In May, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, an illustrated children’s book by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, co-founders of Timbuktu Labs and creators of the first iPad magazine for children, made crowdfunding history by attracting more dollars than any other children’s book.
This month the book for ages 5 to 8, with stories about 100 famous women from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and 100 original pieces of art by artists around the world, broke another crowdfunding record. It has raised over $1 million from 20,000 backers through its Kickstarter campaign and Indiegogo InDemand book-ordering campaign. It is the most funded original book to be crowdfunded. Only a reprint of the Bible and the reissue of a comic book have raised more money. But Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is closing in on those records, too. Not bad for a project that originally started with the goal of raising $40,000 to print 1,000 books.
Elena Favilli told PW, “We knew it was going to be successful. When we launched in April, we had been working on every aspect of the campaign for the past eight months. [But] even for us it’s like rowing into something much bigger than we thought.”
She attributes part of the project’s outsized success to the name, “Rebel Girls,” and to the fact that she and Cavallo worked closely with their audience. They began testing their approach last October through Timbuktu’s newsletter, in which they sent samples of some of the stories and the art. At the launch of their Kickstarter campaign they had 4,000 people on their newsletter list. Now they have almost 25,000.
“We are filling a vacuum,” Favilli said. “We are responding to a clear need. When we started Timbuktu four years ago and became entrepreneurs, we could see how much female stereotypes were still around.”
With 60,000 books scheduled to be printed in Canada and mailed in the first two weeks of November, Favilli and Cavallo have no regrets about choosing to self-publish their book. As they noted in their Kickstarter video, “Our dream is to get Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls on the nightstand of every young girl.”
“We didn’t want to go with a publisher,” said Favilli. “We really thought this title could have a broad appeal, [and] we had a better shot at launching it ourselves.” In fact, she thinks that publishers have much to learn about the way they launched the book by responding to their audience.
Over the past few months Favilli and Cavallo have been approached by a number of publishers and agents, including requests to translate the book and publish it in Italy, Mexico, France, Eastern Europe, and China, among others. They haven’t decided yet if that’s the way they will go for future editions of this book or other Rebel Girl titles.
Favilli and Cavallo plan to continue to sell the book on Indiegogo InDemand, an e-commerce website that they’re in the midst of setting up, and on Amazon and other online retailers. Beginning next year, they will consider other options, including making the book available to brick-and-mortar retailers.
As for what’s next, Favilli responded, “We see Good Night Stories of Rebel Girls as an umbrella brand, not just for books.” Although she declined to say what those additional products might be, Favilli said that they will begin releasing one or some next year. In the meantime, Favilli and Cavallo are preparing for a trip to Rwanda for seven days of workshops on female leadership, one of their “stretch” goals for going beyond their original Kickstarter goal, which they reached in 30 hours.
Correction: An earlier version noted that the book is for middle grade. The target audience is ages 5 to 8.