Funded 433% on Kickstarter—Snail, I Love You

Tevah Platt is a first-time children’s book author and decided to use Kickstarter to fund the production of her book, Snail, I Love You.

Find out what Tevah and her illustrator did to catapult their book over $10k on Kickstarter (433% of its goal).

What did you do before or on launch day that helped you rocket to success?


A little backstory first: I was working on it every day and 24 hours before the campaign was set to launch, we realized that the bank account information we had added to the campaign was incorrect. Worse yet, that information was locked and we could not change it.

I had to rebuild an entirely new campaign page, change all of our links to direct people to the new page, and everything in six to seven hours.

It was 4 pm on launch day and we were wondering if we shouldn’t just wait one more day and go live in the morning. We decided to hit the Go Live button right then and we hit 100% in two hours.

My illustrator and I created a list of 25 people we knew who would champion our campaign. Having other people share your work is critical to your success. We also reached out to friends and family and included, “If you’re going to back us, will you back us on launch day to help us have maximum impact?”

We found personal emails to be the most effective method for promoting our campaign.

Here’s how we did it:


I made a huge spreadsheet of 150 people who would pass my, “Would this person come to my funeral?” test or if they had a kid and was in my target audience. I wrote two sentences that were personalized to them and then mail merged those sentences into my general marketing copy in my email using the Gmail add-on, Mail Merge. (See this article for the Top 5 Mail Merge Add-ons)

I wrote everything before we launched and then sent out the emails to my list of contacts. My contributor sent out her emails on Day 2.

Were you able to relax after Day 2 when you were at 292% funded?


Yes, we very much relaxed. We tested out some Facebook ads but we weren’t seeing much traction. I ended up writing a press release but I didn’t send it anywhere. We didn’t really gain traction with the outside world.

Take me through the $2,500 goal vs. your $7,500 goal amounts. Why did you set your Kickstarter at the first goal instead of the second?


We did the math on a really small print run and $2,500 was the bare minimum we’d need to do that.

In retrospect, $2,500 was too small of a goal and we were being really modest. We knew that $7,500 would cover our costs but we were being risk-averse gamblers.

What types of marketing efforts had the best reach?


As I mentioned earlier, personal emails were the best. We incorporated the feedback from our cheerleaders and that made them feel more invested in the project. It also improved the project a lot.

What didn’t work out so well?


Facebook ads but we didn’t experiment beforehand.

We added new rewards and add-ons but we should’ve added more rewards while the momentum was happening. We weren’t able to generate much momentum past those first two days.

Are there going to be future books?


I would love to create more books. Because of Kickstarter and other routes to indie publishing, I knew this was a possibility. I wrote this book with my daughter and now she’s writing books, which I absolutely love to see. I’d definitely do another Kickstarter but it is so much work.

How did you meet your illustrator?


She’s my neighbor and she went around to our community offering to embroider vector images so she could practice using a new tool she bought.

I really loved the fact that her illustrations are with a sewing machine—a traditional symbol of domesticity for women—and yet her illustrations break every traditional convention. It’s a real statement on feminism.

I want readers to see the beauty of these illustrations and know that a woman created them. That’s the message I want to send to my daughter.

What is your affiliation with your local library?


We are publishing through the Ann Arbor District Library, which provides an amazing service for local authors. It is in their budget to support local authors and illustrators. You have to submit your manuscript and if selected, they will edit, and layout your book. They give you the digital files for your printer and the rest is up to you. They are hosting our launch party in November. I recommend them to all indie authors in the Ann Arbor area.

What piece of advice would you give an indie author considering crowdfunding?


Do the work in advance to line up your people and your champions. Get feedback and consult all of the resources you can find available.
Take into account every comment on your video, campaign page, and rewards. Be open to feedback and be personable and warm.

The Kickstarter made me feel like this was a personal project involving everyone I love. The notes I got from people were so nice and supportive. It was a great experience.

About the authors and illustrator

Tevah Platt is a public health researcher, science writer, and former news journalist. You can find her work at www.snaililoveyou.com.

Willa Thiel worked on this book between the ages of 3-6 and just finished first grade at Honey Creek Community School.

Becky Grover is a fiber artist whose work has traveled in shows nationally. See more of her work at beckygroverdesigns.com and beckygrover.etsy.com.

All three are neighbors in the Great Oak Cohousing Community, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Why “free” content will only take you so far

After listening to hundreds of free webinars, and free video courses, I realized that I was past the “free” stage. Indie publishing is great because one can do so much on your own and I had but it wasn’t enough. I published two anthologies that were huge feats of collaboration among 50 women living around the world and I got pretty far considering I had more or less stumbled my way through the process. I was looking to elevate my game and take it to the next professional level.

The free webinars weren’t cutting it anymore but I still wasn’t ready to spend money on myself. I needed professional advice but I wasn’t willing to pay for it. All of the experts were saying that investing in yourself would pay off in spades but I saw that as self-serving.

“Of course, they are going to tell me to invest in their courses and consultations. They want the sale.”

And naturally, free content is used mostly to demonstrate that a particular person has expertise in a topic. I should know, I offer free webinars myself and try to make them as valuable as possible so my future clients understand that yes, I can help them reach their goals.

But despite all of that, I had to admit that there was value in getting advice from someone who had done it before me.

I needed someone to tell me what to do next. Someone who had either walked in my shoes or knew people who had.

What was holding me back?

After a few conversations and soul searching, I admitted that a few things were holding me back from hiring an expert:

– I wasn’t treating my business like a business

– My money mindset was focused on scarcity, not abundance (I was focused on everything I had to lose instead of what I had to gain)

– I was scared of spending money on something that might not work

– I was partially afraid of success. Hiring an expert meant that I was really taking the next step in my business

With those points mapped out, I could tackle them one by one. If I wasn’t treating my business like a business, why was I doing this?

