Leigha Huggins has worked on her Kickstarter campaign since mid-2019, when she first started to conduct the market research and campaign preparations.
She knew her book about the love and joy children bring into our lives was an important message to share, but she was unsure about how to approach her Kickstarter campaign.
After some help and encouragement, Leigha made the leap and launched her campaign in May only to find herself rocketing to success.
Fully funded in 24 hours, and currently exceeding $10k with a $4k goal, Leigha has discovered the power of sharing a positive message that resonates with readers.
Below are Leigha’s tips on what made her campaign a huge success.
Tip #1: Let people know how to help and what it means to you
I feel like lots of people like to help as long as they know how.
I have tried my best to reach out to my top people and ask them directly to please help me.
I let my early supporters know that I was going live and how important it was for the success of the campaign, and my ultimate goal was to get Kickstarter Project We Love badge.
Here’s the message I sent out to my friends and fmaily:
I’m so excited!!! Love Lottery is now available to order. We would love your support if you are able, and if you would share to help us spread the message of this beautiful book, we would be so grateful! https://bit.ly/lovelotterybook
I sent out this message to every person in my Facebook friends and on my phone (still not done…) And no group texts!!!
People discard group text (and sometimes personal ones too… but I felt like this was the step I wanted to go).
I let everyone know how thankful I was for their support.
I made no mention of stretch goals until I was almost to my first one…
Not even to people who were going to be my early supporters.
I revealed the stretch goals as each one came into view and we zoomed through so many that I had to create additional stretch goals! Not a bad problem to have.
Tip #2: Reach out to everyone you know
Mostly I believe in my book, the purpose, the message, the love it shares.
I have no issue about sharing it… with everyone.
My hairdresser, acupuncturist, (from years ago), my realtor, past neighbors, co-workers…
Pretty much if you have ever been in my life, I’m reaching out to you… ha!
Tip #3: Don’t be in a rush to build your audience
I’m okay with hearing no, and I have been building my audience for a long time…
This whole book process I’ve referred to as the gift of delay.
Every time I would get a setback (and there were lots, I used it to get better, find resources, learn, let people know what I was working on).
I just went with the flow, I didn’t want to rush it!
Building a book from the letters up is like building a foundation for the success of your effort.
Tip #4: Perfection is overrated
I spent so much time flip flopping like a pancake worrying about if I was going to launch or not.
I booked an hour session with Lisa and she gave me the encouragement I needed when I needed it the most.
I showed up first day, without everything figured out…and perfection is overrated anyway…that’s too much pressure.
Tip #5: Overcome discomfort with research and preparation
I had never even heard about crowdfunding until I came across Lisa’s website.
Lisa gave me so many tools, resources, ideas and lastly motivation to push through my discomfort to crowdfund my book on Kickstarter.
To me, crowdfunding is like testing the water before you commit to a large print run.
It means launching in front of a group of people you know, and many you don’t.
I think anytime you have the opportunity to launch something new… having a crowd is the best platform to have.
It gives you extra motivation and drive to have your best foot forward as you introduce your project to a beautiful crowd of people. (only safer because it’s online).
Lisa’s note: Leigha has been an ideal (!!) crowdfunding author in that she is not afraid to try new things and she really gives every effort 110% energy and enthusiasm.
The path to successfully crowdfunding your book is different for everyone and it’s important to try as many things as possible so you find what works for you.
I hope Leigha’s path to success is an inspiration for you all.
While some authors know about Kickstarter and a few have heard of IndieGoGo, there are over 600 crowdfunding platforms for authors to choose to market their books. The options grow every year as more people discover the power of crowdfunding.
I spoke with children’s book author, Cheryl Davies, about her debut picture book The Fairy Who Sings, to get insights on why she decided to crowdfund her book on Crowdfunder instead of Kickstarter.
Crowdfunder is a UK-based crowdfunding site and is popular with UK authors.
Find out if it’s right for you with Cheryl’s interview below.
If you have any experiences with Crowdfunder, please let us know in the comments.
Can you describe a bit about your vision for The Fairy Who Sings and why you decided to run a crowdfunding campaign?
The Fairy Who Sings is my debut book. I wanted to write for as long as I can remember. Working with children and writing for children were my two dream goals growing up and now I have achieved both.
For almost 20 years I worked with children who had witnessed or experienced domestic abuse. Helping those children to overcome the trauma they had experienced was a tough but rewarding job.
I put off my dream of writing for children, always waiting for the right time, I always said I would write my first book whilst on maternity leave but three children later that never happened as I was too preoccupied with my children and rightly so.
So, over the years I wrote personal poetry for friends and family instead with the odd hobby poem thrown in.
Then one day during a meeting with a deputy head in a school where I was supporting a child, we fell into a conversation about writing. I told him that it had been my lifelong dream that lay unfulfilled.
He encouraged me and said that there was no better time than now and that there would never be the right time and to just go for it.
So here we are!
That was around 14 months ago and it feels like a lot longer in many ways.
Editing the rhyme and meter
I hired a wonderful editor, Lor Bingham, who helped me develop my writing from poetry into stories.
The Fairy Who Sings was born. It was originally developed from a poem I wrote entitled Fairy Unique.
After multiple edits with Lor, I was happy with my story but it still needed a little bit of help.
It was important to me that The Fairy Who Sings was an inclusive story that had a strong female protagonist.
I wanted to show how important it is to have self-belief and that courage isn’t about not being scared but about how you overcome fear to achieve your goal.
I was advised that my story still needed a little bit of work on my meter and so worked with a wonderful poetry coach–Tamara Rittershaus—for some poetry coaching to help me learn more about meter.
When I was happy with my manuscript I began working with a fantastic team at Bear with Us Productions who brought my book to life, with the aid of an amazing illustrator Eduardo Paj.
They helped make the self publishing process a dream, which is exactly what I needed for my first book.
A fund-matching opportunity
It was during the illustration stage of my journey, that I decided to run a crowdfunding campaign.
I decided after seeing many people unhappy with the low profit margins from KDP and the quality complaints too that I would like to do a print run, with the aim of taking the book as far and as wide as possible.
I didn’t have the funds to do that and so after seeing many successful authors run crowdfunding campaigns I decided to run my own.
