Last year I crowdfunded and published a Period Coloring Book. It’s exactly as it sounds: It’s a coloring book about periods.
Growing up as a sexual health educator, I’ve always had a keen interest in this space. I’ve heard a lot of period experiences and stories over the years from clients, strangers, friends, and family. Years ago, I started sketching out some ‘menstrual imagery’ in my spare time. As I sharing some of these images with friends, I was encouraged to pull them together into a coloring book.
The drawings started out as a personal art project. When I decided to bring this work into the public domain, it was important for me to consider the meaning and representation of these images to others. This forced me to think through the consequences of what I chose to include or not include in the finite pages of the book, and made me more critical about my decisions. I found a healthy balance between what I had initially started to create with illustrations, and how I wanted to see them come together as a book that could resonate with a diversity of experiences and people.
To bring it to life, I learned about what it takes to promote and publish a book. Having seen numerous successful indie projects fundraise through crowdfunding, I thought this would be a great way to cover the costs of publication. I started my crowdfunding campaign in November 2016. After 30 days, I raised two times my initial goal.
I often get asked what I learned from my experience creating this book. Below I offer my high level takeaways:
As a crowdfunding novice, I did my research months before the campaign. After sifting through online advice and interviewing people who had run successful campaigns for similar products, I built my own crowdfunding strategy – from costing/sourcing services and materials to perks, fulfillment and shipping. My goal was to keep my promises simple and fulfill them. I planned for several scenarios where things would go well above, below, or just meet my expectations. It was important to be honest with myself in terms of what I could achieve given timelines, costs and workload.
Opening up a conversation about menstruation
This project reminded me that there are many ways to start a meaningful conversation about menstruation, and a coloring book just happens to be one of them. I hope that the book adds to a larger conversation about periods, and that the more resources we have to do so, the better. I have met people who love the book, people who don’t care for it, and those who just don’t get it. Putting something out into the world, especially about menstruation, in such a public way was humbling, and left me open to praise, criticism, internet trolls, and everything in between. It was important for me to expect this range of responses and leverage them in the most productive way possible. And, I think I am better for it. Receiving such warm response for the book was validating, and the thoughtful feedback I gained has only pushed my thinking for the next thing I work on.
Getting the word out
Through my own background research and some amazing supporters and introductions, the Period Coloring Book gained traction with Teen Vogue, the Huffington Post, Metro, Bustle, Thinx, and Clue. It also caught the attention of some companies that I have admired for their work in sexual health like Lunapads and Natracare who very generously donated to the campaign. Publishing these articles at the launch of the campaign (and throughout) offered the work some credibility and exposed the campaign to those well outside of my social networks.
People are amazing
I asked for a lot of help and advice throughout this journey. From feedback on the illustrations to the person who shared the campaign with a friend on Facebook to each and every campaign contributor, I was incredibly grateful for the support I received. It always amazes me how many people are actually willing to help if I simply ask. The generosity and support of those around me, particularly feminist activists and allies, made the book possible. I cannot emphasize this last point enough.
I’m also thrilled to see the book being used as a meaningful tool for dialogue and advocacy:
Recently, the Calgary Sexual Health Center (where I worked as a sexual health peer educator growing up) purchased books for use in their girls programming
Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a vibrantly fierce and compassionate period activist who has been on the forefront of the menstrual equity movement, was an early and kind supporter of the Period Coloring Book and recently wrote about us in her 2017 release of Periods Gone Public: Taking a Stand for Menstrual Equity — essential reading for everyone interested in periods
Thanks to the book, I was also invited to attend the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival as a Spotlight Health Scholar
I’m excited to see where else the Period Coloring Book will continue to go…
If you’re interested, you can order the book here: PeriodColoringBook.com
Images from the Period Coloring Book