Did I want to monetize my knowledge? Absolutely.

My money mindset was focused on scarcity and I was scared of spending what little money I did have on something that wasn’t guaranteed to increase my income. However, I kept hitting the same wall in front of me and I needed help to get over it and move onto the next level.

Like when I played video games when I was a kid, it was a different experience when I was playing by myself than when I was playing with my brother next to me who would warn me about what obstacles to avoid in the next scene. He’d tell me what was going to happen so I could be prepared and make the best moves.

Could I continue on my own? Sure.

But would I get there faster and easier with help? Absolutely.

Nice words from a client

Hiring an expert

After months of hemming and hawing and talking with other people who had done the same, I finally took the plunge and hired a marketing coach. I invested in myself.

It was scary and I said so during our first call but within seconds, all of my anxiety was addressed. I felt confident that I had made the right decision. Her excitement about what I had done so far gave me the boost of reassurance that I was looking for.

Taking the next steps outlined by my marketing coach would be my responsibility but she’d be there to amplify my actions and cheer me on.

I figured that if I was going to give my hard-earned money to someone, it might as well be someone who I knew and trusted. She was the perfect fit for me and her approaches to marketing resonated with my core values. Nothing salesy, only authentic.

What happened

After a few sessions with my marketing coach, I realized that other people started to take me more seriously.

They saw me investing in my business and were, therefore, more likely to invest in me. I sold more courses and I started receiving more queries for more private consultations.

When you pay for a course or service with real money, you take yourself more seriously, too.

I carved out time for marketing and created more content. I followed up with potential leads and started emailing more people who I hadn’t reached out to before.

I had someone holding me accountable and routinely checking in with my progress. I kept putting one foot in front of the other.

And then it starts to work.

All of the things your coach told you to do starts to get traction and you see results.

You make progress which increases your confidence, which leads to more progress and you find yourself in a place you’ve never been before doing things you weren’t doing before.

Success follows on success and the setbacks you encounter don’t seem so stressful anymore because deep down, you know this will work because you’re making it work.

So, does investing in yourself pay off or is that just something people say?

I think it does, or at least, it has for me, but I had to exhaust all of the free content options before I was ready to put my money on the table.

Not all experts are worthwhile, which is why it’s always good to do your research and ask their former clients about their experiences.

So, make your own list of what you think is holding you back from investing in yourself and see if any of it rings true.

What’s holding you back? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of spending money? Fear of admitting you need help? All of the above?

Send me an email if you think you want to work together.

I’d love to help you reach your goals self-publishing or Kickstarting your book.

Keep reading

More on being an indie author or illustrator—”Being great isn’t good enough. You have to be at the top of your game to break into the traditional publishing market.” – Natalie Merheb

How to Make Money as an Illustrator

Stand out from the crowd—”There’s no room in today’s market for more run-of-the-mill books.” —Bobbie Hinman

Why Stories About Failure are so Helpful

Why free content will only take you so far | Lisaferland.com
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From $6500 to over $15k on Kickstarter

How one indie author raised over $15k on Kickstarter after a two week dry spell.

Tania DeGregorio found herself in a slump.

Her Kickstarter campaign for her book, Skydancer: Adventures of a Monarch Butterfly had stalled at $6,500. She needed to reach $15,000 in the next two weeks and it didn’t look like she was going to make it.

She felt exhausted, defeated, and out of ideas.

“For a while, it seemed like there wasn’t any traffic and nobody was listening.”

None of her efforts were working and she had already reached out to everyone she could think of who might be interested in supporting her book.

With only two weeks to go, Tania was stuck at 43% and her campaign was essentially dead.

In a last ditch effort, Tania booked a Pick my Brain session and we spent an hour and 20 minutes strategizing creative ways to revive her campaign.

 

Armed with confidence, a new reward tier idea, and support from a stranger, Tania felt reenergized to succeed at Kickstarting her book.

“Getting some direction and someone to hold my hand along the way gave me more confidence in moving forward. I was getting tired it helped to get the direction to move it forward after the $6500 lull.”

You were averaging $100-$200/day and all of a sudden, you had a day where you surpassed your launch day pledges with $2k. Then you had a $3k day and another $1k day. What was happening?

I was doing events at gardening centers and connecting with like-minded people. It was really easy to share my enthusiasm for the project during conversations with people at these events.

It feels good once you know there is an audience who is interested in your book, which in turn, helped my confidence. I felt better pushing it toward the end to reach my goal.

Toward the end, I posted on my Facebook that I really needed help to reach my goal. Coming from a personal place, where I admitted that I was vulnerable, really connected with people.

It was a happy place and I saw the good in people coming out. My friends came through for me in such a huge way and I’m so grateful.

Do you think doing events saved your campaign?

I had a huge backing from some teachers and that really helped infuse more money and energy into the campaign at a crucial point.

I think the events helped a lot because I was connecting and having conversations with people who were directly interested in the book’s topic.

At some of the events, I had coloring pages and crayons for the kids, tacos for the adults, and I handed out a little informational flyer with the campaign details to people who were in the gardening center.

You created a new reward tier and even though nobody backed it, do you think it still helped?

I know! Nobody backed that new level, which surprised me, but in creating that new reward, I collaborated with The Nectar Bar, and they shared the campaign with their audience. A lot of people forwarded the announcement that I created a new reward which was definitely helpful in raising awareness of the campaign.

Are you happy that you did Kickstarter with the all-or-nothing model or would you have rather done a flexible funding model with IndieGoGo?

During the $6,500 lull, I had kind of given up and just accepted it but the all-or-nothing aspect really pushed me harder. If I had done an IndieGoGo with flexible funding, I would’ve given up and we wouldn’t have raised as much money.

This style (all-or-nothing) really engages people and a lot of people were watching it who I didn’t think were paying attention. As stressful as it was, I’m so happy I went with Kickstarter.