I was originally going to do it through Kickstarter but then one day I saw a campaign called Back Her Business that was offering to support new businesses by match funding their Crowdfunder campaigns, if they were successful in hitting 50% of their target. I thought it was too good an opportunity to turn down.
Can you describe the type of prep work you did before you launched?
What resources were helpful in planning?
I tried to grow my followers on Facebook and Instagram. I set up business pages for both. I started a mailing list that people signed up to through my Facebook page.
I began posting about my book and trying to get people interested in various groups across Facebook as well as trying to bring all my friends and family on board.
I also had bookmarks made with a QR code that linked to my Crowdfunder campaign.
I had to post about my campaign a lot.
I was worried about over posting but it’s just what is necessary. Most people will need to see the Facebook posts many times before they actually act upon it
What types of messages or strategies resonated the most with your audience/backers? Which strategies fell flat?
The more personal the message and post, the more people we’re interested in what I was saying. But I think time and day also played a huge part.
I could put out some posts that no one would like or respond to, then another time, the same post would have a lot of comments and interaction.
What surprised you the most about crowdfunding your book?
My Crowdfunder fell at a bad time as part of the way through it was the Covid-19 outbreak.
I decided to continue but I didn’t like to push things too much as I knew it was a tough time for many people.
Most of my backers were friends and family and only about 10 percent were strangers. Luckily it was enough to get me to my 50% goal to be able to receive my match funding from the campaign.
What advice would you give an author considering crowdfunding their book given that external circumstances are always beyond our control?
The only thing I would have lost if I was unsuccessful would have been my time, but I would have gained experience and learned what worked and what didn’t ready for next time.
Really, I can’t see that there is anything to lose in trying.
Do you think you’ll ever do another crowdfunding campaign again?
I will definitely run another crowdfunding campaign.
I’m not sure when I would do another one, as I’m not sure my friends and family would all back me the same way again, but I’m hoping that through my book The Fairy Who Sings, I will start to gain followers who are interested in reading my next book and may want to back my future campaigns.
A bit more about crowdfunding before we end…
I found Crowdfunder a great platform to use and the team supporting on the other end were absolutely fantastic.
I also had great support through the Natwest – back her business campaign.
At the beginning, they gave lots tips and advice on reaching as many people as possible.
The only downside to using Crowdfunder is that it is predominantly used and known as a way of raising money for charities or for people asking for money without offering rewards for those pledging support.
Therefore, because of that, I believe it may have lost some peoples’ interest straight away as they may not fully understand the reason behind your campaign no matter how many times it is explained.
At the end of the campaign, it was so easy to send my books to backers and to contact everyone as a whole or individually.
I could download a spreadsheet with all the information I needed including the orders and names and addresses of those who ordered books.
So, there was no need to request the information afterwards from backers, which I believe is necessary with Kickstarter.
It made my job of mailing out the rewards really easy as it was all there ready for me in a spreadsheet which I then transferred to word to print out my labels.
Cheryl is from a small town right in the middle of the UK. Cheryl has lived in the same town all her life, which is surrounded by a forest of outstanding natural beauty.
Cheryl finds walks there extremely magical and she feels creatively inspired by it.
Cheryl’s aim is to empower children with her magical adventures of self-discovery. The Fairy Who Sings is Cheryl’s first book in the Finding the Magic Series.
It is fully written in rhyme with hidden magic wands throughout that are waiting to be discovered, for that extra little bit of magic.
Gina Stevens knew it would be difficult to crowdfund her book on Kickstarter during the COVID-19 pandemic, but she had already put in too much effort to ever consider quitting.
After 3 weeks, Gina raised $9700 in 3 weeks from 250 backers and totally crushed her original $6000 goal.
Find out how she did it in our interview below.
What crowdfunding/marketing techniques do you think worked best for you?
9 things worked really well for me:
1—Running a shorter 3-week campaign
As everyone that runs a campaign knows, you have to be “on” 100% of the time that your campaign is running.
I am not a huge fan of social media in the first place but forced myself to be active prior to and while my campaign was running. Running it for 3 weeks was manageable compared to the usual 4-week campaign.
2—Getting the word out ahead of time
I told everyone that I was “illustrating a book” and that was exciting to my peers.
Some even came and visited my studio to see the progress.
I kept a buzz and people were always asking “how is your book coming along?”.
I really didn’t have a launch date until January or February which was just in time for the pandemic to take off.
People were itching for good news and something to make them excited.
It was a tough balance of not ignoring what was happing in the world and really being excited about my work.
3—Facebook was my best platform
I joined many groups that were related to my book “ nature groups, moms, etc.”
Once my campaign launched I went back and personally responded to EVERY SINGLE person that said they were interested in my book with my campaign link.
It ended up in me writing the same style message OVER and OVER but it seemed to really work.
I didn’t feel like I was bothering them if they already expressed interest.
4—Limiting messages to backers
I tried not to message my backers through Kickstarter too much during the campaign. Since they had already pledged, I know people get WAY to many e-mails as is.
They don’t care to see multiple emails about where my campaign is.
I might be excited, but they have their own lives and victories to be celebrating. I tried to be very modest when it came to communicating and not over-communicating.
(Lisa’s interpretation: Basically, try not to annoy your biggest supporters.)
5—Sharing my progress and behind-the-scenes work
I did post all of my progress work on my Facebook page during my campaign.
MOST of my backers were friends from Facebook or friends of friends of groups I was in so it gave me a spot to “dump” all of the creative work.
If people were interested, it was a landing place they could choose to look and not have it thrown in their face in an update e-mail.
As an artist, my favorite part of seeing artwork is the process and seeing how images evolve.
Because of that, I chose to use that as my basis of what I was sharing.
Admittedly, my book was successful not because of the storyline but because of the images.
I made sure to not share any of the “full” spreads on social media until I started posting my “artist updates”.
In way, it wasn’t old news for people.
The only people that saw the spreads were friends and family who lived close and came over to see them personally.
6—Planning all of my posts ahead of time
Planning all of my posts and updates ahead of time.
I did alter and move some things around as things worked better on different days, I stuck pretty close to my initial plans.
I had to keep reminding myself that even it I was excited about wanting to post some more artwork sooner than planned, I had to remind myself of my plan and not get to ahead of myself in overposting.
