How does a Crowdfunding Consultant Kickstart Their Own Book?

Real talk:

Planning my own book’s Kickstarter campaign has resulted in a bit of strategy analysis OVERLOAD, some momentary doubts of failure that I promptly kicked to the curb, and then the realization that I ALREADY have all of the tools I need.

Reasons Why I’m Not Worried About Failure

Tools: Fortunately, I have a handy Excel spreadsheet calculator so I know exactly how to price my rewards and calculate my profit margins (thank you, past me, for being so smart).

If you want this calculator/calendar/supercharged Excel spreadsheet PLUS email templates, PR templates, and all of the tools you need to manage your crowdfunding campaign, you can buy it here.

Knowledgeable network: I already have a network of crowdfunding-savvy authors because I’ve been COACHING THEM—oh yeah, another good move, Lisa.

Hard work always pays off.

Superbacker status: I’ve spent oodles of my own money investing in other authors on Kickstarter and now it’s time for me to call in some chits.

Participate and invest yourself into a community and you can rightly call on that community to support you when it’s your turn.

I believe in my book: My book has been vetted by 300 students already, parents, and teachers and everyone thinks it’s totally awesome and the book series as a whole has legs.

I’m also working with an amazing illustrator who is a DREAM to work with (no, you can’t have her until we’re done) who is doing a brilliant job at bringing my book to life.

So, yeah, I’m not worried about failure. BESIDES, I know that failure won’t kill me. I’ll learn a TON of valuable lessons going through the process again myself and I plan to run this campaign as I did my original $10k.

Want to follow along/support me?

You’ll get good KARMA and I’ll pay it back/forward/sideways, don’t worry, sign up for my VIP newsletter here: yes, I love supporting children’s books on Kickstarter

Learn about crowdfunding YOUR book and see if it’s right for you:

Enroll in my free crowdfunding mini-course here: https://bit.ly/mini-crowdfunding

Children’s Book Authors use Kickstarter to Launch Their Businesses

Children’s book authors often face steeper costs when creating their books than adult fiction or non-fiction writers.

There are the additional costs of illustration (ranging from $1200-$10,000 for a 32-page picture book), and often the cost of a print run of 3,000-10,000 books from either local printers or printers overseas. Then there are warehouse and fulfillment fees to cover for orders placed on Amazon.

Many children’s book authors are turning to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to not only fully fund their books but also boost their marketing efforts.

  • In the Facebook Group, Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, which I recommend joining, many of the authors have successfully Kickstarted their books and subsequently, their self-publishing businesses to great success.

Why Crowdfund Your Book?

Crowdfunding does a few things that waiting to market your book launch doesn’t.

When you crowdfund your book, you…

  • Validate your book’s idea with your audience before you get too far down the road of creation
  • Engage with your audience in a more personal way and offer them special rewards in addition to your book—something you can’t do on Amazon.
  • Communicate directly with your backers—Amazon does not provide you any information about who buys your book
  • Generate more funds for your book than you can selling the same number of books during a pre-launch (profit margins are a bit larger than royalty rates) 
  • Boost your confidence when your book is demanded by the readers. There is a feeling of incredible pride and humility when you realize that your readers are helping you create your book.
  • Create a viral buzz about your book. By cramming three months of marketing efforts into 30 days, you generate a veritable swirl of energy around your book.
  • Can afford a better team. When you crowdfund your book, instead of footing the bill from your own pocket, you can pay thousands for an experienced illustrator. You can opt for the thicker paper that’s more expensive. You can end up with a higher quality book when you have a larger budget (all things considered equal, of course).

And magic takes place during and after a crowdfunding campaign.

Like local news coverage, radio spots, cross-collaborations, and other opportunities that occur when you start reaching out to anyone and everyone who might be interested in your campaign.

The time-limited nature of the campaign forces creators to be bold and take action when it comes to marketing outreach that doesn’t usually happen during other book launches.

Examples of Children’s Book Crowdfunding Campaigns

While some campaigns are more successful than others, almost every campaign listed has resulted in an incredible boost to the visibility of the book, the sales, and/or the audience who is ready to purchase subsequent books from the author.

Note: *All of the following book images are linked to my Amazon affiliate account which results in tiny donations in my tip jar when you click at no extra cost to you.*

Title: ‘You Stole my Name’, Dennis McGregor’s new children’s book

Author: Dennis McGregor

Backers: 407

Total raised: $27,302 (137%)

Link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dennismcgregorsbook/you-stole-my-name-dennis-mcgregors-new-childrens-b?

Click here to buy on Amazon

Title: I’m NOT just a Scribble—Children’s Book that Inspires ART!

Author: Diane Alber

Backers: 423

Total raised: $15,343 (153%)

Link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/282178178/im-not-just-a-scribble-childrens-book-that-inspire?

Click here to buy on Amazon

Title: Into Your Dreams

Author: Roger Blonder

Backers: 197

Total raised: $16,760 (111%)

Link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/76408786/into-your-dreams?

Click here to buy on Amazon

Want to go behind-the-scenes?

Get even more insights with in-depth interviews by crowdfunding authors…

Kathleen Cruger and Thankful Frankie

Stacy Bauer and Cami the Kangaroo

Roger Blonder and Into Your Dreams

Rebecca Hamer and Where Oh Where is Monty Bear?

