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  • Donald J. Bingle, Writer on Demand

Planning Your Kickstarter: Pre-Launch

As most of you probably know by now, I launched a Kickstarter today for my novella, Frame Shop. It’s a mystery/thriller set in a writers’ group and punctuated by violence, humor, and occasional writing advice. I’m hoping it appeals not only to my regular readers (“Hi, Mom!”), but to mystery readers in general, along with authors, NaNoWriMo participants, writers’ group members, and aspiring writers. If you haven’t checked it out yet, take a look at and feel free to pledge, tweet, and FB share while you are there. I’ll wait. So, I thought I’d share a bit about getting to launch date for a Kickstarter on a book for those of you thinking about following my lead for similar ventures. Here goes: The Basics: Once you’ve set up a name and password for a Kickstarter account (if you don’t already have one), Kickstarter has you fill out a basics form to get more information about you so that they can verify you are who you say you are and arrange to make payments (through Amazon) to you if your Kickstarter succeeds. Now, of course, Kickstarter and Amazon probably have a lot of this information about you already, but rest assured, you have to give it to them again. It’s how they know you are the person you say you are and, frankly, they care more about that question when you are running a Kickstarter than they do when you are paying money for other peoples’ projects or just buying books, cds, dvid, electronics, and everything else in the world. They’ll also want to know if you are doing the project in your own name or through a company, corporation, or llc. If you are using some kind of entity, they will ask for a bunch of information about that. This can get a bit confusing if you use the same email address for both your personal and entity emails and your personal Amazon Payments can get put on hold while you are verifying your entity information (which, in my case, meant a couple of Kickstarter pledges bounced and had to be done through a separate Amazon account—I just created a new one to handle it after a bit of confusion and frustration about my credit card getting declined). You’ll also need to send them bank account information, IRS information, and maybe even a piece of mail addressed to your entity. Most of this may be done by email, but sometimes they will require a fax (which, of course, you can still do electronically through a bunch of different services). All of this can take a week or more, so don’t wait until the last second to do this. Also, don’t believe it when you get an email saying everything is verified. I got a bunch of those before everything was verified—confusing and frustrating me a bit until I chatted with a nice guy at their customer service. Rely only on what it says when you go to the Account page on your Kickstarter project. I had the additional complication of having a corporate name with an odd symbol in it. My company is called 54°40’ Orphyte, Inc. (in case it didn’t translate, the symbol after the first 4 is a degrees sign; points to you if you know where the name comes from). Many forms don’t allow a degrees sign or don’t have any way to include it, which can cause issues. Long ago, I had such an issue with the State of Illinois and we agreed that a simple hyphen (-) meant a degrees sign. But banks and the IRS have done various things to deal with the issue, with the result that sometimes the name is correct, but sometimes it is written 54-40’ or 54 40’ or 54 40. When computers are doing the name verification, that can be an issue. But, once again, the nice customer service guy took care of the problem when it got auto-bounced. The Story/The Project: Here’s where you make your pitch, explain your project, implore people to pledge, explain budgets/timing/processes and the like and talk about things like stretch goals. Remember, you can always add stretch goals, so my recommendation is to not set them too close together at first, then see how things are going and add more—perhaps in intervals between the existing goals—so as to spur pledges as needed. I’ve been a story author in a number of anthologies that have done Kickstarters, so, although I didn’t run those, I have some experience in seeing how those work. For a book Kickstarter, the author will often have other books or stories than he or she can add as stretch goals, including goals for the first 100 and/or 200 participants to encourage people to pledge right away. Often other writers, especially writers of series, may have a book or story (especially the first book in a series) that they often give away as a loss leader and/or can give away to all participants once a goal is met. For them, it helps spread the word of their series or books and generate more reviews. For you, it gives the customer more value at little or no cost. Don’t set your threshold goal for funding too high. Remember, you get nothing if the goal is not met. Better to set it low enough that you break even on the project (i.e., you can afford to deliver what you promised), then make money as the goal is