Rad Girls Start a Revolution

Sharita Manickam and Jen Bruno want young girls to envision their futures as anything—CEOs, astronauts, artists—absolutely any dream at all. 

The photo book shows real girls modeling future professions and it caught fire on Kickstarter raising over $21k with 616 backers.

Turns out, stoking the fires of a revolution is popular business.

Sharita was kind enough to share some insights and experiences of her campaign.

With 139 backers on launch day, you must’ve done a ton of behind the scenes work to prepare everyone for your campaign’s launch. 

What types of “behind-the-scenes” work did you do that contributed most to that huge first day?

Before launching, we held a Thunderclap campaign (Thunderclap is a service that has since been discontinued).

Basically, it was a way of getting your early supporters (family, friends, social media contacts) to sign up to help spread the word about your Kickstarter launch.

We asked our contacts to support us by signing up by linking their social media accounts to our Thunderclap campaign. Then on the day of our KS launch, Thunderclap posted a one time, free message to all of those supporter’s social media feeds telling their friends/followers about our launch! Thunderclap was likened to a “social media flash mob”.  

In the weeks leading up to the launch, we made social media posts and graphics explaining how Kickstarter worked as we learned many of our friends and family members were unfamiliar with crowdfunding and pre-orders. 

We also sent out a market survey and received 700 responses and about 200 people signed up for our newsletter.

We also had some early bird specials for the first 48 hours that we promoted heavily. We sent out an email blast the morning of our launch to friends and family.

“It’s a lot of work, relationship building, and strategy, but one of the main things we would like to express is that you can’t be afraid to sell yourself and ask for help.”—Sharita Manickam

How long did you engage your audience and potential backers before launching? 

We began our social media campaign about a month before we “intended” to launch, but ended up having to push back about a month.

We used social media to increase enthusiasm about empowerment, count down to our impending launch, and collaborate with other accounts with like-minded missions.

How large was your audience before you launched?

We had about 900 followers on each platform, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and about 700 email addresses (500 friends and family and 200 survey respondents) collected.

The ever-changing, always elusive social media algorithms of FB and IG make marketing a product so much more difficult than ever before.

Since we didn’t have the budget to pay to boost our posts, we created “boost groups” of our biggest supporters and each time we posted something on FB and IG, we send a link to our “boost group” so they can go like or comment that post. It increased our exposure quite a bit.

What has been the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign? 

We were blown away by the immediate support—the link sharing, the enthusiastic posting, etc. We didn’t expect that to happen right away, and then when we were selected as a “Project We Love” by Kickstarter within a few hours of launch, we were really surprised.

We’d been advised by several Kickstarter veterans that sales were likely to stall once we hit our goal, so that didn’t come as a huge shock, but had we not been prepared for it by others, I think that would have been a really difficult pill to swallow.

Your video is brilliant. Where did you find all of your sweet young models to participate? Did you do the video yourself or hire an expert?

Thank you! Since the photo illustrator, Jen and I have young children, we were lucky to have a fairly large pool of children to reach out to who are friends of our kids.

We ended up with 72 models in total and found many through word of mouth. Our video model is a friend of my daughter and her older sister did the voice over. Jen’s son is also in the video, as is another book model and her mom and brother.

Our video was filmed with an iPhone and I put it together using apps.

How was your experience with IndieGoGo InDemand after your Kickstarter ended?

We just haven’t had time to build our own website yet so IndieGoGo InDemand seemed like a good way to continue taking pre-orders.

We currently just have URLs (www.radgirlbook.com and www.radgirlrevolution.com) redirect to our Amazon page, and previously they directed to Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and BackerKit. 

I don’t think we received much new exposure from IndieGoGo, but we ended up raising about $2500 through inDemand from people who either missed our Kickstarter or were just learning about the book through social media.

With so many backers, has fulfillment been an issue? What solution would you recommend for authors who find themselves overwhelmed with logistics? Did you go with BackerKit?

 Our shipment of books from China was held up for weeks at the Port of New York, so we were about a month behind schedule on fulfillment. Once we received the books, we sent them all out within days.

We did use BackerKit.

It took a lot of time to setup but in the long run it simplified our fulfillment. 

I hesitated about the cost at first, but it more than paid for itself from add-on items our backers purchased through Backerkit. I would recommend Backerkit, especially for those with more than a few hundred backers.

Also a label printer is a must for quick shipping!

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

Sales don’t happen automatically.

Kickstarter doesn’t sell anything for you.

It’s a lot of work, relationship building, and strategy, but one of the main things we would like to express is that you can’t be afraid to sell yourself and ask for help.