Now, don’t be fooled by the amazing successes of the authors who have funded their books using crowdfunding

There is nothing easy about crowdfunding even though these authors make it look effortless.

One in three crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter fail (1 in 3!).

Click here to get on my calendar for a free 20-min chat to see if a) crowdfunding is right for you and b) if I can help you. 

Crowdfunding is tough, but I’ve created tools and templates to make it easier.

Click here to hop on my calendar.

Also…grab my freebie below and avoid some pitfalls when planning your campaign.

Download my solutions here

3 Benefits of Joining a Masterclass

I have found that the best workshops for my learning style are like mini-boot camps. They are goal-oriented and time-sensitive with students who are enthusiastic and ready to achieve their goals. 

I want to be surrounded by people who, like me, are hitting the pavement, ready to go.

What is a masterclass?

A masterclass or mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help members solve their problems with input and advice from the other group members.

In addition to you achieving your goals (e.g., fully funding your book), participating in a masterclass has at least three tangible benefits.

1) Accountability

When you know you’re meeting every week and will have to speak up and discuss your project, you end up getting more done than when you operate in a vacuum.

I’ve met so many authors who have said that they have completed manuscripts that are collecting dust for years. YEARS! Life gets hectic and in the way of accomplishing our goals.

All of a sudden, what we once thought was a priority gets replaced by the urgency of the NOW and we end up dropping our work. It happens all of the time.

By joining a masterclass, your peers are committing to holding you accountable, and likewise, you are serving as their accountability partner. Simply by asking someone, “What are you struggling with this week?” forces a type of self-reflection that may be missing in the lone writer’s world.

2) Expert guidance

As lovely as peer-to-peer groups are, and I’m part of many of them, it’s extremely helpful to have an experienced person guiding the group. Masterclasses are generally organized by someone with experience who is not only skilled at managing people but at helping them reach their goals within a certain time period.

When I hired my marketing coach, I desperately needed direction. I needed someone to ask me questions that I didn’t know were important and hand me an extensive to-do list that would advance my career to the next level. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I needed help. Big time.

Without an expert guiding the way, peer-to-peer mentoring groups remain largely self-serving. Yes, you will probably reach your goals, but it won’t have the time-sensitive boot camp nature that masterclasses or masterminds often have.

Really great masterclasses contain exercises and action items to help the participants cruise through the material, apply it, and advance more quickly than working solo.

3) Personalized tutoring/mentorship

Readers of blogs and listeners of podcasts are subject to the limits of the creator’s pace. A masterclass incorporates established material (courses, blogs, podcasts, etc.,) with tutoring to allow participants to advance at their pace, ask questions, and receive individualized support.

The opportunity to ask questions, gain clarification, and obtain peer and mentor support is a unique feature of the masterclass design that is lacking in other online course forums.

Helping more authors successfully crowdfund their books 

After beta testing my Crowdfunding for Authors course, I noticed that the group interaction was where a lot of the magic happened.

However, the course is self-paced, and some students didn’t launch their campaigns at the same time. That’s totally fine but I saw a missed opportunity.

By grouping together crowdfunding authors who are all launching at the same time, we can create a network where we share resources, leverage marketing opportunities, and get real-time support before and during their campaigns.

The mentoring support happens in the crucial pre-launch phase and the peer-to-peer support happens during the campaign phase.

Crowdfunding is all about community and so often, writers find themselves trying to build a community from scratch. It’s much much much easier to build momentum, rally positive energy, and battle the self-doubt when there is a network of like-minded people doing the same thing at the same time. (the whole, A rising tide lifts all ships, concept).

Interested in learning more?

If this sounds like a concept that would be of interest to you—an online course with guided expert mentorship and supportive peers—then click here to schedule a no-pressure information-only 20-minute call with me to find out more or send me an email here.

Registration for the Crowdfunding for Authors Masterclass for March/April campaigns closes on January 31.

If you’re serious about getting your book fully funded in March or April, then click here to find out more.

Rebecca Hamer Introduces Kickstarter to Australia

Paving the way for others is never an easy task and one that children’s book author, Rebecca Hamer, discovered when she launched her Kickstarter campaign to her mostly-Australian audience.

Rebecca’s Where Oh Where is Monty Bear? picture book series helps kids deal with both big life transitions and small everyday challenges.

Knowing that Monty Bear was heading to Australia next, Rebecca decided to launch her third book, Where Oh Where is Monty Bear Australia using Kickstarter as a launch mechanism. 

Rebecca’s YouTube channel is great. I mean, just look at this video!

Scroll down for Rebecca’s insights about bringing the concept of crowdfunding to Australia.

What surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?

It was shockingly hard to get everyone on board. This was my third book, so I knew the publishing process and felt confident taking on a new marketing strategy.

Preparing for the campaign was extremely time-consuming and I knew I had to get everything done by a hard deadline.

So many people don’t realize how long it takes to build your campaign page and even though I have experience making videos, it still took me forever.

What would you have done differently?

I would’ve done more Facebook group interaction and started engaging with people 2-3 months before launch. 

I joined a lot of teachers’ Facebook groups and had connections from my previous two books but didn’t want to bug them too much.

