To start, ask yourself a couple questions.
First: “Do you want your book to sell?”
Second: “Do you want to sell your book?”
These questions illustrate vastly different mindsets. Most authors want their book to sell. Few are willing to actively sell their book.
Self-published means self-promoted. If you want your book to sell, you must sell your book. There is no magic formula that will compel people to hand you cash. Authors need to employ all the same marketing strategies to promote a Kickstarter campaign as they do when promoting their books.
Earlier this year I used proven business skills to successfully launch a Kickstarter that raised over $3,000 for my debut novel in just 30 days. In this post, I share my marketing tips.
What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is funding projects via the internet by collecting small amounts of money from many different people. These people donate to crowdfunding campaigns for three reasons:
- To support the Author/Artist
- They Believe in the Project
- To Receive Rewards
Rewards are integral to the Kickstarter program. You’re not just asking people to donate—you’re offering them a chance to join you on your creative journey and receive exciting pre-publication perks in return.
Kickstarter is the most trusted crowdfunding platform for everything from films, games, music, art, design, and technology. Kickstarter was founded in 2009. Since then 594,582 projects have launched AND 240,556 were successfully funded.
Crowdfunding enables authors and artists to raise funds pre-publication. But … you’re really raising funds for the NEXT project. That’s because successful campaigns have their projects completely ready to launch before debuting on crowdfunding platforms. The most common items displayed on a Kickstarter page are pictures of the finished product! This means crowdfunding is actually about recouping money you’ve already spent or funding the next project.
Are you ready?
Too many authors forge ahead with project before they (and it) are ready. Completely prepare all the following items before attempting to launch a Kickstarter:
The Book: Is it written, edited, formatted, and have you held an ARC in your hand? If not see the following posts:
Reviews: Have you acquired pre-publication reviews? There are many ways and places to get pre-publication reviews. See this post for more information: Book Review 101
Graphics: In addition to the cover art, do you have images and banners that can be used for marketing? These can be professional or DIY. (ex. My banner is professional and used on my website, social media, and is the project image for my Kickstarter. My review images are DIY, example below.)
Videos: The project video is a short introduction to your campaign. This can be a professionally produced book trailer or a DIY video of you talking about the project. A video is essential because Kickstarter projects WITHOUT videos only have a 30% success rate whereas projects WITH videos have a 50% success rate.
Pro Tip #1: Keep videos short! A whopping 50% percent of backers stop watching after 60 seconds; 100% have stop watching by the end of the second minuet.
Pro Tip #2: Clips, gifs, pictures, and PowerPoints can enhance your video and add variety so it’s not just you on the screen all the time.
See my project videos on YouTube: Klara’s Journey – YouTube
Project Description: Craft a unique story that piques backers interest and inspires them to learn more. Let them know who you are, what you plan to create, and why you’re passionate about the project. Show them how much you’ve accomplished so far and include a timeline for completion.
Pro Tip #3: The internet loves visuals so include videos, sketches, or photographs of the product. Add headers and bulleted lists to create a visually appealing page.
Budget: Provide complete and accurate information so backers know you have a workable plan for completing the project. Shoot for the middle ground: too little information and people will wonder if you’ve thought things through, too much information and they’ll get bogged down in the numbers. Need budgeting help? See this post: Budgeting for Publication
Risk Assessment: Be aware of supply chain disruptions, delays, shipping issues, and anything else that might prevent your completing on schedule. Be generous with your timeline. No one will be upset if your project is ahead of schedule, but you’ll end up with angry customers and bad reviews if you can’t deliver on time.
Press Kit: This is a pre-packaged set of promotional materials which can be distributed to the media for promotional use. Items typically found in a press kit include headshots, bios, promotional images, FAQs, and sell sheets.
Pro Tip #4: Many email clients automatically reject emails with attachments so put all the information in a sharable file, such as a google drive folder. Then all you have to do is share the link.
At this point, you may be asking yourself, “Do I really need all that?” The short answer is, yes. You are competing against other creators for the time, attention, and limited dollars of backers.
Many people mistakenly believe that their competition is other indie publishers, who like themselves, have little to no crowdfunding experience. As we can see in the image below, one creator is almost to the end of his campaign and still has no backers. Unfortunately, he’s not your competition.
You are competing for dollars against major multi-national corporations, like Marvel, who makes comics, movies, and games. They have far more advertising clout than a debut author can ever hope to have. And let’s not forget bestselling author Brian Sanderson, who broke the internet when he launched his Kickstarter campaign. This is your competition. You need to bring your A-game and appear just as professional as the professionals.
