I've been so excited interviewing indie authors who have funded their self-published book through crowdfunding sites like Kick Starter and Indiegogo. So I popped along to Kick Starter to find out for myself what the fuss is all about.
That little web sojourn ended up making a huge change in my own thinking about publishing my books. So I decided to set up my very own Kick Starter Book Project!
Firstly, we suggest that if you are going to go this route, you need to put a lot of time into researching other projects on Kick Starter, either in your genre or simply just looking at the most successful projects that have raised the most money.
Here's what I've learnt over the past few months about getting started with a crowdfunding campaign on Kick Starter.
1. Setting Up A Kick Starter Account
Set up your Kick Starter account. There is a big green button called 'Start Your Project' - you can't miss it.
The tab called 'Basics' ask for a project title, a short blurb about your project and you have to select a category. The category allows Kick Starter's visitors to find you through their search category.
Your blurb will appear on the right side of your life project with your project image so once you have entered some text, be sure to hit the 'Preview' tab so you can see how your page will look.
You will also be asked for a project location and funding duration. Both Kick Starter and other successful creators suggest opting for a 30 day project to ensure your pledgers don't think they have plenty of time and forget about making a pledge!
You also have to enter a funding goal amount. If you complete any of these fields at the stage of opening your account, you can go back and edit it again at any time.
The 'Rewards' tab is where you will enter the rewards you will be offering the people who make a pledge on your project. More on this below under 'research'.
As with the other fields, you are able to edit the rewards at any time. You can also enter a limit on the number of people pledging for that particular reward. This is if you only have a certain number of items or if you want to create an urgency for that reward by limiting the number of pledges available.
When you enter your rewards you will need to give each reward an amount, a description, an estimated delivery date and shipping details and your limit quantity.
Most of the experts we have interviewed who have made a success of kick starting their self-published book, have all recommended that you create a theme and carry this through your rewards by naming each reward with a themed name.
The most compelling rewards tend to draw backers in more closely to the project and give a behind the scenes look at the idea or the creative process.
C) About You
The 'About You' allows you to enter a profile image, your name and bio, your location, and your websites. Enter your Google Analytics tracking ID to enable Google Analytics for your project. Here you can also connect your Facebook account.
Part of every creator’s job is earning their backers’ trust, especially backers who don’t personally know them. It’s up to you to make the case that you can successfully bring your project to life. Present your qualifications and share links that help reinforce them.
I left the 'Story' tab till last because this is the FUN part. Firstly, at the bottom of the page is a place to enter some content about the risks and challenges of your project. On this Kick Starter asks:
What are the risks and challenges that come with completing your project, and how are you qualified to overcome them?
When it comes to fulfillment, every project has potential obstacles, from production delays to permits to collaborator mishaps. What unique challenges might you face after your project is successfully funded? And if setbacks do arise (we hope they don’t, but it happens!), how will you tackle them? If you have any other projects that you're currently in the process of fulfilling, please mention their status in this section.
Addressing this from the start helps build a supportive community. Backers will understand your project is a work in progress and feel confident that you’ll work hard to follow through, even when faced with challenges.
Now the fun begins ...
Use your project description to share more about what you’re raising funds to do and how you plan to pull it off. It’s up to you to make the case for your project. The project description is where you will add add images, links, videos, music - anything that will hook the person viewing your project into making a pledge.
Don't use music, images, video, or other content that you don't have the rights to. Reusing copyrighted material is almost always against the law and can lead to expensive lawsuits down the road. The easiest way to avoid copyright troubles is to create all the content yourself or use content that is free.
Writers could add titles such as:
- Book Cover and Synopsis
- Download Free Chapter
- Who Will Like This Book
- Bonus Material
- Behind The Scenes - watch the updates as they happen
- You can also give more details on your list of rewards
- More about you
- Writing Awards
- Writing Training
- Other books in the News
- Where the Money Will Go
- Your Support
- Why Kick Starter
- Goals and Stretch Goals
The experts who have successfully used Kick Starter to fund their book suggest using lots of images and videos - at least one of you talking about your project (hope you're not camera shy!) and possibly one that shows your book trailer.
