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 7 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?
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.
Be sure to check out his campaigns below to see how he priced his rewards and structured his campaigns.
Be sure to check out his current Kickstarter, Oh My Gods!
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.
Lindsay Madsen discovered inspiration and ideas amidst diapers, laundry, and sleepless nights. There’s something about rocking your baby in the wee hours of the night that gets your brain cells tingling.
In Lindsay’s case, she wanted to share hope and support for fellow moms who are in the thick fog of exhaustion that comes with those early baby days.
Why did you decide to use Kickstarter to launch your book, The Lovely Haze of Baby Days?
Launching a Kickstarter made a lot of sense to me. I wanted to show the world I was serious about this book, and the impact I hope to make with it.
Struggling with loneliness and feeling disconnected from your community after having a baby is a real issue for women, and this reality is only getting worse during the current pandemic.
By choosing to Launch a Kickstarter, I was able to centralize all the information about the book and give people an opportunity to preorder the book.
This was important because it let me showcase the important message of support, AND get the funding organized (hopefully!) in a more efficient way to bring the book to life.
The last thing I ‘ll mention is the compressed time frame.
As you’ve said yourself, it’s a really concentrated marketing effort in a short window of time. I’m a mom of four kids 5 years and younger, so time is not something I have an abundance of.
While the intensity of the work was heavy lifting, I could map the time out in my mind of all the things I wanted to do over the weeks leading up and the weeks running the campaign.
As a first time author, I felt it helped bring structure and goals into my launch planning.
What type of preparation did you do before you launched?
The most important preparation I did was creating a website and starting a mailing list. You engage a lot of people during your time preparing the book, the rewards, the marketing, etc.
Having a mailing list was a great asset for communicating important messages to everyone and building excitement for the upcoming campaign.
Time wise – I spent at least 8 weeks from the moment I decided to run the campaign to launch day, but I knew from the start this was part of my plan – so I always had the pieces of it in mind as I researched & prepared.
I guess the preparations fell into a couple of categories:
Pre-launch marketing, and
What has surprised you the most about crowdfunding your book?
A good surprise was how much I loved connecting with people in the audience/community.
I really enjoyed the process of building both my author and my mom network as part of my preparations. It is a logical thing to happen, I am passionately working on a book to support new moms – so of course I would love learning from authors and engaging with the people I hope to help with my book!
Something I struggle with is the unexpected loss of sleep. I am really excited about the project and the Kickstarter, and my best opportunities to work a lot are in the evenings.
IT can be hard to turn my brain off when I finally get to bed. So there is a big emotional/mental attachment to running a Kickstarter, and I wasn’t as prepared for that!
What advice would you give an author who is considering crowdfunding their book?
Marketing: Know your message and articulate it clearly.
General: Share your enthusiasm! People get excited when you are excited.
Practical: Build your audience as big and early as you can! Include an email list.
What advice would you give a parent (of young children) who is also planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign?
First, give yourself more time than you think you need to do things, something child related often pops up and it’s so stressful if you haven’t built in time buffers to accommodate surprise tasks.
Second, be creative with how you get things done. I let me kids look at illustrations and give me feedback, I listen to podcasts when I play on the floor with my babies, I have started sending voice messages while on a walk.
After the campaign, I hope to compartmentalize more , but efficiency is critical right now.
I am trying to share the journey with my family too, so they can be excited for the project wins with me and also be a little more understanding when I need to work more than ever before.
Any final words of advice?
Build your author community as you go along. There are things my family and real world friends don’t understand and can’t provide advice on, while creating a book or running a Kickstarter campaign.
I am so grateful for the author friends and Kickstarter buddies I have met and developed friendships with. We support each other – and that is a really valuable resource while on the author journey.
Lindsay Kellar-Madsen is a writer, business developer, and twin mama with four young children.
Although Canadian, she lives with her family in the Danish countryside where they explore, go on adventures, and thrive in their everyday chaos.
Her first picture book, The Lovely Haze of Baby Days, is currently available for preorder through her Kickstarter Campaign: https://bit.ly/2RsXMdL
Leigha Huggins has worked on her Kickstarter campaign since mid-2019, when she first started to conduct the market research and campaign preparations.
She knew her book about the love and joy children bring into our lives was an important message to share, but she was unsure about how to approach her Kickstarter campaign.
After some help and encouragement, Leigha made the leap and launched her campaign in May only to find herself rocketing to success.
Fully funded in 24 hours, and currently exceeding $10k with a $4k goal, Leigha has discovered the power of sharing a positive message that resonates with readers.
Below are Leigha’s tips on what made her campaign a huge success.
Tip #1: Let people know how to help and what it means to you
I feel like lots of people like to help as long as they know how.
I have tried my best to reach out to my top people and ask them directly to please help me.
I let my early supporters know that I was going live and how important it was for the success of the campaign, and my ultimate goal was to get Kickstarter Project We Love badge.
Here’s the message I sent out to my friends and fmaily:
I’m so excited!!! Love Lottery is now available to order. We would love your support if you are able, and if you would share to help us spread the message of this beautiful book, we would be so grateful! https://bit.ly/lovelotterybook
I sent out this message to every person in my Facebook friends and on my phone (still not done…) And no group texts!!!