7—Knowing my expenses
I’ve kept a really accurate list of my expenses and had a mental goal in mind as I reached my set goal of $6,000.
Once I saw that I was moving past my goal, I worked with my printer to increase my print quantity to accommodate the extra money (no, I didn’t just pocket the over).
This way my back stock of books will be covering following my campaign to set me up for future print runs or a a second book.
I made a point to not share my printer or specific costs with my backers because most of my backers are not familiar with self publishing so they don’t understand all of the extra costs associated.
Anyone who asked, I would tell them I will be lucky to break even. Honestly, with my method of increasing the quantity of books as I went, it was the truth. I needed to get the funds in my pocket before I could increase the quantity of the print run.
It was all about finding a balance of what that right number was to maximize the spend and quantity of books.
I made sure to comment and thank EVERY single person that commented on my book.
9—Starting the printing process early
Because I hit my goal so early in my campaign (within a few days of launching), I was able to start the printing process early and my printer sent my proofs very quickly.
I was able to share that with my social media and it really got people excited.
Some people commented on the quality of the pages and others were just excited to see it as a whole.
It created a great buzz in the mid-campaign lull. I saw quite a bit of traffic as I shared that post.
What didn’t work as well as you had hoped?
1—Printed business cards/promo cards
I made up business card sized “promotion” cards to hand out before my launch just telling people where they could follow my artwork (Instagram) as well as the dates of the campaign.
Obviously, this didn’t work as the cards arrived at my house right as the quarantine began so I wasn’t “out” in the community to hand them out.
Granted it only cost me around $20, but still, it didn’t work.
2—Instagram was a flop
I tried to create more of a following on Instagram the past 6 months prior to my campaign launch, but I don’t feel it drove much of ANY traffic.
First, Instagram (which I didn’t realize) doesn’t let you hyperlink your posts, so pushing people to your pre-launch page didn’t work well.
People don’t copy and paste a URL these days (it take too much work) so if a post isn’t clickable they won’t go to it.
3—Facebook ads also flopped
Though I am not a pro and was new to Facebook ads, I ran about $25 worth of ads over the three weeks.
Facebook said there were a certain amount of links and click-throughs but those days I didn’t see much traffic outside of my network at all.
Granted, even if I got one or two pledges from there it would cover my $25 cost but really wasn’t the best bang for the buck.
(Lisa’s note: you really need to experiment with Facebook ads before you launch so you can see what works and what doesn’t. It’s hard to get it right the first time.)
4—Cross-promotion with other campaigns didn’t work
I had multiple people reach out during my campaign (some I was familiar, most I was not) that wanted to cross promote.
As I mentioned earlier, I was very cautious on spamming my current backers as I know how I would feel receiving those types of messages if I backed a campaign.
Because I reserved my communication with my backers, maybe selfish, but I wasn’t willing to push others campaigns on my backers.
I just didn’t feel it was appropriate. I posted one or two on my Instagram but even then it seems odd with my Instagram being all about my process then throwing in someone else’s pages.
I don’t know, it may work better if it was planned ahead of time to cross-collaborate, but I didn’t have time to entertain the idea after the fact.
5—Processing post-campaign orders
To be honest, I wasn’t planning on taking additional pre-orders after my Kickstarter ended.
I’ve had multiple people reach out post campaign asking where they can get my book since they missed the campaign.
I just now set up my website to take post-Kickstarter orders, but didn’t have a plan before I launched.
6—Backers surveys are a pain
I am a big planner and I don’t want to be tracking down shipping addressed 6-8 months from now. Although, I don’t want to keep spamming my backers to more things.
Like I mentioned before, they were already generous enough to support my project and everyone is busy and I don’t want to overwhelm them with messages about their address.
I did leave that feedback for Kickstarter that maybe they collect addresses when they pledge.
Many of my backers were first time backers and Kickstarter sends A LOT of emails.
So many lessons learned, Gina, thank you!
What would you like to say in summary?
It really was a fun experience and to be 100% honest, it has gotten me though the quarantine so far.
Having something to look forward to and dive into was a really great distraction as we have been stuck as home.
Timing wise, it really was perfect as we have been stuck inside with not great weather.
Something is always growing in Gina’s world. Plants in her sprawling garden. Her son. Her own design business, Nine18 Creative.
In the rare moments she gets to herself, you’ll find her barefoot probably trying to grow some exotic plant from a seed. Also, not running.
An artist to the core, she earned a degree in Fine Art – Graphic Design from Western Michigan University, then spent six years in corporate communications at Kellogg Company.
She and her husband share their log home in Michigan with their son, medium-sized dog and cat.
Buy her book on her website and follow Gina on social media.
Last week, we heard from children’s book author Nikki Filippone about why she canceled her book’s Kickstarter campaign after reaching 50% funding in 13 days.
This week, we’ll learn from children’s book author and wildlife photographer, Dennis Glennon, about why he’s continuing with his all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign for his book, Buddy’s Magic Window.
Below, you’ll find Dennis’ reasoning for why it’s important for writers to not give up on their dreams even in times of economic uncertainty.
Reasons to Continue Marketing Your Books During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Well, there are a lot of reasons. The most important being is that I believe my book is worth fighting for.
I believe it will bring smiles and inspiration to both children and adults. I know it will inspire children to read and want to help animals and the environment.
Despite the current circumstances, I believe that positivity, inspiration, and smiles are needed now more than ever. This book has all of that.
I also believe that when you put enough force and drive behind something that is good, and you work extremely hard to make it happen, it will find the right people to support it.
I also know this will be tough work, and it might fail to reach its funding goal. This is a calculated risk, but I still believe it will get funded.
“Despite the current circumstances, I believe that positivity, inspiration, and smiles are needed now more than ever. This book has all of that.”
Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs Need to Fight Extra Hard
Another reason I kept the campaign going is that I want more than anything to be a full-time children’s book author. It has been a dream of mine for a long time.
This book has been just about ready for over six years. I had health setbacks, which forced me to put the whole project on the back burner.
Whatever the next few weeks or months forces me to deal with will pale in comparison to what I went through to get healthy.
I also believe that when you own a small business, you must be creative, fight, and be persistent to succeed.
Owning a small business and running it full time is no easy task. By continuing a Kickstarter campaign at this time, I will need to fight and scrape for every dollar.