Would you ever do another Kickstarter campaign again?

I would, actually, I think it worked out really well once I had all of the pieces in place. (Now I know better.)

What would you do differently the next time around? 

I would’ve spoken to someone like you, a Kickstarter creator or coach, before I launched. I didn’t know all of the things I needed to have lined up before I launched.

I also would’ve engaged my audience more prior to launching so that more people were aware of it beforehand.

Well, a big congratulations to you, Tania. You worked very hard for this success. 

Thanks! It’s going to take me a while to come down from the shock that we actually made it happen. Now I need to get working on the book!

Bio

 

Tania DeGregorio is the indie author of Skydancer: Adventures of a Monarch Butterfly living in Austin, TX, USA.

You can visit her website and pre-order the book here: www.skydancerbook.com

From $6500 to over $15k on Kickstarter | lisaferland.com
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How to Make Money as an Illustrator

“My professors in art school never taught us how to make money from our art. We were taught to create for the sake of it.” – Natalie Merheb

In speaking with children’s book illustrator and graphic designer, Natalie Merheb, I found myself nodding my head in agreement with almost everything she was saying.

The rules for succeeding at making money as an illustrator were the same I have found as a writer—1) conduct research, 2) practice until your hand falls off, and 3) create quality content. Easy, right?

Can you describe your process when you work with indie authors?

If the author doesn’t do this themselves, then I will split out the text into pages. The number of lines of text will affect the design and placement of the illustrations on that page. Sometimes, just 10 lines of text will have five different actions but an illustrator can only show one action per page.

I often choose what I feel are the priorities within those actions that move the story forward.

I consider what action fulfills these three qualities:  identifiable, remarkable, and memorable and then I illustrate that action.

For example, if the scene is that the kids are waking up in the morning, getting ready for school, and waiting for the bus, I’ll decide to illustrate the kids waiting for the bus. The bright yellow color of the school bus is immediately identifiable, remarkable, and memorable to the kids reading the story.

I also take the readers’ age into consideration as to what they’d like to see on each page.

What are some of the trends in traditional illustrations?

Many traditional artists are moving to digital painting because it is easier in a lot of ways. The equipment is an investment upfront but then you don’t have the ongoing costs of consumable materials like paint, paper, canvas, etc., 

In digital art, everything is composed in layers. Since every illustration has layers, if the chicken needs to be moved and resized, I can do that very easily to create the right composition.

It is easy to adjust colors in Photoshop and many watercolor paintings are enhanced in Photoshop to make the colors more vibrant.

How long does it take you to create an illustration?

For my clients, it depends on the quantity and complexity of the project. I calculate my time spent emailing, sketching, and revising into every illustration and budget 8 hours per spread. 

Illustrators should factor in all of the business aspects related to creating something for a client and build that into their payment process.

What advice would you give to another artist who is looking to illustrate children’s books?

Push yourself to create the best work you can and target your ideal client. They will want to hire you based on your quality of work.

Within two months, I was booked months in advance and am now charging what a traditional publisher would pay its artists.

Having done branding for solopreneurs, that experienced really translated into illustration. 

My advice is to treat any activity as an entrepreneurial venture. Treat your art like a business and you’ll make money.

Treat it like a business

All new business ventures require a lot of research. Don’t go into anything blind and don’t try to do it at half effort.

Learn the roles of the traditional publishing process and learn about marketing, aesthetic style, and trends in illustration.

Once you get a feel for what you like, practice, practice, practice, and pursue feedback. “Let me know everything you don’t like about this.”

Prepare yourself ahead of time, make the investment, and get out there. 

To read the first part of the interview with Natalie, click here to learn how illustrations can make or break your book.

Bio

Natalie Merheb is a children’s book illustrator depicting stories written by others, as a brand strategist & web designer crafting brand stories for small businesses. She is a mama to twin girls, wife to a fellow entrepreneur from Lebanon, daughter to parents from the USA and Argentina, a Minnesota native, and Dubai expat. 

 

You can contact Natalie and view her portfolio of work here: http://nataliemerheb.com/

How to make money as an illustrator | Lisaferland.com
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The $1 Reward on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo

You may be thinking that a $1 reward is a waste of your time. Who is going to pledge $1 if they are truly interested in your book? Why would someone even bother running a $1 charge against their credit card? It’s just not worth it…right?

As a former restaurant server, I equated the $1 reward to the penny tip on a bill. It can be viewed as insulting to the creator, so why include it?

Well, I’m changing my tune on the whole $1 reward thingy and here’s why.

1. $1 is an easy gesture of support

Whenever approaching strangers about your crowdfunding campaign for your book, you may feel reluctant to pitch a large pledge amount but with the $1 reward option, you’re giving those folks an easy way to say, “Yeah, I’ll support you at little-to-no cost to me.” It’s a no-brainer for people who may not know you personally but like your campaign and want to follow along.

2. The $1 reward acknowledges gratitude at all levels of financial support

Anyone, even those who are not in a financial position to support you at a higher level will be able to support the $1 reward. By placing it there, you’re giving them an option and telling them, “This is a legitimate option to support my campaign and I won’t view it as an insult.”

3. $1 backers receive all campaign updates

It’s really tough to reach people via email if they haven’t backed your campaign. Getting more people onto your email list at the $1 level means that they’ll receive your campaign updates and emails. They may decide to modify their pledge to a higher reward later on during your campaign.

4.  It can’t hurt to include it

I was surprised when people skipped over my discounted Early Bird Reward and pledged higher amounts than was available. In the same way, you’d be surprised how many extra people you’ll get at the $1 level who you might not have engaged without it. It can’t hurt to include it, so put it in there.

5.  Every dollar counts

When fundraising, every dollar counts, even in $1 increments. Some creators have gotten really creative in the types of rewards they offer for $1 and you can read about them here.

