Creating a Deck of Cards


Whenever thinking of a new idea, my brain works something like this in approximately 30 seconds:

  • BING! Ideas and possibilities start racing around.
  • Yes, this is an amazing idea.
  • I MUST DO THIS IDEA!
  • Hang on, let me Google it first.
  • Oh, awesome, someone has already done this before and has written about it.
  • Woah, that’s expensive. Way more than I want to spend.
  • Actually, that person is an illustrator. I’m not an illustrator so my idea would be even more expensive.
  • Umm…hang on, who is going to pay for all of this?
  • If I do a Kickstarter campaign, I need an audience first…
  • Do I have an audience? Not yet. I need to do a lot of work there before I can move forward with anything.

RESULT 

My idea gets shelved indefinitely.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I went through this process when thinking through an awesome card game idea.

In doing so, I know that a lot of other authors are interested in creating a deck of cards to either complement or stand alone with their book ideas.

Card game creation and printing are a lot like creating a printing an illustrated book. One needs to consider illustrations (both cost and creation), paper quality, card stock, quantity, box design, shipping, and possible retail price that results in a profit.

How many card decks would you need to sell in order to make money in the process?

Whenever doing research on the costs of producing something, you need to be sure you are factoring in all of the variables like quality, type, and quantity.

How many cards are in your card deck? What size cards do you want to create?

How many decks do you want to produce in one print run? The more your print, the cheaper your price point per deck, but then you’ll have more to sell.

If you’re nodding your head like, “Duh, Lisa…” then good! We’re on the same page.

If all of this is new information to you, then be sure to listen to my free webinar on the True Costs of Self-Publishing where I go over a lot of the hidden costs related to publishing books that will definitely also apply when creating a card game or deck of cards.

Let’s learn from others

In 2011, Daniel Solis worked through the math with SuperiorPOD as his printer and found that he would need to go back to the drawing board. At ~$7/unit cost, and a retail ceiling of $15-$20/game, he decided he needed to lower his printing costs in order to make it worthwhile.

Click here to read Daniel’s write-up about his experience.

The card game, Corporate America, was Kickstarted and self-published in November 2012 and the write-up completed in 2013. The creator discusses Kickstarter funds raised plus actual costs (~$30k). Be sure to read that article here.

Here’s a 2016 write-up of self-publishing a tabletop game that you’ll find really illuminating.

Drivethrucards.com has a price list,  templates, and other resources to get your started. Some other bloggers have mentioned Drivethrucards as being more economical than other printing options.

And finally, here is a Reddit thread where you’ll discover that most indie card game creators use Kickstarter as their main avenue for sales and have zero plans for retail.

Enthused or derailed?

I hope that gets you started on some research if you’re considering creating a card game.

After all of this preliminary research, you’ll still want to dig down another few layers and get into the nitty-gritty.

Never take on any endeavor without building an audience first and mapping out your marketing plan.

After all, this is a business, not a hobby. #worksmarternotharder

If, after all of this, you decide you only want to create one deck of cards for personal use, you can make your own playing cards starting at $13/deck with makeplayingcards.com.

Be sure to leave a comment if you find other helpful resources to help your fellow indie authors.

As you may have noticed, game creators use Kickstarter as their means of funding production of their card and tabletop games.

If you’re interested in learning more about crowdfunding for your indie publishing pursuits, grab my Top 10 Tips Before Launching Your Crowdfunding Campaign delivered straight to your inbox.


Funded 433% on Kickstarter—Snail, I Love You

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Here’s how we did it:


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

What types of marketing efforts had the best reach?


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

What didn’t work out so well?


Facebook ads but we didn’t experiment beforehand.

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

Are there going to be future books?


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

How did you meet your illustrator?


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

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

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

What is your affiliation with your local library?


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

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


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

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

About the authors and illustrator

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

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

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

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

From $6500 to over $15k on Kickstarter

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

Tania DeGregorio found herself in a slump.

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

She felt exhausted, defeated, and out of ideas.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you think doing events saved your campaign?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would you ever do another Kickstarter campaign again?

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

What would you do differently the next time around? 

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

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

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

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

Bio

 

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

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

From $6500 to over $15k on Kickstarter | lisaferland.com
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Want to learn more about what’s involved with crowdfunding your book on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?

Enroll in my free mini course here

The Power of the $1 Reward on Kickstarter

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

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

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

1. $1 is an easy gesture of support

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

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

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

3. $1 backers receive all campaign updates

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

4.  It can’t hurt to include it

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

5.  Every dollar counts

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

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

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

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

Did I miss anything?

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

Should you offer $1 rewards on Kickstarter for your book? | Lisaferland.com
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Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo for Indie Authors—Which one to choose?

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

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

Writing and Publishing projects on both platforms

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

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

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

Here’s their comparison chart between IGG and Kickstarter.

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

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

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

Winner: Kickstarter

Coming soon landing pages

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

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

 

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

Pretty cool, right? 