People discard group text (and sometimes personal ones too… but I felt like this was the step I wanted to go).
I let everyone know how thankful I was for their support.
I made no mention of stretch goals until I was almost to my first one…
Not even to people who were going to be my early supporters.
I revealed the stretch goals as each one came into view and we zoomed through so many that I had to create additional stretch goals! Not a bad problem to have.
Tip #2: Reach out to everyone you know
Mostly I believe in my book, the purpose, the message, the love it shares.
I have no issue about sharing it… with everyone.
My hairdresser, acupuncturist, (from years ago), my realtor, past neighbors, co-workers…
Pretty much if you have ever been in my life, I’m reaching out to you… ha!
Tip #3: Don’t be in a rush to build your audience
I’m okay with hearing no, and I have been building my audience for a long time…
This whole book process I’ve referred to as the gift of delay.
Every time I would get a setback (and there were lots, I used it to get better, find resources, learn, let people know what I was working on).
I just went with the flow, I didn’t want to rush it!
Building a book from the letters up is like building a foundation for the success of your effort.
Tip #4: Perfection is overrated
I spent so much time flip flopping like a pancake worrying about if I was going to launch or not.
I booked an hour session with Lisa and she gave me the encouragement I needed when I needed it the most.
I showed up first day, without everything figured out…and perfection is overrated anyway…that’s too much pressure.
Tip #5: Overcome discomfort with research and preparation
I had never even heard about crowdfunding until I came across Lisa’s website.
Lisa gave me so many tools, resources, ideas and lastly motivation to push through my discomfort to crowdfund my book on Kickstarter.
To me, crowdfunding is like testing the water before you commit to a large print run.
It means launching in front of a group of people you know, and many you don’t.
I think anytime you have the opportunity to launch something new… having a crowd is the best platform to have.
It gives you extra motivation and drive to have your best foot forward as you introduce your project to a beautiful crowd of people. (only safer because it’s online).
Lisa’s note: Leigha has been an ideal (!!) crowdfunding author in that she is not afraid to try new things and she really gives every effort 110% energy and enthusiasm.
The path to successfully crowdfunding your book is different for everyone and it’s important to try as many things as possible so you find what works for you.
I hope Leigha’s path to success is an inspiration for you all.
While some authors know about Kickstarter and a few have heard of IndieGoGo, there are over 600 crowdfunding platforms for authors to choose to market their books. The options grow every year as more people discover the power of crowdfunding.
I spoke with children’s book author, Cheryl Davies, about her debut picture book The Fairy Who Sings, to get insights on why she decided to crowdfund her book on Crowdfunder instead of Kickstarter.
Crowdfunder is a UK-based crowdfunding site and is popular with UK authors.
Find out if it’s right for you with Cheryl’s interview below.
If you have any experiences with Crowdfunder, please let us know in the comments.
Can you describe a bit about your vision for The Fairy Who Sings and why you decided to run a crowdfunding campaign?
The Fairy Who Sings is my debut book. I wanted to write for as long as I can remember. Working with children and writing for children were my two dream goals growing up and now I have achieved both.
For almost 20 years I worked with children who had witnessed or experienced domestic abuse. Helping those children to overcome the trauma they had experienced was a tough but rewarding job.
I put off my dream of writing for children, always waiting for the right time, I always said I would write my first book whilst on maternity leave but three children later that never happened as I was too preoccupied with my children and rightly so.
So, over the years I wrote personal poetry for friends and family instead with the odd hobby poem thrown in.
Then one day during a meeting with a deputy head in a school where I was supporting a child, we fell into a conversation about writing. I told him that it had been my lifelong dream that lay unfulfilled.
He encouraged me and said that there was no better time than now and that there would never be the right time and to just go for it.
So here we are!
That was around 14 months ago and it feels like a lot longer in many ways.
Editing the rhyme and meter
I hired a wonderful editor, Lor Bingham, who helped me develop my writing from poetry into stories.
The Fairy Who Sings was born. It was originally developed from a poem I wrote entitled Fairy Unique.
After multiple edits with Lor, I was happy with my story but it still needed a little bit of help.
It was important to me that The Fairy Who Sings was an inclusive story that had a strong female protagonist.
I wanted to show how important it is to have self-belief and that courage isn’t about not being scared but about how you overcome fear to achieve your goal.
I was advised that my story still needed a little bit of work on my meter and so worked with a wonderful poetry coach–Tamara Rittershaus—for some poetry coaching to help me learn more about meter.
When I was happy with my manuscript I began working with a fantastic team at Bear with Us Productions who brought my book to life, with the aid of an amazing illustrator Eduardo Paj.
They helped make the self publishing process a dream, which is exactly what I needed for my first book.
A fund-matching opportunity
It was during the illustration stage of my journey, that I decided to run a crowdfunding campaign.
I decided after seeing many people unhappy with the low profit margins from KDP and the quality complaints too that I would like to do a print run, with the aim of taking the book as far and as wide as possible.
I didn’t have the funds to do that and so after seeing many successful authors run crowdfunding campaigns I decided to run my own.