“Find your people who are looking for what you’re delivering. They may be homeschoolers, teachers, parents, babysitters, who knows? But find them and nurture your relationships with them.”

Did you pay for any advertising?

No, not really. I paid $50 in Facebook ads but those didn’t convert. I didn’t do a press release or anything formal.

I was able to land some visibility in Offspring Parenting Magazine’s newsletter and I reached out to Big Life Journal because they added my YouTube channel as one of their recommended resources.

All of the parenting and teacher blogs want payment for sponsored posts (~$700/post). I had lined up exposure with some bloggers but many of them didn’t follow through.

What advice would you give an indie author thinking about crowdfunding?

Spend a lot of time building relationships. Teacher bloggers are super supportive and were the best source of support for my books on emotional literacy.

Don’t put all of your eggs into one basket.

Develop a cult-ish following of your work and build an audience who can’t wait to support you. Find your people who are looking for what you’re delivering. They may be homeschoolers, teachers, parents, babysitters, who knows? But find them and nurture your relationships with them.

Your audience is largest on Instagram (5k), did you find most of your backers came from that platform?

I grew my audience after making baby sleeping bags and I learned about social media over the past five years.

My Instagram followers are all from my first business and surprisingly, most of my backers were coming from Facebook. Most of them were not friends and family but one circle removed.

I also have a huge network of expat supporters who were great at sharing the campaign but weren’t backing it themselves.

Was having an Australian audience tough with your crowdfunding campaign?

I’d say so. People need to be educated about what crowdfunding is. Nobody in Australia is familiar with Kickstarter and most of my backers were first time backers.

The email templates in the Crowdfunding Vault  were really helpful in doing that audience education and outreach.

Would you do it again?

No. I burned through all of my goodwill in Australia and I’d really have to work my tail off to build a new audience.

Despite raising funds to cover the cost of your book, did running your Kickstarter help in any other way?

Yes, it really opened doors to new opportunities that I didn’t anticipate.

Maggie Dent is the Queen of Common Sense and is huge on the speaking circuit with her Maggie Moments.  I sent her a Monty Bear package and she is open to future collaboration.

Creating the Kickstarter campaign really gives you a lot of content and testimonials that you can use in future marketing efforts.

What are your future plans for Monty Bear?

My immediate plans are to tackle the Amazon machine and get my books on that platform for a new audience. That should be…a lot of work! 

Bio

Rebecca Hamer, BA Arts Psych, Grad Dip Ed, Masters Management….. Is an Early Childhood Education Specialist with over fifteen years teaching experience in Australia, Indonesia, Russia and Singapore. She has a passion for literacy development and believes that home and school co-operation is essential in facilitating children’s literacy learning.

She uses MONTY BEAR as an interactive way to engage children with all facets of literacy, including, speaking, listening, reading and writing. Rebecca loves seeing students and parents since fifteen years ago who still cherish photos and stories about their real life experiences with MONTY BEAR.

Visit her website: http://montybear.com.au/

Kickstarter campaign link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/461149098/where-oh-where-is-monty-bear-australia

Why Book Marketing Isn’t Self-Promotion

“I’m not good at marketing…”

“I don’t like self-promotion…”

“I’m not comfortable promoting myself…”

Let me break something down for you right now…

Marketing your book is not about you.

Did you hear that? 

Is your first instinct to argue against me? 

“But Lisa, I created this book, it’s my name on the spine, how is marketing my book not about me?!?”

Because, my super creative, amazing writer, it’s not. I know you just poured your heart onto the page and you feel a deep emotional attachment to your work—that process was about you but the final product is not.

Change your relationship with the concept of marketing

Once you launch your book out into the world, marketing the book is all about connecting with the readers.

It’s about creating messages that resonate with them, not with you. The “about you” part is done.

Marketing is never about the person selling, it is always, always, always about the person buying. 

So, no, marketing isn’t about self-promotion, get that icky feeling and everything that comes with it out of your head this instant. Marketing is about giving the reader more on a topic that they already enjoy.

Create what your readers want and you should have no issues directing them to more content on what they’ve already indicated they like.

Follow the Related Posts model

Think about all news outlets’ website designs…there is always a Related Posts at the bottom of every article directing people to more content on that same topic.

Do you think that’s icky? No, you find it helpful, don’t you?

That’s the same idea you should take with your passive book marketing. 

Write a blog on a topic that is related to your book and at the end of it, include a call to action and a  link where they can buy your book.

“If you enjoyed this article, then you’ll enjoy this book that dives even deeper into this topic. Buy it here.”

Easy peasy, right?

Listen to your readers and deliver what they want

I noticed that my readers really enjoyed my blog posts and would comment on emotional, heartfelt content. They would share funny videos like wildfire, and they ignored my inspirational quote/images.

Guess what I started doing more of? Emotional blog posts intermixed with funny videos. It’s a good thing I like creating both because that’s what my audience was telling me they wanted.

Put out a variety of content and see what sticks. What do your readers like?

The answer will be different for everyone, which is why you can’t copy someone’s campaign and think it’ll work with your readers. (More on that another time, though.)

The more you focus on what your readers want, the more you’ll feel comfortable promoting that content. It’s not about you, it’s about them and what’s wrong with letting people know when content they would enjoy is available?

