Some Kickstarter Lessons
As most of you know, I ran a successful Kickstarter through my publishing company, 54-40' Orphyte, Inc., for my mystery thriller, Frame Shop, last October. The great news is that I am easily in the black for Frame Shop (partially, of course, because of how inexpensive it is to self-publish these days), which is always a good thing for an author. The bad news is that post-Kickstarter sales have languished since the launch despite good reviews and the book being named as a semi-finalist in a book competition for Illinois authors. No doubt, part of the problem is that my platform is limited (see my post on platforms here.) and my marketing efforts are lackluster and run in fits and starts. I have learned, however, and continue to learn a few things as I go through life as an indie author, including some things about the Kickstarter process. The purpose of this posting is to share some of those with you. I'll skip over things I've talked about before, primarily planning your Kickstarter (see my post on that here) and, instead, focus on lessons learned post-launch. Prepare for that first day: Perception is reality in the world of marketing and you really want to hit the road running with a big first day. That means letting your social media network know that your Kickstarter is coming up a couple days ahead of time, arranging and writing a bevy of guest blogs (whether project-specific or not) ahead of time, so they will post in the first few days of your crowdfunding), creating your press releases and ads ahead of time, and setting your funding goal low enough that a sizeable portion of it can be met on that first day in order to give the project buzz. Also, drop Kickstarter a line beforehand about something unique and interesting about your project in order to try to get their attention and increase the possibility of a special mention or staff recommendation from the get-go. If you are going to use one of the fulfillment services or Kickstarter advertising companies, already have that in place before you start. Since their pricing generally is the same no matter when you engage them, you might as well get the momentum boost from having them from the very start. Hit your email/newsletter list with an announcement and don't be shy about telling your biggest fans that an early pledge helps you out by establishing momentum and making it more likely you will get noticed by third parties. Give special rewards to early subscribers in order to reinforce this. You can do this by having special limited quantity rewards or a cheaper price on basic rewards for the first so many backers or a time-limited bonus or reward for those pledging in the first few days. Given a choice, make these reward limitations lower/shorter, rather than higher/longer in order to push people to pledge immediately. Ads can work, though I had little success from my Facebook advertising. Just remember to make things simple, fun, and visual. People can always get more details by clicking through on the link, so no need to explain everything in a simple ad. Posting on the FB pages of various crowdfunding FB groups is not effective in my experience. Sharing in your updates about other similar Kickstarters that might be of interest to your backers can be an effective way to expand your reach as those campaigns return the favor. Just don't expect too much boost from any one source or you will be bound for disappointment. Spread the net wide--you can't know where all the big fish are. Do updates on your Kickstarter to let people know how things are going and highlight new rewards, stretch goals nearing completion, stretch goals met, and the like. By the way, ALWAYS include the short link for your Kickstarter on every ad, blog post, email, and update. People click-through with ease, but ask them to type in a URL or search for you on the Kickstarter site and you will lose them for sure. (By the way, I was less than impressed by the search function on Kickstarter's site. Get your key search words in the title or brief summary of your submission to Kickstarter, because if they merely appear in the lengthier description, they may not trigger on searches.) Lead time for delivery of ebooks and print copies should not be overly long. Instant gratification is a selling point and, if your book is already written or your anthology already in editing, you will have little to disclose in the risk factors section. Price your book so that you aren't selling it elsewhere for less within a year of the Kickstarter. Early backers should be rewarded, not punished. Understand that most of your backers will likely come from your family, friends, and fans. Sure, some will come from ads, Kickstarter browsers, recommendations from other supporters and the like, but a Kickstarter is only an opportunity to expand your fan base, not an automatic guarantee of increased exposure. One of the reasons anthologies fare better than stand-alone novels in Kickstarters is that you automatically have a better inherent social media reach with multiple authors, instead of just one. Most of the pledges on Kickstarter occur during the first few days and the last few days, with a burping flatline of activity in the middle, which can lead to frustration, anxiety, paranoia, and severe depression. Be prepared for the bumpy ride. Weekdays are generally better than weekends. Holidays are especially quiet. Schedule your ads, pushes, social media activity, therapy sessions, and medications accordingly. Kicktraq was very useful for keeping tabs on what has happened, as well as what your trends, and potential ranges of funding are as you go along. Use it; it's free. Shipping is expensive. International shipping is mind-boggling expensive. Shipping materials (envelopes, boxes, bubble-wrap, etc.) are expensive. Fulfillment is a soul-sucking hassle as you chase down surveys and addresses, stuff envelopes, weigh packages, and stand in line at the post office. A few people will not pay. The more backers you have, the more likely that you will have some deadbeats. Some people like to pledge, but don't ever really mean to pay. Some forget or use an expired card and can't be bothered to fix the problem later. Oh, well. Be prepared to deal with certain recurring questions/concerns: 1. Why do you need to do a Kickstarter for a book? Can't you cover your upfront costs yourself? True, books without heavy graphics and/or formatting don't have very high upfront costs (though they do have some for research, editing, copy-editing, cover art, etc.), but Kickstarting books (novels or anthologies) isn't really about covering expenses incurred well in advance of publishing. Instead, it's all about pre-marketing. 2. Why are you begging for money? You are not begging for money. You are selling a product. Writers, artists, and other creative types deserve to be paid for producing content. 3. Why do I have to create a Kickstarter account? Why do I have to pay through Amazon? Because Kickstarter gives you no choice in the matter. Besides, both of these are free and easy to set up. Join the 21st Century. If resistance continues, you can always take their cash, give it to a friend or relative who has an account, and have them purchase through that separate account with updated shipping information. Or you can tell the potential buyer they can pay you now for a purchase in the post-Kickstarter after-market. Just keep in mind that all of these little side pieces of administration are a hassle to deal with later. More blogs on writing, plus more about me and my books on my recently updated website atwww.donaldjbingle.com. Let me know what you think about this post or the new website. Aloha, Donald J. Bingle Frame Shop: Critiquing Another Writer Can Be Murder Buy it here in print or ebook form.