I was originally going to do it through Kickstarter but then one day I saw a campaign called Back Her Business that was offering to support new businesses by match funding their Crowdfunder campaigns, if they were successful in hitting 50% of their target. I thought it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
Can you describe the type of prep work you did before you launched?
What resources were helpful in planning?
I tried to grow my followers on Facebook and Instagram. I set up business pages for both. I started a mailing list that people signed up to through my Facebook page.
I began posting about my book and trying to get people interested in various groups across Facebook as well as trying to bring all my friends and family on board.
I also had bookmarks made with a QR code that linked to my Crowdfunder campaign.
I had to post about my campaign a lot.
I was worried about over posting but it’s just what is necessary. Most people will need to see the Facebook posts many times before they actually act upon it
What types of messages or strategies resonated the most with your audience/backers? Which strategies fell flat?
The more personal the message and post, the more people we’re interested in what I was saying. But I think time and day also played a huge part.
I could put out some posts that no one would like or respond to, then another time, the same post would have a lot of comments and interaction.
What surprised you the most about crowdfunding your book?
My Crowdfunder fell at a bad time as part of the way through it was the Covid-19 outbreak.
I decided to continue but I didn’t like to push things too much as I knew it was a tough time for many people.
Most of my backers were friends and family and only about 10 percent were strangers. Luckily it was enough to get me to my 50% goal to be able to receive my match funding from the campaign.
What advice would you give an author considering crowdfunding their book given that external circumstances are always beyond our control?
The only thing I would have lost if I was unsuccessful would have been my time, but I would have gained experience and learned what worked and what didn’t ready for next time.
Really, I can’t see that there is anything to lose in trying.
Do you think you’ll ever do another crowdfunding campaign again?
I will definitely run another crowdfunding campaign.
I’m not sure when I would do another one, as I’m not sure my friends and family would all back me the same way again, but I’m hoping that through my book The Fairy Who Sings, I will start to gain followers who are interested in reading my next book and may want to back my future campaigns.
A bit more about crowdfunding before we end…
I found Crowdfunder a great platform to use and the team supporting on the other end were absolutely fantastic.
I also had great support through the Natwest – back her business campaign.
At the beginning, they gave lots tips and advice on reaching as many people as possible.
The only downside to using Crowdfunder is that it is predominantly used and known as a way of raising money for charities or for people asking for money without offering rewards for those pledging support.
Therefore, because of that, I believe it may have lost some peoples’ interest straight away as they may not fully understand the reason behind your campaign no matter how many times it is explained.
At the end of the campaign, it was so easy to send my books to backers and to contact everyone as a whole or individually.
I could download a spreadsheet with all the information I needed including the orders and names and addresses of those who ordered books.
So, there was no need to request the information afterwards from backers, which I believe is necessary with Kickstarter.
It made my job of mailing out the rewards really easy as it was all there ready for me in a spreadsheet which I then transferred to word to print out my labels.
Cheryl is from a small town right in the middle of the UK. Cheryl has lived in the same town all her life, which is surrounded by a forest of outstanding natural beauty.
Cheryl finds walks there extremely magical and she feels creatively inspired by it.
Cheryl’s aim is to empower children with her magical adventures of self-discovery. The Fairy Who Sings is Cheryl’s first book in the Finding the Magic Series.
It is fully written in rhyme with hidden magic wands throughout that are waiting to be discovered, for that extra little bit of magic.
Gina Stevens knew it would be difficult to crowdfund her book on Kickstarter during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she had already put in too much effort to ever consider quitting.
After 3 weeks, Gina raised $9700 in 3 weeks from 250 backers and totally crushed her original $6000 goal.
Find out how she did it in our interview below.
What crowdfunding/marketing techniques do you think worked best for you?
9 things worked really well for me:
1—Running a shorter 3-week campaign
As everyone that runs a campaign knows, you have to be “on” 100% of the time that your campaign is running.
I am not a huge fan of social media in the first place but forced myself to be active prior to and while my campaign was running. Running it for 3 weeks was manageable compared to the usual 4-week campaign.
2—Getting the word out ahead of time
I told everyone that I was “illustrating a book” and that was exciting to my peers.
Some even came and visited my studio to see the progress.
I kept a buzz and people were always asking “how is your book coming along?”.
I really didn’t have a launch date until January or February which was just in time for the pandemic to take off.
People were itching for good news and something to make them excited.
It was a tough balance of not ignoring what was happing in the world and really being excited about my work.
3—Facebook was my best platform
I joined many groups that were related to my book “ nature groups, moms, etc.”
Once my campaign launched I went back and personally responded to EVERY SINGLE person that said they were interested in my book with my campaign link.
It ended up in me writing the same style message OVER and OVER but it seemed to really work.
I didn’t feel like I was bothering them if they already expressed interest.
4—Limiting messages to backers
I tried not to message my backers through Kickstarter too much during the campaign. Since they had already pledged, I know people get WAY to many e-mails as is.
They don’t care to see multiple emails about where my campaign is.
I might be excited, but they have their own lives and victories to be celebrating. I tried to be very modest when it came to communicating and not over-communicating.
(Lisa’s interpretation: Basically, try not to annoy your biggest supporters.)
