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

I hope you can learn from those mistakes. Be sure to enroll in my Crowdfund Your Book Like a Boss Course during the month of May for access to special bonuses including a free 30-min strategy session with me where I will help you design your crowdfunding strategy.

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

Getting Email Subscribers as an Indie Author

Getting folks onto your email list should be your #1 priority after you’ve created some content for your website.

Why?

Because nobody can rely on Facebook’s or Twitter’s algorithms to put your content in front of your readers. Sending messages directly to your readers’ inbox is the best way to deliver valuable content and create a dialogue with your readers.

Before we talk numbers, I just want you to know that I successfully Kickstarted Knocked Up Abroad Again with a list of only 110 subscribers. They were my core group of people who I reached out to to generate momentum on launch day of my Kickstarter campaign, but I also leveraged the readers of the book’s 25 contributors.

Pulling the trigger—Sending your first email to your list

Over the years, I’ve struggled with finding topics to send my newsletter recipients. Should I send them links to my blogs? (Yes.) Should I send them links to affiliate courses or products by other people I know, like, and trust? (Yes.) What should I actually send my newsletter recipients?

In short, you can send anything to your readers as long as you are delivering meaningful content. Make it valuable, insightful, or emotional and people will open, read, and share your emails.

I feel most comfortable with sending no more than two (2) emails a month. I have enough to include in each email—blogs, podcasts, articles, etc.—and I can be consistent with bi-weekly emails.

If you’re just starting out, I’d start with monthly emails and see how it goes from there.

Be authentic. Be yourself.

As long as you offer up high-quality content that your readers find valuable, people will stay on your list.

Your readers are smart

Almost everyone knows at this point that if you register for a free webinar or e-book, your email is going onto someone’s list. There will always be folks who hop on your list for a short time to grab your freebie and then unsubscribe right away. Don’t worry about those people.

Focus on delivering quality content or insights about your writing process that will keep your readers engaged.

Ways for indie authors to create valuable freebies

Using MailChimp or Mailerlite, you can create sign-up forms and use automation to deliver digital content as an incentive to increase your subscribers.

Here are some ideas specifically for indie authors but you should use your creativity here (go crazy!)

  • Podcast about a specific topic related to a popular blog post
  • Narrated version of a short-story
  • Special interview with a special guest (video or podcast)
  • E-book with tips for your readers on a topic related to your book
  • Special access to digital content that enhances the reader’s experience with your book
  • Animated short featuring a character from your book
  • First chapter of your book with a link to purchase the full book
  • Coupon code for your book or other items you might sell
  • Anything you can think of that your readers might want

In short, have fun with your content creation and create multiple avenues for people to get onto your list. Send out consistent high-quality content, and be yourself.

Watch my video on YouTube about email subscribers here.

 

Before you can launch your book or crowdfunding campaign, you’ll need a core group of at least 100 subscribers although, more people is always better.

Enroll in my Crowdfund Your Book Like a Boss Course during the month of May to get BONUS CONTENT including a free 30-min strategy session with me.

Getting More Book Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

With only 3% of readers leaving reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, it’s no wonder that authors (both traditional and indie) are struggling to encourage their readers to leave book reviews.

Amazon and Goodreads are like the TripAdvisor and Yelp equivalents for books and many readers rely on reviews to guide them on what book they should purchase next.

Unfortunately, although Amazon acquired Goodreads in 2013, the reviews on each platform stay where they were originally placed so you need to encourage readers to leave the same review in two places. Annoying, for sure.

While I can’t guarantee that every review will be favorable, here are some tips for getting more reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

1. Encourage your readers with every newsletter you send out

First of all, your readers should be subscribed to your newsletter (I use MailerLite but I’ve also used MailChimp in the past and have enjoyed both.) At the end of each newsletter you send out, make a strong appeal to them asking for reviews and hyperlink your request directly to your book’s page on Amazon and Goodreads.

Go ahead and say something like,

“Readers rely on honest reviews to inform their book purchases and I’d love your review on Amazon and Goodreads if you enjoyed the book. I personally read each review and really appreciate hearing your feedback.”

OR

“Without reader reviews, books will go largely unnoticed on large websites like Amazon. I’d love it if you could kindly leave a review if you enjoyed reading my book(s). For every review you leave for an indie author, an angel gets its wings.”