Nothing. Nothing at all.

Want this blog in video format instead? I deliver more #truthbombs in the video below.

Be sure to subscribe to me on YouTube if you want to be the first to know when new videos are up.

Did I convince you that book marketing isn’t self-promotion? Sound off in the comments

Thankful Frankie: Recovering from a Failed Kickstarter Campaign

I backed Thankful Frankie before I even met Kathleen (yes, I’m one of those strangers backing campaigns), because I absolutely loved the book’s message.

It broke my heart to see the campaign fail when the book had so much potential and I was delighted to see Kathleen relaunch Thankful Frankie with a new goal.

I asked Kathleen to share a bit about her experience and what she changed during the relaunch.

Be sure to check out her relaunched campaign here and support the campaign with a social media share or pledge.

If you’re scared of failing, and who isn’t(?), then be sure to read Kathleen’s encouraging messages and advice about how to handle a public failure on Kickstarter.

I have put so much love and work into Thankful Frankie, and I believe so strongly in its message, that giving up was not an option.”

 

Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?

Crowdfunding offered an opportunity to share the message behind my book and get the word out about Thankful Frankie.  I also knew that paying an illustrator/designer, printing copies, shipping books, and a handful of other expenses add up to quite a lot of money.  Raising funds offset the financial risk required to self-publish.

Almost everyone is terrified of failure but your campaign failed and you decided to relaunch on Kickstarter. Can you explain a bit about your experience and how you decided to relaunch?

I’ll be honest, failure is the worst.

It doesn’t feel good and for a few days after the campaign ended it was difficult to stay positive.  After getting over the set-back and disappointment, I reconnected with the purpose of my book.

The book encourages readers to list things they are grateful for each day, a practice I believe can change your life.  I have put so much love and work into Thankful Frankie, and I believe so strongly in its message, that giving up was not an option.

Aside from changing your overall campaign goal from $20k to $4444, what other changes did you make to your strategy and communication with your audience?

My initial campaign launched when I was working with a hybrid publishing company (hence the crazy $20,000 goal).  After parting ways and deciding to tackle this on my own, I realized I needed significantly less funding and was able to lower my goal.  

I also changed the rewards I offered. Most of my backers were family and friends and were supporting out of love. I realized they didn’t want or need the rewards I had initially offered.

This time around the rewards are simple and straightforward, which also allowed me to keep the funding goal low.

I am still in the middle of my campaign, but communication and connection with my audience has been more consistent and I post on my social media accounts every day.  

Allow yourself to be upset for a couple days, scream a little, cry a little, throw some things around a little, and then get over it.

What strategies or resources did you find most helpful when planning your campaigns?

I referenced a lot of successful and unsuccessful campaigns to see what worked and what didn’t.  This gave me ideas for rewards, price ranges, and strategies for communicating with backers.

Your blog has been a game changer for me as well.  When starting out I connected with your blog to help decided which crowdfunding platform to use.  I read and re-read your post “5 Biggest Mistakes Indie Authors Make While Crowdfunding” and got so much out of it.  I have about 2 ½ weeks left in my campaign and will implement your suggested strategies as I continue to work toward my goal.

I also connected with other authors who ran campaigns and asked for any tips, advice, or suggestions they could give.  There are many great groups on Facebook and social media that provide a supportive community to bounce ideas off of.

Lastly, I supported projects and other campaigns that resonated with me.  

What has surprised you the most about crowdfunding?

Great question!  I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard.  Crowdfunding is currently my full-time job!

What has been your biggest source of support?

I wouldn’t have gotten this far through the process without my family and friends.  I owe them so much gratitude and several giant hugs. Another source of encouragement has been seeing other self-published authors achieve success. It’s great motivation to keep at it despite the challenges.

What advice would you give to an author who is considering crowdfunding their book?

-Believe in your book and its message.  Passion will keep you moving forward when things get tough.

Team up with a coach or someone who knows what they are doing.  Their experience and perspective can be hugely beneficial. I have a great suggestion if you need one 🙂   

I know this is a tough financial decision to make since you are crowdfunding to earn money not spend it, but this could be the difference between making your goal or falling short.

Start early.  

Make genuine connections and support others when you’re able.

What would you tell that same author about recovering from a failed campaign?

If you believe in your book and your heart tells you to try again, try again. Allow yourself to be upset for a couple days, scream a little, cry a little, throw some things around a little, and then get over it.  

An unsuccessful campaign isn’t necessarily the sign of a bad book, perhaps it’s a sign of bad campaign.

Check out Thankful Frankie on Kickstarter

Bio

Kathleen Cruger is a former educator, a musician, a lover of nature, travel and kindness. In addition to writing, Kathleen teaches yoga in Los Angeles, CA. She is a firm believer in the power of gratitude and kindness and does her best to practice both each and every day.

 

Join my closed Facebook group of Crowdfunding Authors to share ideas, get feedback, and collaborate with one another.

Get More Book Sales with Disappearing Rewards

Everyone can utilize the strategy I outline below. 

Book not yet published: Use this strategy to drive sales during your pre-order period.

Book already published: Use this strategy to revive book sales during a special “extra rewards” month.

Note: There’s a video at the end of this post for those who learn better by listening and watching.