5—Sharing my progress and behind-the-scenes work
I did post all of my progress work on my Facebook page during my campaign.
MOST of my backers were friends from Facebook or friends of friends of groups I was in so it gave me a spot to “dump” all of the creative work.
If people were interested, it was a landing place they could choose to look and not have it thrown in their face in an update e-mail.
As an artist, my favorite part of seeing artwork is the process and seeing how images evolve.
Because of that, I chose to use that as my basis of what I was sharing.
Admittedly, my book was successful not because of the storyline but because of the images.
I made sure to not share any of the “full” spreads on social media until I started posting my “artist updates”.
In way, it wasn’t old news for people.
The only people that saw the spreads were friends and family who lived close and came over to see them personally.
6—Planning all of my posts ahead of time
Planning all of my posts and updates ahead of time.
I did alter and move some things around as things worked better on different days, I stuck pretty close to my initial plans.
I had to keep reminding myself that even it I was excited about wanting to post some more artwork sooner than planned, I had to remind myself of my plan and not get to ahead of myself in overposting.
7—Knowing my expenses
I’ve kept a really accurate list of my expenses and had a mental goal in mind as I reached my set goal of $6,000.
Once I saw that I was moving past my goal, I worked with my printer to increase my print quantity to accommodate the extra money (no, I didn’t just pocket the over).
This way my back stock of books will be covering following my campaign to set me up for future print runs or a a second book.
I made a point to not share my printer or specific costs with my backers because most of my backers are not familiar with self publishing so they don’t understand all of the extra costs associated.
Anyone who asked, I would tell them I will be lucky to break even. Honestly, with my method of increasing the quantity of books as I went, it was the truth. I needed to get the funds in my pocket before I could increase the quantity of the print run.
It was all about finding a balance of what that right number was to maximize the spend and quantity of books.
I made sure to comment and thank EVERY single person that commented on my book.
9—Starting the printing process early
Because I hit my goal so early in my campaign (within a few days of launching), I was able to start the printing process early and my printer sent my proofs very quickly.
I was able to share that with my social media and it really got people excited.
Some people commented on the quality of the pages and others were just excited to see it as a whole.
It created a great buzz in the mid-campaign lull. I saw quite a bit of traffic as I shared that post.
What didn’t work as well as you had hoped?
1—Printed business cards/promo cards
I made up business card sized “promotion” cards to hand out before my launch just telling people where they could follow my artwork (Instagram) as well as the dates of the campaign.
Obviously, this didn’t work as the cards arrived at my house right as the quarantine began so I wasn’t “out” in the community to hand them out.
Granted it only cost me around $20, but still, it didn’t work.
2—Instagram was a flop
I tried to create more of a following on Instagram the past 6 months prior to my campaign launch, but I don’t feel it drove much of ANY traffic.
First, Instagram (which I didn’t realize) doesn’t let you hyperlink your posts, so pushing people to your pre-launch page didn’t work well.
People don’t copy and paste a URL these days (it take too much work) so if a post isn’t clickable they won’t go to it.
3—Facebook ads also flopped
Though I am not a pro and was new to Facebook ads, I ran about $25 worth of ads over the three weeks.
Facebook said there were a certain amount of links and click-throughs but those days I didn’t see much traffic outside of my network at all.
Granted, even if I got one or two pledges from there it would cover my $25 cost but really wasn’t the best bang for the buck.
(Lisa’s note: you really need to experiment with Facebook ads before you launch so you can see what works and what doesn’t. It’s hard to get it right the first time.)
4—Cross-promotion with other campaigns didn’t work
I had multiple people reach out during my campaign (some I was familiar, most I was not) that wanted to cross promote.
As I mentioned earlier, I was very cautious on spamming my current backers as I know how I would feel receiving those types of messages if I backed a campaign.
Because I reserved my communication with my backers, maybe selfish, but I wasn’t willing to push others campaigns on my backers.
I just didn’t feel it was appropriate. I posted one or two on my Instagram but even then it seems odd with my Instagram being all about my process then throwing in someone else’s pages.
I don’t know, it may work better if it was planned ahead of time to cross-collaborate, but I didn’t have time to entertain the idea after the fact.
5—Processing post-campaign orders
To be honest, I wasn’t planning on taking additional pre-orders after my Kickstarter ended.
I’ve had multiple people reach out post campaign asking where they can get my book since they missed the campaign.
I just now set up my website to take post-Kickstarter orders, but didn’t have a plan before I launched.
6—Backers surveys are a pain
I am a big planner and I don’t want to be tracking down shipping addressed 6-8 months from now. Although, I don’t want to keep spamming my backers to more things.
Like I mentioned before, they were already generous enough to support my project and everyone is busy and I don’t want to overwhelm them with messages about their address.
I did leave that feedback for Kickstarter that maybe they collect addresses when they pledge.
Many of my backers were first time backers and Kickstarter sends A LOT of emails.
So many lessons learned, Gina, thank you!
What would you like to say in summary?
It really was a fun experience and to be 100% honest, it has gotten me though the quarantine so far.
Having something to look forward to and dive into was a really great distraction as we have been stuck as home.
Timing wise, it really was perfect as we have been stuck inside with not great weather.