Or something like that. You get the idea. Have fun with it but remind your readers that you love and appreciate their reviews.

2. Add an image to your sidebar on your blog/website 

The one I have on my sidebar is a standard social media post sized graphic from Canva and it took me approximately 4 minutes to create. Clicking on that image takes my readers directly to my books’ Amazon sales pages.

You’re welcome to steal it/borrow it/modify it however you want.

3. Give books away for review

I’ve done this a few ways—handed out physical books to friends in person, ran giveaway contests on my Facebook profile to drive social media attention, and have run a free download giveaway of the Kindle version on Amazon. All approaches have their pros and cons but I’d recommend doing something where you giveaway books to people for free.

That’s right, I said free.

But Lisa, that will cost me money and sales rankings and and and…

I know, it will cost you all of that but when you’re marketing, you have to think of the long game. The more copies you have circulating in the population, the more chances you have that people will read your book. More readers equals more reviews which should equate to more people purchasing your book.

If you give away books for review purposes, be sure to have your reviewers declare that in their Amazon reviews. Amazon wants transparency in their reviews so as long as they include something along the lines of, 

“I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes but the opinions are my own.”

Amazon will be satisfied that your readers are providing honest and transparent reviews about your book. Don’t get dinged by Amazon! 

When I was new at this game, I was extremely protective of giving away free copies. I was like, “No way! If they want to support me they will buy 5 copies!” And that’s true to a certain extent. Your family will buy more than one copy and they will help you in so many ways, but you can also generate a lot of goodwill and loyalty by giving away copies to strangers (gasp!).

Build a loyal following. Enroll your book in KDP Select for 90 days and see what happens. Knocked Up Abroad has been on KDP Select since I launched it and it currently has 37 reviews (which I am very happy with.) My second book, released only 10 months later, has 23 reviews. It has never been enrolled in KDP Select.

Is my first book that much better than my second book? No, not at all. I think a lot of readers in the KindleUnlimited program exclusively read books that are enrolled in KDP Select. Those folks are avid readers and are more likely to leave book reviews.

I also flubbed up a bit on Knocked Up Abroad Again and that leads me to my next point…

4. Move the acknowledgements section to the beginning of your Kindle version

Kindle readers are automatically prompted to leave a review on Amazon whenever the reach the end of the manuscript on their Kindle device. If you have 4 pages of acknowledgements like I did in Knocked Up Abroad Again because you have to thank hundreds of Kickstarter backers, many readers aren’t going to flip through to the end that generates that review prompt.

Whoops.

Move your acknowledgements to the beginning or shorten them entirely and take advantage of that Kindle prompt that will do a lot of heavy lifting for you.

5. Encourage your readers at the end of your book to leave a review

Jen Mann is the New York Times bestselling author of People I want to Punch in the Throat and she has created her own publishing imprint and is a total badass. Read her work and learn from her.

At the end of her first YA novel, My Lame Life: Queen of the Misfits, Jen includes a short and sweet call to action for her readers. 

“Notes from the Author

Thank you for reading this book. I appreciate your support and hope you enjoyed it. I hope you will tell a friend—or 30 about this book. Please do me a huge favor and leave me a review on Amazon and Goodreads. Of course, I prefer 5-star, but I’ll take what I can get. If you hated this book, you can skip the review, it’s cool.”

Encourage your readers to leave a review while they are still holding your book in their hands and maybe, just maybe, they’ll leave a review for you.

Pro tip: Readers love 4-star reviews

My first 4-star review really stung. It was from someone I admired and someone I thought would give me a 5-star review without question. Fortunately, she softened the blow a bit by letting me know that she was leaving me a 4-star review.

She said, “I absolutely loved your book but I think that readers are suspicious about 5-star reviews. I always leave 4-star reviews so that readers take me seriously and that will help you more in the long-run, trust me.”

At first I thought she was yanking my chain and just trying to make me feel better about my horrible 4-star book, but now, after reading a ton of 4-star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, I agree with her.

If every book you read gets 5-stars, then the rating loses its value.

Also, reviews on Goodreads are a bit more honest than reviews on Amazon. If you get 5-stars on Goodreads, you really knocked someone’s socks off.

If you have any tips for getting more book reviews, be sure to leave them in the comments.

Want to watch my video on getting book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads? Head over to YouTube and I’ll basically say all of these things I mentioned above but with more stories and anecdotes.  Here’s the link to the video.

