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Steampunk goes west in Modo: Ember's End

Earlier this month, I wrote about some Canadian authors mixing it up with traditional publishing and independent, or self publishing. If you missed it, check out Five Canadian Kids Authors Rocking it as Hybrids, to get caught up.

One author mentioned was Arthur Slade, you know the Governor General Award-winning author of Dust, Tribes and the rollicking steampunk series The Hunchback Assignments. Arthur is also a pioneer with going hybrid. He recently self-published his Northern Frights series as ebooks and now Art is pushing the boundaries of Canadian publishing by crowdsourcing his new project Modo: Ember’s End on Indiegogo.

Illustrator Christopher Steininger’s artwork looks amazing and coupled with Arthur’s writing, you know this book is going to kick some Steampunk butt. They just cracked the $5000 mark but need more support to make it all happen.

That’s where you come in.

Whether you’re an Arthur Slade groupie (he has them), a teacher or just a graphic novel fan, there are some great perks for pledging your support including signed artwork and even a virtual author visit to your school from Arthur himself.  Visit the Modo: Ember’s End Indiegogo page and see them all.

Arthur was kind enough to answer some questions for me about his new project and the future of Canadian kids publishing for schools and libraries. I think after you’ve heard what he has to say about Modo: Ember’s End, you’ll want to grab some of those perks for yourself.

Crowdsourcing with Arthur Slade

Christopher Steininger can do some mean looking baddies

1. I’m sure your publisher would have jumped at the chance to make the graphic novel, Modo: Embers End. Why did you crowd-source this project?

AS: I really wanted to test out the whole model of crowd fundraising and I wanted to create a graphic novel on my own from scratch (with the help of an artist, of course). It became clear to me that doing a graphic novel in the world of The Hunchback Assignments was the most logical path (plus I had an idea that I thought would be perfect) and after some deliberating decided to go with Indiegogo.

I also liked the idea of creating a full colour graphic novel that would be a collector’s item. As a collector of books and graphic novels myself, I’m a fan of limited press runs.

2. You’ve got some great options for schools and libraries in the campaign. Can you tell us about them?

AS: Well the first “perk” is the purchase of two books and a Skype visit with the author (for only $75.) I pictured the school receiving the books, the kids reading them, then having a Skype visit to talk about the creation of the book.

The second “perk” is an option to order 5 copies at a highly reduced rate ($100.00 shipping included). This is more for libraries and schools who know they’ll need to have several copies on hand for their readers.

3. Project backers are already seeing a lot of full colour artwork and even a cover. How close to completion is Modo: Embers End? What has it been like bringing your characters from the pages of your novels to the graphic novel format? 

AS: The script is complete, though there is a lot of editing that happens once the artwork is done (in other words new word balloons pop into my head) and the artwork is in the beginning stages. In fact if you follow the campaign…it’s unfolding before your very eyes! : ) We have the “world” in place around our characters and are starting to really focus on making it all concrete now.

The process feels quite natural to me. I wrote comics for some time in the late 90’s and have been dabbling with them ever since. And the actual creation is made easier because Christopher Steininger’s artwork is amazing and inspiring. It’s really easy to write stories that involve the artwork he creates. Plus it’s enjoyable to have someone to bounce ideas off of. It’s very cooperative.

4. What have been your biggest successes or challenges in the last two years with self-publishing your work?

AS: Really, the biggest challenge is learning how these “new” ways work. With epublishing there was so much to understand about the process of turning a book into an ebook and then to market it. With crowd fundraising it was learning how that “world” works. That’s the biggest challenge. Oh, and then adapting to everything on the fly.

5. Putting on your “Futurematic Goggles” (steam powered, of course), where do you see the Canadian kids publishing industry going in the next five years or so for authors, schools and libraries?

AS: To be honest, I don’t see it changing a lot. Yes there will be more crowd funding projects. But the kid lit industry moves a bit slower than the rest of the publishing industry. Schools/libraries need “real” books. And the most likely place to get that is from traditional publishers. Of course, in ten years we’ll all be flying around on jetpacks and using book implants in our heads…

Bonus Question!

What advice would you give to teacher-librarians having a hard time justifying this new way of buying books to their school.

AS: I understand why this new way of selling books is a bit of a hill to climb. We’re not used to paying for the creation of something. We’re used to paying for something after it is created. I guess it could used as a lesson for a class, teaching them about the investment and time it takes to create something.

The curious thing to me about crowd fundraising is that once the “object” (book, lamppost, graphic novel) is made, those who invested in it feel like they own it more than they would if they’d just bought it at the story. In essence they helped to create it.

* * *

Thanks Art for answering my five (plus one) questions. If you want to support a pioneering Canadian author (who’s also a hybrid!), then visit the Modo: Ember’s End Indiegogo page and help make it happen!


As an award-winning children’s author, gamer-geek and elementary school teacher, I often have Tech Teaching ideas and project news to share with fellow educators. I deliver these resources and ideas to your inbox in my e-newsletter Reading Change.

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