Something is always growing in Gina’s world. Plants in her sprawling garden. Her son. Her own design business, Nine18 Creative.
In the rare moments she gets to herself, you’ll find her barefoot probably trying to grow some exotic plant from a seed. Also, not running.
An artist to the core, she earned a degree in Fine Art – Graphic Design from Western Michigan University, then spent six years in corporate communications at Kellogg Company.
She and her husband share their log home in Michigan with their son, medium-sized dog and cat.
Buy her book on her website and follow Gina on social media.
Last week, we heard from children’s book author Nikki Filippone about why she canceled her book’s Kickstarter campaign after reaching 50% funding in 13 days.
This week, we’ll learn from children’s book author and wildlife photographer, Dennis Glennon, about why he’s continuing with his all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign for his book, Buddy’s Magic Window.
Below, you’ll find Dennis’ reasoning for why it’s important for writers to not give up on their dreams even in times of economic uncertainty.
Reasons to Continue Marketing Your Books During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Well, there are a lot of reasons. The most important being is that I believe my book is worth fighting for.
I believe it will bring smiles and inspiration to both children and adults. I know it will inspire children to read and want to help animals and the environment.
Despite the current circumstances, I believe that positivity, inspiration, and smiles are needed now more than ever. This book has all of that.
I also believe that when you put enough force and drive behind something that is good, and you work extremely hard to make it happen, it will find the right people to support it.
I also know this will be tough work, and it might fail to reach its funding goal. This is a calculated risk, but I still believe it will get funded.
“Despite the current circumstances, I believe that positivity, inspiration, and smiles are needed now more than ever. This book has all of that.”
Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs Need to Fight Extra Hard
Another reason I kept the campaign going is that I want more than anything to be a full-time children’s book author. It has been a dream of mine for a long time.
This book has been just about ready for over six years. I had health setbacks, which forced me to put the whole project on the back burner.
Whatever the next few weeks or months forces me to deal with will pale in comparison to what I went through to get healthy.
I also believe that when you own a small business, you must be creative, fight, and be persistent to succeed.
Owning a small business and running it full time is no easy task. By continuing a Kickstarter campaign at this time, I will need to fight and scrape for every dollar.
See it as a Learning Opportunity
I am learning new things every day. This campaign is forcing me way out of my comfort zone. The things I am learning will be invaluable as I go forward on my goal to be a full-time author.
The biggest take away is that you will always need to be thinking creatively to sell and market yourself. There are endless opportunities to market, even under the worst circumstances.
Just imagine, if I succeed in bad times, how much better it will be when the economy gets back to normal.
No certainty when that will be, but I will have books and be ready to go.
In the meantime, I will be building an online store and start branding my book. I am going to offer a whole merchandising line.
I will start offering puzzles later on today because they are in high demand since everyone is stuck at home.
With Amazon currently only delivering necessities, it is the perfect time to drive sales to your website where the profit margins are higher.
The World Needs Artists to Continue Working
On a more philosophical note, we are artists, authors, and creatives. We take the time to pour our lifetime of thoughts into a book.
To me, it is a higher calling that we must get our stories, which we are so passionate about out into the world.
Keep in mind that this is a business, and you need an excellent book, a solid following, and a great plan to make this happen.
Competition is more fierce than ever.
To that end, we must work even harder and smarter to get people to buy our books and fund our creative projects, no easy task at the moment.
Advice if You Plan to Crowdfund Right Now
Here’s my advice if you are going to launch a campaign soon: Get professional help!!!
This is no time to play around and try to figure this out on your own. You need a solid plan and following to make this happen.
I hired Lisa Ferland to help me. Her expertise is priceless.
She will put you in the best position to succeed. She has a ton of knowledge and is super generous in helping her clients succeed.
I could not have done this on my own. An added bonus to having Lisa on your team is that she alleviates a large amount of stress. You’ll know you have proper direction or will be re-directed if things start slipping.
I also talked with and follow children’s book author, Jay Miletsky. His business advice is sound and will put you on a path to profit. His groups are awesome, and there are a lot of resources there to help in your book publishing endeavor.
Keep in mind that running a Kickstarter campaign will be a ton of work and more complicated than you think.
At this point, you might want to consider lowering your original goal (before you launch) a little and aim to go over.
I had no way of knowing this Corona scare would happen, but, in hindsight, I wish I would have gone with my original goal of $6,500 and then gone over to the $9,500 that I really need for the 2,500 copies.
I chose 2,500 copies because there is enough profit margin to be able to get a second print run paid for and sustain an adequate profit margin.
Keep Asking for the Sale
So then there is another question “How do you ask people for money in this time of economic uncertainty? “
Ultimately, it is a personal decision, and there are no wrong answers. However, my response is, “How do you not?”
Keep in mind that this is an unusual period, and we should be diplomatic, sympathetic, empathetic, and know our audience, as we do not want to alienate anyone.
The economic uncertainty is brutal, and people are understandably stressed and holding onto their money.
Imagine that this is your full-time business. What would you do? Would you just fold up? Or would you fight for survival?
I think we are safe if we politely ask for the sale and support. People either can and will support, or they cannot at this time, and they will not, and either way, it is OK.
