Having recently completed my first ever Kickstarter campaign, I thought it would be useful to provide some insights for other authors thinking of going down this route. I chose to use Kickstarter for book 2 of The Fermi Paradox series to help fund the publishing costs involved. Ultimately, my campaign was successfully and reached the funding goal, however there are many lessons and insights I learned along the way which I wish to share with you.
1. You need an audience first
The first insight I want to impart is you need an audience before you start a Kickstarter. This is not the place to try and build a following, it is somewhere where you go to harness the power of your audience. This is why I only attempted a Kickstarter after successfully publishing my first book and started building a dedicated audience for my work. Had I attempted this first my first novel, I doubt it would have been successful.
2. A social media audience does not equal a successful Kickstarter
Following on from the first point, you likely have built a following across social media whether you have published or not. However, follows and likes will not equal support for a Kickstarter. Furthermore, even if you have successfully sold a number of other books, that does not equal a dedicated following that will support. The number of people that supported my own Kickstarter campaign did not even reach 50% of those who have bought book 1. While disappointing, it was not unexpected. You need to have an appreciation of true supporters before starting your Kickstarter, and even then, it will give you a true sense of who those people are.
3. Kickstarter can complement your marketing, but cannot replace it
Kickstarter provided me with a very useful mechanism to support my overall marketing campaign. It provided another potential audience and mechanism for engaging with people that I was able to use to great effect. However, relying solely on any single avenue of marketing will likely always yield poor results. Kickstarter is no different. Before you start a campaign, ensure you integrate it into your existing marketing campaign so it compliments what you are already doing.
7 Kickstarter tips for authors
4. Kickstarters require significant effort
Much like publishing a book, you cannot just start a Kickstarter and expect it to magically work. It requires a plan and then consistent work to make it successful. Due to the temporal nature of Kickstarter campaigns, you will not have time to make it up as you go. The prevailing wisdom with Kickstarter campaigns is to limit them in duration to generate a fear of missing out. Therefore, you need to ensure you capitalise on every day that your campaign is running. You will also need to place a significant amount of work pre-launch into building your campaign. Simply putting the blurb on your campaign page will not work. You need to think about how you tell the story of your book and writing journey as well as producing eye catching material for people scrolling past. This will likely include some sort of graphic design, which as a writer, you may not be as comfortable with.
5. People will pledge to your Kickstarter, then withdraw it
I’m sure this heading has drawn some interest, and yes you read it correctly. If you are an author on social media, you are likely used to people sending constant messages wanting you to pay them to market your book. This is no different on Kickstarter except that they will pledge money on your campaign to try to draw you in. Ultimately, it is your decision whether to take up their services, but they will withdraw their commitment if you refuse. For me, this started with excitement for an early and large pledge. This quickly evaporated with the realisation about the pledges true reason. Be warned and be prepared so you are not disappointed.
6. Set a realistic goal
This is linked to all the points I have already spoken to and will hopefully be self-evident. When planning your Kickstarter, have a think about the really critical things you need funded and what would be a nice to have when setting your goal. It is better to set a smaller goal that only funds the critical costs because you are more likely to achieve this. With Kickstarter in particular, you only get the funds if you reach your goal, so keep it achievable based on your assessed audience. Hopefully, you will fund over 100% and fully fund everything, but consider your breakeven point and meeting critical costs first.
7. Understand the costs
Yes, there is a cost to using Kickstarter, it just may not be obvious. The first and easy cost to consider is the fee the platform will charge on successful completion of your campaign. This is an easy one to factor into your funding goal planning. The less obvious one is the cost of delivering on your promise, which will generally take the form of shipping costs. Make sure you plan this out and include the cost of postage or development of alternate rewards into consideration. The last thing you want is to lose all of your funding to shipping costs.
I could go on and on about all the things I did to make my Kickstarter a success and all the things I would do different next time, but I won’t. There are numerous other blogs that will provide different advice, and some of the same. Ultimately, as with everything in publishing, make sure you have a plan. Once you have a plan, don’t be afraid when it doesn’t pan out, just keep fighting through and you will make it.
Hopefully this helps you successfully Kickstart your own book.