One creator reached out to contacts and asked them to commit to pledging at the $1 level on launch day. To his surprise, many of those backers pledged at a higher level and helped him create that much needed launch day momentum.

One reason not to include the $1 reward on Kickstarter (not applicable on IndieGoGo) is that Kickstarter lists rewards in increasing monetary value and that extra reward takes up valuable real estate when it comes to directing backers to the higher valued rewards.

It does take up real estate so keep your description short and make it fun. Use the $1 reward area to showcase your personality and gratitude.

Did I miss anything?

Be sure to leave a comment below if you think the $1 reward is a good or bad idea.

Should you offer $1 rewards on Kickstarter for your book? | Lisaferland.com
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Illustrations Can Make or Break Your Children’s Book

Beautiful illustrations can make up for a weak story. On the other hand, ugly illustrations can tank a really great storyline.

A great book—one with both an amazing story and beautiful illustrations—is what we should all strive for, but if you’re going to create a children’s illustrated book, investing in beautiful, high-quality illustrations that enhance your story is priceless. Priceless.

Many indie authors think that they can tackle the illustrations themselves but sadly if you do not have artistic talent in your DNA, you’re not going to create illustrations worth publishing. Save your pennies and hire an artist while you focus on the story and characters.

I spoke with graphic designer and illustrator, Natalie Merheb, who is on a mission to educate indie authors about the level of skill and experience required to create beautiful children’s book illustrations.

What are some things you’d like more indie authors to know?

There are a lot of different roles in the traditional publishing world—agent, author, publisher, art director, illustrator, editor, book designer, and then marketing and distribution.

Too many indie authors try to take on multiple roles and it’s really to their detriment (and results in lower quality books). 

Not many people have all of the skills and interest to take on all of these various roles. Remember that you, as an indie author, are both the publisher and the author but many authors are forgetting to pay themselves (all authors are paid for their work) like a traditional publisher would.

If you’re going to wear the publisher hat, you need to pay the author of your book (or you, in this case).

Which is easier—author-turned-illustrator or illustrator-turned-author?

It is much easier for talented illustrators to create a story than it is for talented authors to become talented illustrators. You see a lot of illustrators becoming authors because they already have experience telling a story through images. Adding the text is a logical next step.

In what types of illustrations are you a specialist?

I really fell in love with digital drawing over painting and spent all day practicing with my digital drawing tablet. I have my degree in fine arts and nobody taught us how to make money on our art.

I looked at the market of children’s illustrated books, which is so different from art. You have to be able to replicate the same character 40 times, capture emotion, and tell a story.

I studied the different styles the big illustration agencies are using and the type of work they are producing and found a particular style that comes naturally for me.

You don’t need to be in love with your own style but it has to be whatever flows most easily from your brain down your arm and out of your hand.

There are a lot of different trends in children’s books and you need to look at what type of art is sellable in the market.

How many styles should an illustrator have?

Not everyone is going to like your style but if you do your style well, someone will want to hire you. Some say you should be a one-style camp but I say that you can have one or two styles that are your absolute best work.

Remember that your portfolio is only as good as your weakest piece so don’t showcase anything that would bring down your portfolio.

What is a big problem indie children’s book authors face today?

The children’s illustrated market is oversaturated on many levels–in both the traditional and indie markets.

The Internet has given a platform for indies to rise, which is great in one way, but it also means that it is harder than ever to stand out.

There are great stories and illustrators in self-publishing, which is wonderful because it gives people like me a way to make a career doing what we love.

On the other hand, it opens the door for anyone to enter the market.

Being great is not good enough. You have to be at the top of your game to break into the traditional publishing market. 

What is the best part of working with indie authors?

I love having a close working relationship with my clients. There is a personal satisfaction I feel in making someone else’s dream come true. I also love the potential for repeat clients.

I have one client who wants to sign me for her book series, which is amazing and not always a guarantee in the traditional publishing world.

What is the biggest challenge working with indie authors?

I said earlier that many times, indie authors will take on too many roles, and I may need to find a kind way to refer them to an editor. If there are grammatical errors on the page I’m illustrating, I’m going to let the author know.

A lot of indie projects are passion projects which means that the author is too close and can’t really be objective. They often want the illustrations to epitomize their child—hair, clothes, body language, etc., —and that’s not always what is best for creating a good children’s illustration.

Creative works are always personal so the hardest part is giving and receiving critiques on our personal works of art.

Continue reading the second part of this interview—

How to Make Money as an Illustrator

Bio

Natalie Merheb is a children’s book illustrator depicting stories written by others, as a brand strategist & web designer crafting brand stories for small businesses. She is a mama to twin girls, wife to a fellow entrepreneur from Lebanon, daughter to parents from the USA and Argentina, a Minnesota native, and Dubai expat. 

You can contact Natalie and view her portfolio of work here: http://nataliemerheb.com/

Julia Miles Inserro Takes Creative Control

Julia and I have a lot in common—we are both raising our families outside of our home countries (the USA), we are both authors, and both indie publishers dedicated to producing high-quality books.

Julia recently pushed back her launch date of her first book, Nonni’s Moonbecause she was unhappy with the print quality of the first round of books she received. I admire her willingness to sacrifice a bit of ego and time for a better reading experience.

In this interview, I asked her about the nitty gritty of children’s illustrated books and I think you’ll enjoy her responses. 

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

I know how long it takes to traditionally publish a book and honestly, I knew the odds were slim. Self-publishing nowadays is even more possible than it was in the past—which is both good and bad. It means that it’s easier than ever to self-publish but also that bad books can flood the market.

I really wanted creative control, and the direct financial rewards. I know friends who have traditionally published and they will all do a ton of work the month before and the month after their book is released. If I’m going to do all of that work anyway, I might as well have the creative control.

What aspects did you do yourself vs. hire out to someone else?