4 Reasons Why Indie Authors Should Crowdfund Their Books

After successfully crowdfunding my book on Kickstarter and helping other indie authors find success on IndieGoGo and Kickstarter platforms, I fully believe that more indie authors can successfully crowdfund their books with some research and strategic planning.

The average book on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo raises $5k, but my clients raise above average levels ranging from $7k-$27k USD. (You’ll find my client portfolio here.)

Here are my reasons why you should consider crowdfunding:

#1 Proof of Concept

Erin Nelsen Parekh Kickstarted her debut children’s board book and felt that the crowdfunding process proved her book was worth creating. “Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted.”

If you can get more than 150 people to pre-order your book based on a sales page and campaign video, then you have a really strong message that resonates with people. Chances are good that you should create your book.

If you can’t raise the necessary funds to make your book a reality (i.e., your campaign doesn’t successfully fund), then it means that you need to reevaluate your idea, your audience, or your marketing efforts. Something is flawed and a failed crowdfunding project doesn’t mean your idea isn’t valuable, it just means you need to rework your approach.

Crowdfunding in a do-or-die scenario is a really good test of your book’s concept and will undoubtedly improve your future marketing efforts.

#2 Expand and engage your audience

When I launched the Kickstarter campaign for Knocked Up Abroad Again, I only had a newsletter size of 140 people and a Facebook page around 700. That was it. Scary, right?

Traditionally markers said that I wouldn’t reach my $10k goal with those numbers and normally, they’d be right. The difference is that crowdfunding isn’t like traditional marketing campaigns.

Crowdfunding forces you to create valuable content that people will want to share with their friends and family—organically—and those articles, videos, and images all have the link to your campaign on them. 

Fortunately, I had the help of a team of 5-8 contributors who developed their own blogs, videos, and graphics to share with their networks.  Crowdfunding is truly a team effort that undoubtedly results in expanding your audience.

One of the best parts about crowdfunding is that you engage your audience. As the creator, you provide them an inside peek into the development process of your book. They are along with you on the ride and are excited to share your concept.

This type of audience engagement is rare during the development process. Normally, writers will create a book and release it on a launch date.

Not many readers get the chance to influence a book during its development and that’s what keeps people coming back to platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

#3 Condense 3-6 months of marketing efforts into 30 days

This condensed marketing effort really takes a lot of strategic planning and development. You can’t just throw up a campaign page and expect the backers to support your project. 

All of the marketing efforts that other authors spend over the course of the year are condensed into a very short timeframe. This can be exhausting, which is why all crowdfunding campaigns should end after 35 days or so.

During your crowdfunding campaign, you’ll write press releases, create videos, reach out to bloggers, social media influencers, and hopefully, get the attention of a few news outlets.

Stacy Bauer made a few appearances on her local TV news station during her Kickstarter campaign for her children’s book.

Erin Parekh’s campaign link was retweeted twice by Neil Gaiman out to his 2.72M followers.

You’re not supposed to be able to sustain this level of a marketing media blitz longer than 30 days, so please, don’t try. 

#4 Your book is funded

The best part about crowdfunding your book is that aside from your marketing budget during the crowdfunding campaign, your wallets aren’t entirely empty.

Many indie authors struggle with finding the thousands of dollars necessary to hire a quality editor, illustrator, and cover designer. As a result, their books aren’t as well made and don’t sell as well. 

Crowdfunding offers a unique proposition to readers that basically says, “Invest in this idea and you’ll get a much better product than you could’ve if I did this on my own dime.”

Believe me, people will invest a few extra books if it means they get a better book plus a few extras.

Tired of reading and want the video version of this blog instead?

Watch me reiterate the points above (and more) in the video below.

Why Stories About Failure Are So Helpful

Failure.

It’s no longer a dirty word to utter or admit in entrepreneurial and corporate circles. In fact, many entrepreneurs and businesses are embracing sharing stories of failure because they understand the value of these stories.

Sharing what doesn’t work is just as valuable (maybe more) as sharing what does work.

In science, it is every researcher’s dream to test a hypothesis and find statistically significant results confirming that they were right. However, publishing research findings showing that there were no statistically significant results for those elements is equally important to the research community. It shows that those confounders aren’t relevant to your problem.

