10 Reasons Not to Crowdfund Your Book

I’m a crowdfunding consultant for authors so why one earth would I discourage someone from crowdfunding their book?

Well, crowdfunding on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo is NOT right for everyone. I make that clear in just about every video, blog, and interview I create.

Here’s a list of 10 reasons why you should NOT CROWDFUND your book.

If after reading this, you’re still like, “Nah, I could do it…” then by all means, proceed.

#1 It's a ton of work

I’m not sure who is crowdfunding thousands of dollars without doing months of preparation beforehand, but it certainly isn’t many people I know personally. 

Garnering a lot of attention and then converting that attention into pledges takes a ton of effort. Don’t underestimate how much work is involved in a 30-day campaign. You’re looking at 60-120 days of work from the beginning concept to fulfilling the rewards.

#2 Everyone is watching

People can see exactly how many pledges you get every day of your campaign. If you don’t like that kind of transparency or to have your marketing actions under a microscope like that, then crowdfunding might not be right for you.

#3 It's harder than ever to get noticed

Social media is noisy and now crowdfunding platforms are getting “crowded” with more and more commercial products. 

In order to stand out from the pack, you need to develop your audience, educate them, and deliver what they want day after day.

#4 Ads don't really work

For whatever reason, Facebook ads don’t convert for Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns for books. They just don’t. Readers want books NOW and they want to start reading right away. It takes a special stranger who is willing click on an unknown link and then give a stranger money for their book.

#5 PR experts don't want your money

Most authors are launching campaigns between $5k-$10k. It’s not worth a marketing expert’s time and effort to take 15% of that total amount to help you. They are more interested in the >$500k-$1M campaigns.

I’ve been turned down three times by PR experts because my Kickstarter goal amount wasn’t high enough to get their attention.

#6 Readers don't usually browse crowdfunding sites to find new books

I’m doing my best to change this with my Top 10 lists every week, but it’s no secret that Kickstarter is still dominated by the gaming sector.

I try to get readers in the habit of scouting Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to support indie authors and illustrators, but it’s going to take time before people start to realize that there are great books on these platforms.

Kickstarter authors have to bring readers to the platform which means that it doesn’t really matter where (Kickstarter or IndieGoGo) you launch because leveraging traffic on the platform is unlikely unless you’re in STEM.

#7 Crowdfunding is stressful

Writing articles, press releases, getting reader reviews, and doing podcast interviews are all things you’ll need to do for your traditional book launch anyway, but you can do it with a fraction of the stress involved with crowdfunding.

#8 Without early traction, you're somewhat dead in the water

Unlike traditional marketing efforts where it doesn’t matter when the sales come in, so long as they come in by the deadline, crowdfunding is the exact opposite.

You need a BIG launch day and then a pretty large Days 2-4 in order to make it to your goal at the end of 30 days. If your readers don’t know that (i.e., you didn’t educate them or they never read your emails) and you don’t keep the pressure on, you’re more likely to fail.

I’ve seen people pull it off in the end but not without serious hustle and stress.

#9 People think you're begging for money

You have to do a ton of reader education to let them know how much value they are getting for their money.

Readers are not donating to your book, they are getting the book AND MORE in exchange for their pledge. 

#10 Public failure is never fun

Failing can occur in many ways—setting too high of a goal, pricing rewards incorrectly, running a successful campaign but not delivering in time, running a successful campaign but underestimating shipping costs, and even more scenarios (you get the idea).

Nobody likes to fail and nobody likes to fail in front of people but that often happens with around 70% of all crowdfunding campaigns. Ouch! 

How are you feeling?

Do you still want to crowdfund your book?

If you’re still interested in crowdfunding your book then you have a rare opportunity to book a 60-min strategy session with me AND save $150 (50%) only available through my Kickstarter campaign: https://bit.ly/clockstrikeshalloween

Offer expires on Friday, April 19th so don’t wait to pledge.

Top 10 List of Books on Crowdfunding Platforms—April 12, 2019

In an effort to bring more book lovers and readers to platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo on a regular basis, here is my list of Top 10 campaigns for this week (in no particular order).

Be sure to visit them TODAY as these campaigns are time-sensitive and might be done if you wait too long.

There are so many awesome, innovative, and exciting books available only on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that deserve extra eyes and will help improve the diversity we see in literature.

Supporting authors on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo helps these books come to life in ways they can’t via traditional publishing.

Behind-the-scenes of my first children’s book’s Kickstarter campaign

Updated April 18, 2019

1
Number of backers

April 18 Goal: Get up to 120 backers total

April 17 Goal: Reach 100 backers—SMASHED IT. Reached 111.

