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

Children’s Book Authors use Kickstarter to Launch Their Businesses

Children’s book authors often face steeper costs when creating their books than adult fiction or non-fiction writers.

There are the additional costs of illustration (ranging from $1200-$10,000 for a 32-page picture book), and often the cost of a print run of 3,000-10,000 books from either local printers or printers overseas. Then there are warehouse and fulfillment fees to cover for orders placed on Amazon.

Many children’s book authors are turning to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to not only fully fund their books but also boost their marketing efforts.

  • In the Facebook Group, Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators, which I recommend joining, many of the authors have successfully Kickstarted their books and subsequently, their self-publishing businesses to great success.

Why Crowdfund Your Book?

Crowdfunding does a few things that waiting to market your book launch doesn’t.

When you crowdfund your book, you…

  • Validate your book’s idea with your audience before you get too far down the road of creation
  • Engage with your audience in a more personal way and offer them special rewards in addition to your book—something you can’t do on Amazon.
  • Communicate directly with your backers—Amazon does not provide you any information about who buys your book
  • Generate more funds for your book than you can selling the same number of books during a pre-launch (profit margins are a bit larger than royalty rates) 
  • Boost your confidence when your book is demanded by the readers. There is a feeling of incredible pride and humility when you realize that your readers are helping you create your book.
  • Create a viral buzz about your book. By cramming three months of marketing efforts into 30 days, you generate a veritable swirl of energy around your book.
  • Can afford a better team. When you crowdfund your book, instead of footing the bill from your own pocket, you can pay thousands for an experienced illustrator. You can opt for the thicker paper that’s more expensive. You can end up with a higher quality book when you have a larger budget (all things considered equal, of course).

And magic takes place during and after a crowdfunding campaign.

Like local news coverage, radio spots, cross-collaborations, and other opportunities that occur when you start reaching out to anyone and everyone who might be interested in your campaign.

The time-limited nature of the campaign forces creators to be bold and take action when it comes to marketing outreach that doesn’t usually happen during other book launches.

Examples of Children’s Book Crowdfunding Campaigns

While some campaigns are more successful than others, almost every campaign listed has resulted in an incredible boost to the visibility of the book, the sales, and/or the audience who is ready to purchase subsequent books from the author.

Note: *All of the following book images are linked to my Amazon affiliate account which results in tiny donations in my tip jar when you click at no extra cost to you.*

Title: ‘You Stole my Name’, Dennis McGregor’s new children’s book

Author: Dennis McGregor

Backers: 407

Total raised: $27,302 (137%)

Link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dennismcgregorsbook/you-stole-my-name-dennis-mcgregors-new-childrens-b?

Click here to buy on Amazon

Title: I’m NOT just a Scribble—Children’s Book that Inspires ART!

Author: Diane Alber

Backers: 423

Total raised: $15,343 (153%)

Link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/282178178/im-not-just-a-scribble-childrens-book-that-inspire?

Click here to buy on Amazon

Title: Into Your Dreams

Author: Roger Blonder

Backers: 197

Total raised: $16,760 (111%)

Link:  https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/76408786/into-your-dreams?

Click here to buy on Amazon

Want to go behind-the-scenes?

Get even more insights with in-depth interviews by crowdfunding authors…

Kathleen Cruger and Thankful Frankie

Stacy Bauer and Cami the Kangaroo

Roger Blonder and Into Your Dreams

Rebecca Hamer and Where Oh Where is Monty Bear?

Now, don’t be fooled by the amazing successes of the authors who have funded their books using crowdfunding

There is nothing easy about crowdfunding even though these authors make it look effortless.

One in three crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter fail (1 in 3!).

Click here to get on my calendar for a free 20-min chat to see if a) crowdfunding is right for you and b) if I can help you. 

Crowdfunding is tough, but I’ve created tools and templates to make it easier.

Click here to hop on my calendar.

Also…grab my freebie below and avoid some pitfalls when planning your campaign.

Download my solutions here

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.

Get More Book Sales with Disappearing Rewards

Everyone can utilize the strategy I outline below. 

Book not yet published: Use this strategy to drive sales during your pre-order period.

Book already published: Use this strategy to revive book sales during a special “extra rewards” month.

Note: There’s a video at the end of this post for those who learn better by listening and watching.

Crowdfunding Marketing Strategies Without Crowdfunding

How do you convince readers to pre-order your book before it’s available? 

This is a common dilemma that authors face while planning their crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter but great news, everyone…

You don’t need to crowdfund your book in order to implement crowdfunding strategies.

Not everyone wants to crowdfund their book and many people shouldn’t.