Failure in a Public Health Study

Case study: In 2005, Michael Watson and his public health colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial where 3,400 some odd families with children under 5 were provided child safety equipment to prevent injuries.

They studied whether a child in the family had at least one injury that required medical attention and if they sought hospital admission for injuries over the course of a two year period. Their hypothesis was that providing safety equipment and medical advice to these families would reduce the number of injuries seen in the family. Afterall, safety equipment provides a protective effect, no? Seems logical.

However, they found NO SIGNIFICANT DIFFERENCE in the number of medically attended injuries between the families who had the safety equipment and those who didn’t. Basically, kids will be kids regardless of the safety equipment they have. You can satisfy your nerdy side with the full article here.

Was their study a failure or did it provide interesting results?

I’d argue that these non-significant results were very helpful in directing future researchers to various study designs when it comes to studying families and child injury prevention. Their study informed pediatricians and crafted the advice doctors gave their worried parental patients.

One can argue, quite successfully, that publishing non-significant results (or stories of failure) are extremely valuable in how we view our world and test our own hypotheses.

Failure is the new trend in business

“I’m still shocked at being considered an authority on robotics when I’m known for making robots that don’t work.” – Simone Giertz

Fail stories are finally being seen as something of worth in the business world and entrepreneurs are embracing their failures with open arms. Failory.com provides written interviews with start-up founders to dig into the reasons why their ideas failed. Entrepreneurs are sharing their F**kup stories on vlogs with Stefanie Koch on We Fucked Up, and the videos are entertaining to watch and reassuring to see.

Because learning what not to do is as valuable as learning what to do in business, young entrepreneurs are gobbling up failure stories for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Take a look at all of the books related to failure: The 10 Commandments for Business FailureSecret to Startup Failure: Fail fast. Fail cheap. Fail happy.How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.

On Alie Ward’s Gizmology podcast, she chats with Simone Giertz from Shitty Robots (a super entertaining YouTube channel, by the way), about how her robot fail videos made her famous. Simone admits, “I’m still shocked at being considered an authority on robotics when I’m known for making robots that don’t work.”

Failure makes you human. Failure makes you relatable.

The Old Guard (looking at you, my lovely gray-haired/bearded experts in your field of choice) have kept their mistakes a secret—always wanting to be perceived as the all-knowing, wise, and knowledgeable specialists. But, when those all-knowing experts are always on the conference call, they stifle their colleagues’ desire to speak up and offer their ideas.

Former Florida State Epidemiologist, Richard Hopkins, is a tall, white-bearded man who would regale me with stories about his bassoon playing vacations in Bozeman, Montana. During a “long table discussion” (you know, those where all of the experts sit at a long table and rabble on at one another) he pulled me close and whispered in my ear, “I’m not going to answer any questions so, you’d better be ready to speak up. You know as much on this topic as I do.”

Other people’s fear of failing in front of an expert actually hinders growth and progress.

Being a young, relatively inexperienced female epidemiologist sitting at the table next to a veritable expert with over 30 years of experience, I took his permission to heart. I was grateful that he explicitly gave my ideas equal validity as his own despite the discrepancy of years of experience in the field.

Later, during one of the coffee breaks, he said, “I’ve found that whenever I offer up my opinions on a topic, it shuts everyone else down and a lot of good ideas go unsaid. We need more new ideas coming to the table, not less.”

In short, other people’s fear of failing in front of an expert actually hinders growth and progress.

This is why we need more experts to share more of their stories of failure with their colleagues and especially with people seeking to enter their field. In doing so, we will all understand that growth cannot happen without failing and that it is only through failure that we can improve.

Share your failures story with someone and you’ll find that sharing your mistakes makes you more human, more relatable, and more empathetic toward others. You’ll gain more admiration and respect in your field of expertise.

Failure shows persistence

Tim Ferriss sent his 4 Hour Workweek book to 25 publishers before someone finally accepted it. Dr. Seuss’s first book was rejected by 27 publishers before it was accepted. Walt Disney filed bankruptcy after starting several businesses and failing at them all. Continuously failing means that you improve the next time and the next until you reach greatness.

So, head out there and fail your heart out. You might just inspire someone.

Are you ready to learn from my mistakes? I share all of my failures with my clients so they can learn what not to do when it comes to self-publishing and crowdfunding their book.