We reached out to many other successful Kickstarter brands along the way to gather advice and to partner and cross promote.

We also asked our friends and family to help be an extension of our sales team by using their social media and word of mouth channels to spread the word.

We couldn’t have done this alone, and we advise anyone considering a crowdfunding campaign to rally their troops before they launch.

What are you working on at the moment and do you have plans for more books?


At the moment we are working on driving traffic to our Amazon listing through influencer marketing and ads.

We keep a running list of occupations for a sequel and have ideas for other books, but at the moment we are just focusing on this one!

Bio

Sharita Manickam grew up in Maryland. After graduating from the University of Maryland, she moved to New York City, where she worked in marketing until her first daughter was born. During the next couple of years, Sharita discovered a passion for writing and co-wrote a television drama script for a major network. Her love of writing, coupled with her love of reading to her daughters, sparked the idea for a children’s book. Sharita lives in Forest Hills, NY, with her husband, Maurice and their two RAD girls. RAD Girl Revolution is her first book.

Jennifer Elliott Bruno grew up and attended college in Kansas before relocating to Tallahassee, FL to pursue a career in property management. She met her husband, George, in Tallahassee, and the couple moved to New York City where they soon became parents to a little boy named Henry. Shortly after his birth, Jennifer pursued her passion by opening a photography business. She currently resides with her family and miniature dachshund in Forest Hills.

Join the revolution!

Be sure to read and review Rad Girl Revolution on amazon.

Bonus resources from Sharita and Jen—feel free to model your graphics after theirs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, the first days are everything!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other ideas:

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

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

It takes SO MUCH time and energy! Ha!

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

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

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

Absolutely!

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

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

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

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

What unexpected opportunities have resulted from running your Kickstarter campaign? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bio

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

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

Follow her on Instagram: @thislittlestreet  

Click here to buy the book on Amazon

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

How does a Crowdfunding Consultant Kickstart Their Own Book?

Real talk:

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

Reasons Why I’m Not Worried About Failure

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

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

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

Hard work always pays off.

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

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

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

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

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

Want to follow along/support me?

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

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

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

Rebecca Hamer Introduces Kickstarter to Australia

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

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

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

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

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

What surprised you the most about running your Kickstarter campaign?

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

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

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

What would you have done differently?

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

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

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

Did you pay for any advertising?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was having an Australian audience tough with your crowdfunding campaign?

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

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

Would you do it again?

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

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

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

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

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

What are your future plans for Monty Bear?

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

Bio

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

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

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

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

Why Indie Authors Should Always Hire an Editor

There are some non-negotiable aspects in self-publishing that are needed for your book to compete in this oversaturated market—flawless text and a professional cover.

While many authors understand their writing can always be improved by a good editor, some children’s book authors think that editors aren’t necessary because they are writing for children.

I asked editor Tamara Rittershaus to share her thoughts on the importance of editing every book, but especially children’s books.

Here’s what Tamara has to say:

People will buy a great product.

 
“Self-published books have a bad reputation because they are often bad products. They’re often not edited, have cheap-looking illustrations, and grammatical errors in the blurb.
 
But with a good product and focused marketing, it can be successful. 
 

The Traditional Publishing Process

 
In traditional publishing, an author should have their manuscript critiqued, beta read, and professionally edited before sending it to their agent.
 
The agent offers editing. The agent sells the manuscript to a publisher, which would also have an editor.
 
So a book that is traditionally published has a stamp of approval from at least three editors (sometimes more than that).
 
Readers can trust these to be quality products. 
 
The indie-author community needs to focus on putting out better products.
 
In order to compete against traditionally published books, indie authors must hire professionals to work with them on creating the best book possible.
 

Here is what I recommend to an indie author:

 
After you write and revise a manuscript, find a critique partner!
 
Starting out, I swapped my picture book manuscripts with dozens of other writers through  a Facebook group called “KidLit411 Manuscript Swap.” 
 
Over time, I have found the four or five critique partners who I trust the most.
 
Once you’ve had it critiqued and made revisions, hire an editor!
 
Ask for developmental editing. A good editor will have an eye for how to really enhance the story.
 
They will explain how you can improve your story arc, the tone of the story, how to create better scenes, and more.
 
If you make significant changes, send it back to your critique partner or hire your editor for a second round of developmental editing. 
 
 
When your story is solid, have another round with your trusted critique partner(s) or look for “fresh eyes” in a beta reader.
 
Now is the time to have the story line edited. This is the final check through for grammar, punctuation, syntax and minor inconsistencies.
 
If you’re hiring an illustrator, I suggest you wait to start illustrations until the manuscript is ready for line editing.
 