See it as a Learning Opportunity
I am learning new things every day. This campaign is forcing me way out of my comfort zone. The things I am learning will be invaluable as I go forward on my goal to be a full-time author.
The biggest take away is that you will always need to be thinking creatively to sell and market yourself. There are endless opportunities to market, even under the worst circumstances.
Just imagine, if I succeed in bad times, how much better it will be when the economy gets back to normal.
No certainty when that will be, but I will have books and be ready to go.
In the meantime, I will be building an online store and start branding my book. I am going to offer a whole merchandising line.
I will start offering puzzles later on today because they are in high demand since everyone is stuck at home.
With Amazon currently only delivering necessities, it is the perfect time to drive sales to your website where the profit margins are higher.
The World Needs Artists to Continue Working
On a more philosophical note, we are artists, authors, and creatives. We take the time to pour our lifetime of thoughts into a book.
To me, it is a higher calling that we must get our stories, which we are so passionate about out into the world.
Keep in mind that this is a business, and you need an excellent book, a solid following, and a great plan to make this happen.
Competition is more fierce than ever.
To that end, we must work even harder and smarter to get people to buy our books and fund our creative projects, no easy task at the moment.
Advice if You Plan to Crowdfund Right Now
Here’s my advice if you are going to launch a campaign soon: Get professional help!!!
This is no time to play around and try to figure this out on your own. You need a solid plan and following to make this happen.
I hired Lisa Ferland to help me. Her expertise is priceless.
She will put you in the best position to succeed. She has a ton of knowledge and is super generous in helping her clients succeed.
I could not have done this on my own. An added bonus to having Lisa on your team is that she alleviates a large amount of stress. You’ll know you have proper direction or will be re-directed if things start slipping.
I also talked with and follow children’s book author, Jay Miletsky. His business advice is sound and will put you on a path to profit. His groups are awesome, and there are a lot of resources there to help in your book publishing endeavor.
Keep in mind that running a Kickstarter campaign will be a ton of work and more complicated than you think.
At this point, you might want to consider lowering your original goal (before you launch) a little and aim to go over.
I had no way of knowing this Corona scare would happen, but, in hindsight, I wish I would have gone with my original goal of $6,500 and then gone over to the $9,500 that I really need for the 2,500 copies.
I chose 2,500 copies because there is enough profit margin to be able to get a second print run paid for and sustain an adequate profit margin.
Keep Asking for the Sale
So then there is another question “How do you ask people for money in this time of economic uncertainty? “
Ultimately, it is a personal decision, and there are no wrong answers. However, my response is, “How do you not?”
Keep in mind that this is an unusual period, and we should be diplomatic, sympathetic, empathetic, and know our audience, as we do not want to alienate anyone.
The economic uncertainty is brutal, and people are understandably stressed and holding onto their money.
Imagine that this is your full-time business. What would you do? Would you just fold up? Or would you fight for survival?
I think we are safe if we politely ask for the sale and support. People either can and will support, or they cannot at this time, and they will not, and either way, it is OK.
But without asking, we will fail.
Artists Can Help Others Heal in Times of Crisis
I will give you an example of what happened to me post 9/11 when I had an Art Show shortly afterward that may shed some light on the current situation.
I live in NJ. When 9/11 happened, I had an art show scheduled in Montclair NJ not far from Manhattan. I knew people who died in this tragedy, including the priest who baptized me, Father Mychal Judge, who was the Fire Chaplin and a family friend.
I struggled with a lot of things, and one of them is, “Do I go do this art show? How can I possibly ask people for money at this time of tragedy? I struggled with it. Not an easy decision, but I went. That is what artists do. We show up and support.
My reasoning ended up being I will set up my booth and just be there for anyone who needs the support. I will provide a pleasant distraction for anyone that was there, figuring if they were out, that is what they needed.
I did not push for any sales for those two days but talked about my work and certainly accepted the sales that came my way. I learned that people really appreciated the artists that showed up.
We help heal in a time of crisis.
Yes..sales were probably horrible, but I did make some money and provided some much-needed relief. So with that in mind, I could not give up on my current campaign.
Crowdfunding is Tough No Matter When You Launch
I truly believe I can be there for people in need of something positive, a welcomed distraction, and my book has value and that people will feel good about the purchase.
Then when July rolls around and the books are delivered, they will be thankful they helped support the campaign.
Will it be tough? Absolutely!! I was funded 50% of my $9,500 goal the first week.
The second week, when the pandemic started to become more of a reality, and people started getting sent home from work, I only gained 7%. SCARY.
I will have to gently push harder and be even more creative to get to the finish line. I realize that not all people will agree with me on this, and I respect that.
But if you gained just one bit of wisdom or insight in this article, then I have provided value, and I wish us all success in our book publishing journeys.
It is a tough journey, better traveled with the support of good friends and fellow authors who understand the difficulty.
Would I recommend launching a campaign right now??? I would consult with Lisa and Jay’s group to get a better pulse.
Ask me in 2 weeks.
Best wishes to all. Keep up the fight. Most of all, be safe.
Stay healthy and be kind to yourself and others. These are tough times. We need to come together and support one another.
Keeping it positive!
Dennis Glennon is a professional dog, wildlife, and nature photographer. He has photographed some of the most beautiful places in North America including most of the U.S. National Parks. His focus has been on photographing landscapes and wildlife, but once he started photographing dogs it took on a life of its own.
The heartbreaking decision to cancel your Kickstarter campaign after months of research, preparation, and backing other campaigns is difficult for every author.
Sometimes, authors need to cancel because they need a larger audience to support their campaign goal. Other times, there are external forces beyond their control like illness, national tragedies, and weather disasters.
Nikki Filippone is no stranger to Kickstarter and she understood the potential of using the platform to launch her book to a broader audience.
But, what nobody could predict, was that a global pandemic would force a drastic prioritization of limited personal financial resources.
In this interview, you’ll hear more about what went into Nikki’s decision to ultimately cancel her Kickstarter campaign.
It is our hope that more authors will understand the amount of work involved in running a crowdfunding campaign.
Deciding to cancel your Kickstarter campaign is never an easy decision and perhaps, Nikki’s experience can help you decide the right way forward for your book.
Can you describe a bit about your vision for Rosalee the Seeker and why you decided to run a Kickstarter campaign?
