When we started exploring the routes to funding a self-published book, we heard about Lorna and her project 'How to marry a farmer' so we dived in and asked Lorna some questions to help other indie authors who want to fund and market their books through crowdfunding.
Lorna Sixsmith self published her first book Would You Marry A Farmer? in December 2013 following a successful crowdfunding campaign. She has been featured in many national and local newspapers and interviewed on almost every radio station in Ireland (and a couple of UK ones). She is a panellist on TV3’s Midday and has been featured on two television programmes about her book.
Here is Lorna's advice for new authors to crowdfund their books.
Where did you get your crowdfunding?
I used the Irish crowdfunding platform Fundit.ie (Kickstarter wasn’t available in Ireland at that stage in any case) and I wanted to use an ‘all or nothing’ campaign. They were very supportive offering lots of tips before the campaign went live. The only disadvantages were that the social sharing buttons weren’t very obvious to pledgers, I couldn’t adjust the campaign at all once it went live and it only accepted sterling and euro currencies.
At the time, 73% of Fundit’s campaigns were successful compared to 44% of Kickstarter’s. Obviously Kickstarter has a much larger volume of projects but I felt that Fundit really ensured that the project was good to go before it went live plus it was easier to become a featured project.
How successful were you?
I estimated my costs to self publish my book to be in the region of €9,000. I knew that my target market would prefer to read hard copy rather than ebooks so printing 1000 hardback copies was going to cost over €5,000. Other costs included editing, illustrating, cover design, new website with ecommerce to sell the book and other sundries.
They all mount up. I looked for €6,000 and raised just over that. The % to the crowdfunding campaign was approximately €500. It’s important to remember that expense too. I ran the campaign for 5 weeks and 191 people pledged. I had pre-orders for 240 copies going to print.
What were your most creative rewards?
It is quite difficult to come up with creative, unusual rewards that people will attach a value to. I included a number of higher value rewards as you really need quite a few of them to reach your total. The most popular of the higher value rewards was the one for €115 which was for a choice of one of my online eLearning courses at www.weteachsocial.com plus a copy of my book.
That became more attractive when I added the ‘free ad’ on my new website to the higher value rewards as it made businesses act. 10 businesses opted for higher value rewards of between €115-€250 which made a huge difference to the progress of the campaign.
What were your most successful rewards?
Successful in a different way as they were popular were the €15 rewards for a copy of my book. It promised free shipping as the price of my book after the campaign was €15 plus shipping. People were intrigued by the title of the book and €15 wasn’t too much to part with in terms of testing the water.
What was your best marketing initiative?
I found blogging about the crowdfunding campaign to be effective as my loyal readership were kept informed and I have to say that the final evening was like an election night. It was due to end at 2pm the following day and at 8pm I was sitting on the sofa tweeting and updating my facebook page with the most recent updates as it neared the €6,000 mark.
It hit the total around 11pm and the number of text messages, tweets, private messages and public messages I received proved that lots of other people had been hitting refresh, refresh, refresh too and yes, some of them had increased their pledges.
Blogging meant that journalists came across it too and it was featured in two national farming papers (exactly my target market) and the local papers. Although the press coverage was great, it didn’t result in pledges. Crowdfunding was very new in Ireland then and so many people just didn’t grasp the concept, even neighbours that know me well.
However, it meant that when I got more press coverage in December when the book came out, it reminded many people that they had heard about it before.
Twitter was by far the most useful platform. Out of 191 pledgers, many were friends but 100 of the pledgers were twitter followers. The others were a mixture of friends, businesses and followers of my blog and facebook page.
It was easy enough to have conversations on twitter, to follow influencers, to engage with people who were potential readers and pledgers.
How did you keep the momentum going?
It nearly killed me! I was exhilarated but exhausted when it was over. While I sent out many call to action tweets, I didn’t want people to look at my twitter feed and just see a list of calls to action so I worked hard to be chatting, to engage with others, to start conversations, to tweet links to interesting articles.
I had 1000 followers at the beginning of the campaign and I had 2000 just five weeks later. If it was again, I would start on the twitter campaign three to six months before the project went live. Yes, I lived on social media for the five weeks! But it paid off!
What tips and tried and tested advice would you like to share?
One mistake I made (in hindsight) was rushing into it. All I had to show potential pledgers was the success of a blog post, yes, it was a funny blog post and it had gone viral. It was the inspiration for the book. I wouldn't recommend other authors follow this method.