Ibari’s Curls—How Nicholette Thomas Created A Dialogue With Her Readers

Nicholette Thomas wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, Ibari’s Curls, that focuses on creating a dialogue with her young readers. I know this because my kids love “answering” the main character’s questions throughout the book. I’ve never seen anything like that before and we have quite the collection of children’s books in our house.

It turns out that creating that conversation was the main reason why Nicholette decided to self-publish her book. That style of writing is not commonly found in children’s books (but it should be because it is quite effective).

Read more about my conversation with Nicholette and how she plans to educate kids (and their parents) through this type of interactive reading style.

Why did you decide to self-publish your illustrated children’s book?

I always wanted to write a story, and I set a goal to publish a book. I wasn’t sure traditionally publishing was right for me because it takes a long time and I can be really shy. With self-publishing, I felt in control, I didn’t need approval from anyway, and I could accomplish it all by myself.

The illustrations are really unique in your book. What was your process?

I sketched in pencil, did the watercolor, outlined in marker, and then scanned and enhanced them to make them transparent. I wanted a painted background to make the illustrations more unique. I didn’t use any fancy tools—I dropped the scanned file into Word and clicked the tab “Set to transparent,” and that was it. I upgraded my Canva account so that I could control more of the settings, but that was really it.

You really used Word to manipulate your images? That’s crazy. Word is not designed for that at all. I’m impressed.

Yeah, I did! I made it work.

You ran a quick Kickstarter campaign to cover some of the fees of your book. Can you explain what the campaign covered?

I wanted the Kickstarter campaign to cover the costs of the ISBN 10-pack ($395), the Canva upgrade ($12/mth), and then the set-up and printing costs of the book (Ingram Spark $49 and CreateSpace $75).

Next time I self-publish a book, I want someone to take my artwork and make it digital, but for this book, I didn’t hire any editors or cover designers.

How long did it take you to create the book from start to finish?

It took me about a year. I ordered a bunch of copies from Ingram Spark to have on hand, giveaway, and sell on Multicultural Children’s Book Day. (Set your calendars for the next one Jan 25, 2019) 

Ingram Spark ($8/book) ended up being much cheaper than CreateSpace ($13/book) for me to produce since my book was full color and there was no noticeable quality difference that I could find.

What advice would you give an indie children’s book author?

My advice is to hire a cover designer and illustrator if you don’t know how to do it yourself. Also, have kids look at it and make sure that the words make sense to them. I got a lot of great feedback from the kids who read the book and pointed out things that I wouldn’t have thought about. Getting group feedback is really good even if it means you have to change things.

Do a lot of research and keep testing before you publish.

Your book used to have a different title. What made you decide to change it?

During the research phase, I noticed that a lot of children’s books had really unique names. Golden Girl and Her Curls (the original title) just didn’t seem unique enough to stand out. I asked for feedback in a book group, and Ibari’s Curls was overwhelmingly more popular.

Be careful in how you share your work publicly as you might still be working through things and changing things right up until publication.

Has self-publishing your book resulted in any new opportunities for you?

Self-publishing definitely forced me to put myself out there more than I was already doing writing for my blog. A book is a much more visible product of your work, so it’s easy to feel more vulnerable because it is being seen and judged by others.

What’s next for you? Are there any new books in the works?

I’ve started illustrating another book about unique families and want to show different makeups of families. There will be all sorts of families with two dads, two moms, one mom, one dad, etc., and I want kids to know that this is normal.

For any book I create, I want there to be a dialogue with the reader, so they learn as they read while still having fun.

Any last takeaway messages for indie authors?

Make sure publishing a book is something you feel passionate about.

Don’t do it to try to make money, do it because you love it.

Even if you don’t sell one copy, you’ll still feel great when you hold your book in your hands.

Bio

Nicholette Thomas writes at mixedfamilylife.com about her interracial marriage and family life.

Be sure to read her book, Ibari’s Curls, and follow her on Facebook.

Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo vs. Publishizer

When it comes to crowdfunding platforms, you really only have a few options—Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and Publishizer. Of course, there are other, smaller crowdfunding platforms out there, but I do not recommend those for crowdfunding your book.

Full disclosure: I have successfully crowdfunded books on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, so I prefer those platforms over others. I’ll go over the reasons why below.

Regardless of what you decide, you first need to research the types of projects featured on each platform to find the best “home” for your book.

