Lindsay Madsen discovered inspiration and ideas amidst diapers, laundry, and sleepless nights. There’s something about rocking your baby in the wee hours of the night that gets your brain cells tingling.
In Lindsay’s case, she wanted to share hope and support for fellow moms who are in the thick fog of exhaustion that comes with those early baby days.
Why did you decide to use Kickstarter to launch your book, The Lovely Haze of Baby Days?
Launching a Kickstarter made a lot of sense to me. I wanted to show the world I was serious about this book, and the impact I hope to make with it.
Struggling with loneliness and feeling disconnected from your community after having a baby is a real issue for women, and this reality is only getting worse during the current pandemic.
By choosing to Launch a Kickstarter, I was able to centralize all the information about the book and give people an opportunity to preorder the book.
This was important because it let me showcase the important message of support, AND get the funding organized (hopefully!) in a more efficient way to bring the book to life.
The last thing I ‘ll mention is the compressed time frame.
As you’ve said yourself, it’s a really concentrated marketing effort in a short window of time. I’m a mom of four kids 5 years and younger, so time is not something I have an abundance of.
While the intensity of the work was heavy lifting, I could map the time out in my mind of all the things I wanted to do over the weeks leading up and the weeks running the campaign.
As a first time author, I felt it helped bring structure and goals into my launch planning.
What type of preparation did you do before you launched?
The most important preparation I did was creating a website and starting a mailing list. You engage a lot of people during your time preparing the book, the rewards, the marketing, etc.
Having a mailing list was a great asset for communicating important messages to everyone and building excitement for the upcoming campaign.
Time wise – I spent at least 8 weeks from the moment I decided to run the campaign to launch day, but I knew from the start this was part of my plan – so I always had the pieces of it in mind as I researched & prepared.
I guess the preparations fell into a couple of categories:
Pre-launch marketing, and
What has surprised you the most about crowdfunding your book?
A good surprise was how much I loved connecting with people in the audience/community.
I really enjoyed the process of building both my author and my mom network as part of my preparations. It is a logical thing to happen, I am passionately working on a book to support new moms – so of course I would love learning from authors and engaging with the people I hope to help with my book!
Something I struggle with is the unexpected loss of sleep. I am really excited about the project and the Kickstarter, and my best opportunities to work a lot are in the evenings.
IT can be hard to turn my brain off when I finally get to bed. So there is a big emotional/mental attachment to running a Kickstarter, and I wasn’t as prepared for that!
What advice would you give an author who is considering crowdfunding their book?
Marketing: Know your message and articulate it clearly.
General: Share your enthusiasm! People get excited when you are excited.
Practical: Build your audience as big and early as you can! Include an email list.
What advice would you give a parent (of young children) who is also planning to launch a crowdfunding campaign?
First, give yourself more time than you think you need to do things, something child related often pops up and it’s so stressful if you haven’t built in time buffers to accommodate surprise tasks.
Second, be creative with how you get things done. I let me kids look at illustrations and give me feedback, I listen to podcasts when I play on the floor with my babies, I have started sending voice messages while on a walk.
After the campaign, I hope to compartmentalize more , but efficiency is critical right now.
I am trying to share the journey with my family too, so they can be excited for the project wins with me and also be a little more understanding when I need to work more than ever before.
Any final words of advice?
Build your author community as you go along. There are things my family and real world friends don’t understand and can’t provide advice on, while creating a book or running a Kickstarter campaign.
I am so grateful for the author friends and Kickstarter buddies I have met and developed friendships with. We support each other – and that is a really valuable resource while on the author journey.
Lindsay Kellar-Madsen is a writer, business developer, and twin mama with four young children.
Although Canadian, she lives with her family in the Danish countryside where they explore, go on adventures, and thrive in their everyday chaos.
Her first picture book, The Lovely Haze of Baby Days, is currently available for preorder through her Kickstarter Campaign: https://bit.ly/2RsXMdL
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!