April 16 Goal: Reach 50% funded—made it to 59%! 

Facebook Ad Strategy

Disclaimer: I’m not good at Facebook ads even though I took a course and have been experimenting for a while.

Facebook usually gobbles up my money without any click throughs so I wasn’t going to run any ads.

I decided to boost my “We’re live on Kickstarter!” post because it had 19 organic shares, a bunch of comments and hearts on it from launch day.

I boosted it for the equivalent of $10 for one day and ended up with a bunch of clicks coming to $0.50/click.

Nice. The average cost per click in the US is $1.01 according to Google, so this ad is performing well. 

Let’s keep it going.

I just increased the budget to 300 kr ($35) and will monitor it to see if the costs are still around $0.53/click.

If I start hemorrhaging, I’ll pause the ad and try something else.

What Launch Day Looked Like

I sent my two kids off with my husband to his office because I knew I needed to focus without interruptions.

So, off they went with their headphones and iPads to draw on whiteboards at the headquarters. 

Launch Day Timeline

8:15 am—I pressed the Prepare to Launch button on Kickstarter and followed their directions (eek!)

—Created Kickstarter referral tags so I could track traffic from different sources. I labeled them Facebook, Instagram, Email, Homepage, etc., 
—Changed my homepage to a landing page design to send people to my campaign.

All digital roads on websites that I own lead to my Kickstarter page.

—Changed my sign-up landing page to redirect folks to my campaign. I don’t want people signing up for my newsletter, I want them heading to my Kickstarter campaign. 

—Updated my blog sidebar widget

–Posted an update to LinkedIn

—Scheduled my book-specific newsletter to go out at 11:30 am CET/5:30 am ET

9:17 am—received first spam email offering promotional support

9:50 am—Updated my Instagram profile picture, link, post, and stories

—Added “offers” to my Facebook Shop on my professional pages

10:19 am—Sent out newsletter to 181 people (not specific to the book but to crowdfunding)

—Updated my email signature to just send people to my campaign

10:30 am—started emailing friend and family. Most are on the east coast of the US, so they were still asleep, so I focused on my EU-based friends first.

11:09 am—Received second spam promotional email offering “help” with my Kickstarter campaign

—Boosted “We are live” posts on Facebook for $5-$10/day for one day on both of my professional pages

11:55 am—received third promotional spam email promising exposure

12:00-13:30—took a lunch break, screen break, read a book and sat in the sunshine

13:30—got back emailing friends, family, and fellow authors

15:00-15:30—took a break, answered the front door, puttered around a bit

16:00—started emailing and messaging people again and scheduled an automated newsletter to go out at 21:00 for everyone who hasn’t opened my first newsletter

18:46—Kickstarter emailed me notification that the project was selected as a Project We Love!  

19:00—ate dinner with my family (I remember those people)

19:30—20:30—client call with an author

21:00—received another spam promotional email

22:00—finalized my Launch Day Heroes visual to share on social media

Phew. Good night!

Strategy

Setting my goal

There are two different goal-setting strategies that I see on Kickstarter:

  1. Setting an artificially low goal and work hard to exceed it
  2. Setting the goal amount you need even if it means you might not reach it

There are different reasons and methods behind each strategy, but I’m going with strategy #1.

My goal for this campaign is to grow my audience, so I want to price my reward tiers with maximum “no-brainer” appeal. I’d rather have 350 backers than $5k, so that’s why I’ve priced my main reward at $15 including shipping.

This might come back to haunt me later, with a smaller margin for error, but we’ll see.

Emailing friends and family

I’ve been emailing personal emails directly to my close contacts so they understand how critical their support is on launch day.

I really don’t like emailing promotional emails to my friends and family, so I led with the story of the book—why I’m publishing it and why I’m excited to share it with others.

My emails don’t feel spammy or pushy to me (I asked my friends to check my language), and I feel good sharing them.

Emailing superbackers

I tried to hire someone to help me reach superbackers on Kickstarter and he TURNED ME DOWN saying that my goal was too low to draw much attention. 

First of all, I appreciate him not just taking my money if he thinks I won’t be successful, so kudos to him, but this is not the first time I’ve been turned down by PR folks for one reason or another.

Hence, why I offer consulting services to indie authors. NOBODY ELSE WANTS TO WORK WITH US. Frustrating beyond belief.

Homepage takeover

I created a new homepage that will go live when I launch that will drive any traffic landing on lisaferland.com to head to the Kickstarter campaign instead.