The average book campaign raises around $5K. If you have a larger goal in mind, I suggest you read about how Don Moyer used serial campaigns to successfully fund his creative projects.

Let's Start With The Basics

A key thing to remember: the vast majority of your readers don’t understand the concept of crowdfunding. Plain and simple.

Whenever you launch a crowdfunding campaign for your book, most of your time will be spent educating your Aunt Mary why you are crowdfunding your book and why it’s important that she shares your campaign link.

Without a doubt, she will brush you off thinking that you are begging for money, and you’ll be left feeling frustrated with the entire thing.

So, given that, does the platform you choose matter?

Absolutely.

Crowdfunding companies like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are homes to crowdfunding campaigns that have gone viral—gadgets, gizmos, and a never-ending supply of travel neck pillows.

However, creative projects like performing arts and books have struggled to find the same success as the games and apps have on these platforms.

The average book on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo receives $5k in funding. However, there have been notable exceptions, and I’ve seen books reach over $100k.

Science Wide Open put out a series of science books for girls and leveraged their established audience from their online games to find success on Kickstarter. Their campaign ended with $136,520 (2275%). 

It doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’s rare. Those with wild success have already built their audiences before they launch.

Enter…Publishizer

Publishizer was invented in 2016 with books in mind and I really really wanted them to be the answer and provide an amazing platform for books.

It might because they are still growing as a company, but in browsing their current and past book proposals, I simply cannot recommend them to any of my crowdfunding clients.

Publishizer is kind of like a literary agent who takes 30% after you’ve used their platform to drum up 1,000 pre-orders of your book.

The thing is, if you can successfully garner 1,000 pre-orders for your book, you don’t need the Publishizer platform, and you certainly don’t need to give them 30% of your funds raised.

Why?

Because if you are popular on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, you can use that social proof to get the attention of a traditional publisher. I know because it has happened to one of my clients on IndieGoGo, but they never paid someone 30% for that visibility—only the 8% in IndieGoGo and payment processing fees.

So, why automatically give a platform money for what you can do yourself?

The benefits of a community

Kickstarter has some benefits—there is a vast Kickstarter community of super backers who browse the platform and offer up their support to random projects. Since Kickstarter backers aren’t charged until the project is successful, many backers will support a project in the early stages when things are relatively low-risk for them. It’s been known to happen.

The publishing projects on IndieGoGo tends to be fertile ground for books, and they will often share popular campaigns on their Facebook and Twitter social media accounts resulting in a huge boost in your visibility to new readers.

The main problem I have with Publishizer, and I have a few, is that they will put you in front of the Big 5 publishers if you have 1,000 pre-orders, but their most successful books usually only raise $1,000-$5,000 in funds—the same average as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

Publishizer basically equals higher fees and lower success rates than Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

So, in short, their fees are higher, the projects on the platform tend not to compete as well as those on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, and the community is smaller than the other crowdfunding platforms.

What’s wrong with Publishizer?

My personal opinion is that the Publishizer website isn’t as visually appealing as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.

Publishizer also has a bit of a “Chicken or the egg?” dilemma. Meaning that the authors who are posting on the platform are seeking funding because they don’t have an audience but you can’t successfully crowdfund ANY book without an audience.

While I absolutely love the concept of Publishizer because they are focused on books, they missed a huge part of the equation essential to all crowdfunding campaigns and book campaigns are no different than neck pillows.

You need to offer something someone wants.

Often, the authors on Publishizer aren’t offering books anyone wants and therefore, their campaigns flop. Without a funding do-or-die strategy like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, authors aren’t motivated to push their campaigns to success. 

Wah, wahh, waaaaah.

Authors use Publishizer because they want to get the attention of a publisher—indie, hybrid, or traditional. That means that they aren’t really committed to putting out the book on their own and readers don’t want to back a book that’s unlikely to happen.

Holy horrible cycle of destruction, Batman! 

Consider the perspective of your reader (aka the backer)

Let’s look at it from the reader’s perspective. Am I more likely to pre-order a book from an author who is waiting for a publisher over one who is committed to self-publishing and delivering the book to me according to a specific timeline?

I can tell you right now, readers who are truly interested in the book and want you to be a success are going to want reassurances that you’re going to deliver the book.