A change to the manuscript text is easy, but changes to illustrations will cost you. 
 

Create a relationship with your editor.

 
Editors want our clients to succeed, especially the loyal clients that we know well. I offer my picture book clients a free once-over before publishing, because I don’t want to see any avoidable mistakes getting published. 
 
If you write in poetry, I suggest having your manuscript checked over by a poetry specialist.
 
I offer “poetry coaching” for clients who feel compelled to write in rhyme, but haven’t been trained in writing in meter.
 
I use the client’s own manuscript to teach them how the meter could sound. This is a very effective teaching method and my clients have great success learning to write in meter.”

Bio

Tamara Rittershaus offers editing services for children’s literature authors as a picture book editor. She will give you a thorough and honest critique of your work.

Connect with Tamara on Facebook or Twitter for more information: 

 

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.

The Monster Café—Unbound’s First Illustrated Book

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

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

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

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

Questions About The Monster Café

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

Bio

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

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

Click here to pre-order the book

Into Your Dreams Raises over $16k on Kickstarter

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

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

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

How much research did you do before launching your Kickstarter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign?

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

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

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

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

Did you have to change your strategy mid-campaign?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


I would do an IndieGoGo campaign instead of a Kickstarter.

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

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

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

Final advice

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

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

Bio

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

Want to learn more about crowdfunding your book? 

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Elisavet Arkolaki Uses Kickstarter To Secure A Traditional Publishing Deal

Many indie authors think that publishing is black and white. One either gets a traditional publishing deal or one goes it alone on the indie road and turns toward Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to help cover the expenses.

Creatively, Elisavet Arkolaki used Kickstarter as a proof-of-concept to show that her book, Where Am I From?, had a market to Faraxa Publishing based in Malta. The stakes were high for Elisavet as a failed Kickstarter campaign would mean that the traditional publishing doors would slam shut on her. This was her only chance. 

We chatted about her experience, her strategies, and what she found surprising about running a crowdfunding campaign as an author.

How much research did you do before launching your Kickstarter? Can you recommend any resources to other authors that you thought were helpful?

I had been reading and researching successful and unsuccessful Kickstarter campaigns for about 10 months before the launch of my campaign. I googled the creators of the successful campaigns I liked the most and read their interviews, posts, and advice.

I watched several Kickstarter videos. I reached out to other creators like Joe Biel from Microcosm Publishing (20 years experience as a publisher with tons of successful KS campaigns)  and asked for advice.

To anyone interested in a crowdfunding campaign I would recommend to start by backing projects themselves so they can have a hands-on experience on how it works from the backer’s perspective. I would also recommend joining active marketing and crowdfunding groups.

It requires a lot of planning, skills in sales and marketing. If someone lacks these skills, I would recommend to reach out to professionals like you, Lisa, and get things straight and right from the start.

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

I compiled a list with the people from my direct network who might be interested in backing my project and contacted each one of them explaining what Kickstarter is, what we wish to achieve, and why are we doing it this way.

I also compiled a list with blogs and media I thought would be interested in featuring Where am I from?.

Write copy in advance

I wrote lots of unique content in advance, and most of the newspaper’s features (5 newspapers, 3 countries) were based on my writings. I started contacting the media people about 2-3 weeks before the launch.

I posted on social media about 3 times per day, and I shared ‘Updates’ on Kickstarter whenever there was a new milestone to keep people engaged.

Incentivize sharing

We also incentivized sharing by including a big button on our Kickstarter campaign page that unlocked a free PDF for anyone who shared the campaign on their Facebook timelines using the WordPress plugin, Social Locker. It was around $30 for the plugin and worth it, in my opinion.

I placed a PDF ebook called, How to Raise Confident Multicultural Children, and two stories of mine available to download free of charge after someone used Social Locker on my website to generate an automatic share of my Kickstarter campaign.

(Side note: if you are planning to create a free PDF download in exchange for shares, you have to plan well in advance as this takes time to create.)

Collaborate with libraries

When we were approaching the end of the second week, and we were still far from reaching our funding goal, I was contacted by the Libraries Counsellor of the Vestfold Municipality of Norway.

She had read a newspaper article, pre-ordered 20 books for the public libraries and invited me as a speaker at a cultural event. This was also fantastic from a marketing perspective.

Combined with all the newspaper features it added an extra layer of credibility to our book project, and I could display it on our Kickstarter page. It also gave us the insight that a book about diversity might be a good fit for schools and public libraries. These could be our customers.

After that, my publisher (Faraxa Publishing) in Malta, small publisher run by Joanne Micallef and mum of multicultural children herself) managed to secure a pre-order for 200 books from the National Literacy Agency of Malta. These copies will be distributed to public schools in Malta.