Doing this required a bit of time and technical knowledge, so I got this all set up 10 days before launch.

Kickstarter Campaign Page

The campaign page was completely finished about 15 days before launch.

I worked on it over the course of several weeks, commissioned graphics by my illustrator, and researched reward tiers by other campaigns.

The campaign video took one day to create (it’s 1:26 long) and I used Camtasia as my video editor.

Someone commented saying I needed to add more “personality” into my video (apparently, my voice was too chill), so I edited it a bit and added in some personal aspects about my kids reading the book into the middle of the video. 

I kept the length the same because short and sweet works for me.

I received feedback and input on the content, rewards, and goal amount two weeks before launch.

Blogs

Podcasts

I’ve given two interviews on podcasts that will go live during my campaign.

Links will be published here when they go live.

External Press

Advanced Reader Copies

I printed off advanced reader copies via KDP Print so that bloggers and teachers could have books in hand to review, photograph, and read to their kids.

I sent off five copies to teachers (three responded with quotes and images), and six copies to bloggers for book reviews and giveaways on their websites during the campaign.

I also sent everyone on my newsletter list a PDF copy of the book. Of the 150 people on my newsletter list, 47 people opened that email and 38 people downloaded the PDF.

I used Bookfunnel to deliver the PDF seamlessly and ensured that only my newsletter folks could access it.

Additional Content

In creating the graphics for the campaign, I upgraded my Canva subscription to Canva for Work so I could easily resize images, use color palettes, and have access to Premium stock photos. This alone saved me a ton of time.

I batched my efforts and created 15 promotional gifs/videos during Ripl’s free trial for 5 days. I don’t need Ripl’s services beyond this campaign, so I canceled after the free trial.

Ten days before launch, I updated my Facebook personal cover photo and profile image with links to the campaign as a sneak peek and started including more book-based promotional images in my IG and FB stories.

Website Modifications

In addition to creating a new temporary homepage featuring the book, I changed up my footer and blog sidebar widgets to feature  hyperlinked images that would direct people to the campaign and to rewards specifically for authors.

Basically, all roads lead to my campaign. 

Screenshot of lisaferland.com's current landing page

to be continued...check back for updates

If you want to visit the campaign and see how it’s going, click the button below: 

Lessons Learned from Launching 5 Kickstarter Campaigns

Joseph Becker has raised over $75k on Kickstarter over the course of his five campaigns for the books in his Annabelle and Aiden series.

Joseph was kind enough to answer some questions and provide some insights to how he was able to use Kickstarter as a marketing tool for his books.

You’ve launched 5 different campaigns on Kickstarter for your books and it’s clear that your audience has grown with each success. Why do you enjoy launching on Kickstarter versus a more traditional book launch on Amazon or your website?

 
Kickstarter is a wonderful platform because it draws a large crowd who apparently browse Kickstarter for projects to fund. A surprisingly large amount of funds always come from this cold audience.
 
Also, I think of Kickstarter as free advertising: it costs nothing upfront, so there’s really no risk involved. And every pledge you get is another free signup on your email list.
 
This is a great way to gain a following and a community behind your books. It’s the ultimate marketing tool.

For each campaign, your funding goal was very low compared to how much money you raised. What do you think contributed the most to get people to back the campaign vs. waiting for the official publication of the book? 

The first thing that comes to mind is getting large (and I mean huge) Facebook pages (with hundreds of thousands or millions of ‘likes’) that align with the “mission” of your books (whether celebrating diversity, environmentalism, or childhood development) to share your campaign.
 
That is the number one thing. 
 

How much audience education do you typically do before you launch?

That’s a tough one. Now, I just post 2 to 4 “Kickstarter coming soon” posts weeks before to whet everyone’s appetites. There used to be a tool called Thunderclap that was the best tool to build excitement for an upcoming Kickstarter campaign, but they were shut down by the social media giants.
 

Do you find it gets easier with each campaign or do you face new challenges each time?

Both. It gets easier to raise money but at the same time your standards and expectations and goals get higher, so they are harder and harder to reach.

I’ve done 5 campaigns. For the first four, every single one raised $7,000 more than the last. However, the 5th one raised $3,000 less than the fourth. That was a bit tough for me, even though it still raised $17,000: a number I would have been ecstatic about just 2 years earlier.  

 

How did you meet your illustrator?

Through searching with Google. We’ve done 5 books together, all through email. I still have never spoken with her, which amazes people. She lives in Italy.  
 

What advice would you give an author who is in the middle of their campaign and still hasn’t funded?

