By Mary Johnson
MANHATTAN -- A scratch-n-sniff children's book about the Big Apple's odors is almost ready to smell up a bookshelf near you after author Amber C. Jones raised enough money to bring her project to life.
After almost a month of looking for donors through her Kickstarter online fundraising drive, Jones hit her $20,000 goal this weekend.
"YES!!!!! Congrats and thanks to all!" Jones tweeted on Saturday.
Jones, 36, has already written the text for the 40-page book, titled "New York, Phew York: A Scratch-N-Sniff Adventure." Told in rhyming couplets, the story follows a child who comes to New York on a family vacation. The family befriends a hotel concierge, who then leads them on an all-encompassing tour around New York.
Amber C. Jones, 36, is the author of "New York, Phew York: A Scratch-N-Sniff Adventure." (Facebook)
A few days ago, her 24-year-old illustrator, Tim Probert, announced on his blog that he had completed drawings for roughly half the book.
The money raised will go toward printing and distribution costs. Jones said she hopes to release the book in mid-November.
Jones -- herself a concierge at a Times Square hotel -- discovered that she hit her $20,000 goal when a friend called her at work to congratulate her.
"You did it," the friend said. "$20,011."
At the time, Jones was helping a customer decide on a good steak restaurant.
"I started to cry," Jones recalled. "And he's like, 'Are you sure it's a good steak house?'"
The news was a welcome relief after several agonizing weeks of fundraising during which Jones blasted donation requests on Twitter and Facebook, hounded friends and family members and blanketed Manhattan with 2,000 informational postcards.
The cards contained Jones' website and contact information. She said she was convinced the police would track her down and cite her for littering.
Jones' low point in the campaign came after she had raised about $9,000. For a day and a half following that milestone, no one donated. Jones said she started to give up hope.
"But once it hit the $10,000 [mark], it just flew to 20," she said.
So far, about 260 backers have contributed more than $20,400 to finance the creation of "New York, Phew York," and there's still time left to collect additional donations. The project deadline is 11 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 17.
The author offered a variety of incentives for those who contributed to her project, and each level of giving was named after a New York City neighborhood or landmark.
A pledge of $14 or more, called the "Union Square," earned contributors "a special 'Stank You' on the website," according to the Kickstarter page.
For $86 or more, the so-called "Central Park Great Lawn" pledge, Jones promised a signed first-edition copy plus a scratch-n-sniff bookmark.
A pledge of $500 or more, otherwise known as the "Top of the Rock," came with a few autographed first editions, an invitation for two to the book's release party and a personalized itinerary for a New York City vacation, crafted by Jones herself.
Jones even promised to dedicate the book's first edition run to those who pledged $10,000 or more, but no one forked over enough cash to earn that particular honor. Most donors stayed around the $34 range.
"How awesome is it that total strangers can help each other make great things happen???" wrote backer Mark Salomon in a post on the book's Kickstarter page. "Best wishes...can't wait to read mine to the nephs and nieces!!!"
In the wake of the good news, Jones has launched a guerrilla marketing campaign on Twitter, alerting book publishers and major media outlets to her project and hailing "New York, Phew York" as a "great gift idea."
Jones said that this first book is really a starting point. Every city could have its own scratch-n-sniff tribute. Tentative titles include AuSTINKS and SMEL-A.
Jones also hasn't ruled out an adult version of her debut book: "New York, Phew York: Unscentsored."
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