Given that I was planning to include 20 humourous illustrations in the book, it would have been a good idea to have been able to give people sneak peeks into extracts of the book, the front cover and some illustrations in order to instil confidence.
I was successful in any case but the campaign would have been better if I had done that. If you watch crowdfunding videos, those that demonstrate the product or at least part of the project are much more compelling. However, I hadn’t written the book when I launched the campaign.
It ended on 20th August and I had promised pledgers they would have it for Christmas. I had only drafted 10,000 words! I burnt a lot of midnight oil but received 1000 copies of my book on 29th November and sold 750 by Christmas.
I’ve seen a number of excellent projects for self publishing books fail and I’ve seen some not-so-good ones succeed. Why is that? Success comes down to a number of factors: determination, use of social media particularly twitter, the ability to actually ask people to pledge, creating rewards that people want, and having a good community behind you.
Ideally, that community should be online as it’s easy for them to click the link and pledge. Do not underestimate the size of the task – it is like a second job.
I would also recommend you plan the timing of the publication of your book carefully. In hindsight, if I had thought of the idea for the book earlier, I should have published it in September, just in time for Ireland’s main agricultural 3 day show and to give me time to get the books into bookshops for the Christmas sales.
I wasn’t expecting to get as many national radio interviews with high profile presenters so do believe in yourself and plan accordingly. I’ve learnt from that for my second book.
How to manage PR during a crowdfunding project?
Do you suggest keeping PR till the book launch and not including it in the crowd funding marketing campaign?
Tough question as free press coverage at any time is positive. The drawback is if the publication decides 'oh, we featured that a while ago' and doesn't feature the book again - one paper did that but others featured me/it again. If your crowdfunding campaign is deemed newsworthy, I wouldn't wait, I'd be trying to get PR at that stage and then using the contacts again at launch time. If you build up a good relationship with the journalists (and thank them for featuring you etc), it can help too.
Having good photos is really important for getting PR too - plus journalists always want high res and they want them yesterday so have this in place before you start. I'd recommend getting a professional photographer to take the photos if you don't have professional ones - it really is worth it.
What would you tweet about and why and how would that help?
I'd be tweeting about the subject area e.g. if it was a parenting book, I'd be tweeting about parenting issues, perhaps putting questions out there regarding thoughts for the book and seeing if they go much interaction, following people who were relevant to my target market e.g. parents, journalists writing for parenting magazines, parenting websites such as Rollercoaster etc.
Building up relationships and getting people to like and trust you is hugely important before you try to sell to them.
How does an author ask people to pledge?
I know I found it hard to actually ask people to pledge, it's much easier to ask them to share the campaign with their friends and followers. What do you do then if they don't pledge - do you ask them again? This seems to be a common problem and yet others are too forward and will ask people they hardly know (on twitter) to pledge.
There has to be a happy medium but if you know those in your email list quite well, for example, it's a good idea to explain to them why this is so important to you, why it is crucial that you get to a total of 30% after the first week (the reason for this is research has shown that strangers will have more trust in a campaign once it has secured at least 30% of funds) and ask them to pledge and share. Hopefully most of them will know about your work on your project in any case.
Don't underestimate the power of your fans and pledgers - if they are behind it, don't keep continually asking them to share it with their followers or increase their pledge. If they like it, they will do these things anyway, all you need to do is update them with your progress reports.
Learning Social Media With Lorna
Lorna's crowdfunding course starts in July http://weteachsocial.com/index.php/category/crowdfunding-2/. And here's a course specially for authors focusing on the main social media platforms they should be using to sell their books. It starts on 8th June. http://weteachsocial.com/index.php/2015/05/19/authors-learn-how-to-sell-more-books-using-social-media/
If you want to learn more about Instagram, find out about Lorna's course on Instagram for Business. Before you dive into this you may want to see Lorna in action with this webinar on how to use Instagram to sell books.
Here's the link to the social media for authors course http://weteachsocial.com/index.php/2015/05/19/authors-learn-how-to-sell-...
More About Lorna
Lorna has been teaching businesses how to use social media successfully since 2011. She also teaches authors how to promote their books using social media, run book blog tours and gain free press coverage. She will also be delivering an eLearning course on these topics in May at www.weteachsocial.com.
Lorna is currently writing her second book. How To Be A Perfect Farm Wife will be self published in September 2015. Would You Marry A Farmer? is available from Lorna’s website, www.irishfarmerette.com and on Amazon as an ebook and a print on demand.