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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

 

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.

Kickstarter Creator and Self-Published Children’s Book Author: Erin Nelsen Parekh

Erin and I first connected when we were both live with our Kickstarter campaigns. (You can see hers here.) Activities during a crowdfunding campaign involve reaching out to strangers and supporting one another on the platform, and I absolutely loved what Erin was doing with Behowl the Moon.

UPDATE: Erin has launched another Kickstarter campaign for her second book, The Wild Waves Whist that is live now until May 19, 2018 so be sure to back it!

Check out her Kickstarter campaign here.

I mean, how many Shakespeare board books for babies are out there?

What I loved about what she was doing was that it wasn’t really for the babies. I mean, it was a book for babies, but the book was just as much designed for the parent reader. Believe me, no baby is going to appreciate that artwork like an adult.

As Erin is a Kickstarter creator of a children’s illustrated board book and a self-published author; this interview covered a lot of topics.

You have experience with traditional publishers so why did you go the self-publishing route?

I thought I had a fairly strong idea, but there was no reason I could think of that a traditional publisher would want me to do that idea.

This was something I wanted for myself, and I knew other people like me would want for themselves, but I didn’t know if it was a big enough market segment for a traditional publisher to take a risk on it.

Board books are expensive [to produce] and almost nobody debuts with a board book.

For me, I would pay $25 for a board book instead of $3 for something I really wanted, and I knew that if other people were willing to do the same, then we could do it ourselves.

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

I have an extensive background in traditional publishing and I’ve done a lot on the editorial side. I knew how it was done distribution-wise and the technical details regarding the printing, so I wasn’t intimidated by the prospect of doing it myself.

Self-publishing meant that I got to pick everything—the illustrator, the title, the content. I wanted to have creative control for my project.

Self-publishing was a really empowering option.

Why did you decide to crowdfund your book?

Going through the crowdfunding process really made me feel like the entire project was vetted. If I hadn’t done the crowdfunding, I’m not sure I would’ve had the confidence to push it so far.

We had 384 backers for the project so we weren’t trying to please the entirety of the world. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I know my audience is extremely sophisticated and has high standards for quality and production.

My illustrator was fabulous. And I also worked with a very talented professional book designer. I understand the need for getting the technical details right, but I don’t know how to make the book spine a certain width or how to reverse a template—she does.

Someone who is creative but not experienced in this industry wouldn’t know how to make my vision come to life like she did.

No one really wants to compromise on their project except in areas where you don’t know any better.

I really liked Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing approach because I wouldn’t be able to produce the book with only $5K. We truly needed to reach 100% funding to put this book together.

How much work did you do before the campaign?

Before the campaign, I did a ton of research on where to find potential backers.

I tried to think of every possible audience who might be interested in this book and how I was going to talk with them (Marketing 101, right?).

Then, I started finding where Shakespeare people were, parents, board book people, theatre people, kids who are into theatre, and then all of the blogs, websites, friends, etc. and made massive lists of every possible angle.

During the Kickstarter campaign itself, I tried reaching out to multiple groups each day so I wasn’t exhausting one interest demographic, but I was connecting with new people every day.

Did you do it yourself or did you have a team of people helping you?

I had a few wonderful friends and relatives who were interested in the project who helped me out sharing and looking for places to share.

Shakespeare Geek, who has been blogging since the dawn of blogs, picked up my campaign from Reddit, and he was my first stranger cheerleader.

It’s so incredibly compelling when someone else in the void of the internet likes your idea and has the authority of a background in your topic.

Neil Gaiman tweeted about the book and then did it again as the campaign was closing. I really admire him as an artist, and it was extremely exciting to see that momentum build.

At the same time, I was like, “Yeah, I need 100 more backers or all of this is for naught.”

You reached 100% with a few days to go in your campaign. Were you sweating it out?

Toward the end of the Kickstarter campaign, I’m thinking, “I have already said everything I can think of to say to everyone I can think of who might be interested. I have run out of ideas. What’s going to happen here?”

You get hung up at 92% for a few days, and it’s stressful.

 

How did you set your different reward tiers?

Crowdfunding campaigns are incredibly short, and there are only so many people who are going to back you at the higher reward levels in the short amount of time you have. It’s simply the nature of crowdfunding. You’re only going to reach so many people at those upper levels in the time you have.

People who really love you or your project may support you at the higher levels, but it has to be viable with a reasonable number of supporters at not too high a contribution point.

What’s your advice for authors with illustrations?

If you’re selling a print to go along with your book, you’re selling either a souvenir of the campaign, in which case they have to really like the campaign; or a physical piece of artwork, in which case they have to really love that piece of art; or a way for them to support your campaign, in which the actual piece of artwork doesn’t matter at all.

It’s hard to know what motivates people to choose a print, so you have to cover all those possibilities when you’re making your decisions about production and shipping.

Some people will want to buy the print, and some people will want to support the campaign at a higher level.

| Too many options weaken your entire campaign. | 

Kickstarter always gives you the option to donate to the campaign without any rewards. But too many reward options weaken your entire campaign. For me personally, I like the stuff, so I designed my rewards based on stuff that I like.

The artwork is beautiful and calls to mind a fairly beloved play, and the artwork was one of the main items I was trying to fund, so postcards and prints turned out to be the most practical and transportable with the highest added value.

The success of the campaign filled me with all of this gratitude, and I wanted to send everyone everything related to the campaign. But you also have to keep an eye on costs, and postage is one that will add up fast.

I had one quarter of the artwork paid on spec (by me) for the campaign, and we did the rest of the artwork as soon as it funded. I was seven months pregnant, so I needed to get that book off to press!