But without asking, we will fail.
Artists Can Help Others Heal in Times of Crisis
I will give you an example of what happened to me post 9/11 when I had an Art Show shortly afterward that may shed some light on the current situation.
I live in NJ. When 9/11 happened, I had an art show scheduled in Montclair NJ not far from Manhattan. I knew people who died in this tragedy, including the priest who baptized me, Father Mychal Judge, who was the Fire Chaplin and a family friend.
I struggled with a lot of things, and one of them is, “Do I go do this art show? How can I possibly ask people for money at this time of tragedy? I struggled with it. Not an easy decision, but I went. That is what artists do. We show up and support.
My reasoning ended up being I will set up my booth and just be there for anyone who needs the support. I will provide a pleasant distraction for anyone that was there, figuring if they were out, that is what they needed.
I did not push for any sales for those two days but talked about my work and certainly accepted the sales that came my way. I learned that people really appreciated the artists that showed up.
We help heal in a time of crisis.
Yes..sales were probably horrible, but I did make some money and provided some much-needed relief. So with that in mind, I could not give up on my current campaign.
Crowdfunding is Tough No Matter When You Launch
I truly believe I can be there for people in need of something positive, a welcomed distraction, and my book has value and that people will feel good about the purchase.
Then when July rolls around and the books are delivered, they will be thankful they helped support the campaign.
Will it be tough? Absolutely!! I was funded 50% of my $9,500 goal the first week.
The second week, when the pandemic started to become more of a reality, and people started getting sent home from work, I only gained 7%. SCARY.
I will have to gently push harder and be even more creative to get to the finish line. I realize that not all people will agree with me on this, and I respect that.
But if you gained just one bit of wisdom or insight in this article, then I have provided value, and I wish us all success in our book publishing journeys.
It is a tough journey, better traveled with the support of good friends and fellow authors who understand the difficulty.
Would I recommend launching a campaign right now??? I would consult with Lisa and Jay’s group to get a better pulse.
Ask me in 2 weeks.
Best wishes to all. Keep up the fight. Most of all, be safe.
Stay healthy and be kind to yourself and others. These are tough times. We need to come together and support one another.
Keeping it positive!
Dennis Glennon is a professional dog, wildlife, and nature photographer. He has photographed some of the most beautiful places in North America including most of the U.S. National Parks. His focus has been on photographing landscapes and wildlife, but once he started photographing dogs it took on a life of its own.
The heartbreaking decision to cancel your Kickstarter campaign after months of research, preparation, and backing other campaigns is difficult for every author.
Sometimes, authors need to cancel because they need a larger audience to support their campaign goal. Other times, there are external forces beyond their control like illness, national tragedies, and weather disasters.
Nikki Filippone is no stranger to Kickstarter and she understood the potential of using the platform to launch her book to a broader audience.
But, what nobody could predict, was that a global pandemic would force a drastic prioritization of limited personal financial resources.
In this interview, you’ll hear more about what went into Nikki’s decision to ultimately cancel her Kickstarter campaign.
It is our hope that more authors will understand the amount of work involved in running a crowdfunding campaign.
Deciding to cancel your Kickstarter campaign is never an easy decision and perhaps, Nikki’s experience can help you decide the right way forward for your book.
Can you describe a bit about your vision for Rosalee the Seeker and why you decided to run a Kickstarter campaign?
I created this book because I saw a significant gap in children’s literature when it came to the topic of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). My vision for this book is multi-faceted.
First and foremost, I want to empower young sensory seekers. I also want to help parents better understand their sensory seeking children, and offer my book as a tool to help them explain SPD to other family members and adults.
I also believe my book will be an excellent addition to any elementary school classroom so young children will better understand their sensory seeking classmates.
Launching my campaign was an excellent way to get my book in front of a wider audience while simultaneously giving me an opportunity to print it in hardcover. I would love to offer a more durable book that families can cherish for longer and even pass down to their grandchildren.
Can you describe the type of prep work you did before you launched?
Because of my limited personal resources (time and money), I focused my efforts on social media marketing.
Instead of working on an email list, I developed one-on-one relationships with those who expressed an interest in my book.
This allowed me to follow-up individually through FB Messenger on launch day. This proved to be extremely effective and I was able to get to 38% funded in under 2 days.
Honestly (and I’m not just saying this), I found Lisa’s blog and other resources extremely helpful in understanding the whole process of crowdfunding. I incorporated a lot of her advice into my strategy.
What went into your decision to cancel your Kickstarter campaign?
Unfortunately, my campaign launch coincided with the early days of Coronavirus in the US.
As the days progressed, so did the severity of the Coronavirus situation. I became less comfortable asking people to help fund my book.
I know a lot of people are currently unemployed due to the Coronavirus. Many are unsure if they will be able to pay for basic needs.
Lisa’s note: Nikki’s campaign was ~50% funded on Day 13.
What surprised you the most about crowdfunding your book?
Honestly? It was harder than I thought! And, this was my second attempt! (I canceled my first campaign after three days because I knew nothing about crowdfunding at the time. I quickly realized that I would not meet my campaign goal.)