Crowdfunding Marketing Strategies Without Crowdfunding

How do you convince readers to pre-order your book before it’s available? 

This is a common dilemma that authors face while planning their crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter but great news, everyone…

You don’t need to crowdfund your book in order to implement crowdfunding strategies.

Not everyone wants to crowdfund their book and many people shouldn’t.

(Here’s a list of questions you should ask yourself to see if you should or shouldn’t crowdfund your book.)

 

Reward Your Readers

Crowdfunding your book entails offering readers extra rewards that are only available for a limited time

Non-crowdfunding authors can use the same approach to drive more book sales or pre-orders.

Also, this strategy involves MUCH LESS stress and nail biting compared to launching a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign where it’s all-or-nothing.

So, if you like all upside and very little downside (really just your time and effort), then this strategy will set you apart from the other authors who are struggling with Facebook ads and Amazon marketing.

Sound good?

Here’s the process:

Step 1: Create 4 (or more) rewards

These can be anything, really, but can include:

  • Ebook 
  • Audiobook
  • Activity workbook with material that complements your book
  • Printable coloring pages
  • Anything that involves your time (e.g., course, coaching, training, webinar, event, etc.)

I advise you to keep it relatively easy to create, original to your work, complementary to the book you are launching, and easy to deliver (digital rewards can be delivered via email). 

If you start deviating from the above characteristics, you’re going to create more work for yourself than necessary.

Remember, these are valuable rewards for readers but you shouldn’t be spending tons of money creating them. Mostly, invest your time and effort into creating the rewards.

2. Make those Rewards Disappear

Incentivize readers to take action right away and not wait to pre-order your book.

So, anyone who pre-orders or buys your book during this Reward the Reader month (or whatever you want to call it), will have access to disappearing rewards in addition to your book.

Week 1: Readers get all 4 rewards

Week 2: Readers select 3 out of the 4 rewards.

Week 3: Readers can select 2 out of the 4 rewards.

Week 4: Readers can select one reward.

At the end of your Reward the Reader month, you’ve successfully rewarded ALL of your readers (they should be super happy) but the early bird readers should be the happiest because they got ALL of your goodies.

Step 3: Deliver the goods

At the end of the pre-order marketing blitz, be sure to deliver all rewards to everyone who pre-ordered your book, encourage them to read your book and leave a review, and thank them for being awesome and supportive people.

The best way to do this is via email using your newsletter service provider. 

Be sure to have them specifically opt-in to receive your newsletter if they want to continue to receive emails from you to be GDPR-compliant.

Rules, man, I know, but transparency is crucial to building trust between you and your readers.

Benefits to using this approach

1. Everyone can do it

Whether you have already published your book or are still planning your book launch strategy, everyone can use this approach reward readers.

Come up with some great digital rewards that your readers want and get to work.

2. It relieves some pressure

If you aren’t “salesy” and don’t like talking about your book, then you’ll LOVE this approach.

Many authors find it easier to promote FREE items than they do about promoting their book for sale.

3. Organic sharing

Readers love to share free things. They are more likely to share a bundle of four free goodies that are available with the purchase of your book than they would an ad for a book. (Actually, does anyone share ads? Not really.)

4. Everyone wins

Your readers get 1-4 valuable rewards in addition to your book and you get more book sales and exposure. Win-win.

Less Stress but Still Requires Effort

So, no need to stress about launching an intimidating Kickstarter campaign in order to benefit from crowdfunding marketing strategies. 

And just a reminder that as everything goes, you’ll only get out what you put into this process.

Creating and promoting these disappearing rewards still requires time and effort and marketing dollars to drive those book sales, but you should feel good about the value you’re giving your readers.

Want to learn more about crowdfunding strategies that will work for your book?

Click here for my free videos, webinars, and blogs featuring authors who are killing it on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

Want my free tips on indie publishing and crowdfunding for authors twice a month?

Sign up here.

Watch this video on YouTube for more about this approach

Review of Unbound Publishing

I’ve received a number of queries about Unbound as a potential solution for indie authors and started conducting my own research on the platform and talking with Unbound authors about their experiences. The following is my review of their platform, business model, and services.

Unbound is a UK-based publisher that uses crowdfunding to determine which books are sent to print.

Great, we’ve seen lots of small presses use Kickstarter in this way but Unbound doesn’t use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. They created their own crowdfunding platform and integrated it into their site rather than pay Kickstarter a platform fee on every one of their projects.

Smart.

Unbound is a bit Unclear

However, unlike Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that display the funding goal, include the date of project creation and deadline, Unbound projects lack that level of detail.

I could only find the funding status, the percentage funded and the total number of backers for current and old Unbound books.

Their most successful book that I could find (it’s somewhat difficult to sort and organize projects) is a humorous biography/memoir about video games with nearly 9,000 backers and 1830% funded. You can check it out here if you’re interested. So it looks like Unbound has some popular books in their catalog.

It is tough to judge which books are popular and which ones aren’t because I have no way of knowing when the project was created.

If a project is 27% funded but it’s only Day 1, that’s not as bad as being 27% funded on day 37, you know?

Unfortunately, due to their platform, I cannot make an accurate assessment of the popularity of any of their books. (Except for the book with 9k backers. That would be a slam dunk on any platform.)