(Here’s a list of questions you should ask yourself to see if you should or shouldn’t crowdfund your book.)

 

Reward Your Readers

Crowdfunding your book entails offering readers extra rewards that are only available for a limited time

Non-crowdfunding authors can use the same approach to drive more book sales or pre-orders.

Also, this strategy involves MUCH LESS stress and nail biting compared to launching a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign where it’s all-or-nothing.

So, if you like all upside and very little downside (really just your time and effort), then this strategy will set you apart from the other authors who are struggling with Facebook ads and Amazon marketing.

Sound good?

Here’s the process:

Step 1: Create 4 (or more) rewards

These can be anything, really, but can include:

  • Ebook 
  • Audiobook
  • Activity workbook with material that complements your book
  • Printable coloring pages
  • Anything that involves your time (e.g., course, coaching, training, webinar, event, etc.)

I advise you to keep it relatively easy to create, original to your work, complementary to the book you are launching, and easy to deliver (digital rewards can be delivered via email). 

If you start deviating from the above characteristics, you’re going to create more work for yourself than necessary.

Remember, these are valuable rewards for readers but you shouldn’t be spending tons of money creating them. Mostly, invest your time and effort into creating the rewards.

2. Make those Rewards Disappear

Incentivize readers to take action right away and not wait to pre-order your book.

So, anyone who pre-orders or buys your book during this Reward the Reader month (or whatever you want to call it), will have access to disappearing rewards in addition to your book.

Week 1: Readers get all 4 rewards

Week 2: Readers select 3 out of the 4 rewards.

Week 3: Readers can select 2 out of the 4 rewards.

Week 4: Readers can select one reward.

At the end of your Reward the Reader month, you’ve successfully rewarded ALL of your readers (they should be super happy) but the early bird readers should be the happiest because they got ALL of your goodies.

Step 3: Deliver the goods

At the end of the pre-order marketing blitz, be sure to deliver all rewards to everyone who pre-ordered your book, encourage them to read your book and leave a review, and thank them for being awesome and supportive people.

The best way to do this is via email using your newsletter service provider. 

Be sure to have them specifically opt-in to receive your newsletter if they want to continue to receive emails from you to be GDPR-compliant.

Rules, man, I know, but transparency is crucial to building trust between you and your readers.

Benefits to using this approach

1. Everyone can do it

Whether you have already published your book or are still planning your book launch strategy, everyone can use this approach reward readers.

Come up with some great digital rewards that your readers want and get to work.

2. It relieves some pressure

If you aren’t “salesy” and don’t like talking about your book, then you’ll LOVE this approach.

Many authors find it easier to promote FREE items than they do about promoting their book for sale.

3. Organic sharing

Readers love to share free things. They are more likely to share a bundle of four free goodies that are available with the purchase of your book than they would an ad for a book. (Actually, does anyone share ads? Not really.)

4. Everyone wins

Your readers get 1-4 valuable rewards in addition to your book and you get more book sales and exposure. Win-win.

Less Stress but Still Requires Effort

So, no need to stress about launching an intimidating Kickstarter campaign in order to benefit from crowdfunding marketing strategies. 

And just a reminder that as everything goes, you’ll only get out what you put into this process.

Creating and promoting these disappearing rewards still requires time and effort and marketing dollars to drive those book sales, but you should feel good about the value you’re giving your readers.

Want to learn more about crowdfunding strategies that will work for your book?

Click here for my free videos, webinars, and blogs featuring authors who are killing it on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

Want my free tips on indie publishing and crowdfunding for authors twice a month?

Sign up here.

Watch this video on YouTube for more about this approach

Review of Unbound Publishing

I’ve received a number of queries about Unbound as a potential solution for indie authors and started conducting my own research on the platform and talking with Unbound authors about their experiences. The following is my review of their platform, business model, and services.

Unbound is a UK-based publisher that uses crowdfunding to determine which books are sent to print.

Great, we’ve seen lots of small presses use Kickstarter in this way but Unbound doesn’t use Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. They created their own crowdfunding platform and integrated it into their site rather than pay Kickstarter a platform fee on every one of their projects.

Smart.

Unbound is a bit Unclear

However, unlike Kickstarter and IndieGoGo that display the funding goal, include the date of project creation and deadline, Unbound projects lack that level of detail.

I could only find the funding status, the percentage funded and the total number of backers for current and old Unbound books.

Their most successful book that I could find (it’s somewhat difficult to sort and organize projects) is a humorous biography/memoir about video games with nearly 9,000 backers and 1830% funded. You can check it out here if you’re interested. So it looks like Unbound has some popular books in their catalog.