On this point, you may want to consider a small upfront investment in getting your book cover designed so that you have visual stimulation for people to pledge for your project. Another idea is to shelve out a bit of cash for a book trailer to really boost your project. Like many other KickStarters, I am doing this!
The great thing about the 'Review' tab is that it gives you a visual picture of what your project will look like to the people you invite to pledge. Your title and brief synopsis is right at the top to give an instant flavour to your book project, your rewards down the side and in the middle is all the juicy and fun info that will (should) excite people to pledge to help you fund your self-published book. The review will also help you decide if things need moving about and of course to pick up any errors or typos.
2. Kick Starter Research
To my mind, research is the most vital part of a Kick Start crowdfunding project. I took months researching all the fiction and non-fiction books. I did this for both successful projects and projects that had not raised their goal amount so I could see what each were doing. This will help you to get an idea of what you think you should be doing in your book project.
I also wrote to several creators asking if they'd like to share their story. Manyy of them can be seen on Kick Start A Book Project.
If you agree and want to start your research, here's an advanced search for the Most Funded Publishing projects that were Successfully Funded and Staff Picked, which should be a good place to start: https://www.kickstarter.com/discover/advanced?state=successful&category_id=18&staff_picks=1&sort=most_funded.
Next, you might want to take a look at insider help on how to create an excellent page to ensure success, see:
- Creator Handbook: https://www.kickstarter.com/help/handbook?ref=footer
- Kickstarter Tips: https://twitter.com/kickstartertips
- Kickstarter Creator Basics: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLHZsp0TgwAOIl0DSsOpjVFtGlz8jKtPt6
- Kickstarter Campus: http://techcrunch.com/2015/04/01/kickstarter-campus/
Read about some success stories that I investigated, who used crowdfunding to publish their book.
As I said above, I suggest that you study the rewards of the most successful and most funded proejects, find ideas for rewards and see what you can offer. Kick Starter say that creators can add rewards post-launch. The best way for creators to add an update is to click "Menu" at the top left of their page when signed in and then click "Post Update." From there you can select who you want to receive the update and who can view it.
Also research what these creators have done so well that they became a Staff Pick - which will certainly help to get more eyes onto your indie book project! Staff Picks see: https://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/creator+questions?ref=faq_livesearch#faq_41788
3. Kick Starter Goals
Setting your goal is not easy. Ask me I know! I tried several different ways to do this. I knocked up a spreadsheet adding all my costs to publish my book. But that looked way too much to be asking people to fund. Then I tried a few options using formulas to do different fancy sums. Again, it didn't look right. I think at the end of your research and planning you should have a gut instinct of what you're going to set as your goal.
Remember: if you don't meet your goal on Kick Starter, you don't get a penny! With this in mind, you may want to try other crowdfunding sites that allow you to take whatever pledges you get in. Bear in mind too, that whatever site you use, you have to feel confident and comfortable that they are not only a big player in crowdfunding, but that your project will look enticing to the people asked to pledge. The best way to gauge that is to poke around the different crowdfunding sites to get a feel for what you want your own book project to portray.
There's also something called 'Stretch Goals' and on this note, Kick Starter's advice is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/blog/think-before-you-stretch.
4. Kick Starter Marketing
Once you have got the nuts and bolts of your 'Story' together, start planning how you will market your Kick Starter project. DON'T think you are ready when you have done your story. In Patty Lennon's book on crowdfunding, she stresses that you need to start working on your social media marketing plan many months in advance. In 'How To Marry A Farmer', Lorna Sixsmith also advises authors to start working on a social media plan long before launching your crowdfunding project.
If you have an existing author platform or a business platform with a large following, it will be easier to get started. Otherwise you need to build up a fan-base so you have some people to invite to pledge. Patty also gives you examples of emails that she used for her business funding campaign, which can easily be adapted to your book project.
Most of the creators we interviewed all said that Twitter was their most successful marketing tool because it is instant and wide-reaching. Find out more about how Social Media could help writers to sell books. We also have lots of articles and advice on how to market your book.
5. Kick Starter In A Nutshell
What should a creator do if their project is funded with significant time on the clock?
Every author who creates a book project should do the following:
- Make an unforgettable experience for their backers
- Use updates to share the creative process as it happens
- Make a connection that goes beyond funding
- Money gets spent, but a strong community will last forever