exceeded. Projects that blow through their goals also make better press and generate more enthusiasm. As those stretch goals are reached, even a small pledge can get a lot of reading material, so expect the last days of your project to have a bit of an uptick on pledges. Lots of Kickstarter projects have various add-on, in addition to the base goals and stretch goals. Buy this book or t-shirt or item for an extra $10 or whatever. These are usually listed in this section. I think they are confusing for customers and always seem to involve a lot of clarifying email exchanges. Accordingly, I made more different Reward levels and avoided add-ons, unless we hit the stretch goal for an audio version of the novella. Photos are easy to attach to your posting. Make sure they are large enough to be visible on a smartphone read of the page, but not so large as to overwhelm the page or necessitate too much scrolling to get to the text. I set my pictures of book covers in this section at 300 pixels wide. Kickstarter also recommends you do a video. I made a quick, free 30-second video on Animoto, which I’ve done for a few book trailers, not that there seems to be any evidence they really help sell my books, but unless you subscribe for money, you can’t upload those videos (so you can download them to Kickstarter), although you can post them on YouTube. Friends tell me there are ways to download from YouTube to get around this restriction, but I’m pretty much of a Boy Scout about such things, so I decided to open the completely unused movie-maker software that came on my five year-old laptop and make a video of my own. I used mostly images of book and story covers I already had on my computer, but found that some of them looked fine at small sizes, but were terrible if someone watched the video in full-screen format. So, I had to chase down some better resolution photos and redo that part. Eventually, the video montage was fine, but the sound from my laptop mic sounded like I was in the bottom of a well, so I got a plug-in mic at the local Best Buy, the kind gamers use to chat with each other. It was better, but still not great, but I decided to go with it. I sent out the preview link to a few friends for reactions. Fortunately, I have a friend who was blunt enough to say that the sound was not acceptable. Even more fortunately, I have a friend, Randy Martin, who makes documentaries. (In fact, he is currently making one about writers’ groups.) I asked and he agreed to help out, so we met at the library, secured a room and recorded the audio with three different mics about five different times. Naturally, the first take on the first mic was fine and I substituted it in and re-jiggered the fades to sync properly. Kickstarter says that projects with videos do better, but unless you have a complicated project, I’d try to stay under two minutes. Also, try not to sound forced and unnatural as you read your script. The Rewards: I think rewards are pretty straightforward with books. An e-book at the cheapest level and then combos of e-books as you get more expensive. A print book, then combos of print books at the higher levels. I think you want a good spread of price points, so that people who want to spend a bit more to support you can get something cool. With books, it’s also easy to add writerly things like autographed copies, critiques of stories written by the customers, and Tuckerizations (agreeing to use someone’s real or chosen name for a character or place in a story). Since I’m an attorney by trade, I shied away from Tuckerizations just because I’m super-cautious, but I did add in opportunities for groups to get me to come for writing presentations and the like. Sponsorships, ads, dedications, and the like are good, too. I avoided things like art, posters, postcards, playing cards, challenge coins, and personalized thank-you notes. They seem to me to cause a lot of additional administrative work and shipping and most people who are buying the promise of a book really just want to read more stuff. For this first Kickstarter, I also stayed with U.S. only shipping, but if you have a greater international presence or platform, you might want to ship internationally. Just remember, it can be expensive and uncertain, so charge accordingly for it. U.S. shipping is part of the basic reward price, so price accordingly. If you are doing international shipping, indicate it will be extra and how much (I’d say a minimum of $20 extra). Set conservative dates for when things will be delivered. You’d rather surprise the pledgers with early delivery than send updates about why you were delayed by a home crisis, printer problem, or delayed artwork. Summing Up: Now that you’ve read all this, go back and take a look at the Kickstarter for Frame Shop at and let me know what you think. Feel free to pledge, tweet, share, etc. while you are there. Hopefully, in thirty days’ time, I’ll be posting here about how successful my Kickstarter was due to your help. Or I’ll be dissecting why it failed to meet goals. I’d rather not do that, but my fate is in your hands. Aloha. Pledge NOW. Don

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