A promotion plan is essential to your Kickstarter campaign. Start thinking about how you’ll promote your project once it’s live as early in the process as possible.
Make a Calendar
Schedule emails, social media announcements, and project updates. Ideas to consider when creating your calendar are:
- How will you promote your project pre-launch?
- What are your plans for day one?
- What surprises do you have planned to push through the mid-campaign slump?
- Can any of these be automated?
Create an Email List
In order to be successful, you need access to people willing to support you. Exceptional projects like Marvel’s & Brian Sanderson’s can find support from all over the web, however, the bulk your support will come from people who already know you.
Create a list of everyone you plan to contact about the project. The last 10 people you’ve emailed or texted are the most likely people to back your project on day one. These first-day backers are key to a project’s success.
The remainder of the list comes from your author newsletter subscribers, website subscriptions, and social media followers. Begin building this list at least a year in advance with the goal of collecting at least 1,000 potential contacts. Find information on creating an email list and newsletter here: Author Newsletters
Write Press Releases
Any information sent to the press is considered a press release. A well-placed piece of press can help you reach a wider audience of people interested in your work. When crafting press releases include the essentials: who, what, where, when, why, and how. Make yourself newsworthy by including information relevant to their readership (i.e. Wright is a graduate of Priest River High) or by tying your project to something trending in the news or on social media in a way that feels authentic (i.e. One of the theme’s in Wright’s new book is consent. #MeToo.)
Provide journalist all the content you can and mention that you’re available for interviews. High resolution photos are necessary for publication. Providing them with the press release makes the reporter’s job easier which makes them more likely to report on your project.
Include links to the following with your press release:
- Press Kit
- Kickstarter Campaign
- Kickstarter Pressroom (for information about Kickstarter itself.)
- Author/Creator Website
- Trailer/Video (On YouTube or in a sharable folder.)
Pro Tip #5: Send press releases mid-morning on weekdays so they won’t get buried in their inbox.
Having press releases written ahead of time will reduce the stress associated with a project launch. After sending out releases, follow-up but avoid being pushy. Bothering people can have negative consequences for your project. And remember, there’s no guarantee your story will get covered.
If your goal is ambitious, recruit help to get the word out. Ask collaborators, friends, fellow authors or artists, and family members to help promote your campaign. Create simple messages they can easily share with their networks. And if you know any influencers—tap them!
Welcome to Kickstarter
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for success, it’s time to introduce yourself to Kickstarter. Creating a campaign pre-view page and getting feedback before launching will keep you on the path to success.
Create an Account: Upload your project image, video, project description, budget, and risk assessment.
Banking Info: Kickstarter is free (mostly), but they need to know how to pay you!
FAQ: No one wants empty tabs. At the very least answer the question, “Why did you decide to run a Kickstarter?”
Funding Goal: This is how much money you intend to raise. On Kickstarter, less is definitely more. The larger the goal, the more chances you have to fail. The average backing amount is $25. Divide that into your goal and ask yourself if the resulting number of backers is achievable.
Funding Levels & Rewards: Start with the main tier (for authors, that’s your book) then build additional tiers above and below that one. Digital rewards are great for lower tiers because they keep shipping costs down. Before adding any physical items to the list, make sure you’ve considered all the costs, including shipping, before setting your price. Poor pricing practices can result in creators LOSING money on a successful Kickstarter.
Get Feedback: From project descriptions, to videos, to rewards, the preview page displays your project as it will appear once it’s live. Share this page with your friends to get feedback. Then make any necessary changes before submitting it to Kickstarter for review.
Get Visible: After a project has been approved by the Trust & Safety team, you gain access to your pre-launch page. This page teases backers and builds momentum for your campaign by sharing the project image, title, and description.
Timing is Everything
A week or two before launch, share your project with your community. Pre-launch support gives your project a head start. By making sure everyone knows about the upcoming launch you’ll have a better chance of getting first-day backers. But exactly when should you launch?
- Month: February/March are good launch times for summer reading delivery; August/September are great for the back-to-school rush. Autumn is especially good timing for kids’ books. Avoid summer & winter because people are on vacation and not looking at emails
- Day: Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
Launch close to the 1st and 15th of the month as those are common paydays and it’s best to ask for cash when people actually have cash on hand.
- Hour: 7 or 8 AM. This puts your message at the top of their inbox before it fills up for the day.