We also had some backers who loved our book concept and pledged on the expensive rewards; all of the main characters (except 1 which we didn’t commission) will be painted after real kids, a real baby, and a real mum. All but one are multicultural/multiracial individuals.

Why did you do a KS campaign if you had a small traditional publisher already lined up?

Thinking outside of the box, I pitched the idea using the Kickstarter campaign as a proof-of-concept that the book was worth publishing. That reduced the risk on their side (taking on an unknown author), and I was highly motivated to ensure the campaign was a success so that the door to traditional publishing wasn’t closed.

I don’t have time to learn all aspects of book publishing, but I knew that working with a small publisher would allow me to learn more about the process while creating a professional book.

This also ensured the traditional publishing contract terms for the artist and me which were much better than the norm.

“Kickstarter can be a great marketing tool and a way to test the market provided there is a solid plan in place to support it.”

How many people do you think you’ve emailed/reached during the campaign? What was your most significant source of backers?

Hundreds of people, probably. These were a mix of media people and potential backers. I don’t remember what the ratio was.

My biggest source of backers came from my ‘Friends’ on Facebook, which comprises of people I personally know and people I have met online, who are people who have traveled a lot and/or have families of mixed cultural backgrounds.

What was the most surprising aspect of your Kickstarter campaign? What did you not expect to happen that happened and vice versa?

Positive: I did not expect to get so much support from the public sector, so much exposure from the media and so many high pledges from individuals.

Negative: I did not expect people in Europe were that unfamiliar with crowdfunding. I didn’t realize how severely I would be ‘punished’ by Kickstarter regarding visibility for not having enough pledges during the first 24 and 48h.

Instead, I would have skipped the Thunderclap campaign entirely and focused solely on raising awareness. I should’ve done more work educating potential backers about Kickstarter; why we need their support right away, explain they have nothing to lose and that there are 0 charges unless we are fully funded.

I had also not anticipated how time-consuming running a Kickstarter campaign would be. My youngest does not attend daycare and my working hours were limited. I had to accept my limitations that I could only do the best I could, hoping it would be sufficient.

Did you have to change your strategy mid-campaign? If so, why?

Yes, I did. We wouldn’t have made it without changing the strategy. 

I had several obstacles to overcome:

-Mainly European audience who was not very familiar with crowdfunding
-Foreign currency displayed which appeared in thousands (NOK, Norwegian Kroner)
-No illustrations to show
-The book wouldn’t be ready until a year after the campaign
-We didn’t give out the story

It was too much and it wasn’t working.

I had to do something drastic, and the only thing I could give out was the text of the story.

I asked for advice from experienced people. I reached out to Steve Tanner from TimeBomb Comics who has created several successful Kickstarter campaigns and was our very first backer.

He told me that if the book were to be released in a short time frame, i.e., 3 months, I wouldn’t have to publish the story. But, in my case, since the book wouldn’t be out for a year, I should. He was right.

Parents often want to know what they will be reading to their children. If the parents liked the story, combined with the skills of the artist which they could see on our page, they would support the campaign even if it was a year to publication.

And it worked. Even though the text still needs to go through the last rounds of editing, people loved it, and we made our goal in time.

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

If you have no idea about marketing and how to set up a book crowdfunding campaign, and do not have the time to learn how to do it the right way, reach out to an expert like Lisa Ferland who can guide you through the whole process.

I know that like birthing babies, you never ask a new mother if she’s planning on having another baby, but could you see yourself doing another Kickstarter campaign for books in the future?

Maybe I would, I am not sure. It’s very intense and emotionally draining. When I had my first baby, I was sure I wouldn’t have another one. I didn’t wish to go through pregnancy and giving birth again. Well, we now have two children 🙂 I’ve learned to never say never in life. Kickstarter can be a great marketing tool and a way to test the market provided there is a solid plan in place to support it.

Bio

Elisavet Arkolaki is a mother of two young children, entrepreneur, professional writer, online marketer, and a certified teacher of two foreign languages. She runs the top parenting blog in Malta www.maltamum.com, and is the exclusive retailer in the country of two of the biggest international babywearing brands, and the co-founder of All-in Translations, a multiple-award winning translations company.

She has lived in six countries, and has travelled around the world.  Her biggest passion has always been and still remains, the written world.

Be sure to check out her Kickstarter campaign for Where Am I From? 

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Want to keep reading about other authors’ experiences on Kickstarter?

Find out how Snail, I Love You showcased unique quilt art illustrations to connect with readers (funding 433%).

Learn how one client of mine went from $6k-$15k and used her event hosting skills to save a floundering campaign.