What I’m saying is that even knowing everything I know now (exactly a year later), I STILL wasn’t fully prepared for just how much work it was!
What advice would you give an author considering crowdfunding their book?
All you can ever do is your very best.
If external circumstances throw a wrench in your efforts, try and find ways to learn from the situation so your efforts will not have been wasted. And, don’t allow yourself to feel like a failure. If you’ve learned something, you’ve already succeeded. <3
Do you think you’ll relaunch your campaign?
I’m uncertain at this point. I’ll most likely reassess when the Coronavirus situation is behind us.
Anything else you’d like people to know?
If you’re planning to crowdfund, do NOT expect it to be easy, and do NOT expect to be able to “wing” it.
My first campaign taught me not to wing it. I applied what I learned over the past year to my Rosalee campaign planning.
I am 100% certain that if the Coronavirus hadn’t hit, I would have met my goal, and it would have been because of the very intense planning and prep that I did.
Nikki recently re-launched a 7-day Kickstarter campaign and raised $9500 in only 7 days!!!
If you are interested in crowdfunding your book, enroll in my comprehensive Crowdfunding for Authors Course using Nikki’s affiliate link at no extra cost to you.
In this interview, I asked Gina about her experience building an audience from scratch, her Kickstarter campaign, and her plans for her future books.
What surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?
It really is a lot of work. I was surprised about the amount of upfront work, before the first backer has even pledged.
I would not have done near as good a job making sure all of my links were consistent and working together if I had not had Lisa’s help.
It takes a long time to get all of the advertising materials together – even though I didn’t do any paid ads, I made a lot of memes and graphics to post throughout the month.
Also, the work that went into the “simple” video, the Kickstarter page was a lot more than I expected.
However, it was a great exercise because now I have all kinds of info ready to go, and I basically pinned a post to the top of my blog with all my lovely Kickstarter info so people who visit the page will see that first.
What was the best aspect of crowdfunding your campaign?
We made our goal and went well over, so now I can invest in my Spanish translation and my French editor.
It was great to see how many of the backers came from the Kickstarter community—over $1K of the funding.
What was the worst aspect of your campaign?
Being obsessed with checking my numbers for several days! Then, thank goodness I calmed down a bit once I reached my goal at the start of day 11.
I still kept pushing through the month, but I let off a bit for about 2 weeks to give people a chance to breathe before the final call for pledges. I didn’t want people to get sick of me.
What were the best strategies you did to build your audience before you launched?
I started pushing my email list really hard, and that worked pretty well—for my particular case, I promised special exclusive memes about opossums.
I mostly needed email subscribers since I was pretty much starting that from scratch, but I already had over 1000 Facebook followers, and I’m still building that audience all the time.
I think it also helped that I wrote on Medium and got my call to action out there in lots of articles related to my book (that was Lisa’s idea, and was really helpful).
What strategies did you use to build you readership before launch?
So, I am in five or six different private Facebook groups about opossums and each day of the week for several months, I made my own memes with pictures people had posted of their rescue opossums (I always credited the photos on the meme).
I posted the memes on my IG which simultaneously posts on my FB page.
Then I shared that FB post in each group with a different little quip in each new post.
People in each group saw my FB page each time I posted and sometimes they mosey on over and follow me.
Even if they only go to my page and like a post, I could scoop them up that way by inviting them to like the page later.
I think the secret is that I was always giving them something entertaining and sneaking a little info and/or link in with the meme, so it didn’t annoy the crap out of people that all I was ever doing was pushing my book.
I rarely shared direct marketing things for my book in these groups—only to announce the beginning of the Kickstarter and maybe one to say it was about to end.
Otherwise, I usually got my link in the first couple of lines, but the star of the show was always the original meme.
I was getting over 200 new followers every month for several months.
What advice did you receive that helped you the most?
To write related articles, to have things ready in advance (although I could have done much better with that, I had time to do it during the month, too, luckily).
I also emailed about 200 people individually, and I think that helped even if a lot of people didn’t reply at all.
Some people I didn’t really expect to hear from were super excited about my book.
What advice would you give someone thinking about crowdfunding their book?
Get help from Lisa Ferland! Read as much as you can, study the projects that are not working and figure out why, look at the ones that are and analyze that too.
Make it yours, make it clear, make it great.
Would you crowdfund your book again?
I would if I had to, but it was so much work (and since I did pretty well), I plan to use the funds to get my publishing empire rolling and then reinvest in my next couple of projects.
I finally found a day to draft most of the next book I’ve been percolating, so I want to use all the money the first one brings in to keep going and hopefully not annoy my friends and family with guilt trips for cash anymore. Don’t want to run out of goodwill.
Although, crowdfunding is a very good way to get to people you wouldn’t normally have reached. Those super backers are nothing to sneeze at!
I learned and am still learning so much from all of this that I wouldn’t have necessarily learned so easily if I had not gone through the process of crowdfunding my book.
I could not be happier with my results. I feel prepared for anything!
Find out some major lessons in audience building, publishing, and crowdfunding in this interview with Jessica.
Jessica found success on Kickstarter in 2013 and 2016 and while social media strategies may change over time, her advice is timeless.
How much audience building did you do before launching your first campaign?
