The brand-new California children’s publisher Bushel & Peck Books has raised more than $35,000 from nearly 400 backers on Kickstarter this month, inching toward the start-up’s goal of raising $75,000 to help produce its first season of children’s books. Originally, the campaign was scheduled to end on December 20, but the publisher decided this week to transition from a 30-day campaign window to a 60-day window on the crowdfunding platform. The Kickstarter campaign introduced the new publisher to the world, and the funds will jump-start its book production.
The Kickstarter campaign has an altruistic goal at its core—for every book sold, the publisher will donate a book to a charity that provides books to kids in need. “I love making books, but it bothers me that children’s books are too expensive for many people,” said publisher and founder David Miles. He cited a 2001 study that discovered a now infamous disparity in literary access. In one low-income neighborhood, there was only one children’s book for every 300 kids. Bushel & Peck aims to send copies of its books to communities in need through groups including Book Aid International, The Book Foundation, Pajama Program, Books for Africa, Project Night Night, and Room to Read.
In the first 48 hours after its November 20 Kickstarter launch, Bushel & Peck raised nearly $10,000 for its campaign and became Kickstarter’s top new publishing project. Backers from England, Switzerland, Australia, Austria, Russia, and the United States have responded to the call, helping to fund the Fresno-based company’s ambitions. The local City Council even reached out, hoping to enlist the publisher’s help in a book drive.
Miles has worked on all sides of the publishing equation: as a graphic designer, author, illustrator, and creative director. Most recently, he served as the publishing director for Familius, becoming a 2018 PW Star Watch honoree for his work. Familius made PW’s Fastest Growing Independent Publishers list for 2018, with its sales growing 104% in two years.
Bushel & Peck will begin publishing with four hardcover children’s books, a set of collaborative works that involved around 20 authors and illustrators. These include 50 Real Heroes for Boys and Yes You Can! 1,000 Heroes for Girls Who Dream, two nonfiction titles meant to inspire kids and reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of 21st-century readers.
The publisher’s other two titles are meant to create a more participatory experience for the reader. The Interactive Constitution will contain flaps, wheels, color-changing words, and other features, and Songs for Sweet Dreams will include its own music player so readers can listen to sound clips from J. Aaron Brown’s Grammy-nominated album, “A Child’s Gift of Lullabyes” (1986). “I love bringing ideas to life and really pushing what a book is,” said Miles. “We’ll be doing a lot of those kinds of projects in the future.”
The Kickstarter campaign has given the start-up publisher a chance to interact directly with readers, months before the projected August 2019 delivery date of the first books. This made a huge difference for 50 Real Heroes for Boys. The book was conceived as focusing solely on male heroes that “defied the traditional male stereotypes,” according to Miles. However, some visitors who discovered the publisher’s Kickstarter campaign observed that the concept was too narrow. The publishing team listened to these early visitors. “We decided to overhaul the book,” said Miles. “So now it’s half men and half women. The male heroes show a broader spectrum of what a boy can grow up to be, but now there are lots of girls’ heroes too.”
For a pledge of $25 or more, Kickstarter backers can choose one of the four titles, and one copy of that same book will be donated to a child in need. For $90 or more, readers can get copies of all four books (along with four books donated). Beyond these packages, Kickstarter backers are offered a range of other opportunities. When patrons pledge $1,000 or more to the campaign, they can actually have an illustration of their favorite child included in one of the publisher’s first titles. For a pledge of $79 or more, aspiring writers or illustrators can get a 45-minute manuscript consultation with Miles.
Bushel & Peck Books is a true family affair. David’s wife Stephanie leads the company’s charitable-giving initiative, but also manages outreach. “My wife has the grounded brains that keep our ideas rooted in reality,” Miles said. And the couple’s eight-year-old son Tucker serves as first reader for all content. “He loves watching the company grow,” said Miles.