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards and buy our books.

Lacking transparency

When a campaign is over, parts of the campaign are no longer available as a public record (something both KS and IGG provide) and I couldn’t reverse engineer the total crowdfunding amount (total # of backers at each reward level to calculate the campaign goal).

So, Unbound’s platform is intentionally opaque.

Whenever you are raising funds (frankly, whenever you are selling anything), transparency is vital.

As a potential investor (even if it’s just a small amount), I want to know how much money you’re requesting and how you plan to spend the funds.

Knowing these details are absolutely crucial to building trust between creators and backers.

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards to buy our books.

Unbound themselves say that transparency is vital so, why don’t they make their funding goals public knowledge like other crowdfunding publishers?

I advise all of my crowdfunding clients to make their campaign pages as transparent as possible including a visual diagram showing how the funds will be spent.

If Unbound were my client, I’d be saying the same thing to them.

Making it Difficult 

In creating the platform themselves and hiding certain elements that convey transparency, Unbound is doing a disservice to their authors who are trying to build trust with their readers and convert them into backers.

They are actually making the crowdfunding process harder for their authors when it’s already quite difficult because readers are still relatively new to the crowdfunding process.

Left With a Lot of Unanswered Questions

After reviewing their FAQs, I had even more questions.

If you look at Kickstarter or IndieGoGo’s FAQ pages, they go on and on to help their creators understand the process. Kickstarter has a community of fellow creators to help troubleshoot and problem solve before launch. IndieGoGo is extremely responsive to emails and willing to work with their creators.

I sent off an email to Unbound with some questions for clarification related to their process so I could understand more before writing this review on September 28.

Within minutes, I received an autoresponder from Unbound informing me that they’d get back to me as soon as possible (which was usually within three business days).

But they never responded.

I fired off a reminder email on October 16 and received the same auto response.

It’s now October 24, and I’ve still not heard from them.

I mentioned this to an Unbound author, and his response was, “Yeah, that’s not surprising. They can be slow.”

From the author’s perspective, it would cause me concern if I need to follow up numerous times with my publisher to have my simple questions addressed.

Long Project Timelines

Crowdfunding is all about limited TIME. The main reason why rewards-based crowdfunding is so different from traditional marketing is that there is an intense period of marketing activities within a very short amount of time.

Kickstarter recommends campaigns end within 30 days and IndieGoGo does not allow projects to extend their timelines past 60 days after their launch dates.

Why?

Limiting time forces action

Time-limited campaigns are successful because it is difficult to sustain a level of intense marketing for very long.

Creators burn out, and audiences become fatigued with hearing the same messages over and over again. It leads to burnout.

On their website, Unbound tells prospective authors that their books’ campaigns often last between 3-6 months (!!!) Which is 3x-6x longer than the crowdfunding experts recommend.

If this was equity crowdfunding, which is known to have a longer timeline, then that would be a different story. But this is rewards-based crowdfunding.

Sean Leahy’s campaign lasted from March-December 2016 (10 months)  and is scheduled for publication February 2019. His campaign was 10x longer than his peers on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are crowdfunding.

He endured way more stress and marketing fatigue than his crowdfunding counterparts.

In our interview (available here), he mentions numerous times how it felt like a slog and no, he wouldn’t want to do it again or recommend that process to other authors.

Are the deadlines flexible? 

My guess, I don’t know for sure because Unbound never got back to me, is that their campaigns have a flexible deadline until it looks like it will be funded. Perhaps they have a deadline that only the authors know about but in reality, it’s much more important for the readers to know about the deadline.

Having no deadline means that you lack the very thing that makes readers get off their butts and back your campaign.

One has to take something away to make it exclusive.

That’s why every marketer will tell you that you have to “close the cart” if you want to see sales.

“You won’t be able to get this book after today!” really forces people to act, not, “Oh, don’t worry. You can back this campaign today or tomorrow or in six months from now. It’s fiiine.”

From the creator’s perspective, having no end in sight is a nightmare. Crowdfunding is a humbling experience. It’s stressful and nobody can sustain a 24/7 marketing strategy for 10 months.

From the backer’s perspective, no deadline means I’m not motivated to back the project. Why should I do it now instead of tomorrow?

Dodgy Refund Policy

Also part of the trust factor is a clear and user-friendly refund policy. 

As a backer, if this project doesn’t succeed, will I get my money back?

With Unbound, no, you won’t. Not without a lot of hassle, anyway.

Look at the text of their refund policy 

With Kickstarter, your credit card isn’t charged unless the campaign is successful when it closes.

With IndieGoGo, your credit card is charged when you pledge but is fully refunded if the campaign is not successful (for their fixed funding projects only).

With Unbound, a backer is refunded in Unbound credits that they can use to back another book on the platform.

If a backer wants their actual money back, they must contact Unbound directly.

Provided that many books are backed by authors’ close network of friends and family, I highly doubt that many backers would want to use their funds to support another book on the platform.

Again, given their radio silence via email, I would imagine that getting your money back would be difficult and annoying.

Verdict: Unbound’s refund policy isn’t backer friendly and wouldn’t give me the confidence that I’m looking for when backing a book on the platform.