I created this book because I saw a significant gap in children’s literature when it came to the topic of Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). My vision for this book is multi-faceted.
First and foremost, I want to empower young sensory seekers. I also want to help parents better understand their sensory seeking children, and offer my book as a tool to help them explain SPD to other family members and adults.
I also believe my book will be an excellent addition to any elementary school classroom so young children will better understand their sensory seeking classmates.
Launching my campaign was an excellent way to get my book in front of a wider audience while simultaneously giving me an opportunity to print it in hardcover. I would love to offer a more durable book that families can cherish for longer and even pass down to their grandchildren.
Can you describe the type of prep work you did before you launched?
Because of my limited personal resources (time and money), I focused my efforts on social media marketing.
Instead of working on an email list, I developed one-on-one relationships with those who expressed an interest in my book.
This allowed me to follow-up individually through FB Messenger on launch day. This proved to be extremely effective and I was able to get to 38% funded in under 2 days.
Honestly (and I’m not just saying this), I found Lisa’s blog and other resources extremely helpful in understanding the whole process of crowdfunding. I incorporated a lot of her advice into my strategy.
What went into your decision to cancel your Kickstarter campaign?
Unfortunately, my campaign launch coincided with the early days of Coronavirus in the US.
As the days progressed, so did the severity of the Coronavirus situation. I became less comfortable asking people to help fund my book.
I know a lot of people are currently unemployed due to the Coronavirus. Many are unsure if they will be able to pay for basic needs.
Lisa’s note: Nikki’s campaign was ~50% funded on Day 13.
What surprised you the most about crowdfunding your book?
Honestly? It was harder than I thought! And, this was my second attempt! (I canceled my first campaign after three days because I knew nothing about crowdfunding at the time. I quickly realized that I would not meet my campaign goal.)
What I’m saying is that even knowing everything I know now (exactly a year later), I STILL wasn’t fully prepared for just how much work it was!
What advice would you give an author considering crowdfunding their book?
All you can ever do is your very best.
If external circumstances throw a wrench in your efforts, try and find ways to learn from the situation so your efforts will not have been wasted. And, don’t allow yourself to feel like a failure. If you’ve learned something, you’ve already succeeded. <3
Do you think you’ll relaunch your campaign?
I’m uncertain at this point. I’ll most likely reassess when the Coronavirus situation is behind us.
Anything else you’d like people to know?
If you’re planning to crowdfund, do NOT expect it to be easy, and do NOT expect to be able to “wing” it.
My first campaign taught me not to wing it. I applied what I learned over the past year to my Rosalee campaign planning.
I am 100% certain that if the Coronavirus hadn’t hit, I would have met my goal, and it would have been because of the very intense planning and prep that I did.
Nikki recently re-launched a 7-day Kickstarter campaign and raised $9500 in only 7 days!!!
If you are interested in crowdfunding your book, enroll in my comprehensive Crowdfunding for Authors Course using Nikki’s affiliate link at no extra cost to you.
In this interview, I asked Gina about her experience building an audience from scratch, her Kickstarter campaign, and her plans for her future books.
What surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?
It really is a lot of work. I was surprised about the amount of upfront work, before the first backer has even pledged.
I would not have done near as good a job making sure all of my links were consistent and working together if I had not had Lisa’s help.
It takes a long time to get all of the advertising materials together – even though I didn’t do any paid ads, I made a lot of memes and graphics to post throughout the month.
Also, the work that went into the “simple” video, the Kickstarter page was a lot more than I expected.
However, it was a great exercise because now I have all kinds of info ready to go, and I basically pinned a post to the top of my blog with all my lovely Kickstarter info so people who visit the page will see that first.
What was the best aspect of crowdfunding your campaign?
We made our goal and went well over, so now I can invest in my Spanish translation and my French editor.
It was great to see how many of the backers came from the Kickstarter community—over $1K of the funding.
What was the worst aspect of your campaign?
Being obsessed with checking my numbers for several days! Then, thank goodness I calmed down a bit once I reached my goal at the start of day 11.
I still kept pushing through the month, but I let off a bit for about 2 weeks to give people a chance to breathe before the final call for pledges. I didn’t want people to get sick of me.
What were the best strategies you did to build your audience before you launched?
I started pushing my email list really hard, and that worked pretty well—for my particular case, I promised special exclusive memes about opossums.
I mostly needed email subscribers since I was pretty much starting that from scratch, but I already had over 1000 Facebook followers, and I’m still building that audience all the time.
I think it also helped that I wrote on Medium and got my call to action out there in lots of articles related to my book (that was Lisa’s idea, and was really helpful).
What strategies did you use to build you readership before launch?
So, I am in five or six different private Facebook groups about opossums and each day of the week for several months, I made my own memes with pictures people had posted of their rescue opossums (I always credited the photos on the meme).
I posted the memes on my IG which simultaneously posts on my FB page.
Then I shared that FB post in each group with a different little quip in each new post.
People in each group saw my FB page each time I posted and sometimes they mosey on over and follow me.
Even if they only go to my page and like a post, I could scoop them up that way by inviting them to like the page later.
I think the secret is that I was always giving them something entertaining and sneaking a little info and/or link in with the meme, so it didn’t annoy the crap out of people that all I was ever doing was pushing my book.
I rarely shared direct marketing things for my book in these groups—only to announce the beginning of the Kickstarter and maybe one to say it was about to end.
Otherwise, I usually got my link in the first couple of lines, but the star of the show was always the original meme.
I was getting over 200 new followers every month for several months.
What advice did you receive that helped you the most?
To write related articles, to have things ready in advance (although I could have done much better with that, I had time to do it during the month, too, luckily).
I also emailed about 200 people individually, and I think that helped even if a lot of people didn’t reply at all.
Some people I didn’t really expect to hear from were super excited about my book.
What advice would you give someone thinking about crowdfunding their book?
Get help from Lisa Ferland! Read as much as you can, study the projects that are not working and figure out why, look at the ones that are and analyze that too.
Make it yours, make it clear, make it great.
Would you crowdfund your book again?
I would if I had to, but it was so much work (and since I did pretty well), I plan to use the funds to get my publishing empire rolling and then reinvest in my next couple of projects.