 

Joseph Malik’s debut fantasy novel sold over 10,000 copies. Find out how he broke the mold

Not many indie authors sell 10,000 copies of their debut novel, but that’s precisely what Joseph Malik did with his first book, Dragon’s Trail. After a ho-hum book launch and average sales in the first 90 days of publication, Joe revamped his approach.

I asked him a few questions about how he went from Average Joe to Bestselling Author and winner of numerous prizes. We also chat about his upcoming release in the Outworlders series, The New Magic, available for pre-order until September 18.

What do you think were the best strategies you employed to help make your book launch a success?

My first book launch failed miserably. It didn’t really take off until about six months later, and for the first 90 days, it lost money.

I paid for a couple of cheap promotions; a Twitter promo off of Fiverr and another one I can’t remember for like $25 or so. I launched on KindleUnlimited with a blog tour and sent copies to friends and family. That was about it. I’ll let you know how the launch for Book II goes in a few weeks.

What has been most effective in terms of engaging with your audience? Newsletter offers? Facebook? Something else?

Face to face contact. Panels and demonstrations at fantasy conventions, lectures at schools and colleges, author events. I write fantasy technothrillers—fantasy novels whose plots turn on detailed technical points; think The Hunt for Red October but knights in armor instead of nuclear submarines—and I did most of my world building research in person: swordsmanship, horsemanship, blacksmithing, building a functional language, and so on.

This type of detail resonates with a specific type of reader—the fantasy reader who has little patience for inaccuracies in world building, and being an author with “street cred”—whether I’m demonstrating swordsmanship, speaking Elvish from my conlang, or talking about some other aspect of world building that I have personal experience with—generates a lot of buzz.

“I had no idea that so many [traditionally published] authors have a book or series that they love but that their agents can’t sell. I think that we’re going to see a massive paradigm shift here, shortly.”

What advice would you give to someone who is considering indie publishing but isn’t confident?

Write more. Don’t launch the first book you’ve ever written. Writing a book is a huge achievement, and congratulations are in order, but just because you wrote a book doesn’t mean it’s ready for anyone to read it. Write more until you feel ready.

Launching a book is always scary, but you’ll know when you’re ready. It took me several books before I knew I was sitting on a good one. And still, even that was scary.

Your book covers are awesome and are perfect for your genre. Can you recommend/share the name of your cover designer?

Thank you. My cover designer is Lynn Stevenson. The initial cover concept for Dragon’s Trail came from West Coast Design. Lynn created the cover for The New Magic to make it match the brand that West Coast Design had laid out.

#Nerdalert question—you have both paperback and hardcover versions available of your book—who is your printer for each?

I use Ingram Spark for both.

What’s been the most surprising thing about indie publishing that you’ve experienced?

The overwhelmingly positive response from traditionally published authors. There’s tremendous interest in indie publishing from that side of the room. I had no idea that so many authors have a book or series that they love but that their agents can’t sell. I think that we’re going to see a massive paradigm shift here, shortly.

Did you use a company to create your book trailer or did you create it yourself?

We created the trailers ourselves. My wife is a professional opera singer, and she wrote the music for the trailer for Book II using a libretto I wrote in the Elvish conlang from the series.

You can see the trailer for Dragon’s Trail, our first trailer attempt here.

You can watch the trailer for The New Magic here.

Anything else you want to add?

My wife wrote an article for her blog from her perspective on all this; she was the marketing brains behind really making the book take off. You can read it here.

 

Bio

In addition to fiction, Joseph Malik writes and lectures on advanced intelligence theory and asymmetric warfare for the U.S. military.

He has worked as a stuntman, a high-rise window washer, a computational linguist, a touring rock musician, and a soldier in the United States Special Operations Command.

He has been a longtime panelist and demonstrator at fantasy conventions, speaking as an expert in swordsmanship, hand to hand combat, and military tactics and strategy. He has also lectured on fantasy writing and independent publishing at schools and colleges across the Northwest.

His first novel, Dragon’s Trail, became a Kindle Top 100 Bestseller in four countries in 2017, reaching #1 in Epic Fantasy in the U.S., Australia, and Canada and #1 in Sword and Sorcery in the UK, making him eligible for the 2019 John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in Science Fiction and Fantasy—one of very few independent authors to ever qualify with a debut novel.

His second novel, The New Magic, is scheduled for release on September 18, 2018.

A veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, Joseph Malik lives in the Pacific Northwest along with his wife and their two dogs. He serves in the U.S. Army Reserve and is a member of SFWA.

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Joseph Malik Sells Over 10,000 Books | Lisaferland.com
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