It is tough to judge which books are popular and which ones aren’t because I have no way of knowing when the project was created.

If a project is 27% funded but it’s only Day 1, that’s not as bad as being 27% funded on day 37, you know?

Unfortunately, due to their platform, I cannot make an accurate assessment of the popularity of any of their books. (Except for the book with 9k backers. That would be a slam dunk on any platform.)

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards and buy our books.

Lacking transparency

When a campaign is over, parts of the campaign are no longer available as a public record (something both KS and IGG provide) and I couldn’t reverse engineer the total crowdfunding amount (total # of backers at each reward level to calculate the campaign goal).

So, Unbound’s platform is intentionally opaque.

Whenever you are raising funds (frankly, whenever you are selling anything), transparency is vital.

As a potential investor (even if it’s just a small amount), I want to know how much money you’re requesting and how you plan to spend the funds.

Knowing these details are absolutely crucial to building trust between creators and backers.

Without transparency, there’s no trust and without trust, people won’t pull out their credit cards to buy our books.

Unbound themselves say that transparency is vital so, why don’t they make their funding goals public knowledge like other crowdfunding publishers?

I advise all of my crowdfunding clients to make their campaign pages as transparent as possible including a visual diagram showing how the funds will be spent.

If Unbound were my client, I’d be saying the same thing to them.

Making it Difficult 

In creating the platform themselves and hiding certain elements that convey transparency, Unbound is doing a disservice to their authors who are trying to build trust with their readers and convert them into backers.

They are actually making the crowdfunding process harder for their authors when it’s already quite difficult because readers are still relatively new to the crowdfunding process.

Left With a Lot of Unanswered Questions

After reviewing their FAQs, I had even more questions.

If you look at Kickstarter or IndieGoGo’s FAQ pages, they go on and on to help their creators understand the process. Kickstarter has a community of fellow creators to help troubleshoot and problem solve before launch. IndieGoGo is extremely responsive to emails and willing to work with their creators.

I sent off an email to Unbound with some questions for clarification related to their process so I could understand more before writing this review on September 28.

Within minutes, I received an autoresponder from Unbound informing me that they’d get back to me as soon as possible (which was usually within three business days).

But they never responded.

I fired off a reminder email on October 16 and received the same auto response.

It’s now October 24, and I’ve still not heard from them.

I mentioned this to an Unbound author, and his response was, “Yeah, that’s not surprising. They can be slow.”

From the author’s perspective, it would cause me concern if I need to follow up numerous times with my publisher to have my simple questions addressed.

Long Project Timelines

Crowdfunding is all about limited TIME. The main reason why rewards-based crowdfunding is so different from traditional marketing is that there is an intense period of marketing activities within a very short amount of time.

Kickstarter recommends campaigns end within 30 days and IndieGoGo does not allow projects to extend their timelines past 60 days after their launch dates.

Why?

Limiting time forces action

Time-limited campaigns are successful because it is difficult to sustain a level of intense marketing for very long.

Creators burn out, and audiences become fatigued with hearing the same messages over and over again. It leads to burnout.

On their website, Unbound tells prospective authors that their books’ campaigns often last between 3-6 months (!!!) Which is 3x-6x longer than the crowdfunding experts recommend.

If this was equity crowdfunding, which is known to have a longer timeline, then that would be a different story. But this is rewards-based crowdfunding.

Sean Leahy’s campaign lasted from March-December 2016 (10 months)  and is scheduled for publication February 2019. His campaign was 10x longer than his peers on Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are crowdfunding.

He endured way more stress and marketing fatigue than his crowdfunding counterparts.

In our interview (available here), he mentions numerous times how it felt like a slog and no, he wouldn’t want to do it again or recommend that process to other authors.

Are the deadlines flexible? 

My guess, I don’t know for sure because Unbound never got back to me, is that their campaigns have a flexible deadline until it looks like it will be funded. Perhaps they have a deadline that only the authors know about but in reality, it’s much more important for the readers to know about the deadline.

Having no deadline means that you lack the very thing that makes readers get off their butts and back your campaign.

One has to take something away to make it exclusive.

That’s why every marketer will tell you that you have to “close the cart” if you want to see sales.

“You won’t be able to get this book after today!” really forces people to act, not, “Oh, don’t worry. You can back this campaign today or tomorrow or in six months from now. It’s fiiine.”

From the creator’s perspective, having no end in sight is a nightmare. Crowdfunding is a humbling experience. It’s stressful and nobody can sustain a 24/7 marketing strategy for 10 months.