We finished in November 2016 and went to press December 12, 2016. My daughter was born two days later. I was approving final carton markings in the hospital! But then I had a couple of months where the book didn’t really need anything from me.

What’s next? Can readers expect another Behowl the Moon anytime soon?

Yes! I just sent out a survey to my backers to see if they would be interested in a second one, and the response was so positive and gratifying.

I have a new project percolating along now. I’m hoping to announce some details soon, and if anyone is interested they can find out about it from my mailing list: http://drivelanddrool.com/contact.

What would you say to someone who wants to farm out their publishing or crowdfunding campaign to someone else?

The misery of rewriting is the author’s alone, and I think that applies to crowdfunding too. If you try to outsource it, it’ll end up “okay” and okay isn’t good enough.

You have to own the entire process, and if you want the victory, you have to go through the slog.

Not that the slog guarantees victory…

But I love seeing the content that is out here that wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for crowdfunding. It really does democratize so much.

Bio

Erin Nelsen Parekh is an editor, writer, and copywriter with experience in book and magazine publishing, both business to business and consumer-facing. She has always loved kids and kids’ books, and now that she is a parent herself, she finds it particularly fun to explore children’s literature with a tiny critic in her lap.

You can find out more about Erin at drivelanddrool.com

 
Buy the book here

Kickstarting Cami the Kangaroo—How one author reached 100% in 9 days

Did you do any research before launching your Kickstarter? If so, what did you do?

 
Yes! I started researching Kickstarter campaigns three months ago (in November), when I first read about it on one of the author Facebook groups I’m a part of.
 
I did several things:
– I asked for advice and tips from several authors who had already run successful Kickstarter campaigns,
– I searched “Kickstarter” on Facebook author group pages and read all I could that people had already posted, and
– I went onto the Kickstarter website and studied people’s campaigns (past ones and ones that were running at the time) to see what they did that made them successful and
– I read several articles on the Kickstarter website itself to learn more about the program.
 
I also spent time backing several authors who were running campaigns.
 
 

Why did you select Kickstarter over IndieGoGo or another crowdfunding platform?

 
The main reason I chose Kickstarter was because it was the platform most other authors in my Facebook groups used and were using. It was the one I could get the most advice about from others! 
 
 

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

 
As stated above, research, research research! I spoke with other authors, reading about Kickstarter and crowdfunding. Then in December, came the marketing.
 
Being a teacher, I literally knew nothing about marketing, so once again, I enlisted the help of other authors for ideas. I had magnets made and a press release and took them around town, dropping them off at local coffee shops and stores.
 
I called and visited numerous dentist offices. I called and emailed local TV and newspaper outlets and told them about my project and scored two newspaper stories and two TV interviews.
 
I researched and emailed parenting bloggers asking for support. I joined teacher and parenting groups on Facebook. I contacted local libraries, schools and just started passing out my magnets to anyone and everyone!
 
I had to think about the rewards, shipping costs and make a video (which my colleague Jim made for me). I also started my author Facebook, Instagram and websites and started building support for those as soon as I could. 
 

It sounds like you reached out to tons of people. How many people do you think you’ve emailed during the campaign? 

 
Oh gosh! Hundreds! Family, friends, my book club, my church, my school I teach at, newspapers, TV stations, bloggers, other authors, libraries, schools, dentist offices, the MN Dental Foundation (who I hope to donate books to)…I’m sure I’m forgetting some! 
 
 

How did you get your local TV coverage? Did you have that connection before you launched?

 
Nope! I just prepared and sent an email about my journey from teacher to author and they contacted me about doing a segment! 
 
 

What has been the most surprising thing about your Kickstarter campaign? What did you not expect to happen that has happened?

 
So many people have helped me. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I am just so grateful!
 
From my friend, Malina, who gave me the idea to choose a kangaroo for my main character, to my friend Jen who put me in contact with someone to help create the bookmarks I plan to give all backers. The ladies in my Bible study who have prayed for me and supported me through this entire thing to my friend and colleague Jim who created the video for my campaign.
 
From people like you and other authors (especially Diane Alber) who have given me so much great advice and support to my friends (old and new) who have championed for me this whole time.
 
My family (parents, sisters and my extended family in WI, TX and CA) has been especially supportive—every time I make a new post on my author page, they are right there sharing it and supporting me.
 
My #1 fan and cheerleader has been my husband Will. He has supported me every step of the way—I definitely couldn’t have done any of this without his unconditional support and love.
 
 

Have you had to change your strategy mid-campaign? If so, why?

 
Yes! I was surprised and excited AND grateful when I found out that we made our goal about 9 days into the campaign! So, I then had to start thinking about stretch goals.
 
Once again, I had to research, talk to my author friends and do a lot of thinking about how to go about that. I really wanted to be able to donate books to schools and also to the MN Dental Foundation and since I have over two weeks left of my campaign, I’m hoping to keep the momentum going to be able to do that. 
 

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

 
Reach out and talk to people! Ask questions. Start researching and building up support for your book a couple of months before you launch. 
 

I know you’re still in the midst of your campaign but would you pursue crowdfunding again or recommend it for other authors like yourself? If so (or not) why?

 
Yes! It’s been so fun! I’ve loved every minute. The amount of support I’ve had has been overwhelming and exciting.
 
I am so grateful to have had this experience. I have learned so much, made so many new friends and have had so many new experiences. 

Watch the video below to back Stacy’s book and help her reach her stretch goals, Cami the Kangaroo has too many sweets!

Want more crowdfunding help for your book?