By nature, I’m not much of a planner—I tend to go for things and figure out how fly while I’m free-falling. Not always the smartest way to conduct things, but, in this case, it worked out well.
For both campaigns, I did very little audience building before the campaign started, save for my usual social media posting.
My audience before my second campaign was built very much by my first campaign and the other readers I gained from “Firenze’s Light“.
What type of preparation, education, or research did you do before launching your first campaign?
I had no intentions of self-publishing. The more research I did on traditional publishing, the more I realized I would have to grind just as hard to market my book, but for less of a cut in the traditional model.
Each time I tried to blow off the idea of self-publishing, the perfect resource or information would show up.
For instance, I had no idea how to find an illustrator. A friend of mine happened to work for Jim Henson Productions and put me in touch with some interns in their art department.
I had no idea how to get a book printed. My cousin happened to know someone who worked for a printer in China and she talked me through the process and estimated costs.
Most of my research was focused on the process of self-publishing and the costs.
I have a rebellious streak and have a sometimes-good-sometimes-bad habit of ignoring “the way things are supposed to be done”.
For my second campaign, I did a lot of research on crowdfunding and how it had evolved since my first campaign for “Firenze’s Light”. The “Firenze’s Light” campaign happened when crowdfunding was relatively new.
By the time I campaigned for “And So Much More”, everyone and their lost dog had a crowdfunding campaign.
It felt much harder to get people’s attention.
There were also many campaigns that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars because they had a huge marketing budget to put behind it.
Rather than get discouraged by the slick, meticulously planned campaigns, I stayed simple.
As a rule, I stopped researching and worrying about too much planning, and just stuck with what worked the first time: a good story and a clear, simple campaign.
I did reach out to more bloggers and publications for my second campaign, but I almost felt like it would have been more valuable to spend that time directly approaching new potential backers.
“I stopped researching and worrying about too much planning, and just stuck with what worked the first time: a good story and a clear, simple campaign.”
Did you get a lot of repeat backers who supported Firenze’s Light to support your second campaign?
I did get a lot of repeat backers and a lot of new ones as well. I made it a point to approach my original backer list first because I had faith that they would be excited about my next book.
What surprised you the most about launching on Kickstarter?
I knew it would not “just happen” after my campaign went live, but I was surprised how it was a full-time job for 30 days.
I spent that time texting, emailing, messaging, social media posting, singing songs, making up new reward categories, doing FB live, making videos—anything I could think of—to get more eyes on my campaign. It was non-stop—and I have 3 kids LOL. Thank goodness for my husband!
What advice would you give someone considering crowdfunding their book?
Keep it simple.
A lot of people replicate their campaigns off of the most-funded campaigns that have a huge budget and staff that can support crazy, swaggy reward tiers.
Even if you’re not looking at the big dogs, the smaller dogs replicated the medium dogs who replicated the big dogs.
Shipping and random rewards like t-shirts, plushies, and toys can eat your budget so quickly and steal your focus from getting your book made when your campaign is over.
My rewards were mostly books.
Some of my higher level rewards were illustrating people into my book, self-publishing consultations, original songs, author readings—all things that are easily deliverable and that are services rather than products.
None of those items had shipping costs—speaking of which-spend a lot of time budgeting out your costs including your reward shipping, taxes (you have to pay taxes on your donations), Kickstarter’s cut etc.
I also love the idea of having some “back-pocket” rewards to add value throughout the campaign.
These are rewards that you add to the 5 or 6 base rewards after the campaign is running.
When you’re on day 21 of 30, no one wants to hear about your book one more time.
But they may want to hear about that original poem you will write their kid when they pledge $100 or tier up from $25 to $100.
It keeps things fresh and can goose someone who already backed at a lower tier to a higher one.
“Crowdfunding is great, but I find it takes me on a detour away from selling the books I already have.
I simply can’t wear all of those hats at once.”
Would you launch future books (or other creative projects) on Kickstarter?
I am very proud that the two books I have written have funded the beginning of my third.
My goal has been to self-fund the rest of my books by reinvesting all my profits.
If I get to Spring 2020 and I need printing funds, I might consider doing a small campaign to finish up, but I’d honestly rather publish a Kindle book or two this fall and get it printed that way.
Crowdfunding is great, but I find it takes me on a detour away from selling the books I already have.
I simply can’t wear all of those hats at once.
If I had to chose between 30 days of Kickstarter and 30 days of creating two Kindle Books, I’ll take Kindle.
However, if I were starting all over again today and didn’t have that choice, I would most likely do it.
What would you do differently?
From a crowdfunding point of view—not much.
From a publishing point of view—I’d have the knowledge I have now, 5 years later.
I know so much more about writing for the market, good covers, great titles, smart writing.
I’ve spent a lot of time backtracking or working around those mistakes.
Anything else you’d like fellow authors to know?
When you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, any time you talk about it, in any group, list your link.
I see so many people post in FB groups about their campaign and they don’t have a link.
Also, have fun and enjoy the ride! It can be thrilling.
Tired of searching for books that both empowered and entertained, Jessica set out to write ones that do both. She loves writing books that cultivate a world with more kindness, love, peace, compassion and connection.