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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, the first days are everything!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other ideas:

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

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

It takes SO MUCH time and energy! Ha!

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

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

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

Absolutely!

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

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

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

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

What unexpected opportunities have resulted from running your Kickstarter campaign? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bio

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

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

Follow her on Instagram: @thislittlestreet  

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

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

Why Community is So Important While Writing

Writers often work alone and bring the ideas in their heads to the page without the input of a community of readers. Wherever possible, it is vitally important to receive feedback from your main audience while you create your book and then again, when you launch it.

Why is community important?

While building an audience, you receive creative energy and feedback from your readers. Their encouragement and feedback will give you the reminder you need to keep going when you feel like you’re shouting into the void.

But you’re never shouting into the void. Or, at least, the void is more crowded than you think…someone is always reading and watching what you do. They usually approach you at a dinner party and comment on your latest LinkedIn post, much to your surprise. And after you have the strangest conversation with that person, you leave feeling both shocked and grateful that someone is reading your words at all.

Readers are so valuable these days

In a world where it seems like everyone is shouting for attention, it is more important than ever to create a community of people who listen, reflect, and respond. If you want to create a dynamic of meaningful exchange, you have to ask questions, offer help, and support others where you can.

Building a community of engaged readers does the following:

– Provides you a solid sounding board so you don’t go too far in the wrong direction (for too long)

– Builds a support network for you when things inevitably go wrong (a soft place to land)

– Honest and critical feedback on your work that will lead to a better overall book

– A group to amplify your voice when you need them on book launch day/campaign launch day

– A go-to source for reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

– A group of people with whom you can feel really confident in sharing your voice

It’s easier with support

Indie author, Joanna Free and I were chatting via email (we connected over LinkedIn, believe it or not) and she said,

“I keep getting clearer and clearer, and on a visceral level, how important it is for me to be a part of a team. I’ve been unskillful in building one for myself. It almost makes me miss being in a workplace where that’s been done for me, and I can just step into my position within the team.”

When I launched the Knocked Up Abroad Again Kickstarter campaign, I kept saying to myself over and over again, “What would I do without these ladies supporting me? I’d be in worse shape than I am right now.”

My contributors really pulled through and they emailed me daily asking me how I was doing and cheered me on whenever I would send out a status update. They created new content, blogs, videos, and sent off hundreds of emails. Without a doubt, the team we created played a crucial part in our success.

Don’t go it alone

If you pursue crowdfunding or are about to launch your book, don’t overlook creating a team of cheerleaders around you. Nobody should take on 30 days of blogging, podcasting, and in-person book readings without a group of people checking in and cheering you on.

So much of the indie publishing process is done solo but we all fare much better when we have a team supporting us along the way.

Have you created a team of people around you?

What did you feel worked well? What would you change for the next time?

Wait, have you joined my community? Do you receive my bi-weekly newsletter? Join me and let’s chat by signing up here.

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.

 

Getting More Book Reviews on Amazon and Goodreads

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

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

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

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

1. Encourage your readers with every newsletter you send out

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

Go ahead and say something like,

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

OR

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

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

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

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

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

3. Give books away for review

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

That’s right, I said free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whoops.

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

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

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

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

“Notes from the Author

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

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

Pro tip: Readers love 4-star reviews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perspectives from Self-Publisher, Britt Reints on Marketing and Topic Burnout

I had the opportunity to chat with Britt Reints, author of An Amateur’s Guide to the Pursuit of Happiness, who was kind enough to share her insights on why she chose to self-publish and the interesting things that happen when you are marketing your book.

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

Honestly, I didn’t even try to publish the traditional route because I was scared someone would tell me I couldn’t do it. I’m an instant gratification person, and I didn’t want to wait for a long time only to be told, “No.”

What aspects did you end up doing yourself and what did you hire out?

I hired a cover designer and a few editors. I also hired a short-term publicist who blasted out my press release to every outlet and got me on a few radio shows. I did my website all by myself and the interior formatting of my book and e-book. I used Scrivener for the writing and organization of my book.

Do you remember how much it cost to produce your book?

I can’t remember exactly, but I’d say somewhere around $1800. The cover designer charged around $500, editors $800, and the publicist was around $500.

You’ve been writing for about 12 years. How helpful was your blog in informing your book?


Well, I traveled for a year, but I didn’t write about that trip. I wrote the book that I didn’t see in the self-help genre (I cringe at the term).

I wanted to write something that discussed the topic of happiness in a way that reached more people. I wanted it to be accessible.

I saw the same themes coming up over and over again on the blog, so I knew they were universal, and I wanted people to know how to do it.

Do you consider yourself a happiness guru of sorts?

After I wrote my book and did a Ted Talk, I haven’t written. It kind of killed my writing because after writing my book, marketing my book, I got annoyed with my topic.