Find out some major lessons in audience building, publishing, and crowdfunding in this interview with Jessica.
Jessica found success on Kickstarter in 2013 and 2016 and while social media strategies may change over time, her advice is timeless.
How much audience building did you do before launching your first campaign?
By nature, I’m not much of a planner—I tend to go for things and figure out how fly while I’m free-falling. Not always the smartest way to conduct things, but, in this case, it worked out well.
For both campaigns, I did very little audience building before the campaign started, save for my usual social media posting.
My audience before my second campaign was built very much by my first campaign and the other readers I gained from “Firenze’s Light“.
What type of preparation, education, or research did you do before launching your first campaign?
I had no intentions of self-publishing. The more research I did on traditional publishing, the more I realized I would have to grind just as hard to market my book, but for less of a cut in the traditional model.
Each time I tried to blow off the idea of self-publishing, the perfect resource or information would show up.
For instance, I had no idea how to find an illustrator. A friend of mine happened to work for Jim Henson Productions and put me in touch with some interns in their art department.
I had no idea how to get a book printed. My cousin happened to know someone who worked for a printer in China and she talked me through the process and estimated costs.
Most of my research was focused on the process of self-publishing and the costs.
I have a rebellious streak and have a sometimes-good-sometimes-bad habit of ignoring “the way things are supposed to be done”.
For my second campaign, I did a lot of research on crowdfunding and how it had evolved since my first campaign for “Firenze’s Light”. The “Firenze’s Light” campaign happened when crowdfunding was relatively new.
By the time I campaigned for “And So Much More”, everyone and their lost dog had a crowdfunding campaign.
It felt much harder to get people’s attention.
There were also many campaigns that raised hundreds of thousands of dollars because they had a huge marketing budget to put behind it.
Rather than get discouraged by the slick, meticulously planned campaigns, I stayed simple.
As a rule, I stopped researching and worrying about too much planning, and just stuck with what worked the first time: a good story and a clear, simple campaign.
I did reach out to more bloggers and publications for my second campaign, but I almost felt like it would have been more valuable to spend that time directly approaching new potential backers.
“I stopped researching and worrying about too much planning, and just stuck with what worked the first time: a good story and a clear, simple campaign.”
Did you get a lot of repeat backers who supported Firenze’s Light to support your second campaign?
I did get a lot of repeat backers and a lot of new ones as well. I made it a point to approach my original backer list first because I had faith that they would be excited about my next book.
What surprised you the most about launching on Kickstarter?
I knew it would not “just happen” after my campaign went live, but I was surprised how it was a full-time job for 30 days.
I spent that time texting, emailing, messaging, social media posting, singing songs, making up new reward categories, doing FB live, making videos—anything I could think of—to get more eyes on my campaign. It was non-stop—and I have 3 kids LOL. Thank goodness for my husband!
What advice would you give someone considering crowdfunding their book?
Keep it simple.
A lot of people replicate their campaigns off of the most-funded campaigns that have a huge budget and staff that can support crazy, swaggy reward tiers.
Even if you’re not looking at the big dogs, the smaller dogs replicated the medium dogs who replicated the big dogs.
Shipping and random rewards like t-shirts, plushies, and toys can eat your budget so quickly and steal your focus from getting your book made when your campaign is over.
My rewards were mostly books.
Some of my higher level rewards were illustrating people into my book, self-publishing consultations, original songs, author readings—all things that are easily deliverable and that are services rather than products.
None of those items had shipping costs—speaking of which-spend a lot of time budgeting out your costs including your reward shipping, taxes (you have to pay taxes on your donations), Kickstarter’s cut etc.
I also love the idea of having some “back-pocket” rewards to add value throughout the campaign.
These are rewards that you add to the 5 or 6 base rewards after the campaign is running.
When you’re on day 21 of 30, no one wants to hear about your book one more time.