I hired an illustrator, Lucy Smith, via a Facebook group of indie authors for children’s books. Her interpretation of my story really opened my eyes to a whole new level that I had not intended. The bereavement aspect really spoke to her and it reminded me why beta readers are so important for providing feedback.

How much did it cost to produce your book? 

It depends on how you look at it because a lot of my costs were start-up costs for the first book. The illustrations cost the most (I’m paying her a flat rate with no royalties).  I paid someone to do my website, and I purchased ISBNs, etc., For a 32-page illustrated book, it’ll cost between $6k-$7k if done properly.

I saw a deal on Bowker for 100-pack of ISBNs for the cost of a 10-pack, so I actually saved some money there.

What surprised you the most about the self-publishing process?

The length of time. Initially, I wanted the book out by Christmas but I didn’t find Lucy until July (I had been searching since February 2017). The level of detail and skill needed to create the illustrations takes a long time and I’d rather not rush anything.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in self-publishing?

You have to decide what your strengths are, what are your skills, and where you want to spend your money. I always feel like I should at least try to figure things out on my own.

First and foremost, join a Facebook group because any question you have has already been asked by someone else. Read 5-6 marketing books—I recommend Martin Crosbie’s book. 

I can also recommend Tim Grahl’s podcast and his book, The Book Launch Blueprint.

Definitely team up with another author to do a dual book launch or book signing event so you have a larger crowd.

You’ll want a timeline to keep things moving forward and most importantly, it’s crucial to build a marketing balloon before you publish.

What do you think worked well?

My launch team is working out really well. I put out a call for people interested in reviewing the PDF version of the book in exchange for being a member of my launch team and the group now has 186 members.

Had I not joined a lot of Facebook groups and done research, I totally would’ve launched without a marketing plan and would’ve missed out on a ton of momentum.

I submitted the book cover to a contest by KidsShelf Books and we actually won! It’s a nice shiny badge to put on the cover that adds a bit of credibility and it was something for me to do while I was waiting for the rest of the illustrations.

I can also recommend the Curiouser Author Network, which is a brilliant group of indie authors. They gave me great ideas for the book launch teams.

It also took me a week to figure out Canva but it was worth it.

Bio

Julia Inserro is a mom of three littles, living abroad with her husband and a handful of cats. She is a writer, reader, photographer, and explorer. She is the author of Nonni’s Moon, her first children’s book, set to release in July 2018. Julia finds that life is a series of wanderings and wonderings and enjoys sharing her musings with the world. You can find her at juliainserro.com

Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo for Indie Authors—Which one to choose?

You can successfully crowdfund books on either Kickstarter  and IndieGoGo platforms. In this article, I will make suggestions to help you decide which one is best for you and your book. 

Be sure to read the “About us” part from both websites bearing in mind that they are giving you the FAQs with a natural bias to promote their platform.

Writing and Publishing projects on both platforms

Kickstarter does a great job of making their statistics on successful and failed projects easy to find. See their statistics for publishing projects here: https://www.kickstarter.com/help/stats?ref=about_subnav

Kickstarter has launched 42k projects in the Publishing category with a success rate of 31%.  

IndieGoGo is much less transparent about their stats and requires a bit more digging. 

Here’s their comparison chart between IGG and Kickstarter.

I often get frustrated with IndieGoGo because they bury their Writing and Publishing projects on the front page of the website. One has to know exactly where to look to “stumble upon” those projects whereas Kickstarter makes it very easy to navigate from the homepage.

I have no idea how many Writing and Publishing projects have been launched on IndieGoGo because they haven’t published category-specific statistics and many of their campaigns are acquired through their InDemand program (described below).

You really need to head over to the Writing and Publishing category and poke around to see what the average funding levels are for books in your genre.

Winner: Kickstarter

Coming soon landing pages

IndieGoGo wins over Kickstarter in this category. IndieGoGo provides a landing page where you can collect emails from people who are interested in your book. 

This is just a screenshot—don’t enter your email here 🙂

 

Not only will they help you collect emails but they feature your landing page on their website under “Launching Soon.”

Pretty cool, right? 

Creators on Kickstarter will need to collect emails using a separate lead generator or on their own websites. 

Winner: IndieGoGo

Pro tip: Don’t lose your emails!  IndieGoGo creators need to grab those emails before your campaign goes live because that same page turns into your campaign page and those emails disappear. Grab those emails and enter them into your newsletter provider like Mailerlite or MailChimp if you want to hang onto them.

IndieGoGo’s InDemand Program

If you launch on Kickstarter your Kickstarter page will no longer accept backers once the campaign ends.

IndieGoGo wisely sees this as an opportunity to swoop in and acquire successful projects to their platform.

You’ll be contacted by IGG to feature your campaign as part of their InDemand Program.

The InDemand program allows you to redirect backers who missed your original campaign to order your books through their website.

It won’t really hurt you to do this, but I’d rather direct folks to buy my book directly from me using PayPal or Stripe and pay those fees (~6%) rather than the IndieGoGo platform fees plus payment processing fees.

Either way, when you’re on IGG doing research on books in your genre, be sure to look out for books that were actually acquired through this program. Those books were not successfully funded on IGG.

Here’s what it looks like—you have to hover over the question mark icon to get the truth about where that author found success.

 

Winner: IndieGoGo

Name recognition factor

A lot of people mistakenly think that the general population has heard of a Kickstarter more often than an IndieGoGo campaign and therefore, they are better off launching on Kickstarter.

Not so! 

Most people who you will want to support your campaign have zero clue what crowdfunding is and will need a step-by-step explanation. They really don’t care if it’s on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo because it’s all foreign to them anyway.

Choose the platform that feels right for you since you’re going to be directing your audience to that page anyway.

Winner: Draw

Featured rewards

Rewards on Kickstarter are listed in ascending value (cheapest reward is listed first) which means that more backers are going to select the first thing they see unless they scroll down.

And who wants to scroll down?!? Such work.