Being associated with my book’s topic ended up being limiting in a way. I was interested in happiness because of a personal experience I had, but I’m kind of over that and want to explore other things.

What was the biggest marketing event that went the furthest?

I definitely sold the most number of books when I was speaking at corporate events and conferences and had my book for sale in the back of the room. I could sell a lot in bulk—20-30 books at one event, so that’s where I saw the most traction.

What advice would you give others?

Hone your craft and be a good writer (and all that jazz) but know that 90% of your work is going to be in marketing your book. If you’re not good at marketing, then invest your money in someone who is.

Do you think it’s worthwhile to self-publish a book?

Writing a book is a stepping stone. When you’re done, you have a huge sense of accomplishment, and it solidifies your platform. Similar to getting your college degree, it shows that you can do a good job and finish something. You can flesh out an idea into a finished book. It’s a major portfolio builder.

What’s next for you?

I would publish again, but now that everyone is writing on the internet, I feel less inclined to put my opinion out there until I know how my opinion is different from everyone else’s. I’m still active on social media, but Twitter is so noisy. I prefer Facebook for tracking conversations.

Check out Britt’s TedX talk here: Creating your owner’s manual for a happy life

Bio

Britt Reints is a happiness expert who doesn’t believe there is any such thing as a happiness expert.

Check out her writing at www.inpursuitofhappiness.net.

Writers: Increase Your Visibility on Instagram

Your writing lives on your computer but your fans, followers, and potential readers live on their phones.

Sharing snippets of your writing with your followers in Instagram is a great way to build a loyal readership.

There are some new apps designed for writers to share their work visually and since they are on your phone, it’s much easier to create an Instagrammable image of your latest blog, poem, or chapter.

Readers are visual people

These apps are designed with the poet in mind, but you can use them to highlight attention to anything you’d like your readers to know about.

The latest data from Statista states that 52.99% of global web traffic came from a mobile device in Q3 2017—a significant rise up from the 44% 2016.

More and more readers are surfing on their phones every day and let’s face it, people respond to visuals.

Creating an image is a great way to get more attention to your text.

I tested out two mobile apps for you to consider enhancing your Instagram feed.

YourQuote

YourQuote is an app developed in India that has a huge writing community behind it.

The wallpapers are beautiful and you can add them as the backdrop behind your text to enhance the emotions or imagery behind your words.

The app is a little buggy—it would suddenly close on me or freeze in the middle of my typing—but there are daily writing prompts to spark your creativity.

The app has Facebook and Instagram integrations which makes it easy to share across platforms.

There is also an option to copy your caption so you can easily copy/paste over somewhere else.

Lisa’s unbiased review: B

-This rating is due to the app’s instability. It keeps crashing my phone despite having the latest update. 

Mirakee

Mirakee is another app with a writing community behind it. The Explore feed looks like an Instagram feed full of poetry. The tap to heart options makes it easy to share encouragement to other writers and to find a little inspiration if you’re in a rut.

The compose and edit features are similar to YourQuote and navigating the app is easy.

So far, it hasn’t crashed my phone on me, so this less buggy version earns a…

Lisa’s unbiased review: A


Both apps are great options for sharing your writing on Instagram or Facebook and bringing more attention and visibility to your writing. 

What’s great about the apps are the writing communities behind them.

The writing communities are a great way to feel connected to other writers instead of home alone writing at your desk surrounded by sheafs of paper and empty cups of coffee.

Canva

While Canva is not a writing app, you can use this photo editing app to create your own images and overlay the text manually. 

Canva has great free templates with suggested fonts and styling straight from the box.

Unlike YourQuote and Mirakee, there is no Canva watermark attached with the images you create using the app.

The app is seamless and has a desktop version as well, so you can access your images from your Canva account wherever you want to write.

You can upload your own images as the wallpaper which means that nobody will have the same background as you. Your imagery and text will truly stand out from the crowd.

Lisa’s unbiased review: A

-Canva requires a bit more manipulation but has greater control.

-With more options comes more decisions but I love the ability to upload your own images as the background wallpaper.

What hashtags to use?

There are a million hashtags on Instagram but the ones I frequently use are:

#supportindieauthors (4500 posts)

#creativewriting (1.5M posts)

#poetryofinstagram (750k posts)

#writersofinstagram (6.6M posts)

#tellyourstory2018 (my hashtag–use this and I’ll support you with likes and reshares.)

 

And last but not least, be sure to follow me on Instagram @knockedupabroad.

I discuss defining and connecting with your ideal readers in the first section of my Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing course because it is so important to know where to find your readers. 
It is crucial to get them excited about your book before it is published.

Instagram is a great platform for sharing your writing if you create visuals that connect and inspire your audience.

Learn more about my step-by-step guide for self-publishing your story this year here.