Will "The Bulls of Durham" continue to stampede towards success or get put out to pasture?
"The Bulls of Durham" is a living history book project with a strong community component. Blending Durhams history to today's ongoings to show the world what makes the Bull City stand out. Project includes a website and history museum exhibit for the public to dive into Durham, North Carolina's history for free.
Straight to It
It will take $50,000 to make “The Bulls of Durham” a printed reality in your hands on April 10th, 2019, Durham’s 150th Anniversary.
The Bull in the China Shop
Yes. $50,000. That wasn’t a typo. Since starting the project on August 2nd, 2016, the project has been funded by me (Sheila Amir) and through the sales of the beloved Bull Love Mugs. The members of the Durham community have helped get the project this far through the gifts of time and services out of love for the city. Durham is incrediBULL like that.
Only in Durham, North Carolina could a project literally be funded by love. Over 2000 hours of my time, $20,000 out of my pocket nickel-and-dime style and 1,000 Bull Love Mugs later, it’s time to find a loving and sustainaBULL way to finish “The Bulls of Durham” living history book.
“The Bulls of Durham” living history book project has reached a critical point where the inevitaBULL step of coming together as a community with $50,000 will ensure not only a historic launch date, but also ensure that the project is completed in a manner that truly honors Durham.
The Durham is in the Details
From inception this has been a project for Durham of Durham and I’ve continually taken every step I could to make sure this project is “so local is hurts.” Durham photographer. Durham publisher. Durham transcriptionist. So on and so forth. The Durham is in the details of the project through and through.
“The Bulls of Durham” is a living history book with a community component. The project has been open to the community since day 1 with social media (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter) and blogs sharing pieces of the interviews and historical information.
A history museum exhibit is in the works for the Bull City community to get to interact with this project in addition to small events to get share the project face to face with the community. The history of our city belongs to everyone in the city and it’s important to make it accessible to everyone.
The project has grown right along with community interest and support. This year on April 10th, Durham’s date of incorporation, the project launched its website. The website is home to the blogs sharing pieces of the interviews and historical Bull City information. It also provides an avenue to sell Bull Love Mugs in an effort to support the project. Only 5 months later 1000 Bull Love have sold and what stands out about that is each one has come with its own love story of friendship, family, romance and moreover a love for the city. Durham loves to love Durham.
Up next, the no bull breakdown of the project expenses.
Why is a transcriptionist mentioned first in the cost breakdown? Because the future transcriptionist of “The Bulls of Durham” is by and far the most important next step for the project. I have learned through the course of this project that it takes 2 to 3 hours to transcribe every hour of recorded interview and that is with the ‘help’ of technology. Currently there are over 200 hours of recorded interview time stacked up and I’m halfway done with interviews.
A transcriptionist will help ensure that the project moves along on time to meet the launch publication date of Durham’s 150th anniversary, as well as make it possiBULL to publish blogs twice a week on the website.
Bull City History
Part of historical research is procuring historical documents and photographs. In some cases this will involve purchasing the rights to use those historical documents.
Additionally, the list of Durham history books to read for this project has now grown past 20. I have purchased and read 4 of them. At this point in the project it's important to hasten the process to get the research right and line up important interviews.
A local photographer has been hired for the project. She has graciously discounted her services and is providing some existing photos she has of the Bull City for free. Additionally there are several amazing photo libraries of the city that the curators have offered to allow the project to use for free, providing they are properly credited. With all of that taken into account, quality photography that captures the look and feel of the book still adds up quickly. Scheduling all 160 estimated interviewees will be an a logistical challenge in and of itself.
The text for this book will require several different types of edits from at least three editors to ensure a factual, well done book. Everything ranging from proofreading, to copy editing and developmental editing. Additionally, as a history book the text also will be fact checked for historical accuracy. We don’t want this to end up like Dr. Bartlett Durham’s tombstone that has his date of birth, date of death and middle name wrong. As in THE Dr. Durham our city is named after.
Formatting the estimated 250 pages of stunning photos and scrutinized text to make the final version of “The Bulls of Durham” will be no small feat. It’s a time intensive, meticulous process. The goal is to provide a beautiful end product and again avoid aforementioned mistakes that were literally carved in stone.
The publisher is the binding thread between all that aforementioned editing, formatting and fact checking to the final printing and distribution of the physical book. The magic between digital files and book in hand. That magic looks a lot like reverse engineering a time line of deliverables, cost assessments, scheduling, strategizing and logistics.
