ profits from book sales will go toward their college education. In all likelihood, however, they will fund the purchase of LEGOs, designer vinyl toys, and consumer electronics. While that doesn’t sound especially laudable, it does offer the advantage of distracting them from their diabolical plans of world domination.
We hope you will help make this sci-fi book for kids a reality! To contribute, please see our Kickstarter campaign here.