From the backer’s perspective, no deadline means I’m not motivated to back the project. Why should I do it now instead of tomorrow?

Dodgy Refund Policy

Also part of the trust factor is a clear and user-friendly refund policy. 

As a backer, if this project doesn’t succeed, will I get my money back?

With Unbound, no, you won’t. Not without a lot of hassle, anyway.

Look at the text of their refund policy 

With Kickstarter, your credit card isn’t charged unless the campaign is successful when it closes.

With IndieGoGo, your credit card is charged when you pledge but is fully refunded if the campaign is not successful (for their fixed funding projects only).

With Unbound, a backer is refunded in Unbound credits that they can use to back another book on the platform.

If a backer wants their actual money back, they must contact Unbound directly.

Provided that many books are backed by authors’ close network of friends and family, I highly doubt that many backers would want to use their funds to support another book on the platform.

Again, given their radio silence via email, I would imagine that getting your money back would be difficult and annoying.

Verdict: Unbound’s refund policy isn’t backer friendly and wouldn’t give me the confidence that I’m looking for when backing a book on the platform.

Crowdfunding Publishers

My mission is to support authors crowdfund their books. There are many publishers using the crowdfunding model to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for their books on Kickstarter.

Microcosm Publishing—19 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $100k.

Flesk Publications—5 projects on Kickstarter raising a total of $500k.

Beehive Books—10 projects on Kickstarter raising over $500k.

I think it’s great that Unbound has close to 300 books in their catalog and when done correctly, I believe that crowdfunding can be a sustainable marketing approach for all authors.

Room for improvement

The issue with Unbound is that they lack the very elements that make crowdfunding successful—time, transparency, and responsiveness.

Can I recommend Unbound as a publisher for authors who are open to crowdfunding? In its current state, sadly, no.

My Recommendations

If Unbound addresses the factors that I mention and publishes each campaign’s goal amount, provides the project’s open and close dates, and changes their refund policy, then I might consider changing my recommendation.

Also, replying to emails from potential clients never hurts.

In my opinion, Unbound’s platform and approach is neither creator nor backer-friendly compared to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo.

The long timelines cause undue stress and marketing fatigue on its authors and their refund policy isn’t great customer service.

The radio silence via direct email and confirmation from Unbound authors that they are slow to respond has me thinking that they are overstretched.

At this point, I would not recommend publishing with Unbound.

Instead, go the indie route or find a publisher who is open to you crowdfunding your book’s costs as Elisavet Arkolaki did with her publisher.

As always, I encourage authors to take control of their publishing and marketing timelines and create a strategy that promotes engagement with their audiences and furthers their brand as authors.

If you are open to crowdfunding your book but don’t know where to start, I recommend signing up for my free mini course.

What you’ll learn in the free mini course

  • The different types of crowdfunding
  • Why authors keep choosing Kickstarter and IndieGoGo to fund their books
  • What every book’s crowdfunding campaign needs to be successful
  • Big mistakes to avoid during your campaign
  • Access to my monthly newsletter tips on how to best use crowdfunding to market your book

Click here to sign up. 

The Monster Café—Unbound’s First Illustrated Book

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

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

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

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

Questions About The Monster Café

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

Bio

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

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

Click here to pre-order the book

Staying Focused: Battling “Shiny Object” Syndrome

Are you always starting new projects but rarely finishing them?

Do you find yourself with an endless source of ideas and not enough time to dedicate to seeing them through?

Are you tweaking your website, testing out new newsletter providers, recording podcasts, and writing blogs but your book is still in outline/draft mode?

If you answered “yes” to any one of these questions, then you might be suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.

What is it?

Shiny Object Syndrome is just what it sounds like—it is the culmination of distraction and procrastination.

We get excited about the latest and greatest technology, writing tool, or gizmo and zoom off to investigate, research, and experiment.

Some crafty people fuel their procrastination under the guise of learning. They sign up for course after course and webinar after webinar because they are convinced that they must learn more before they can get started.

I know…I’ve done it.

When the going gets tough…some people jump ship

At some point in everyone’s entrepreneurial career, we hit a point where the work gets hard. The project stalls a bit because we struggle and without dedication to seeing it through, we abandon the sinking ship and hop onto a new opportunity that looks like it’ll float.

We work on one project for a while until we hit another rough patch, struggle, and then we justify abandoning it because it wasn’t working.

This cycle will continue until you stop it.

We have to be disciplined and struggle through the unsexy parts of each project in order to see it through to completion.

How can we finish more projects?

Clearly define your goals

Are you setting project-based goals? Income-based goals? Whatever they are, clearly define them and then map out a process to tackle them.

