This is PART ONE of the good, the bad, the ugly and the wonderful details of my recent experience with Kickstarter.
Part One: Before you crowdfund
Is crowdfunding right for your indie book? I can’t answer that for sure, but I can tell you a few things that will help you decide. I recently funded my debut novel, The Recollection of Trees on Kickstarter. If you’re considering the same, you might want to read this first.
Social media is a must. A whopping 98% of my funding came through Facebook and Twitter. The other 2% came through Kickstarter directly, but I am willing to bet they heard about it through a social media source, with the exception of a couple of people who regularly fund Kickstarter projects.
A broad platform is a must. We hear a lot about the author’s platform these days, and it is worth mentioning here. You can’t just have social media accounts and a website or blog. They have to be actively engaged with you. Expect only 1-10% of your fan base (including family and friends) to respond to your crowd funding. Evaluate whether you can reach your funding goal if only 1% respond. Are they going to support you by sharing your posts or backing your project, preferably both? If you can’t get the word out without paying for post boosts or targeted ads, you might want to decide if it’s worth it. I opted not to pay for boosts or ads, and I had a response of about 10% of my social media contacts.
Not all projects get approved on Kickstarter. Start early, it takes a couple of weeks to go through the process of getting approval. Your project could be rejected or delayed for content, or for problems in setting up the financial end of things. It might take you that long to construct your content and create your video. Kickstarter does not allow non-profits or charities, but other crowd funding sites do.
If you use a pen name, Kickstarter will make you use your real name in one place: your profile and financial info. It is to keep scammers from abusing Kickstarter, and to make sure backers know you’re a legit person. I had to let go of worrying about whether people knew my real name in order to get the word out through both my personal page and author page. I have no regrets.
Research: the good and the not-so-much
1. Read all the information you can on each of the crowd funding sites to determine which, if any, are right for you. Take the time to decide if you can handle the stress of all-or-nothing funding or partial funding. I chose Kickstarter because it made sense for my project, but that might not be the best for yours.
2. Decide on your budget. I looked at five other authors who were similar to me in genre and content, who were successfully funded. They were all around the same funding level and offered similar rewards to their backers. I used their success to build a template for my own information, funding level, and project time frame.
3. Add a little more time and funding than you need in case something goes wrong or costs more than originally anticipated. This information is outlined nicely on the Kickstarter website sections, “creator handbook” and “creator FAQs”.
Over prepare & plan for anything
Write out all of your content in a simple MS word doc before starting your project, so you can easily cut & paste it into each part. It makes it much easier to complete everything.
The picture for the project is really important. At first I picked a black & white photo of a spooky local cemetery, but when I previewed the project, it practically blended into the background. Then I started looking at the projects that were successfully funded and I noticed that their photos popped off the page with color, dark backgrounds, and bold titles. I set to work creating an image that had a black background. It took me about 4 hours to create what I ended up using, but the happy part is I’ve received so many compliments on it that I’ve decided it will likely be the book cover, especially for the digital version where it will once again need to stand out among a sea of thumbnail images.
Make a video. It doesn’t have to be award-winning and it significantly increases your chances at successful funding. Details in Kickstarter’s “creator handbook” section are great on this. I had never made a video like this before—edited with graphics, music, and interview footage. I used Movie Maker, which is free downloadable software. I had to teach myself to use it, which was a bit tricky at first. It took me 25+ hrs to make a 3:02 minute video. Yep, you read that right. I gained a whole new respect for filmmakers. I would threaten that Hell will have to freeze over…but here in Michigan, Hell does freeze over! 🙂
Rewards: When you’re constructing the pledge rewards, make sure they are feasible and affordable on your end, but worth it on their end. I’ve heard nightmares about projects that went way over their goal and then couldn’t fulfill some of the rewards because they only had so many seats or t-shirts or whatever gear available. You can set limits or just set the budget so that can’t happen. Set the estimated delivery date beyond the date you think you’ll be ready, just in case there is an unexpected delay. Under promise, over deliver.
Start the buzz way before you launch. Create a survey about your project and share. Blog about it and share. Countdown the days, hours, minutes—and share. Promotion is key to funding success, and later, the same buzz leads to book sales.
Write press releases ahead of time. You should have one for your launch, tailored with a hook for whichever media you are submitting it to. (ex: Local author on Kickstarter or alumni-turned-author on Kickstarter) You should also have a press release for when you reach 50% (or any other milestone) and 100%.
Sleep while you can. I’m not joking.