I finally found a day to draft most of the next book I’ve been percolating, so I want to use all the money the first one brings in to keep going and hopefully not annoy my friends and family with guilt trips for cash anymore. Don’t want to run out of goodwill.
Although, crowdfunding is a very good way to get to people you wouldn’t normally have reached. Those super backers are nothing to sneeze at!
I learned and am still learning so much from all of this that I wouldn’t have necessarily learned so easily if I had not gone through the process of crowdfunding my book.
I could not be happier with my results. I feel prepared for anything!
Translating Children’s Books—especially those that rhyme
Working with foreign rights agents may work well for straightforward fiction and nonfiction, but it’s a different story when it comes to children’s books—particularly books written in rhyme.
Balancing proper rhyme, meter, story plot, and reader interest is difficult to do in any language and often doesn’t translate well.
Rhyming books will never translate directly between any two languages (nothing ever does), and the language for children needs to be applicable.
This always results in the creation of a new storyline.
Oh, and you’ll need a snappy new title with market appeal in your target language.
A revised storyline requires one of two approaches:
—commissioning new illustrations ($), or —shoehorning your new story to match your existing illustrations.
Translating a rhyming children’s book can become quite expensive for the indie publisher and difficult to market if you don’t know the language.
My experience translating English rhymes into Swedish
When I originally planned to publish my books in two languages—my native English and my adopted language Swedish—I didn’t fully grasp the consequences of my idea.
I was naive in thinking that since my books were short children’s books, we could find words that rhyme in both languages.
It doesn’t matter if your books are 300 words or 3,000—if there is rhyming involved, you might want to reconsider taking on this arduous task yourself and pay a foreign rights agent their hard-earned 20%.
Merely finding a Swedish author to help me take on this task took a few months.
I reached out to numerous children’s book authors who wrote in Swedish rhyme, but nobody seemed interested. It’s a tough job!
I finally connected with a local author, Veronica Linarfve, who was a delightful collaborator and relished sinking her teeth into a new project so different from her novels.
Veronica had to do the heavy lifting as I could not offer intelligent alternatives to improve the meter. I can barely trust my ears to hear meter cadence in English, let alone detect it in my second language.
Fortunately, Veronica is super talented and stuck with me. We found words that worked and Swedish kids and parents absolutely love the book.
Ohh, but merely translating the words does not a book make.
You may need new illustrations ($$)
Fortunately, I was able to crosswalk most of the existing illustrations from the English version and repurpose them for the Swedish book.
Kevin the ghost needed a new costume with the words “Bus eller godis” but otherwise remained the same
Other considerations included a new book title, book cover design, title page, copyright page, ISBN, updated sales page description, and a marketingplan.
You’re definitely going to need a new title
Your translated work may have a completely different title based on the market appeal and genre of your book.
“When the clock strikes…” is a well-known phrase in English, but it doesn’t mean anything in Swedish.
The new title has to mean something to potential readers, so we changed it to, “Vi firar halloween” (Swedes don’t capitalize their titles like we do in the US/UK) which translates to, “We celebrate Halloween.”
It doesn’t have quite the same gravitas as “When the Clock Strikes…” but Swedish readers are enjoying it and that’s the most important part.
How are you going to market your translated book(s)?
Oh yeah, marketing, don’t forget about that! No book sells itself, and neither will your translated book(s).
If you don’t know the language, you’re going to struggle to get it in front of potential readers. Google Translate will only take you so far.
Writing persuasive copy in your native language is tough and now you’re in charge of doing it in a foreign language? Ehh, ok.
I live in Sweden, so I can take my book around to markets and stores and sell it in-person.
If you’re translating your book into Korean and you live in the US, how are you going to get it in front of Korean readers?
My long-term solution is to get my Swedish books into the Swedish version of Amazon (bokus.se) via a local fulfillment center.
Until I can get the books in circulation, I’m selling them on my Shopify website, which has been quite simple to set up and get moving.
I’m directing traffic to that site via Facebook ads.
None of this is remotely easy as I’m working in my minority language.
Again, Google Translate can only do so much.
US-based solutions, like Shopify, are super helpful but their buttons aren’t in every language so some English may remain on your page.
Here’s what my Swedish book looks like on my Swenglish Shopify page.
An Alternative Solution for Rhyming Books
But wait! I don’t come to you with only problems, I also offer potential solutions.
Her family is trilingual, and she understands the need for books to be available in multiple languages.
“You need a translator and editor experienced with stories for children, because translating stories is it’s own art form,” Tamara explains.
“The translated text not only has to convey the story itself, but the jokes and puns still have to be funny, the language rich and beautiful, and the vocabulary simple and accessible to children.”
Tamara has teamed up with other bilingual professionals to offer translation services for children’s book authors in English and Spanish.
If your story is in rhyme, you have options:
1. The story in verse can be translated as a story in prose. A good translator can use rich language to bring your story to life without using rhyme and rhythm.
2. The story can be translated to have a lyrical, rhythmic feel, but not be in rhyme. This is a step harder for the translator. He/she will need the freedom to change small details, like the order of words or the details described, to make the meter work.
3. The story can be translated into poetry in the target language. Most likely, this is only possible with straightforward texts. It will probably require editing some details of your story and maybe even changing the illustrations. Depending on the topic and tone of your story, it may not be possible.
Note that Option 3 is the path I chose for my Eng-Swe books. I wouldn’t really recommend it to everyone.
They can help you decide which option is best for your story.
Pro tip: Wait until your manuscript is FINAL before attempting any translations whatsoever
If you’re publishing two separate editions —an English edition and a Spanish edition— wait for translation services until everything in your original version is finalized.
If you’re still making changes to your text or illustrations, it’s not time to start another language edition yet.
If you’re publishing a bilingual edition, you need to have your bilingual text ready for the illustrator early on so he/she can create the space required for the text within each illustration. As you make changes, you’ll need both an English and a Spanish editor to review the finished manuscript before publication.
Tamara and her team offer a complete translation & editing service:
– Professional translation services
– Professional editing in English and Spanish
– Digital text placement for your bilingual or Spanish edition
They also offer marketing assistance to help you sell all of those beautiful books you had painstakingly translated.
I will admit that I was a bit ambitious with my first books and eager to get them to market despite it taking an entire year.