IndieGoGo campaigns have a neat “Featured Reward” designation that pins whatever reward you want to the top of your campaign so people are more likely to select that reward.

Winner: IndieGoGo

Pro tip: Set your featured reward to the average pledge you’d like to have for your campaign. Don’t set your reward value too low and lose out on awesome conversion opportunities.

Setting rewards too low is a common mistake that indie authors make

Backend Analytics

Kickstarter and IndieGoGo have similar analytical features on the creator-side of their projects but Kickstarter creators can utilize Kicktraqa Chrome extension plugin that provides predictions for how a Kickstarter project will ultimately end. 

IndieGoGo’s backend analytics are pretty cool but they won’t show you how your campaign is trending into the future—only past contribution levels.

Winner: Kickstarter

Grabbing backers’ emails

Communicating with your backers is a huge part of engaging and encouraging your backers to share the campaign. Unfortunately, Kickstarter holds your backers’ emails hostage during your campaign and only allows creators to communicate using the Kickstarter platform itself. 

In doing so, Kickstarter backers (usually a distant relative who has never backed a campaign before) thinks that they are getting emails from Kickstarter itself and not you directly. They generally ignore these emails and wonder why you’re not communicating with them (insert eye roll emoji here).

Kickstarter also has a new “anonymous backer” option which allows backers to hide their identities from creators.

This anonymous feature may result in more backers but it also makes it impossible to properly thank your Aunt Mary for generously contributing to your campaign. 

 
IndieGoGo gives you backers’ emails as the pledges come in, which is great for adding them to your newsletter provider and communicating with them directly.  

Kickstarter has added a “Live” feature which is similar to Facebook Live videos but I don’t think they are very helpful for indie authors’ campaigns who are relying on readers from outside of the platform itself.

Winner: IndieGoGo

Running a referral contest

IndieGoGo has a great feature that automatically makes every backer into a referrer if they share the project link when they are logged in. Here’s more information on their referral program. 

Kickstarter doesn’t have this feature built into the platform so you’ll have to do it using another referral program. Here’s how one Kickstarter creator incentivized shares via a referral contest.

Winner: IndieGoGo

Overall results

Which platform you choose is really up to your personal preference. When I launched my second book on Kickstarter, I was wholly convinced that it was the platform for me. 

When My Super Science Heroes found amazing success on IndieGoGo and I got to see firsthand how the email capture, Featured reward, and referral options worked, shockingly, I discovered that I preferred IndieGoGo’s features over Kickstarter’s.

But don’t take my word for it. Hop over to both websites, back a few projects, and decide for yourself.

 

If you’re looking for a customized strategy plan for your Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign, I’m happy to help you during a Pick My Brain Crowdfunding Session.

5 Biggest Mistakes Indie Authors Make While Crowdfunding

I’ve analyzed a lot of crowdfunding projects over the years and there are a TON of mistakes that indie authors can easily avoid.

In this article, I’ll explain the mistake, how I can tell someone is making a mistake, and how to fix it. 

Mistake #1: Zero marketing strategy

Many indie authors think that backers will come flocking after they put up their campaign page. They have a cute video, good graphics, and nice rewards but absolutely no strategy for marketing the campaign to potential backers (readers).

How I can tell you have zero marketing strategy

Most indie authors without a solid marketing strategy happening behind the scenes will not reach more than 100 backers. I look at the number of backers a campaign has every day (thanks to Kicktraq) and if you have a few days in a row with 0 backers/day, I can tell that there either is no strategy or the strategy isn’t working.

The Fix

It’s really tough to create a solid marketing strategy mid-stream but all is not lost if you act quickly. Try to reach at least 30% within the first 5 days of your campaign or prepare to fold up camp and relaunch after you’ve built up your audience a bit.

You can start reaching out to big bloggers, journalists, and influencers who might be interested in your book, add a new reward that you KNOW will entice more backers, and do a full-out media blitz everywhere you think your readers might be lurking.

That said, with a short campaign timeline, you really don’t have time to develop a new strategy on the fly and your time, effort, and energy might be spent better on a relaunch a few months later.

Mistake #2: The rewards are all wrong

Many indie authors actually price their rewards too low. Remember, we are crowdfunding which means that backers are willing to pay a bit more than retail to help you create your project. That means you need to price your rewards higher than you would if you were selling them on the street.

If your goal is $15k, then you’re going to need a lot of people to buy your $20 reward…

How I can tell your rewards are bleh

Usually, I can see right away if your rewards are reasonable based on if I’d be willing to take out my wallet and enter in my credit card information based on what you have. 

Are your rewards structured in a way that makes it enticing for me to “level up?”

Are you offering an early bird discount or special reward to spur action on my part? 

No? Big mistake. 

The Fix

What else does your audience want besides your book that is of value? What else can you offer?  Bundle that together and slap a $50 price tag on it and get people to level-up to that reward.

Mistake #3: Video is too long and rambles on and on and on…

Your video does not need to be professionally created, although that does help, but it needs to be relatively short. Remember, you are trying to get people’s attention very quickly so jump straight to the point with a call to action.

How do I know your video is boring?

Because I’m bored and want to click away but I won’t because I’m analyzing your page.

The Fix

What do you want someone watching your video to do? You want them to back your book so you can do X for Y.

So say that. 

Say, “Back our project to introduce classical music back into the classrooms of 4th and 5th graders in New Jersey,” or whatever your awesome book brings to readers.

Say your call to action loud and clearly within the first 30 seconds of your video.

Mistake #4: Your goal is too high

wish we could all raise $30k on Kickstarter by simply creating a campaign and posting the link to our Facebook pages a few times but that’s not how it works.

Behind the scenes of every crowdfunding campaign is a tremendous amount of emailing, outreach, article creation, videos, podcasts, and other activity on the Internet. 