I’d give them pointers and encouragement, and let them know the Kickstarter algorithm does kick in at the end for a strong finish. 
 

Will you continue to launch new books via Kickstarter?

Probably. 

What are you currently working on?

I have a few book ideas, and have started one or two, but I am really going to try to turn my business model over from print-on-demand to printing through China and selling through Amazon Advantage. That will take time and lots of money, but that’s my next step.

I may take a break from creating new books for a year or so, and try to up my game in selling the five titles I already have. 

 

Anything else? 

Folks could learn more at www.AnnabelleAndAiden.com

Be sure to check out all five campaigns below to see how he priced his rewards and structured his campaigns.

Bio

Joseph Becker holds a B.A. in Philosophy and a Juris Doctorate from Emory University School of Law. When he’s not practicing entertainment law, playing drums, or enjoying the great outdoors, Joseph enjoys all the science and philosophy books and podcasts he can, pondering the bigger questions and dreaming up ideas for future children stories.

Visit his website at annabelleandaiden.com.

Top 10 List of Books on Crowdfunding Platforms—March 29, 2019

What Actually Motivates Someone to Support a Crowdfunding Campaign?

We can’t create effect marketing messages for our Kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns if we don’t first understand what motivates people to support crowdfunding campaigns in the first place.

Now, motivating factors will differ slightly by audience type—what motivates someone to support a game is different than readers of a book—but some things are consistent across the board.

A 2014 study by Baylor University went deep into the weeds of the peer-reviewed literature and conducted a cohort study to assess backers’ motivating factors using self-determination theory and cognitive evaluation theory. They were able to parse out the ever-important WHYs behind backers’ support of crowdfunding campaigns.

What are the motivating factors?

-1- To help others
-2- Be part of a community
-3- Collect rewards
-4- Support a cause


-5- Trust/like the creator

OK, #5 isn’t really a motivating factor but it’s an important element to this puzzle. Let’s keep it in because it is important later on.

The Methods

The authors of the study conducted a survey of users on Symbid—the largest equity crowdfunding firm in The Netherlands—and mapped out investors’ motivations to pledge or invest equity for a given project.

They then approached investors with a rewards-based project to assess their interest in various rewards. 

After both campaigns were presented, they offered the investors a chance to change their pledges/investments once they had all of the information at their disposal.

The Results

The only statistically significant variable that affected someone’s inclination to support a crowdfunding campaign was THE REWARD.

If you create something that people want, they will support you.

Sounds simple, right?

The only non-financial factor that affected whether someone would pledge or not was TRUST/DISTRUST of the creator.

Discussion

Ok, let’s discuss because I’m sure you have questions.

The motivating factors aren’t really that surprising, are they? I mean, being part of a community and supporting a cause are really secondary factors. 

If you create a beautiful book that I WANT to read, I will back your campaign.

If you create something that looks okay but I’m left on the fence, then the secondary factors like community impact and social cause might sway me one way or another.

Trust/distrust as an important influencing factor is one that we can address. New authors who don’t have a track record don’t need to worry, you just need to be transparent.

Using this information in your marketing messages

Now that we have the keys to the kingdom and insights into our backers’ brains, let’s use this information wisely.

Highlight the book itself and the rewards readers will get in all of your marketing messages.

Research what rewards your readers actually want, since this is the most important factor.

Create a book that your readers want to read. Test out the story and illustrations (if you have any) with beta readers. 

Get feedback early on in the process and revise based on what your readers are telling you.

Feature the illustrations and story on your campaign page. Don’t be afraid to show them what they will be getting—they need to know. It’s the #1 determining factor if someone will pledge or not. 

Addressing the Trust/Distrust Factor

Here’s where experience really helps—authors who already have books published or have an established track record of crowdfunding campaigns have that built-in trust.

However, new authors can establish this trust in many ways.

Back other campaigns on your crowdfunding platform of choice. This shows people that you give more than you ask for and have experience in the crowdfunding community.

Be transparent with the Risks in the section where you discuss how you will handle things if the unexpected happens. Show backers that you have a plan and will communicate with them about your progress. 

Set a reasonable goal and offer reasonably-priced rewards. Backers know that they are paying a little extra to help fund your project but if you’re asking for $85 for a hardcover book, you need to be sure you’re justifying the costs.

Same thing goes with the goal—set a reasonable goal to cover your costs+a buffer. Don’t ask for $30k if you really need $9k. People can tell and will be turned off.

Get reader reviews of advanced reader copies. Send your story (in any format) to readers and ask for their review. Place these reviews on your campaign page. Backers will trust what other people are saying about your book more than blindly taking your word for it.