It will take time for me to get the books into Swedish circulation but I know that it’ll be successful once it does. We learn by doing, which is often a bit painful and expensive, but that’s how we make progress.
So how are you feeling about translating your book?
Maartje Blijleven knows how to organize communities and is an expert at helping businesses maximize their social reach.
It should come as no surprise that she was able to organize her community around her book, We Love Communities, and rocket to the #1 spot for a month on the bestseller charts in the Netherlands by organizing her community.
Over the past 20 years, Maartje has developed thriving communities and has built an incredibly strong network of entrepreneurs, small businesses, and corporate professionals.
Her book, We Love Communities, contains not only her wisdom and experience but the interviews of other experts in the field who share their tips on strengthening communities in business.
Becoming a Chart Topper
Maartje knew how many books it would take for her book to compete with the current bestsellers in her genre.
In order to maximize the number of pre-orders of her book at full retail price, Maartje had to get creative and offer incentives that would appeal to her ideal reader—businesses, entrepreneurs, and conference leaders looking for keynote speakers.
Because Maartje was focused on getting a large quantity of pre-orders prior to her book’s release, her pre-order campaign looked something like this:
—Pre-order 10 books and get the ebook one week before it’s official release (savings of 30.50)
—Pre-order 25 books and get access to her 10-week online training program on building communities (savings of 888.25)
—Pre-order 50 books and get 1:1 VIP strategy coaching from Maartje herself at an incredible discount (savings of 1920)
—Pre-order 100 books and get a remarkable 75% discount on her keynote speaker fees (savings of 3490)
You can see that with each reward level, the savings get greater and greater and appeal directly to her ideal reader.
How did Maartje learn this pre-selling incentivized-rewards selling technique?
Maartje worked with a traditional Dutch publisher and experienced all of the same writing anxiety and self-doubt every writer faces.
“I felt very vulnerable. Creating something out of nothing feels like you’re asking everyone to take a look inside your head. You cannot hide.”
“At first, I felt insecure to show people my work at an early stage. If I could do it over again, I would’ve involved people sooner in the process so I could have more time to process all of the feedback. The book is so much better with people’s input.”
Tips for your Pre-order Landing Page
1. Know your goals
Do you want a high number of pre-orders like Maartje had or are you trying to raise extra funds to cover the cost of production?
2. Keep it simple
Maartje directed people to pre-order their books on the Dutch equivalent of Amazon.
People who pre-ordered their books then filled out a simple form indicating which reward they ordered.
Maartje offered four (4) reward tiers. Too many options will spoil the soup.
3. Offer rewards your IDEAL READER wants
Maartje was releasing a book around community development so all of her rewards were specifically targeting what people in the community development space needed and wanted.
4. Build your community FIRST
Maartje had 20 years of experience working with businesses, entrepreneurs, and developing a strong network of people who would not only support her book launch campaign but also wanted to employ her services and speaking opportunities.
Without a community of people to whom you launch your book, you’re launching to crickets.
5. Promote your pre-order campaign
Every campaign needs a deadline for people to take action. For Maartje, she started promoting her pre-order campaign on August 3 with a September 24 deadline—so nearly 60 days of promotion.
Would Maartje do it again?
When asked if she’d do it again, Maartje said she would definitely run a pre-order campaign like this again.
With over 1,000 books pre-ordered, future keynote speeches confirmed, and a slew of new clients, the results speak for themselves.
Maartje Blijleven is a digital community expert and has been building successful online communities since 2000.
As a co-founder of the communities IncludeNow. & WomenTalkTech knows how to start and grow a community.
With We love Communities she helps entrepreneurial professionals and entrepreneurs to be successful with their own online community: for different companies, people and purposes.
D.K. Ackerman went into her book’s Kickstarter campaign with a very small social media presence.
By connecting with people individually, Dana was able to connect and leverage her personal network to make a big impression on Kickstarter.
She exceeded her a goal of $5k and raised $7,085 from 214 new readers on Kickstarter for her children’s illustrated book, Princess Pirates.
Knowing the importance of launch day, Dana conducted extensive audience outreach and education prior to launch.
Find out how she secured 110 backers on Day 1 of her campaign while avoiding social media entirely in this interview with D.K. Ackerman.
Establishing an Audience
In terms of reaching outside of my own personal network of friends and family, I didn’t do very much. Full disclosure, I hate social media!!
So, while I did get a professional Instagram and Facebook page and even looked into hashtags and did some “follow for follow” stuff, it didn’t do very much.
Probably because I just hate posting all the time though!! It’s something I’m realizing I especially need to work on now, though!
“I sent somewhere close to 300 emails or Facebook messages the week leading up to my launch date.”—D.K. Ackerman
Pre-launch campaign preparation
I did quite a bit of research into other successful campaigns in the children’s books genre. I looked at their campaign pages and videos and even messaged a few of them to ask their advice on what were the biggest things they did to gain momentum.
I joined author Facebook groups which were super helpful and I still learn a lot from. I talked with my brother in law who ran a super successful campaign himself about what he did, and his approach is what I really owe my success to.
So, as a preface, I already said I was pretty bad at getting an audience before the campaign started, but just so you understand how small even my personal network is: I was home schooled my entire growing up years, went to two years of community college as a teenager and then transferred to a University and graduated from there after just two years.
I married really young and had our first child and decided to stay home with her very soon afterwards, so I didn’t have any connections in the workplace really.
I’ve been a stay at home mom for years, and my average Facebook post gets around 30 likes or so. Not so encouraging when you are about to launch something like this!!
But, something my brother in law did was he sent individualized e-mails to friends and family. So, that’s what I did!
I sent somewhere close to 300 either emails or Facebook messages the week leading up to my launch date.
I tried to make as many messages as personal as I had time to.
I asked everyone 1). if they would back my project on DAY ONE and stressed why that was important and 2). share it with people they thought would appreciate a project like mine on day one as well.
That really made the biggest difference and I think was the biggest reason I was able to do what I did on my first Kickstarter. Not all of those people responded or could back my project, but a lot of them did and shared, too.
Surprising aspects of the campaign
I was actually really surprised at 1). How much support I got on day one! I really stressed to everyone how important it was to get momentum on day one, but I was still so excited to see how many people paid attention ha!
And 2). I was surprised at how much support I got from Kickstarter itself.
Over 20% of my sales came directly from Kickstarter’s platform.