If your goal doesn’t match your audience size (remember, the average backer will spend $45-$50) then you’re not going to be successful.

How I know your campaign goal is too high

I look to see if someone has created a campaign in the past, I evaluate the activity on their social media pages, and I do a bit of market research on other crowdfunding campaigns on similar topics in the past.

The Fix

Unfortunately, your goal is locked in once you launch your campaign.

IndieGoGo allows you to extend your fixed campaign one time if you need it, but you can only extend it one time.

You cannot, I repeat, cannot have a $30k goal without knowing how you’re going to secure at least 600 backers.

Factoring in a 2% conversion rate, you need to reach at least 30,000 people. 

You can always relaunch with a more reasonable goal.

Mistake #5: No interactions or updates on the campaign page itself

A stranger wanders onto your crowdfunding campaign page and is looking for more information…more personality…an update or two to find out how the campaign is going.

Many indie authors don’t post any updates on their campaign’s page and this is a lost opportunity to get more backers.

How I can tell you aren’t utilizing updates to their biggest potential

It’s all quiet on your page and I’m wondering what’s up? How are things going? What else can you tell me about your project? Are you grateful for all of the support so far? 

The Fix

Use the public updates on your page as a way to showcase your personality and share insights into the project that weren’t already covered in your campaign’s description.

Can you share something from your illustrator? Have you decided to add a new reward? Have you been featured in the Washington Post, Forbes, or some other fancy website that people would think is cool?

Share your social proof that others are on board and link back to your campaign.

Why include a link to your campaign that’s in an update about your campaign?

Both Kickstarter and IndieGoGo email backers all public updates but Kickstarter (annoyingly) doesn’t automatically link the reader back to your campaign.  

That means that if someone wants to forward the email they received from Kickstarter about your campaign to a friend, they can but then the person just gets a body of text—no link—and you’ve lost a potential backer.

Make it super easy for people to find your campaign by always including a link back to it.

Watch this on YouTube

Bobbie Hinman on How to Create a Bestselling Children’s Book

Bobbie Hinman has sold over 50,000 children’s books and has won numerous awards for her Best Fairy Books series.

In her latest book, How to Create a Successful Children’s Book (part of  KindleUnlimited), she gives readers her tips and tricks to creating a bestselling children’s book (hint: fart and poop jokes will go a long way).

Like any good fairy godmother, Bobbie was gracious enough to answer my questions about her Fairy books and take us behind-the-scenes on creating a book like a traditional publisher.

What was the original inspiration behind your fairy book series? 

It all started when my husband and I were babysitting our six-year-old twin granddaughters.

I was trying to comb through Emily’s morning tangles, causing her to wail loudly, so…I did what grandmas do so well—I made up a story.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, came the story of the sweet little Knot Fairy who visits sleeping children and loves to tangle their hair. Emily stopped crying. She loved the story and begged me to tell it every day. I was energized by my grandkids’ excitement. The Knot Fairy book was born.

Deep down, I had always known I wanted to write a children’s book. Hubby and I were both retired. So, why not?

You were self-publishing before it was popular. What convinced you to give self-publishing a try? Did you ever pitch your ideas to traditional publishers?

As the author of seven traditionally published cookbooks, I had learned a lot about the book business.

Thankfully, I did learn that, no matter who publishes your book, you, the author, must plan to promote, promote, promote. Even with a traditional publisher, I spent many hours working hard to supplement their marketing efforts.

Yes, I could have submitted my ideas to traditional publishers. It had worked with my cookbooks.

However, the publishing world today is more competitive than ever, especially when it comes to children’s books. I didn’t want to start sending query letters and possibly fill a shoebox with rejection notices while waiting for the right publisher to show interest in my book.

This time I wanted to be the one to make all the decisions—and keep all the money.

You published your first book in 2007 before a lot of the self-publishing tools exist today were available. In your opinion, how has the self-publishing industry changed in ways that have had the greatest impact on indie authors?

Competition in the book world is tougher than it has ever been. Yet many more people are self-publishing. The dilemma I see is that it is too easy for people to publish books that are not of the highest quality.

With the advent of Print on Demand publishing, anyone willing to pay can publish a book, often resulting in higher priced books and, sadly, too many books of poor quality.

Often there is little or no editing offered, and the paper and covers are of inferior quality. I’ve also witnessed the growth of social marketing sites, such as Facebook.

The good news for authors is that they now have a giant platform for marketing their books.

Unfortunately, the growth of social media is bad news for two reasons:

First, too many authors rely only on these sites to market their books, making their marketing efforts very one-dimensional; second, these sites are extremely crowded with authors saying “Buy my book” to an audience of thousands of other authors.

If you don’t mind sharing, how do you print your books? What printer have you found that has the best quality for the price?

My books have been printed by a wonderful company, Amica, Inc., that has headquarters in Kent, Washington in the U.S. I chose them after seeing their finished products at Book Expo America.

They print in China and they produce top-quality books. I recently had 2 of my books printed in the U.S. by Bang Printing Co. They also did an excellent job and were very fair with the pricing.

The price depends on the amount of books ordered—the larger the order, the lower the price. 

You include an audio CD with your books, which is something I haven’t seen any indie author do before. What level of production is required to add such a valuable item and do you feel it is worthwhile?

Having been an elementary teacher, I felt that adding a CD would provide an added bonus for toddlers and young readers.

It gives the book the ability to appeal to another one of the children’s senses, helping them learn better by both hearing and seeing the words at the same time.

Producing a CD is an interesting process that involves writing a script and recording it in a sound studio, with an audio engineer.

My basic script consisted of the story narration and an original fairy song. I became a song writer! I tapped into a lot of local talent to make the process work without breaking the bank.

I found a young audio engineer with a studio in his basement, “hired” my vocalist daughter-in-law to sing, and turned my grandchildren into a children’s chorus.

People love the added value of having a CD inside the book, and also love the fact that their children are learning to read with the help of the CD.