The uncertainty factor that is inherent in Publishizer’s approach doesn’t send waves of confidence to the author or the reader. It’s a big shoulder shrug as to the outcome of the campaign.

Homework: After you’re done with this article, head over to all of the platforms and comb through their current book projects, and you tell me which is your favorite.

But wait, there’s more

If you have one (only 1) pre-order on Publishizer, you’ll be put on the list of service publishers—the folks who will gladly take your money to help you “self-publish” without any quality control or guidance.

No, thanks, Publishizer. I don’t want Xlibris to have my email whatsoever as they are notorious for horrible service and hundreds of writers have written reviews warning others about their “services”. The fact that Xlibris is even included on Publishizer’s website indicates that they have not done quality control for their authors.

Uh…if you’re not familiar with Xlibris or Authorhouse, proceed cautiously and read this article.

With Publishizer, your book won’t be seen by traditional publishers (the big guns we all hope for) if you don’t have 500+ pre-orders.

For Knocked Up Abroad Again, me and my contributors worked around the clock for 30 days to generate the equivalent of 302 pre-orders from 277 backers and $10K on Kickstarter.

Had I launched my project on Publishizer instead, I would’ve gotten the attention of 10-15 independent and service publishers (no big guns, sadly), but I would’ve had to fork over the 30% fee to Publishizer which would leave me with less money to self-publish the work myself if a publishing contract fell through.

If I were in your shoes, I’d take my chances and save 22% of my fees by crowdfunding on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

You bring the audience to the platform

Remember, authors have to bring their readers to the crowdfunding platform, so it really doesn’t matter which platform you direct them to as long as it contains enticing information, is visually appealing, and will get done what you want to accomplish.

In my opinion, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo will give you a better chance at success over Publishizer.

Now, should you choose Kickstarter or IndieGoGo? That’s another question for another day.

If you’ve created or backed a project on Publishizer and have a different experience, please let me know. I’m open and receptive to other people’s opinions.

Kickstarter Creator and Self-Published Children’s Book Author: Erin Nelsen Parekh

Erin and I first connected when we were both live with our Kickstarter campaigns. (You can see hers here.) Activities during a crowdfunding campaign involve reaching out to strangers and supporting one another on the platform, and I absolutely loved what Erin was doing with Behowl the Moon.

UPDATE: Erin has launched another Kickstarter campaign for her second book, The Wild Waves Whist that is live now until May 19, 2018 so be sure to back it!

Check out her Kickstarter campaign here.

I mean, how many Shakespeare board books for babies are out there?

What I loved about what she was doing was that it wasn’t really for the babies. I mean, it was a book for babies, but the book was just as much designed for the parent reader. Believe me, no baby is going to appreciate that artwork like an adult.

As Erin is a Kickstarter creator of a children’s illustrated board book and a self-published author; this interview covered a lot of topics.

You have experience with traditional publishers so why did you go the self-publishing route?

I thought I had a fairly strong idea, but there was no reason I could think of that a traditional publisher would want me to do that idea.

This was something I wanted for myself, and I knew other people like me would want for themselves, but I didn’t know if it was a big enough market segment for a traditional publisher to take a risk on it.

Board books are expensive [to produce] and almost nobody debuts with a board book.

For me, I would pay $25 for a board book instead of $3 for something I really wanted, and I knew that if other people were willing to do the same, then we could do it ourselves.

| Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. | 

I have an extensive background in traditional publishing and I’ve done a lot on the editorial side. I knew how it was done distribution-wise and the technical details regarding the printing, so I wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of doing it myself.

Self-publishing meant that I got to pick everything—the illustrator, the title, the content. I wanted to have creative control for my project.

Self-publishing was a really empowering option.

Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?

Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. If I hadn’t done the crowdfunding, I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to push it so far.

We had 384 backers for the project so we weren’t trying to please the entirety of the world. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I know my audience is extremely sophisticated and has high standards for quality and production.

My illustrator was fabulous. And I also worked with a very talented professional book designer. I understand the need for getting the technical details right, but I don’t know how to make the book spine a certain width or how to reverse a template—she does.

Someone who is creative but not experienced in this industry wouldn’t know how to make my vision come to life like she did.

No one really wants to compromise on their project except in areas where you don’t know any better.

I really liked Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing approach because I wouldn’t be able to produce the book with only $5K. We truly needed to reach 100% funding to put this book together.