I was selected as one of their favorite projects and was able to become really visible.
I chose Kickstarter because I thought it would be a good way to launch my book, but I never imagined I’d get that much support just from people cruising the site!
Best advice for others
People underestimate the power of their own personal network and overestimate how much of that network sees their Facebook posts.
Friends and family WANT to support you, but don’t get discouraged if you post about your book and no one responds–they either didn’t see it, or didn’t realize how important it is to you.
Let people know what you’re doing in personal ways so they can recognize the work you’ve actually put into your project and of course they will want to support you!
Worth doing again
It is a pain in the butt getting everything done, not gonna lie!
But, not only did Kickstarter offer me a way to reach a whole set of people I couldn’t find on my own, but it also gave me the push to make sure when I launched my book to pre-order, I did it right.
Oh man, this being my first Kickstarter there are so many things I’ve learned!
Next time I would make my page more fun and focus on adding graphics so it looks more engaging.
Due to a lot of complicated reasons, I didn’t actually know my start date until two weeks before I launched, which meant I couldn’t really reach out to a lot of outside sources with enough time to get the word out.
Next time I’d have a fixed launch date months before and so I can go to news organizations, influencers, and other outlets with enough time for them to get my messages and be able to create content that can come out during the Kickstarter.
As it is, I’m getting responses from people who want to feature my book now that my Kickstarter has ended.
I am also looking forward to creating a bigger following on social media (as much as it pains me to say!) before my next launch.
Advice for other authors
Having a book launch, whether through Kickstarter or on your own platform is invaluable!!
It forces you to do so may vital things like solidifying your message and why your book is important; creating content that helps people connect with your book; seeing if there is actually a market for your book; not to mention not having to invest your own money before you jump into something this big!
Kickstarter is especially awesome for finding new people who are interested in your book, but I recommend have a really clear message if you’re going to go that route.
However, if you want to reach other groups of people Kickstarter can offer that, but the only way those other people are going to see your project is if you have a fantastic first day and make your message clear and important.
I really feel like there were so many more things I could have done.
D.K. Ackerman was schooled at home by a stay-at-home feminist and a dad who always encouraged her to chase her dreams. She graduated from BYU-Hawaii at age 19 and was married and started a family soon after.
She is now mother to three girls and boy and spends her day going on adventures with them. When she’s not with them she is helping her husband run his businesses and writing about her children. She is passionate about letting children be children and believes that creating spaces where their creativity can be limitless means their futures can be too.
But even modest goals require a TON of work and effort and Angela details her work below.
You’ve successfully published a lot of other books—mainly adult fiction—what made you decide to set up a Kickstarter campaign for your children’s book?
I chose to launch a Kickstarter for this book mainly because kid’s books are more expensive! Since I’m not an artist, I needed help with funding for art and formatting. Also, I’m a marketer at heart, so I saw Kickstarter as an excellent way to reach a new audience.
What type of research did you conduct before launching?
I grilled authors who had done crowdfunding projects similar to mine. I also spent hours and days scrutinizing other Kickstarter campaigns, studying their reward tiers and videos.
The great thing about Kickstarter is they keep a project up for all eternity after it ends so that you can look at thousands of projects relating to yours.
I also read tons of very helpful blog articles, including several by an amazing Kickstarter Queen. Lisa, what was it? Ferland? You might have heard of her. Anyway, she’s great.
What was the most time-intensive part of the planning or crowdfunding process?
My established audience was primarily adults, so I started from scratch to find an audience interested in children’s books.
I spent about five months before my Kickstarter campaign launched creating giveaways, writing blog articles geared toward parents, and sending out a kid-related newsletter.
I was building my kid-focused audience while trying to maintain my adult audience. Not easy!
What surprised you the most about crowdfunding on Kickstarter?
Even though my goal was to reach new readers, I was amazed by the number of backers who were drawn in by Kickstarter alone–about 60 percent.
(Lisa’s note: 60% Kickstarter-only backers is fairly high for books. Most book campaigns garner 1%-20% new folks from Kickstarter)
You received a Kickstarter Project We Love recognition—do you think you saw an increase in backers due to that?
Kickstarter has a nifty tool that shows you where your backers are drawn from. I had exactly one supporter because of the Projects We Love. Not complaining—every supporter counts!
Even though it was an honor to be chosen, it’s something they give out to a lot of people, so you end up being one of maybe a dozen per day. I was still thrilled to receive it. Very validating after working your guts off on something.
What advice would you give someone considering crowdfunding their book?
a. Listen to advice from people who’ve had success and failure.
b. Make sure you have an excellent product with commercial appeal.
c. Do the math. Have someone help you run through every possible expense.
d. Prepare for international backers. I charged extra for international shipping and I had over a dozen backers from other countries who paid way more than I would have expected for a little paperback book. But you have to prepare; otherwise, international shipping can eat up your profit very quickly.
e. Set realistic goals. For instance, let’s say you want hardcover copies, but that would add 3,000.00 to your budget. If you think it’s doable, go for it. But publishing your book and paying for illustrations out the gate is more important, set your focus on that. You can always do hardcover as a stretch goal.
f. Remember, you have to deliver. I only had to ship out about 50 books but manually package, address, and stick on the postage. It’s a lot of work and was rather daunting.
g. Set aside a few months of your life. It takes a ton of time and effort to do this right. Don’t expect to launch it and let it run by itself.
Do you think you’ll crowdfund your books in the future?
I’m too fresh off this one right now. Ask me again in a year!
If you could do anything over again, what would it be?
I would not stress so much in the middle. I was freaking out because I hadn’t fully funded in three days.
It’s really a marathon, not a sprint.
Anything else you’d like fellow authors to know?
This publishing journey is an expression of art and creativity.
When we get caught up in the finances of fundraising, I think we can lose sight of that.
It’s important to take time and remember why we are creating this book. In my case, it’s because I love it. I don’t ever want to lose that passion because of stress.
Angela Castillo is an Amazon best-selling author from Bastrop, Texas who loves to ramble in the woods and explore eccentric shops. She writes Christian fiction, children’s fiction, and random fairy tales, as well as freelance blog articles. Her work has appeared in publications such as Thema and The First Line. She homeschools four little explorer/creators. Click here to find her books on Amazon.