- Duration: Kickstarter campaigns run anywhere from 1 to 60 days, but the most common campaign length is 28 to 30 days. Longer campaigns do not earn more money. In fact longer campaigns are more likely to fail.
Pro Tip #6: The key is to launch your campaign early in the week and early in the day because that’s when the most people will be online and receptive to your message.
Announce with a Bang
Once your project is live, let people know!
- Send personal emails to your friends and family.
- Follow up with folks who received your Preview and/or Pre-Launch pages.
- Post to your blog/website and include a link to your Kickstarter page.
- Activate your mailing list. Inform all subscribers and groups that your project is live and share a few details about why you’re excited.
- Share on social media. Don’t just post on your personal social media accounts. Before launching take the time to read the rules for every group where you’re a member. Create a schedule and eye-catching graphics to grab the attention of fellow group members. Then follow that schedule!
Finally, beware of scammers posing as marketing experts promising more backers—you will get several of these emails, especially at the very beginning and very end of the campaign.
Push ‘til the End
Most backer activity occurs during the first and last week, with extreme concentration in the first and last 48 hours. Campaigns tend to plateau in the middle. Here are some tips for pushing through the mid-campaign slump:
- Post Regular Updates: Updates can be as simple as, “Great Start! Thrilled to see so many backers.”
- Share a Video: Prepare videos ahead of time, so they can easily be deployed mid-campaign.
- Offer Something New: My Kickstarter campaign was for my first book, Klara’s Journey. During week 2 I announced the cover revel for my second book, The Upbreeder. For week 3 I shared clips of me reading from the prologue and chapter 1.
- Share Good News: If you’ve gotten good pre-publication reviews, roll them out now.
- Focus on Interviews: If you sent out press releases ahead of time, reporters will start contacting you now. This will provide you with an opportunity to share your project AND will drive backers your way. As a bonus, you can share the interviews and articles as a project update.
- Send A Reminder: Sometimes people need an extra nudge toward the end of your campaign. Send a reminder to your email list and include a countdown timer.
Pro Tip #7: Don’t stop promoting when you reach your goal because not all funds will be collectable.
After the campaign is over Kickstarter collects the funds. It can be a nerve-wracking to watch your funds slowly dwindle away. This may be due to insufficient funds in backer bank accounts, fraud alerts preventing payments, or errors entered in a backer’s account information.
In order to maintain their platform, Kickstarter takes 5% of the total amount pledged. And some money will be lost to credit card processing fees. That’s usually another 3% but can be as much as 5% depending on card and amount of pledge. (Smaller transactions usually have higher fees.) The remaining funds are deposited in your account two weeks after the end of the campaign.
While waiting for funds to be collected, create a backer survey to gather shipping information and reward preferences. (i.e. for ebooks that could be Kindle vs EPUB vs PDF.) Then, be sure to add all those newly collected emails to your mailing list and turn them into repeat customers!
Create a fulfillment schedule and share that with your backers. Continue to update backers until all rewards are shipped and the book is published—this will keep them from getting antsy while waiting for their rewards.
Ship rewards as they are ready. Use file sharing programs like Google Drive to deliver digital rewards and communicate clearly when the link will expire. Don’t make people wait until the book is published to get their rewards. Ship the books as soon as they’re available to you. Part of the thrill of backing a Kickstarter is being able to read a book pre-publication.
Pros & Cons
What I liked about Kickstarter:
- Ability to Raise Funds Pre-publication
- Expanded Reach & Finding New Readers
- 30 Days of Focused Marketing
- Newspaper Coverage
- The platform doesn’t work on all phones*
- Lots of people don’t want another online account*
- Tough Competition
- All or Nothing Funding
- Kickstarter & Credit Cards Take a Cut
*I overcame these obstacles by providing backers my mailing address so they could mail checks directly to me. Then I added those amounts to a dummy account on Kickstarter, so the pledges still counted toward the goal.
Kickstarter Surprise: MEN!!!
The vast majority of books are purchased by women in their 30s, 40s, and 50s. Even books for men are primarily purchased by women. Because of this, we’re taught to focus our marketing efforts on women.
During my campaign, I sent a few messages to male friends that read, “I know it’s not the kind of thing you’ll read, but your wife might like it.”
The response was overwhelmingly positive. Every single one of them backed the project. So … I sent exactly the same message via Facebook to men I didn’t know. Again, I got backers! This means we are missing a HUGE opportunity by not marketing to men … and since they were eager to surprise their wives with a book, clearly, romance isn’t dead!
Learn all the ins and outs of Kickstarter by reading the Creator Handbook.