Want a successful Kickstarter publishing campaign in your future?
Here are ten lessons Pulp Literature learned along the way for making sure it happens, from Sue Pieters, founding editor, a two time successful Kickstarter strategist:
“We did it once, and we did it again, but achieving your Kickstarter publishing campaign goal is not an easy task.
1. Be prepared. This cannot be overstated. The work of a crowdfunding campaign begins well before you go live. The most crucial element is having a plan for finding supporters, likely in the form of email lists or social media contacts. You will want to notify your friends ahead of time, so as soon as your campaign opens you have your base layer of support signed up. For writers, part of your preparation is garnering reviews of your work which you can post publicly with the reviewer’s name. Ask important or famous people, and then ask them to share about your book when your project goes live.
2. Fret over your reward list. Think carefully about how much time it will take to create and deliver your product, then double that estimate. Give yourself some cushion, and ask prices that will make you a profit. Don’t be too generous. Remember that people pledge to crowdfunded campaigns in order to show support for a project, and are often willing to give more than the retail price of an item. You may think your only reward is your book, but that’s not true! You are part of the allure of your book, and items or services associated with your book are valuable. Have inexpensive rewards for the casual backer, and quirky, enticing, or unusual ones for generous supporters. Our biggest moneymakers weren’t subscriptions, but portraits, critiques, and a writing retreat.
3. Set a lower goal rather than a higher goal. Unlike other platforms, Kickstarter works on an all or nothing basis. Think about what might happen at the last day, when you’re really close to your goal. Are you really going to say goodbye to all that money because you are a few hundred short? Instead of putting yourself in that position, choose the lowest goal possible that will give you enough encouragement and ability to create your product, making your time worthwhile if not profitable. Then make your higher goals “stretch” goals.
4. Choose a shorter time limit. We did this with our first campaign, and noticed the surge just before the deadline. Same with the second campaign. The main difference is that the second time, we were working our tails off promoting our Kickstarter for 60 days instead of just 30. Give yourself a break, since most people ignore your emails anyway until the last few days.
5. When you go live, go crazy on social media. Don’t be afraid of offending people; most are offended only if you don’t let them know about your project. Email your long lost friends. For writers, this means every single high school classmate who said they knew you’d be famous someday and they’d love to see your book when it comes out.
6. On day one, get as backers signed up as possible. Tell people not to wait until later. If you gather fast momentum on Kickstarter, the analytics get excited and bump your visibility on their website. The number of backers, rather than the dollar amount is what gets the algorithms humming. There are humans behind Kickstarter as well, and they will often personally back your project for a dollar or two. Get Kickstarter’s attention, and hope they make you a favourited project. We were staff picks, and it gained us pledges from total strangers, which is the magical potential of Kickstarter. Consider a special reward for the first 20, 50 or 100 backers.
7. Push the campaign hard. Every day, send out a tweet, facebook message, email or phone call. We sent three mass emails to all our friends, at the beginning, middle, and end of our campaign, and still people woke up afterwards wondering how to pledge. If you have sensitive friends, email them individually. Be creative, be busy. Pass out cards or fliers if you have an appropriate venue. This takes time, and forms the bulk of the work of your campaign. We averaged three hours a day for our second Pulp Literature campaign.
8. Explain how Kickstarter works. Many people are not familiar with how Kickstarter works, or they don’t want to sign up on yet another service. Assure your friends that Kickstarter does not send spam, sell email addresses, or steal their credit card information. Also explain to them that it is a fundraising site, so backers are allowed to give more money than necessary for any reward (hint, hint). However, there will always be people who want to give you money, but don’t want to sign up online. You can collect cheques and cash and save them to create a pool of funds for a last minute campaign boost if necessary.
9. Be active on your Kickstarter page. You can add new rewards, or take away rewards that haven’t received pledges. You can add incentives for breaking barriers. We gave free e-books when we passed the halfway point in our last campaign. You can send updates through Kickstarter to all your backers (you won’t see their email addresses until you finish your project successfully) and ask your backers to get their friends to sign up as well. Your backers are your way to network with people you don’t know. Let them help you!
10. When you reach your reward, you must deliver a good product. You’ve put your reputation on the line, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. We never planned to run a second campaign, but when we did, our reputation preceded itself. People had read our magazine and for the second campaign, we weren’t just selling a promise but a known product. Do yourself a favour and send out the absolute best work you can give. Success will follow. The goal of Kickstarter is to get you started, but it is just the beginning of the journey.”
Susan Pieters is a founding editor of Pulp Literature and a prolific short story writer. She is the author of the novel The Who, What, When, Where, Why Diet Book, and is currently working on a historical novel based on the story of Esther.
Pulp Literature is a quarterly fiction anthology based in Richmond BC. It publishes short fiction, poetry, novel excerpts and comics, and is printed in Victoria by First Choice Books.
Co-owners of First Choice Books state: “Any author thinking of undertaking a crowdsourcing project would do well to review this blog post. We would like to thank Pulp Literature for their generosity, courage and guidance in this matter. They are truly leaders in their field. “