Crowdfunding Publishers

My mission is to support authors crowdfund their books. There are many publishers using the crowdfunding model to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for their books on Kickstarter.

Microcosm Publishing—19 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $100k.

Flesk Publications—5 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $500k.

Beehive Books—10 projects on Kickstarter raising over $500k.

I think it’s great that Unbound has close to 300 books in their catalog and when done correctly, I believe that crowdfunding can be a sustainable marketing approach for all authors.

Room for improvement

The issue with Unbound is that they lack the very elements that make crowdfunding successful—time, transparency, and responsiveness.

Can I recommend Unbound as a publisher for authors who are open to crowdfunding? In its current state, sadly, no.

My Recommendations

If Unbound addresses the factors that I mention and publishes each campaign’s goal amount, provides the project’s open and close dates, and changes their refund policy, then I might consider changing my recommendation.

Also, replying to emails from potential clients never hurts.

In my opinion, Unbound’s platform and approach is neither creator nor backer-friendly compared to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

The long timelines cause undue stress and marketing fatigue on its authors and their refund policy isn’t great customer service.

The radio silence via direct email and confirmation from Unbound authors that they are slow to respond has me thinking that they are overstretched.

At this point, I would not recommend publishing with Unbound.

Instead, go the indie route or find a publisher who is open to you crowdfunding your book’s costs as Elisavet Arkolaki did with her publisher.

As always, I encourage authors to take control of their publishing and marketing timelines and create a strategy that promotes engagement with their audiences and furthers their brand as authors.

If you are open to crowdfunding your book but don’t know where to start, I recommend signing up for my free mini course.

What you’ll learn in the free mini course

  • The different types of crowdfunding
  • Why authors keep choosing Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to fund their books
  • What every book’s crowdfunding campaign needs to be successful
  • Big mistakes to avoid during your campaign
  • Access to my monthly newsletter tips on how to best use crowdfunding to market your book

Click here to sign up. 

The Monster Café—Unbound’s First Illustrated Book

Children’s book author, Sean Leahy, teamed up with Hungarian illustrator Mihály Orodán and crowdfunding publisher, Unbound, to bring a cafe run by monsters to life for children.

The Monster Café is a humourous tale that deals with pre-conceptions, pre-school excitement and pre-tty big monsters.

Unbound is a UK-based publisher that utilizes crowdfunding to drive pre-orders for their book. You can see Sean’s Unbound campaign page here

Curious about how Unbound worked from the creator’s perspective, I asked Sean some questions and he was kind enough to describe his experience crowdfunding with Unbound.

Questions About The Monster Café

 
Why did you decide to go with Unbound rather than crowdfunding the book on your own and self-publishing it?
 
I was attracted by the fact Unbound is a publisher, so they deal with everything; editorial, printing, publishing, distribution, fulfillment etc.
 
They deal with all the wholesalers and shops as any publisher would and have a manuscript review and approval process.
 
 
Did Unbound provide crowdfunding campaign assistance to you as an author? 
 
They did. I was invited to a workshop before I kicked off my campaign. They provided the video team who filmed and edited my pitch film. They run the page and do all the fulfillment. 
 
 
Do they help you strategize your crowdfunding marketing plans before you launched?
 
Yes, this was dealt with in the workshop.
 
 
What was your book’s total funding goal (this isn’t available on the website, only the % raised)?
 
I’d rather not divulge, as each Unbound author will have different totals, depending on their books and needs.
 
 
How long was your Unbound campaign live? Their website says 3-6 months which must’ve felt like an eternity. (Most crowdfunding campaigns are only 30 days long to prevent marketing fatigue).
 
It went live March, and I was fully funded in the December, so almost 10 months. Yes, it was a slog.
 
 
What was the most surprising thing that you learned about crowdfunding as you went through the process?
 
Just how much effort it is. I knew it’d be exhausting, but the constant reminders were the worst. People DO forget!
 
 
What 3 tips would you give to an author considering crowdfunding their book?
 
  1. Make a list of everyone you think will be interested, and drop them a line about it and a reminder.
  2. Don’t check on your progress every 10 minutes. It can get demoralising.
  3. You’d be surprised just who will pledge. Don’t write anyone off!
 
Would you do the same model again or try something different?
 
Given it was such a long process, I would rather not. But I also would love to write more books. If I have to I will!
 

Bio

Sean Leahy is the flesh-and-bone edition of wonky tweetsmith, @thepunningman.

He writes very short and occasionally hilarious jokes to wild acclaim, featuring in Playboy’s 50 Funniest People on Twitter, and appearing on Buzzfeed, Comedy Central, The Poke, Huffington Post, Funny or Die and TimeOut among others. Sean lives outside the gates of Hampton Court Palace with his wife and two children.

Click here to pre-order the book

Into Your Dreams Raises over $16k on Kickstarter

Into Your Dreams Raises over $16k on Kickstarter | Lisaferland.com

Roger Blonder is the rhyming mastermind behind the illustrated children’s book, Into Your Dreams, and he raised over $16k on Kickstarter to fund his book and pre-sell copies to his readers.

In this interview, he discusses his previous failure on Kickstarter and how that shaped his second attempt and his advice to children’s authors looking to crowdfunding as a solution.