How much work did you do before the campaign?

Before the campaign, I did a ton of research on where to find potential backers.

I tried to think of every possible audience who might be interested in this book and how I was going to talk with them (Marketing 101, right?).

Then, I started finding where Shakespeare people were, parents, board book people, theatre people, kids who are into theatre, and then all of the blogs, websites, friends, etc. and made massive lists of every possible angle.

During the Kickstarter campaign itself, I tried reaching out to multiple groups each day so I wasn’t exhausting one interest demographic, but I was connecting with new people every day.

Did you do it yourself or did you have a team of people helping you?

I had a few wonderful friends and relatives who were interested in the project who helped me out sharing and looking for places to share.

Shakespeare Geek, who has been blogging since the dawn of blogs, picked up my campaign from Reddit, and he was my first stranger cheerleader.

It’s so incredibly compelling when someone else in the void of the internet likes your idea and has the authority of a background in your topic.

Neil Gaiman tweeted about the book and then did it again as the campaign was closing. I really admire him as an artist, and it was extremely exciting to see that momentum build.

At the same time, I was like, “Yeah, I need 100 more backers or all of this is for naught.”

You reached 100% with a few days to go in your campaign. Were you sweating it out?

Toward the end of the Kickstarter campaign, I’m thinking, “I have already said everything I can think of to say to everyone I can think of who might be interested. I have run out of ideas. What’s going to happen here?”

You get hung up at 92% for a few days, and it’s stressful.

How did you set your different reward tiers?

Crowdfunding campaigns are incredibly short, and there are only so many people who are going to back you at the higher reward levels in the short amount of time you have. It’s simply the nature of crowdfunding. You’re only going to reach so many people at those upper levels in the time you have.

People who really love you or your project may support you at the higher levels, but it has to be viable with a reasonable number of supporters at not too high a contribution point.

What’s your advice for authors with illustrations?

If you’re selling a print to go along with your book, you’re selling either a souvenir of the campaign, in which case they have to really like the campaign; or a physical piece of artwork, in which case they have to really love that piece of art; or a way for them to support your campaign, in which the actual piece of artwork doesn’t matter at all.

It’s hard to know what motivates people to choose a print, so you have to cover all those possibilities when you’re making your decisions about production and shipping.

Some people will want to buy the print, and some people will want to support the campaign at a higher level.

| Too many options weaken your entire campaign. | 

Kickstarter always gives you the option to donate to the campaign without any rewards. But too many reward options weaken your entire campaign. For me personally, I like the stuff, so I designed my rewards based on stuff that I like.

The artwork is beautiful and calls to mind a fairly beloved play, and the artwork was one of the main items I was trying to fund, so postcards and prints turned out to be the most practical and transportable with the highest added value.

The success of the campaign filled me with all of this gratitude, and I wanted to send everyone everything related to the campaign. But you also have to keep an eye on costs, and postage is one that will add up fast.

I had one quarter of the artwork paid on spec (by me) for the campaign, and we did the rest of the artwork as soon as it funded. I was seven months pregnant, so I needed to get that book off to press!

We finished in November 2016 and went to press December 12, 2016. My daughter was born two days later. I was approving final carton markings in the hospital! But then I had a couple of months where the book didn’t really need anything from me.

What’s next? Can readers expect another Behowl the Moon anytime soon?

Yes! I just sent out a survey to my backers to see if they would be interested in a second one, and the response was so positive and gratifying.

I have a new project percolating along now. I’m hoping to announce some details soon, and if anyone is interested they can find out about it from my mailing list: http://drivelanddrool.com/contact.

What would you say to someone who wants to farm out their publishing or crowdfunding campaign to someone else?

The misery of rewriting is the author’s alone, and I think that applies to crowdfunding too. If you try to outsource it, it’ll end up “okay” and okay isn’t good enough.

You have to own the entire process, and if you want the victory, you have to go through the slog.

Not that the slog guarantees victory…

But I love seeing the content that is out here that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for crowdfunding. It really does democratize so much.

Bio

Erin Nelsen Parekh is an editor, writer, and copywriter with experience in book and magazine publishing, both business to business and consumer-facing. She has always loved kids and kids’ books, and now that she is a parent herself, she finds it particularly fun to explore children’s literature with a tiny critic in her lap.

You can find out more about Erin at drivelanddrool.com

 
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