Communicate regularly with your backers in the form of updates (don’t be annoying, though). Keep these updates public so that strangers visiting your page can see how you’re interacting with people who are already supporting you.

Anything else?

Sound off in the comment section below if you have other ideas for how authors can establish trust with their readers.

Here’s the link to the full study so you can get nerdy and dive into the statistics:

Does the Possibility to Make Equity Investments in Crowdfunding Projects Crowd Out Reward-Based Investments?  by Magdalena Cholakova and Bart Clarysse

Want to learn more about crowdfunding your book?

Enroll today in my free mini-course delivered straight to your inbox.

Top 10 List of Books on Crowdfunding Platforms—March 22, 2019

#1 The Great Fishing Hole

#2 Inking Science

#3 Maternal Instinct: A Novel

#3 Awake

#4 All Women Horror Anthology: Daughters of Darkness

#5 Tiny Acts of Kindness

#6 My Sister Has Superpowers

#7 Planet Rescue

#8 Science Explaining Why We Dream

#9 Letters from a Big Sister

#10 Skin

Rad Girls Start a Revolution

Sharita Manickam and Jen Bruno want young girls to envision their futures as anything—CEOs, astronauts, artists—absolutely any dream at all. 

The photo book shows real girls modeling future professions and it caught fire on Kickstarter raising over $21k with 616 backers.

Turns out, stoking the fires of a revolution is popular business.

Sharita was kind enough to share some insights and experiences of her campaign.

With 139 backers on launch day, you must’ve done a ton of behind the scenes work to prepare everyone for your campaign’s launch. 

What types of “behind-the-scenes” work did you do that contributed most to that huge first day?

Before launching, we held a Thunderclap campaign (Thunderclap is a service that has since been discontinued).

Basically, it was a way of getting your early supporters (family, friends, social media contacts) to sign up to help spread the word about your Kickstarter launch.

We asked our contacts to support us by signing up by linking their social media accounts to our Thunderclap campaign. Then on the day of our KS launch, Thunderclap posted a one time, free message to all of those supporter’s social media feeds telling their friends/followers about our launch! Thunderclap was likened to a “social media flash mob”.  

In the weeks leading up to the launch, we made social media posts and graphics explaining how Kickstarter worked as we learned many of our friends and family members were unfamiliar with crowdfunding and pre-orders. 

We also sent out a market survey and received 700 responses and about 200 people signed up for our newsletter.

We also had some early bird specials for the first 48 hours that we promoted heavily. We sent out an email blast the morning of our launch to friends and family.

“It’s a lot of work, relationship building, and strategy, but one of the main things we would like to express is that you can’t be afraid to sell yourself and ask for help.”—Sharita Manickam

How long did you engage your audience and potential backers before launching? 

We began our social media campaign about a month before we “intended” to launch, but ended up having to push back about a month.

We used social media to increase enthusiasm about empowerment, count down to our impending launch, and collaborate with other accounts with like-minded missions.

How large was your audience before you launched?

We had about 900 followers on each platform, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and about 700 email addresses (500 friends and family and 200 survey respondents) collected.

The ever-changing, always elusive social media algorithms of FB and IG make marketing a product so much more difficult than ever before.

Since we didn’t have the budget to pay to boost our posts, we created “boost groups” of our biggest supporters and each time we posted something on FB and IG, we send a link to our “boost group” so they can go like or comment that post. It increased our exposure quite a bit.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign? 

We were blown away by the immediate support—the link sharing, the enthusiastic posting, etc. We didn’t expect that to happen right away, and then when we were selected as a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter within a few hours of launch, we were really surprised.

We’d been advised by several Kickstarter veterans that sales were likely to stall once we hit our goal, so that didn’t come as a huge shock, but had we not been prepared for it by others, I think that would have been a really difficult pill to swallow.

Your video is brilliant. Where did you find all of your sweet young models to participate? Did you do the video yourself or hire an expert?

Thank you! Since the photo illustrator, Jen and I have young children, we were lucky to have a fairly large pool of children to reach out to who are friends of our kids.

We ended up with 72 models in total and found many through word of mouth. Our video model is a friend of my daughter and her older sister did the voice over. Jen’s son is also in the video, as is another book model and her mom and brother.

Our video was filmed with an iPhone and I put it together using apps.

How was your experience with IndieGoGo InDemand after your Kickstarter ended?

We just haven’t had time to build our own website yet so IndieGoGo InDemand seemed like a good way to continue taking pre-orders.

We currently just have URLs (www.radgirlbook.com and www.radgirlrevolution.com) redirect to our Amazon page, and previously they directed to Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and BackerKit. 