But they may want to hear about that original poem you will write their kid when they pledge $100 or tier up from $25 to $100.
It keeps things fresh and can goose someone who already backed at a lower tier to a higher one.
“Crowdfunding is great, but I find it takes me on a detour away from selling the books I already have.
I simply can’t wear all of those hats at once.”
Would you launch future books (or other creative projects) on Kickstarter?
I am very proud that the two books I have written have funded the beginning of my third.
My goal has been to self-fund the rest of my books by reinvesting all my profits.
If I get to Spring 2020 and I need printing funds, I might consider doing a small campaign to finish up, but I’d honestly rather publish a Kindle book or two this fall and get it printed that way.
Crowdfunding is great, but I find it takes me on a detour away from selling the books I already have.
I simply can’t wear all of those hats at once.
If I had to chose between 30 days of Kickstarter and 30 days of creating two Kindle Books, I’ll take Kindle.
However, if I were starting all over again today and didn’t have that choice, I would most likely do it.
What would you do differently?
From a crowdfunding point of view—not much.
From a publishing point of view—I’d have the knowledge I have now, 5 years later.
I know so much more about writing for the market, good covers, great titles, smart writing.
I’ve spent a lot of time backtracking or working around those mistakes.
Anything else you’d like fellow authors to know?
When you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, any time you talk about it, in any group, list your link.
I see so many people post in FB groups about their campaign and they don’t have a link.
Also, have fun and enjoy the ride! It can be thrilling.
Tired of searching for books that both empowered and entertained, Jessica set out to write ones that do both. She loves writing books that cultivate a world with more kindness, love, peace, compassion and connection.
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.
Finding the perfect time to launch your book’s crowdfunding campaign is always a tricky balance.
Do you launch when there is less competition on the platform or when there are a ton of campaigns running at the same time?
January is generally slow because people are still recovering from December holiday (over)spending.
However, if you are launching a planner, daily motivator, or other type of inspirational goal-setting book, January is GOLD for you. Launch in January!
February is a super busy time for books launching on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo because people have recovered from the holidays and they all avoided launching in January. If you want to buddy up and cross-promote with other authors, February might be a good time.
March is always good but you have family holidays in there like Easter that can really sap your momentum.
PRO TIP: don’t launch near a public holiday and definitely don’t end on one.
April is a fine month—nothing super crazy happening then.
May is also fine for launching.
June might be tough if you are targeting teachers or parents of small children as usually school is letting out.
July might also be dicey if you are targeting parents but during the summer, there is less to do and people might be scrolling Facebook in a bored summer stupor ready to find your book (who knows?!).
August is fine even if people are away on vacation.
September is back to school and people are back online in full force. If you can deliver the book in time for the holidays, this is a great month for launching.
October is also a fine month for launching but be sure to end your campaign before US Thanksgiving, if your audience is based in the US.
November starts to get a bit tricky as people tune out during Thanksgiving and start getting into the holiday crazy.
December best to avoid but I’ve seen lots of successful campaigns. If you have a motivational calendar, journal, or other New Year’s Resolution-type book, this is also a good month for launching because people will want the book in January.
You can launch your campaign during any month and find success. You can also launch during a statistically “good” month and still fail.
The success of your campaign will not be due to the month in which you launch but in how well you prepare your audience for your campaign.
If you don’t communicate with your audience or if they don’t see your messages, DON’T LAUNCH. Your audience isn’t on board.
If you are getting good feedback and people are replying to your emails, blaze on you beautiful diamond.
Like anything, proper planning prevents poor performance.
Before You Launch
Ask yourself these questions to gauge if you’re ready to launch:
Is my audience ready?
Have I given potential backers explicit instructions on what to do during launch day?
“I thought I had researched enough and knew what I was doing – but having a set of fresh and expert eyes helped so much. Lisa had many small suggestions and tweaks for me to do with my campaign that helped take it to that next level. The small small fee is so worth it. Lisa goes above and beyond.”