Updated: Sep 12
When it comes to crowdfunding, there's a lot of pressure to do well. After all, you need the funds to make your book happen! There's nothing more defeating than a failed Kickstarter campaign so in this post, we'll cover some tips to make your campaign a success.
What is Kickstarter?
Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding platform that allows individuals and organizations to raise money for projects and causes. It is a way for backers to pledge money for projects and ideas that they believe in and want to support.
It is a great way for entrepreneurs, creators, and changemakers to bring their dreams to life, as well as for backers to get involved in projects that they are passionate about.
That said, some authors say that Kickstarter is a preorder campaign for your books but truthfully, it isn't that simple. Kickstarter is designed to bring a project to life that would not otherwise exist without the funds gathered from that campaign.
So that means that if you've already had the book fully illustrated, formatted, and you're planning on using a print-on-demand company, you should not be running a Kickstarter campaign for that particular book. You can, however, use Kickstarter to fund your offset print run, cover illustration or other production costs, or produce a whole series, which is how most authors use the platform.
Pros and cons of crowdfunding campaigns
When you're deciding whether or not Kickstarter is for you, you'll want to think it through. In my own personal experience, Kickstarter was too much work for not enough payoff, so it's likely something I'll avoid for future books. But there are plenty of authors who have the opposite experience! That's why it's so important to determine what's right for YOU.
✔️ Pro: Gather funds quickly
Kickstarter is a great way to get sponsorship without giving away a part of your business and with a fast turnaround. Since you pick the dates and the length of the campaign, you have a lot of control over the timeline and when you will receive the funds.
❌ Con: Funding is all-or-nothing
This means that if you don't reach your campaign goal, you will get none of the money pledged. So if your goal was $4,000 and backers have only pledged $3,000 by the end date, your backers will not be charged and you'll get $0 for your project. In a way, this is also a pro because it can add pressure and excitement to your marketing campaign. There are crowdfunding platforms that aren't all-or-nothing, but Kickstarter isn't one of them.
✔️ Pro: The platform is easy to use
Kickstarter essentially involves you creating a landing page for your campaign and thankfully, the interface is really user-friendly. Even if you're not a designer, you'll be able to organize your text and paste images without much difficulty.
❌ Con: Kickstarter fees
Kickstarter takes a 5% cut of the funds from successful campaigns but don't forget, there's also a 3% processing fee. You'll also need to do reward fulfillment (don't forget about shipping costs to your backers!) so do your math carefully and always build in a cushion for unexpected expenses.
✔️ Pro: Social Media Centered
The main way you'll promote your Kickstarter campaign is via your social media channels, so you'll have a ready-made pool of friends, family and followers who will be your potential backers.
❌ Con: Unfamiliar Platform
The downside of this is that Kickstarter isn't well-known or understood by the average person, so you'll likely be getting lots of messages asking "What's this Kickstarter thing?" Be prepared to explain how it works and have some graphics or videos ready to share each time you get the same questions.
If you do decide to give Kickstarter a try, here are 12 Kickstarter tips to get you closer to your goal.
1. Create a support team
Find authors, family members, friends, and others who are willing to provide you with feedback and share your campaign with their networks when your crowdfunding campaign launches. You can maintain this team through email, a Facebook group, or both!
2. Support other authors
If you want support from other authors, give it first! Build relationships and network within Facebook groups. On Kickstarter, it shows how many projects you've backed and fellow authors DO pay attention to that.
3. Plan ahead
Create a calendar to organize what you are going to post, where, and when. This will keep you from forgetting anything and help you think through how best to reach people.
4. Create lists
Before your campaign starts, do some research and figure out which Facebook groups you are going to post in. Some Facebook groups only allow self-promotion on certain days so you will want to include that in your notes. You will also want to keep track of any personal contacts, influencers, bookstores, or other public figures to reach out to and see if they would be willing to back and/or share your campaign. You never know unless you ask!
5. Create custom URLs
This way, you can tell where most of the traffic is coming from. Is it a specific Facebook group? A specific influencer? Without custom URLs, this will be difficult to track. Knowing this information will help you with future campaigns or book launches as well.
6. Learn the platform
Spend time watching tutorials and creating an account long before you launch your campaign so that you have a good understanding of how it works and have confidence when it comes to launching the project.
7. Don't rush
Give yourself enough time to do it and do it well. Many authors try to rush through things, which causes them to overlook simple mistakes in their campaign design or doesn't allow them to build a solid following willing and excited to support their project. If you want to bring your book to life, the best thing that you can do is allot your time wisely.
8. Create catchy graphics
You can hire someone to do this for you, or you can use Canva to create your own! (Here's our review of Canva for authors!) But the overall design and appeal of your campaign will determine whether or not people click the pledge button. It's easy to use a program like Canva because they have templates to cut down the time you spend on designing.
9. Make a video
A video is an eye-catching way for you to talk about your campaign and why your book is needed. If you don't know how to make a professional looking one yourself, you can outsource this, but try not to skip it! It makes people feel more connected to you and thus, more invested in pledging their support for your project.
10. Realistic rewards
Often, authors will get carried away with all the different types of extras they can offer. But remember, those cost money too. The best thing you can do is price everything out and make sure you've thought through the logistics of how you are going to create, print, and ship anything you're offering as a reward.
For example, if you want to create plushies, you need to think about what it will cost you to obtain Packaging for them and ship them. What about International purchasers? Are your extras going to be something you only offer within your own country or are you going to build in shipping costs so extras can be purchased anywhere in the world? If you are tight on money, try to stick to simple things as rewards: your book, other books you've written, digital coloring pages, lesson plans, bookmarks, or stickers. Any of those will be low-cost to produce and easy to ship.
11. Early bird specials
Get your campaign off to a strong start by offering early bird specials for your supporters. Make sure you'll still make enough per pledge to fund your project and fulfill rewards though!
One of the best things about crowdfunding campaigns is that there's high risk, which forces you to become an excellent marketer. But you need to have a plan in place long before you launch your Kickstarter. Create an actual marketing plan made up of different strategies: email marketing, social media strategy, PPC ads, press releases, networking, and much more.
Don't hesitate to get creative! My favorite example is an author we worked with whose book characters were superhero fruit. She went down to her local smoothie place and asked if they'd display a copy of her book. Instead, they put her characters on their digital menu and even named some smoothies after her characters! Never underestimate the power of creative thinking.
I hope these Kickstarter tips have you feeling confident and motivated for your campaign. Are you gearing up for a Kickstarter soon? Drop your link in the comments so we can check it out!
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