“The Bulls of Durham” is estimated to be a 250 page, hardcover book. The Kickstarter will cover the first print of the book, securing pricing, as well as ensuring printing is completed on time for the April 10th, 2019 launch date. Durham only turns 150 one time and all of the many moving pieces of this project are lined up to launch the book on that day.
Part of “The Bulls of Durham” book project is collaborating with the Museum of Durham History to create an exhibit as another way the community can learn more about our history.
When you go to TheBullsOfDurham.com you will see a simple website – one where you must bring your own bells and whistles. You must also provide your own sounds as well. I recommend playing “North Cack” in the background. Ha! The special effects are the Bull City feels you get from reading the blogs or buying a love mug for your special someone.
Though basic, it is one of the most important pieces of the project. It’s the part where our community can enjoy what makes the Bull City the best city for free. Durham’s history is availaBULL to everyone regardless of the income.
The website will go on far beyond the launch date as everyone interviewed will get featured in a blog and the website is a Bull City resource.
Boring. Administrative costs are the minutia no one likes to discuss, but they are also what makes or breaks a project. In my hours of Kickstarter research I found that the number one cost that was overlooked and often ended up causing problems was postage. Yup. Straight-up, boring, old school postage. Mailing Kickstarter perks has been the downfall of many projects leaving them scrambling to find financing solutions to fulfill their Kickstarter promise. We’re not playing that game.
In addition to spending a wild Saturday evening researching average 250 page book weights and shipping options, I looked at the other fine costs perks and the infamous Kickstarter fees. Additionally, I’ve got to give the tax man his slice of the pie.
When it comes to the admin costs of the book project it gets even more boring. Printing mockups, large data transfer (no worries I got the hookup on this one), all the details of creating a museum exhibit, you name it. These are often the types of expenses that are overlooked and nickle-and-dime a budget to death.
When it comes to bulls it ain't all rodeo. It takes a lot to get the bulls there before they even bolt out of the chutes.
Expect the Unexpected
To put together a quality Kickstarter that is in line with the quality of the entire project, I used the same interviewing and research skills I have been since the beginning.
Every local I interviewed about their successful Kickstarter said that there would be unexpected costs and not factoring that in at some level would be poor budgeting. Many of the Kickstarter case studies (blogs by successful Kickstarters with comparable projects to “The Bulls of Durham) stated the same sentiment.
One case study about a book that missed its launch date by several years was enough to scare me straight y’all. A lot can happen between now and April 10th, 2019. Factoring in a margin of error and reality is creating a safe vehicle to traverse the bumps in the road and deliver your book on time.
Risks and Challenges
"The Bulls of Durham" living history book project has many moving pieces and it's important to keep every piece in this mechanical BULL working. Keeping the project public since inception has been a great way to be accountaBULL to staying on track to reach the deadline.
The biggest reason behind launching a Kickstarter and at this time is to stay on schedule. My paychecks and the BULL Love mug sales just don't line up with the timing of the project. And taking on a third job doesn't allow for time to write the book.
With a historic launch date in mind, a timeline has been reverse engineered with a generous 4 month buffer from final content submission to publisher and launch date. The 2000+ hours I've invested thus far into the project have laid a concrete foundation to build the final product on.
When doing an overall risk assessment, the biggest challenge pointed out is getting approval from interviewees on their content. Having a transcriptionist to significantly decrease the time between interview and review will help.
Additionally, providing set cut off points for review. If the interviewee doesn't return the content by that time, they are simply not featured in the book. Unfortunate yes, but the reality to make sure the book doesn't miss it's historic launch date.
Life causing changes in the project's service providers. Life happens. I get that. That is why there is a backup provider for each of the services needed or in the case of photography, a waiting list of 12 local photographers. They're been kept up to date with the project as it goes along in case they need to jump in at any point.
Interview recordings have been saved in 3 different locations PLUS the cloud. The manuscript and transcripts are saved in 2 locations PLUS the cloud, as well as snippets as live blogs.
Best for last, I have an incrediBULL, supportive, talented tribe that is there for everything for emotional support to last minute Bull Love mug drops to emergency taco fueled vent sessions. They love me and understand the magnitude of the project. I am but one person, but I have the support of my tribe and the Durham community. That's the best insurance plan anyone could have.
Sheila Amir is a health & nutrition writer who fell in love with Durham, North Carolina and starting writing a book about it.