I don’t think we received much new exposure from IndieGoGo, but we ended up raising about $2500 through inDemand from people who either missed our Kickstarter or were just learning about the book through social media.

With so many backers, has fulfillment been an issue? What solution would you recommend for authors who find themselves overwhelmed with logistics? Did you go with BackerKit?

 Our shipment of books from China was held up for weeks at the Port of New York, so we were about a month behind schedule on fulfillment. Once we received the books, we sent them all out within days.

We did use BackerKit.

It took a lot of time to setup but in the long run it simplified our fulfillment. 

I hesitated about the cost at first, but it more than paid for itself from add-on items our backers purchased through Backerkit. I would recommend Backerkit, especially for those with more than a few hundred backers.

Also a label printer is a must for quick shipping!

What advice would you give a fellow author who is looking to crowdfund their book?

Sales don’t happen automatically.

Kickstarter doesn’t sell anything for you.

It’s a lot of work, relationship building, and strategy, but one of the main things we would like to express is that you can’t be afraid to sell yourself and ask for help.

We reached out to many other successful Kickstarter brands along the way to gather advice and to partner and cross promote.

We also asked our friends and family to help be an extension of our sales team by using their social media and word of mouth channels to spread the word.

We couldn’t have done this alone, and we advise anyone considering a crowdfunding campaign to rally their troops before they launch.

What are you working on at the moment and do you have plans for more books?


At the moment we are working on driving traffic to our Amazon listing through influencer marketing and ads.

We keep a running list of occupations for a sequel and have ideas for other books, but at the moment we are just focusing on this one!

Bio

Sharita Manickam grew up in Maryland. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she moved to New York City, where she worked in marketing until her first daughter was born. During the next couple of years, Sharita discovered a passion for writing and co-wrote a television drama script for a major network. Her love of writing, coupled with her love of reading to her daughters, sparked the idea for a children’s book. Sharita lives in Forest Hills, NY, with her husband, Maurice and their two RAD girls. RAD Girl Revolution is her first book.

Jennifer Elliott Bruno grew up and attended college in Kansas before relocating to Tallahassee, FL to pursue a career in property management. She met her husband, George, in Tallahassee, and the couple moved to New York City where they soon became parents to a little boy named Henry. Shortly after his birth, Jennifer pursued her passion by opening a photography business. She currently resides with her family and miniature dachshund in Forest Hills.

Join the revolution!

Be sure to read and review Rad Girl Revolution on amazon.

Bonus resources from Sharita and Jen—feel free to model your graphics after theirs

The Adventures of Lily Huckleberry Raises Nearly $40K on Kickstarter

It’s not every day that a children’s book raises nearly $40k on Kickstarter, but that’s exactly what Audrey Smit and Jackie Knapp did with their first book, The Adventures of Lily Huckleberry in Scandinavia.

As we all know, or should by now, fundraising is a full-time effort and the end result of months or years of audience building and engagement.

I spoke with Audrey about all of the preparation and work she and Jackie did to garner such stunning success.

Note: Whenever somebody makes something look easy and effortless, understand that a TON of effort and work went into it on the front end even if you can’t see it. There are no shortcuts to success.

Let’s go under the hood of their Kickstarter campaign and find out what worked and what didn’t.

You raised ~50% in the first 24 hours—can you describe a bit of the pre-launch work you did to make that happen? We all know it’s not easy to generate that much energy on launch day.

Yes, the first days are everything!

Before the launch we reached out to influencers that we thought would be interested in the concept of Lily Huckleberry – travel influencers, book influencers etc.

I contacted people I already had a connection with (that’s always the easiest) but also reached out to tons I didn’t know at all that I thought would be interested in our idea.

We got maybe 7% positive responses back when we reached out. It was a lot of work but every person we could find to help spread the work made a difference.

You have to be shameless, talk about what you are doing with pride + passion— it’s contagious. And keep knocking on doors, you’ll get a LOT of no’s but keep reaching out to new people.

Another thing did as we launched: Jackie (my co-author) and I had made a bet with my husband (which we included at the end of our Kickstarter video) that if we funded under one week, he would have to let his Viking beard grow to be a foot long so we could braid it for the book release party.

For some reason that got a lot of people fired up to pledge early, haha! I guess lots of people (including many of our friends) wanted to see him do something a little ridiculous. I think it really helped people connect with our campaign from the beginning in a genuine way.

It’s all about thinking outside of the box. In the end you never know what is going to stick so you have to try a lot of different approaches.