If I were to do it today, I would go through the recording process but, in place of a CD, I would use a QR code that would take the reader to my website to listen to the recording. (I haven’t explored the details of doing this, but I have met people who say they have done it successfully.)

Approximately how much does each book cost to produce?

There are so many variables here. It depends on the format (hardcover or paperback), the size of the book, the paper quality, and any additions (dust jacket or CD)  and the number of books ordered.

I certainly don’t recommend mortgaging your house to purchase thousands of books, so you have to be realistic and know how you plan to market your books before you print.

Also, of utmost importance, is to first produce a top-quality book that has been professionally edited and market-tested with a focus group of age-appropriate readers. 

Your illustrations are beautiful and it is clear that there is a team behind each book. Where did you find your collaborators? 

I don’t know why it’s called “self-publishing” because you certainly can’t do it all yourself!

A team of professionals provide the checks and balances you need to produce a top-quality product.

I found my illustrator (Kristi Bridgeman) by doing an internet search for “fairy illustrators.” It was love at first sight! Her magical watercolor illustrations turned my books into works of art.

My graphic designer was a young friend of a friend, who worked from home and was affordable. He meshed the words and illustrations in just the right way.

Although I am an editor, even editors need an extra pair of eyes to check their work. Luckily, my pilates instructor was a retired editor who had worked for a large publishing house.

My team worked together beautifully, even though we were in different states—and countries!

Have you ever felt pigeon-holed by your topic? (Ever want to write about non-fairy books?)

No, I’ve never felt pigeon-holed. I love fairies and love finding things to blame on them. I actually have a few other fairy books written that I would like to publish. (No, I won’t tell you what they are.) That being said, I have also been collecting cat photos for a new toddler book and—to add something different to the mix—I am working on a true-life ghost story. Stay tuned…

What would you say was a mistake that you made that taught you something valuable?

Oh, dear. Here it is: When it was time to print the first book, I thought the cost of encasing the CDs in tamper-resistant plastic sleeves was too high, opting instead for paper sleeves. They seemed sturdy enough to me. I ordered 5000 copies of the book!

Only when I sent a copy to the children’s buyer for Barnes & Noble did I learn that my books were deemed unacceptable due to the use of paper CD sleeves. Fortunately all was not lost, as 10 of my family members agreed to convene on a Sunday morning around a large conference table in my son’s office.

We formed a production line and spent twelve hours unpacking each case of books, carefully removing the paper sleeves, placing each CD into its newly purchased plastic sleeve, meticulously gluing each CD back into place and repacking the books.

Lesson learned: Do it right the first time! 

What advice would you give someone considering indie publishing?

  1. Know your target audience. When you decide what age you are targeting, go to the library, find out what this age group is reading, and read as many of these books as you can.
  2. Have your book professionally edited—yes, even if there are only 100 words in your book.
  3. Own your ISBN. Whoever owns the ISBN owns the rights to publish your book.
  4. Before using POD or subsidy publishing companies, ask for samples of the companies’ work and ask yourself if this is what you want your book to look like. Also, make sure to discuss the total price and know what to expect in the way of quality and service.
  5. Read my book, How to Create a Successful Children’s Picture Book.

Are your books available in bookstores, libraries, and schools? Can you briefly describe how you’ve approached each channel?

I have been fortunate to have had my books accepted by a large distributor, which is the only way I know for an indie author to distribute their books to bookstores and libraries nationwide so quickly and efficiently.

As for schools, this has proven to be a very lucrative market for my books.

I do classroom visits where I read a book or two and teach the children the songs on the CDs. I prepare order forms for the teachers to send home with the children a few days before my visit.

I charge a fee for my visit, plus sell my books. For practice, you can offer to do free visits at your local libraries.

What other opportunities has publishing your books led to? (e.g., speaking opportunities, lectures, etc.)

A whole new world has opened since my granddaughter refused to have her hair combed.

I have been a guest presenter at numerous book fairs all across the U.S. and in Canada. I have been a guest blogger on blogs all over the world.

I have had Barnes & Noble book launch parties that have attracted as many as 300 people. I have been invited to sign my books at many Costco stores.

Occasionally someone even recognizes me on the street!

Anything else you’d like to share?

This is an exciting journey. My books have received 28 children’s book awards along the way, including the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Gold Medal for “Best Picture Book Series of 2017.” I invite everyone to take the journey with me.

Would I recommend self-publishing? Yes, if you do it right.

Let’s face it: As self-publishers, our books are often judged more critically and held to a higher standard than traditionally published books. Therefore, if we’re going to represent ourselves, let’s make our books the very best.

There’s no room in today’s market for more run-of-the-mill books.

Competition is tougher than it has ever been.

On my journey I have verified an important fact that some self-publishers fail to recognize: In order to compete in the book world, you MUST produce a high-quality product!

Read the Best Fairy Books

Note that all of Bobbie Hinman’s books are available in the KindleUnlimited program so you can check them out for free when you are a member (which I am).

I have also purchased the Belly Button Fairy and the Fart Fairy books with my own dime because I like to do my own research when it comes to bringing you the best information and believe me, these books are a hit with my kids.

Bio

Bobbie Hinman is a former elementary teacher with B.S. degree in Elementary Education/Children’s Literature.

She is the recipient of 28 children’s book awards, including the Moonbeam Gold Medal for “Best Picture Book Series of 2017.” Her achievements are numerous:

  • Author of The Knot Fairy, The Sock Fairy, The Belly Button Fairy, The Fart Fairy and The Freckle Fairy which have sold over 51,000 copies
  • Author of “How to Create a Successful Children’s Picture Book”
  • Ten years experience editing children’s books
  • Member of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators) and IBPA (Independent Book Publishers Association)
  • Judge for the Royal Palm Literary Awards
  • Ghost writer for numerous children’s books