How much research did you do before launching your Kickstarter?

I was aware of Kickstarter for a number of years and had backed a few campaigns over time. In 2012, I created a time management app for kids but since I didn’t know anything about marketing or crowdfunding, the campaign failed and never came close to my $5k goal. I didn’t nurture the campaign and it showed.

An old student of mine helped people with Kickstarter campaigns and he pointed me in the right direction.

I used MailChimp to manage my emails and segment my messaging based on who opened and clicked on my emails and who did not. I really liked that because I didn’t feel like I was bothering people with the same messages over and over again.

What types of behind-the-scenes work do you think contributed most to your success?

I tried to do high-value special art offerings with a lot of art that was done years ago (and I funded myself). That lead to some big rewards that people were interested in and complemented the book.

If you’re using Kickstarter to produce a tech gadget, there’s an understanding that the Kickstarter campaign involves a discount of some kind as an early-adopter.

But, my research indicated that those who supported children’s book campaigns did not seem to be motivated by discounts like the people who want mass-produced tech gadgets. Aside from those in your personal network who have a desire to help you achieve your goals, there has to be something in the book that makes them want to buy it. I found that $35 for a hardcover children’s book seemed to be about the market rate.

As a teacher, I have summers off from school, so I planned my entire campaign during the summer and put together different mailing lists in MailChimp for different audiences. Altogether, I had about 900 people on my email list.

How many people do you think you emailed during the campaign. What was your biggest source of backers?

I had about 900 emails on my list and tried to think of as many people as possible who would be interested in a bedtime book.

My goal was to make an authentic and personal connection with potential backers.

A big tip is that if you don’t do anything with your campaign, nothing happens.

The campaign will not run itself and you can see that in the daily pledges.

If I had to do it over again, I would explore working with ConvertKit as I have heard that their audience segmentation tools are more powerful. It can allow you to reconfigure your email messages based on if they opened it or not.

You can feel more comfortable emailing someone you know hasn’t opened your first email and the messages should be different than people who have already backed you.

What was the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign?

You have to have thick skin. It was surprising to me to see who unsubscribed from my emails.

On the other hand, it was surprising to see the people who reached out to me and offered help to make it happen. I knew that getting help was a necessary step in the book’s production but I didn’t want it to be a charity effort.

The most exciting thing was receiving support from every chapter of my life—backers from elementary school, high school, workplace friends, family, students who would kick in $5, and some faculty and administrators who ended up supporting the project.

I’m glad it had a limited timeframe and I’m happy I found my voice with it.

Did you have to change your strategy mid-campaign?

Not really. It’s all about trying to find a balance between presenting a polished product and keeping it real.

I always led with the messaging, “If you find this to be meaningful, I’m hoping you’ll support it and validate it in some way.”

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

When you work with talented human beings who understand their craft and put them all together, you will have a great book.

You have to know what success means to you. It’s ok if you just want to make a little book for your kids but that person shouldn’t necessarily pursue a large publishing effort.

Success for me meant creating the book and sharing it with the people who supported the campaign. I felt like my words deserved to be read.

Respect your audience. Someone reading your book is taking time out of their day, so respect that.

I don’t want to be manipulated by marketing schemes and I’m sure my readers don’t either. Take the time to hone your craft, learn from the greats, be open to criticism and learning.

(Side note: If you’re not sure if crowdfunding your book is right for you, watch this quick video)

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) for lessons on craft and inspiration. You’ll have access to a diverse community of people who are all striving for excellence.

Think hard about what success means to you before going through all of the effort and expense.

If you ask people to support you, be prepared for them not to support you at all. It sucks but it’s what happens.

If your goal is to make your book a business, you need to prepare, research, and take your time.

Advice: If someone offers you help or advice along the way, then take their help. I met with a parent who was an Amazon marketing expert and he made himself available to share what he knew. As I was so focused on my campaign, I never followed through with him and only later came to realize how valuable his help would have been in the sales and marketing efforts after I completed the campaign.

Listen to the advice of people who know more than you.

Could you see yourself doing another Kickstarter campaign in the future?


I would do an IndieGoGo campaign instead of a Kickstarter.

And I would only do another campaign if I could reach my audience and not tap the same friends and family who backed my first campaign.

You mentioned that you worked with a museum-quality printer for your book. Can you specify and would you recommend them?

Absolutely. I work with US-based Four Colour Print Group who has relationships with printers in Korea and China. I have found them to be competitive with other printers and the price for shipping is included in the quote.

Final advice

It’s a good idea to have some clue as to what you’re going to do with the book after your campaign is finished.

Next time, I’ll leverage the campaign to generate more reviews on Amazon and plan a proper book launch. I learned a lot from your interview with Julia Miles Inserro. I have been using the resources she suggested and recommend them highly. 

Bio

Roger Blonder goes Into His Dreams by crafting words, playing music, making movies, working in the garden, staring across the ocean and hiking in the mountains. Blonder received his MFA in Animation from the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
 
His animated films have been honored with awards at film festivals all over the world. He has animated students at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, Loyola Marymount University and currently as the Director of Media Arts at de Toledo High School in Southern California where he lives with his wife Renée, daughters, Jaelyn and Noa and dog, Zephyr, Beast of Joy. 
Read his book today

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