Initially when I first embarked on a Kickstarter project campaign for my first book, The Undead Sorceress, I assumed that it would be a simple task. After all, the media has covered stories about people getting thousands of dollars from crowds, so how hard can collecting free money be? But I learned the truth quickly, there is no such thing as free lunch!
To run a successful crowd sourcing campaign, you have to plan and execute with enthusiasm in three stages: 1. Before the campaign, 2. Middle of campaign and 3. End of campaign.
Out of a survey of 7,196 Kickstarter projects there is a 56% failure rate, so starting something doesn’t mean there will be guaranteed success. There are also more competing crowd funding sites these days, such as Indiegogo and Verkami, which means people are dispersing their dollars across more sites.
Also remember that 100% of the money doesn’t go into your pocket. No matter what site you choose, there will be some transaction fees. Then there is also the cost of actually fulfilling promises to your backers. There are some horror stories about people not delivering on their goods and people showing up at their homes or calling them in the middle of the night. So make sure you can deliver what you promise as you really don’t want people to come after you!
Do not think too much of success or failure as a crowd funding campaign is really just a marketing exercise. This is a way to spread news about your work and to hopefully gain some new readers. The goal I set did not pay for all expenses as I did not have the confidence to set a high number as a new author. People who have an audience already with a few books usually ask for a bit more, especially since they can give out previous works as incentives to supporters. The goal range I’ve seen for books were between $800-30,000 depending on the popularity of the author, previous experience and if the book is in color or not (color is quite expensive to print).
Here are some tips which can help if you are thinking seriously about crowd funding for some seed money for your next book.
Before the campaign
This is the preparation stage which needs to happen before you press “go” on the project and it is live for the world to start handing you dollars.
1) Research – Look at book campaigns on the site you want to start your campaign on, especially the successful ones. You will note that many of the good ones have lots of visuals and a short but compelling story. The videos are all usually fairly well done with music as well.
2) Build A Draft – To do this you will have to open an account and start filling in answers to a template on the website. Write a script, shoot a video and upload. In my case, for a fantasy book, I searched the globe for artists to help fulfill the vision in my head, so that took a few months. Don’t rush this preparation stage as you are trying to build something that represents you as an author, so you want to display your best work. You may only get one chance with many backers as they scroll through your page casually.
3) Send Draft Page to Friends and Family for Criticism – I did this about five times and each time my page was torn to pieces. So rewrite, reshoot, re-upload. You may think, “but they are your friends and family, not potential readers!” True, but 80% of campaigns are funded by friends and family (in my case 95%) so they must be kept happy and in the loop.
4) Announce on social media that a campaign is coming – Even before you have a draft, start discussing your project and campaign with people. People will start looking forward to this and will start asking you when they can donate.
5) If ready, submit for approval – Yes, your campaign has to be approved before it can be launched. Take this into consideration as there may be a lag of up to two weeks before you get a reply. Also, the site owner may ask you to make changes before you are allowed to launch. I submitted my second draft for approval, got it, and then kept making edits until I was ready.
6) Printing postcards – Since I was attending a few conventions, I thought it would be nice to hand out some postcards in person to people and talk about the project with them. It was hard work and I got 0 leads. But some people said they would start following me on social media and when the book came out with review they would consider reading it.
Middle of campaign
This stage starts right after you hit go. Naively I thought that after the campaign launched that I could take a break after so many months of preparation. However, I was wrong! The most difficult part of the campaign is in the middle as once the campaign starts; there will be a quick rise of donations before things slow down to a stop. Since people are very busy, you will have to do lots of work to remind them about your campaign in a tasteful manner while trying to garner more attention via the media and forums.
1) Write a PR release –The lesson I learned here is that sometimes they don’t go anywhere. I also wrote to many reporters but my story didn’t get picked up. One paper told me to write back after the book was launched as they would like to do a story afterwards, so at least now I have one future lead. Another friend who did a Kickstarter had some media success and they tripled their Kickstarter goal. It’s really a matter of luck for this one.
2) Do lots of social media – Let people know that your campaign has launched, but try to mention it only once a day on Facebook and twice a day on Twitter to avoid being labeled a spammer. Meanwhile, keep posting other messages so that people don’t think that you are pushing too hard for just your campaign or ignoring people. It’s hard not to let your obsession show but to sell you really have to not sell, ironically enough.
3) Post on pages and forums – There are lots of crowd sourcing sites and forums online which you can post your project to let people know of what you are doing. Keep in mind you are one out of a thousand projects running. If your book is specific to a certain group or genre, post on those community forums as well but be aware that sometimes they limit crowd sourcing messages to certain boards or your post will be erased.
4) Plan a party – Since mostly friends and family will be your supporters, throw a party and do a reading. Some of the people that came for the food donated after hearing a book reading for a chapter of the book.
5) Look for online blog or radio opportunities – If you know of any blogs or online radio blogs, you could ask for them to do a feature on your Kickstarter. Cross promotion on blogs is a good thing as there is much potential to gain new audiences. The free crowd funding radio blogs never responded to my emails, but I found out there were ones you could pay for. For $25 USD I got a 15 min interview with a crowd funding expert based in LA which sounded very professional and I could reuse it again in the future since I was mostly asked about the content of my book.
6) Read about successful campaigns – There are many lessons learned from people who have made lots and lots of money from crowd funding who worked hard and were very lucky. They can give you some ideas of what to do to help your campaign. Remember, it’s not over until it’s over! A triumphant campaign boils down to either having generous friends, an audience of online supporters or good timing with the media.
End of campaign
Regardless of the outcome, there is still follow up homework to be done afterwards. If your campaign was successful as you have keep on going to deliver the goods! If your campaign didn’t work, you may consider trying again or keeping in touch with your supporters, so when your book comes out, you already have a mailing list of potential readers.
1) Send out thank you note to everyone that supported you – This actually doesn’t take long via the campaign website, as one perk of using their services is the ability to send out massive email updates via the dashboard for your campaign.
2) Write up a plan for the future – Let people know what’s going to happen next so that they can expect when to receive their book or when your book will be available for sale.
3) Announce end of campaign on social media – Send a public thank you to supporters and let people know what you learned. This is another reminder to people about the existence of your project.
4) Keep up the excitement about your project – Some people forgot to support me during the campaign, but kept asking me when the book would be available as for sure they will remember to support me then. Remember you will need future buyers for your book too, so don’t be too bitter that some people didn’t give to your campaign. To let everyone know of the launch date, I set up a countdown clock on my website. Stay on track by talking, blogging, posting on social media and in person, remind everyone that your book is coming out soon!
As mentioned before, crowd funding is really a marketing exercise – so no matter what happens, you would have finished a goal of spreading message about your book out into the world!
The decision of all or nothing campaigns will also impact you psychologically as you will feel incredibly driven to keep spreading your message. As well, the campaign can range from 30 to 60 days. In hindsight, doing a 30 day campaign was a good choice as I am not sure if my heart could have taken any more excitement for such a long period of time!
Best of luck on your campaign and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me via my website jfgarrard.com. My mom told me that she would have to fund my entire campaign if I didn’t have any friends, which is nice. Hopefully your mom will offer the same thing as well!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~> JF Garrard is a multicultural fantasy author of The International House of Vampire Series. Book 1, The Undead Sorceress has a release date set for April 8, 2014. Her website features concept art, a blog and podcast about her journey on writing and publishing. Connect with her at About.me.
1) Infographic on analysis of 7,196 Kickstarter projects
2) Lessons Learned from successful campaigns