Maybe you want to publish one book in the next 12 months year that is at least 75k words. 

Your writing timeline needs to be truncated a bit so that you can allow time for editing, formatting, and publishing.

So, you need to write 75k words in 6 months. That’s 12,500 words/mth or 416 words/day.

Does that sound manageable?

Find an accountability partner (or hire one)

Would you go to the gym more often if you had a free gym membership or if you were paying $200/mth for a personal trainer?

I guarantee you would show up every day if you were paying $200/mth and guess what? You’d see results! 

Accountability partners can help us reach our goals but not all accountability partners are created equal.

During the publication of my first book, my husband served as my accountability partner by asking me every day, “So, what are your plans for the day?” or “How is it going?”

But, as my business grew and my tasks varied between projects, I found I needed to hire someone who could direct my energy to profitable activities, not to tasks that kept me busy but not productive.

This is why I know that free content will only take you so far and why hiring someone to check in on you every X weeks can be worth every penny you spend.

Start small and keep yourself accountable to your accountability partner. Prepare progress reports/updates like you would a manager in an office setting and check-in with each other on a regular basis.

Create both carrots and sticks

What will motivate you to reach your goals in the time you have set? If you set a certain income-based goal, reward yourself with something you really want when you reach it. Maybe it’s a trip somewhere warm and beachy or maybe it’s a nice dinner out on the town. 

In order to stop deadlines from whizzing by you at an unstoppable speed, devise some punishments that provide real consequences for missing those deadlines. Be your own boss but be somewhat demanding of yourself.

If I don’t reach my writing goal each day, my usual veg-out and watch Netflix time will be used to write instead.

I will often deny myself social interaction with friends (I know, that sounds awful) until my projects are done.

“No, sorry, I can’t meet up for coffee even though I so desperately want to because I have to get this finished.”

We have to stop allowing deadlines to zoom by without consequence. Create your own incentives and disincentives.

Don’t allow yourself to change projects

As a fellow sufferer of Shiny Object Syndrome, I’ve decided to be even tougher on myself and not allow myself to even consider taking on another project until the first project is completed. 

Yes, that means that some of my days are horrendously boring. Some days are incredibly frustrating and I feel like I’m barely treading water.

But, I simply cannot allow myself to abandon projects whenever I hit a technical snag or rough patch if I truly value and want to honor this idea.

Map out a full strategy for each project

Every book, course, collaboration, or blog post should have a strategy behind it. What are you trying to accomplish? We stop working on projects because we get overwhelmed by everything we need to do.

Break down the monumental task into bite-sized pieces and set a deadline for each task.

Map out your calendar and then add in a fudge factor for sickness, interruptions, and all of the things that are beyond our control that affect our work.

Set days aside for when you will take on non-project but still necessary tasks like admin, website edits, accounting, and complementary content generation, and then only work on those tasks on those days.

Sometimes, life gets in the way but it's always better to have a plan mapped out

Minimize Your Distractions

I’m on social media a lot for my work and I found myself contributing to conversations that had nothing to do with my business. 

  • Install News Feed Eradicator to eliminate Facebook news feed distractions.
  • Sign out completely from your email, chat messengers, and other things that notify you when you’ve received a message.
  • Put your phone on Airplane Mode
  • Keep your coffee, tea, water handy

Write down your #1 task and place it somewhere visible

If you’re currently working on writing, then place your daily writing goal somewhere visible to remind you to always come back to that task.

Hire other people to do your non-essential time-intensive tasks

I haven’t done this myself for many reasons but I often flirt with the idea of hiring someone to manage my social media accounts.

Find yourself a Virtual Assistant (VA) to manage your social media posts (I still recommend you do the interactions and engagement with your readers) if you find yourself struggling with consistency.

I hire two accountants (one for the US and one for Sweden) to file my taxes every year because it is worth the money to do it correctly and allows me to focus on the actual running of my business.

Say no to collaborations that aren’t 110% aligned with what you want to do

I’m all for collaborations that advance your interests and get you in front of a wider audience, but not all collaborations do that.

Sometimes, you need to say no if you’re not 110% on board otherwise it’s just another distraction that takes away from time you should be devoting to your ideas.

Recognize your tendencies and change your behavior

If you know that your work is suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome, then you need to commit to changing your behavior, which is very difficult to do, as we all know.

Best of luck as you tackle one project at a time!

If you know someone who also suffers Shiny Object Syndrome then share this blog post to unlock my video on 3 ways to boost your productivity

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? 

Enroll in my free mini course.

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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