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

Winner: IndieGoGo

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

IndieGoGo’s InDemand Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Winner: IndieGoGo

Name recognition factor

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

Not so! 

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

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

Winner: Draw

Featured rewards

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

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

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

Winner: IndieGoGo

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

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

Backend Analytics

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

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

Winner: Kickstarter

Grabbing backers’ emails

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winner: IndieGoGo

Running a referral contest

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

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

Winner: IndieGoGo

Overall results

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

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

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

 

5 Biggest Mistakes Indie Authors Make While Crowdfunding

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

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

Mistake #1: Zero marketing strategy

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

How I can tell you have zero marketing strategy

Most indie authors without a solid marketing strategy happening behind the scenes will not reach more than 100 backers. 

I look at the number of backers a campaign has every day (thanks to Kicktraq) and if you have a few days in a row with 0 backers/day, I can tell that there either is no strategy or the strategy isn’t working.

The Fix

It’s really tough to create a solid marketing strategy mid-stream but all is not lost if you act quickly. 

Try to reach at least 30% within the first 5 days of your campaign or prepare to fold up camp and relaunch after you’ve built up your audience a bit.

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

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

Mistake #2: The rewards are all wrong

Many indie authors actually price their rewards too low. Remember, we are crowdfunding which means that backers are willing to pay a bit more than retail to help you create your project. 

That means you need to price your rewards higher than you would if you were selling them on the street.

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

How I can tell your rewards are bleh

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

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

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

No? Big mistake. 

The Fix

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

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

Your video does not need to be professionally created, although that does help, but it needs to be relatively short. 

Remember, you are trying to get people’s attention very quickly so jump straight to the point with a call to action.

How do I know your video is boring?

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

The Fix

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

So say that. 

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

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

Mistake #4: Your goal is too high

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

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

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

How I know your campaign goal is too high

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

The Fix

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

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

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

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

You can always relaunch with a more reasonable goal.

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

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

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

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

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

The Fix

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Getting Email Subscribers as an Indie Author

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

Why?

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

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

Pulling the trigger—Sending your first email to your list

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

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

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

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

Be authentic. Be yourself.

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

Your readers are smart

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

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

Ways for indie authors to create valuable freebies

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

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

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

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

Watch my video on YouTube about email subscribers here.

 

4 Reasons Why Indie Authors Should Crowdfund Their Books

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

The average book on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo raises $5k, but my clients raise above average levels ranging from $7k-$27k USD.

Here are my reasons why you should consider crowdfunding your book:

#1 Proof of Concept

Erin Nelsen Parekh Kickstarted her debut children’s board book and felt that the crowdfunding process proved her book was worth creating.

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

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

If you can’t raise the necessary funds to make your book a reality (i.e., your campaign doesn’t successfully fund), then it means that you need to reevaluate your idea, your audience, or your marketing efforts. 

Something is flawed and a failed crowdfunding project doesn’t mean your idea isn’t valuable, it just means you need to rework your approach.

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

#2 Expand and engage your audience

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

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

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

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

One of the best parts about crowdfunding is that you engage your audience. 

As the creator, you provide them an inside peek into the development process of your book. They are along with you on the ride and are excited to share your concept.

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

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

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

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

All of the marketing efforts that other authors spend over the course of the year are condensed into a very short timeframe. 

This can be exhausting, which is why all crowdfunding campaigns should end after 30 days or so.

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

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

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

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

#4 Your book is funded

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

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

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

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

To Summarize

More authors are turning to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to launch their books and provide additional bonuses to their readers. 

In a saturated market, it’s important to stand out.

Offering your readers MORE than what they can get if they order your book on Amazon is a real benefit for everyone.

Crowdfunding isn’t easy and it requires a ton of planning, effort, and energy on your part, but it’s very worthwhile. 

You’ll create materials that can be used to market your book throughout the year and you’ll make connections with podcasters, journalists, and bloggers who you might not meet otherwise.

If you’re interested in learning more about crowdfunding your book, I’m available to help.

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Find out if crowdfunding is right for you with this free video course

Thinking more seriously? Schedule a free 20-min consultation below

If you’re more serious about crowdfunding your book on Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, then click below for a free 20-min chat with me.

I’ve helped author raise over $150k for their books and I’m confident that I can help you.

Filling in the application doesn’t obligate either of us to work together—let’s see if we’re a good match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, I did! I made it work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any last takeaway messages for indie authors?

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

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

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

Bio

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

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

Kickstarter vs. IndieGoGo vs. Publishizer

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

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

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

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

Let's Start With The Basics

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

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

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

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

Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

Enter…Publishizer

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

The benefits of a community

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

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with Publishizer?

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

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

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

You need to offer something someone wants.

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

Wah, wahh, waaaaah.

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

Holy horrible cycle of destruction, Batman! 

Consider the perspective of your reader (aka the backer)

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

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

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

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

But wait, there’s more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You bring the audience to the platform

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

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

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

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