“In the end, you never know what’s going to stick so you have to try a lot of different approaches.”                – Audrey Smit

It looks like you have a very large audience already established from your design business. What types of outreach would you recommend to authors who may not have a large audience already established?

Yes, a bigger pre-established audience definitely helped,  but you can definitely make it with a smaller audience.

Use what you’ve got and again, think creatively!

Start with friends and family, of course, but don’t stop there.

Promote to whatever audience you have on social media and try to reach out to the press ahead of time about your project/idea.

Very often local newspapers are happy to run an article/interview about you and or your book—you will just have to do a little research on how to best approach them and how you can make them look good with your amazing story.

Other ideas:

    • set up a booth at local events during your Kickstarter
    • team up for giveaways with other influencers on social media to increase your reach,
    • and if you have a little bit of marketing money to play with, consider things like Facebook/Pinterest ads.

What would you say surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?

It takes SO MUCH time and energy! Ha!

Setting up the campaign is only the tip of the iceberg, you have to put a lot of effort into promoting it along the way, getting back to people, etc.

BUT it is so amazing to see people gather around your idea and put their weight behind it, and the work is completely worth it. It’s truly amazing.

Are you planning additional campaigns for future books in the series?

Absolutely!

We are in the process of writing our second Lily Huckleberry book and we’ll be doing a Kickstarter campaign for it.

Having the ability to raise money for editing, printing, marketing is game changing.

We would not be able to self-publish without Kickstarter. 

I also find that Kickstarter campaigns to be an incredible marketing tool —people love getting behind ideas they love and it helps build a community around your book. 

What unexpected opportunities have resulted from running your Kickstarter campaign? 

We were stunned that we raised well over our initial goal—nearly $40K!

That allowed us to invest more in the book, to make a stunning products that people are raving about. That also allowed us to invest in marketing a little more, have a book trailer made etc.

Also unexpected: my husband was quite stunned he lost his bet with Jackie and me.

Being a sales manager in the corporate world, he couldn’t believe he had to let his beard grow for months on end.

Quite a few of his clients asked him about it, and he had to boast about his wife beating her funding goal on Kickstarter. 

Anything else you’d like to mention? Future book plans?

Well, as I mentioned, our second Lily Huckleberry book will be coming out later this year!

After wandering in Scandinavia with her Viking friends, Lily will be going somewhere in Asia to solve another big mystery…but I can’t tell which country yet, it’s still a secret.

We LOVE self-publishing—it is so much work, but also gives us  so much creative + business control.

We are really excited to do another Kickstarter campaign and see if can turn our dream of a series into reality! Our goal is to release one new Lily Huckleberry book every year, and have her travel to all the continents so our readers can dream far and wide with our brave Lily.

Bio

Audrey Smit is the founder of This Little Street, a design company whose colorful and happy aesthetic has built a following of nearly 20K. She has worked as a pattern designer since 2015, recently launching several successful product lines of her own. 

Originally from France, Audrey lives in Berkeley, CA with her Danish husband and their four adventurous little girls, who are constant sources of inspiration for her work. 

Follow her on Instagram: @thislittlestreet  

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

Click here to check out her Kickstarter campaign for The Adventures of Lily Huckleberry in Scandinavia

Book Pre-launch Audience Education: Why it’s so Important

Before you publish your first book or launch your book’s Kickstarter campaign, you first need to warm-up your audience.

Marketing experts talk about audience warmth and how warmer audiences have much higher rates of conversion (meaning, they see your post or ad and buy your book right away).

How important is it to warm up your audience?

Cold traffic usually sees 2% conversion rate vs. warm/hot audiences with 65%-75% conversion rates. 

Ooh, la la! How can we get more of that hot traffic? 

I don’t know about you, but if I’m spending money on Facebook ads, I want the best conversion rates possible.

Many authors haven’t a clue as to how to build OR warm up their audience. Fortunately, conducting audience education will do both.

Don’t underestimate the amount of effort required to build an audience

It’s easy to underestimate how much work is required in building an audience. We often see successful authors launching their next books with ease and a minimal marketing strategy with great success.

Established authors who have published multiple books have built a devoted following of hot or warm audiences.

Their readers are already familiar with their work and are hungry for the next book to come out. As a result, they don’t need to do a fraction of the education that we need to do as first-time authors.

They already did the work and developed trust over time by consistently delivering high-quality books and content.

These authors don’t necessarily need to do a book launch campaign that spans several months with each new release because their audience is already warmed up. 

In this article, I assume that we are all working with zero audience and need to build from scratch. 

