Aspiring novelist taps into online funding platform

Getting a ‘Kickstart’

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Patrick Cote/Daily Inter Lake Jessica Owen is raising money on Kickstarter to fund the publishing of her book "The Song of the Summer Kings." Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in Whitefish, Montana.

Finding a way to get a book published is a challenge for most up-and-coming writers.

The competition to attract a major publishing house is fierce, and self-publishing doesn’t always yield a polished product. As Jessica Owen of Whitefish considered how to publish her recently penned fantasy novel in a hard-cover collector-style format, she turned to Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is an online funding platform for a variety of creative projects ranging from art and fashion to publishing, music and even food.

It’s a simple formula. People post their creative projects on the website ( and gather pledges from supporters who believe in the project and want it to succeed.

This “crowd funding,” as it’s often called, allows the person with the creative project to steer around the traditional avenues of investment.

A project must reach its funding goal before the time runs out or no money changes hands. In Owen’s case, she has until June 4 to raise $6,000 to publish her fantasy novel, “The Song of the Summer King.” So far she has 142 backers and has raised pledges totaling $5,651.

“I’ve had a lot of support from friends and family,” she said. “When people I didn’t know started pledging, it was exciting.”

If Owen is successful in reaching her $6,000 goal, she will give each supporter some kind of reward for pledging. Those rewards include a range of items, from a copy of the e-book once it’s released to original sketches by Owen, who’s also an artist.

“Kickstarter is an amazing resource,” she said. “It’s a neat model for inventions, music, recordings; it’s only for creative projects.

“I hope people in the Flathead Valley will go there [to the website]. It’s about community and bringing something to fruition.”

Owen’s debut novel, aimed at readers age 12 and up, comes on the heels of a lifelong love of writing and some pointed research into the publishing business.

“Fantasy’s always pretty much been my thing,” the 29-year-old author said.

Tamora Pierce, a popular writer of young adult fantasy literature, is one of Owen’s favorite authors. Owen also was influenced by J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.

The fantasy genre is popular with young readers and parallels the current popularity of the paranormal romance and adventure genre — “anything like ‘Twilight,’” she said, noting her book is not at all like the “Twilight” series.

All of the characters in “The Song of the Summer King” are animals that have their own values, honor and organizational structure.

Owen hired popular fantasy artist Jennifer Miller, known in the industry as “Nambroth,” to create the cover art.

“It was important for me to have serious cover art,” she said.

“A lot of people are self publishing, and I really wanted to rise above the white noise” to get noticed,” Owen continued. “I’ve been studying publishing and how to market a book [because] you have to realize your book eventually will become a product.”

While there are a lot of print-on-demand books on the market now, Owen knew that route probably wouldn’t produce the high-quality collector edition she wants. She intends to use recycled paper and foil lamination to create a book readers will want to keep in their bookshelves for years.

“There’s a trend toward printing beautiful collector-type books,” she said.

Owen and her husband, Dax Kara, relocated just last week from North Carolina to Whitefish, where her parents, Jill Evans and John Owen, reside.

The Owen family moved from Texas to Whitefish when she was 16 and she got an associate of art degree from Flathead Valley Community College before going on to the University of Montana to get a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in technical theater with an emphasis in stage management.

She spent more than a decade in the theater business, touring with the Montana Repertory Theatre for seven years, spending three years with the Bigfork Summer Playhouse and two years with Alpine Theatre Project based in Whitefish.

Two years ago she decided it was finally time to devote herself to writing, so she moved to North Carolina to house-sit for her sister, Jennifer Owen, who was about to deploy to Iraq with the U.S. Army.

Having a day job at a hobby store allowed her the time to focus exclusively on her writing.

Owen said she wants to “pay it forward” by offering a workshop this fall on fantasy writing, self-publishing and Kickstarter.

The e-book for “The Song of the Summer King” will be released July 14. Owen expects the books to be in hand by the end of August.

For more information about Owen’s book, go to


Features editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or by e-mail at


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