Here are some tips for building and warming up your audience before you launch:

Cold traffic: These people have never heard of you or your book(s) before.

 

Direct cold traffic to things of value:

  • a podcast where you discuss the origin story behind your book
  • a blog about the important topics your book addresses
  • an infographic about something interesting about your audience, book, or topic area
  • research findings that support why your book is so important to read
  • a survey asking them questions that are related to your book’s topic
  • a behind-the-scenes look at creating the book

At the bottom of each of these ‘destinations’ invite them to subscribe to your newsletter so you can continue to engage with them in a meaningful way.

Warm traffic: These people know of you and follow you on social media or subscribed to your newsletter.

 

Direct warm traffic to next-level stuff:

  • download a lead magnet: free e-book, excerpt of your book, or a companion PDF
  • informational webinars
  • invite them to in-person events
  • special offers or discounts on your book(s)

Hot traffic: These people have purchased from you in the past.

Direct hot traffic to your books/offers:

  • straight to sales pages like your book’s Amazon link. 
  • Pay-per-click ads on Amazon and Facebook

Keep in mind that only a fraction of your audience will be hot but be sure to segment them from the cold/warm readers so you can send them the right messages.

Learning from Mistakes

I’ve made a TON of mistakes and didn’t realize why my Facebook and Amazon ads weren’t converting well.

The problem was that I was treating cold traffic like hot traffic and was directing people straight to my sales page in my paid ads.

I ended up wasting money on ads that never converted and even worse, I missed opportunities to engage with my audience.

I want to make it clear that I’m still learning and experimenting with all of these techniques. I don’t think that will ever stop.

As you grow and engage with your audience, send them different content and see what resonates

Maybe your audience loves to read blogs, maybe some love to listen to podcasts, maybe they love infographics. Who knows?

Discover what your audience likes, what you like to create, and either strike a compromise or do one or two formats really well.

For example, I really enjoy making videos and I think they allow a lot of my personality to shine through. But, I also know that due to my time zone, my audience doesn’t see my live videos until hours later. 

Because my audience (you all!) love to read, I write blogs and occasionally include videos at the bottom. I also include a link to the related blog in the videos that I post to YouTube. (Subscribe to my YouTube channel here.)

It took me time and some professional help to figure out a marketing strategy for my business. Here’s what I did to improve my conversion rates.

Bring in Some Experts

Overall business strategy help

I had no idea how to strategize the marketing plan for my business, so I invested in small business marketing coaching with Stephanie Ward at Firefly Coaching. We did a deep dive, six-month coaching plan where she met with me 45-minutes/month and gave me a huge to-do list at the end of each session.

Stephanie was great at analyzing my strengths and steering me toward bolstering my weak areas. Our sessions gave me the confidence to step outside of my comfort zone and take bigger risks.

Click here to visit Stephanie’s website to see if she can help you. 

Website optimization

My website was somewhat of a mess and my marketing friend, Amel Derragui, kept giving me tiny pointers here and there. It was clear that I needed to fully hire her services in order to improve the navigability of my website and grow my audience. After making her suggested changes, my website now receives TONS of compliments from visitors and my newsletter list is growing.

Click here to see if Amel can help you optimize your website and grow your audience.

Improving my cold traffic conversions

When it comes to cold traffic, you need to have the right keywords and ad copy in place. I’m currently working with Laurie Wright on my Amazon keywords, book blurbs, author bio, and ad copy.

Click here to see if Laurie can help you.

Improving your business requires investment, constant education, and involving experts when you’re out of your depth. Don’t be afraid to hire experts.

You can still learn everything on your own, but be prepared to spend a lot of time and money while you are experimenting and figuring things out  during the learning process.

Crowdfunding Authors Often Overestimate the Warmth of Their Audience

Don’t make the mistakes I did and send cold traffic directly to your sales pages (i.e., your book’s Kickstarter page).

I see this all of the time with authors who run Kickstarter campaigns.

Crowdfunding authors will often direct people to their campaign page, which has a much lower conversion rate than if they directed them to a blog, video, or infographic, throughout their entire campaign.

Also, most readers are unfamiliar with crowdfunding and don’t know what’s happening or how to proceed.

Instead of asking you, your readers feel overwhelmed and close their browser’s tab without doing anything.

Educate your audience first

You need to educate your readers about your book, send them to blogs, podcasts, and articles to warm them up before you can send them to your Kickstarter sales page.

Once they are there, you need the right copy, graphics, and engaging video to convince them your book is worth backing.

Not sure if your campaign page will convert? I’m happy to review your campaign page before you launch.