So You Think You Want to Launch a Kickstarter Project?

When Lyndsay suggested we create a kickstarter project to raise the funds to print Down in the Jungle, I was . . . um . . . less than enthusiastic. I had never heard of kickstarter and, after checking into it, I wished I had remained in that blissfully unaware state.

In my head, loud voices shouted a resounding ‘NOOOOOOO!’

Out of my mouth came a weak, ‘maybe, let me think about it,’ followed by much back-and-forth angsting.

Gung-ho Maxine: Are you really willing to wait years to publish Jungle?

Reluctant Maxine: Sure, if it means I don’t have to go on this ride.

GHM: Lyndsay says she’ll do all the techie stuff.

RM: Yeah, and I’ll still have to get in front of the camera for the promotional video. And it’s going to be tons of work.

GHM: It can’t be that much work.

RM: Get real. You know it’s going to be way more work than you ever imagined AND it’s happening at a very busy time of the year.

GHM: Lyndsay would really, really, really like to have the book in hand for her Portfolio Show her last week at ACAD.

RM: ———–

GHM: [sensing a chink in the armour]: She’s done such a great job on the illustrations, you’re not going to make her wait are you?

RM: ———-

GHM: [pressing her advantage]: It might help her to land a skookum job.

RM: ——–

GHM: [going in for the kill]: You’re not going to be the one to hold her back from her dreams, are you? You got to publish Leaf. Why shouldn’t she get to see Jungle in print before her hair turns grey? Especially since she’s willing to spear-head this . . . adventure.

RM: Okay, okay, I give up. Let’s just do it.

And so we did.

And it was a LOT of work and the deadlines were crazy and the 30 days that the project was live were hair-raising and I’ll never, ever, ever do it again.

But we did reach our goal and the book is beautiful and our supporters are all very happy with their books and the kids and teachers I’ve visited in schools love the book and are glad they didn’t have to wait for it.

So it was all good in the end EXCEPT–you’re not going to believe this–Lyndsay wasn’t able to receive a hardcopy of the book until the day after her show. Can you believe it? The one thing that tipped Reluctant Maxine into a ‘yes’ was that darn portfolio show and we missed it by 24 hours. Ack!

Anyway . . . since our successful ride we’ve had a few people ask for suggestions re: kickstarting a project. Mine are very short.

#1. DON’T DO IT!

But, if you’re not scared of tons of work, crazy deadlines, sleepless nights, and losing all your nails and hair, then keep this in mind:

#2. Make sure you factor in the price of postage when you create your pledge levels. It cost us over $900 to mail out our packages! We made a little extra on the kickstarter project, but it still wasn’t enough to cover the postage costs when all was said and done.

#3 – Make sure your tech stuff is working!

Lyndsay was great with social media promotion – facebooking and tweeting and all that online stuff. I wasn’t (different generation) AND my contacts (also of a different generation) were less tech-savvy than Lyndsay’s, reluctant to make online purchases.

Thinking emails might be a better avenue to let my people know about our project, we used MailChimp to send out a newsletter every couple of weeks to friends and family and a list of interested people whose email addresses I had been collecting since the publication of Leaf.  Those newsletters meant even more work, but I considered it time well spent.

And then, half-way through the fund-raising period, we discovered that the newsletter wasn’t getting through!

Panic!

I resent the letter from my own computer and pledges started coming in. I was so relieved to see that people were interested in our little book. (Thank goodness! I wouldn’t have had any nails left, otherwise.)

So that’s my 2 cents worth. Lyndsay is much more thorough and has way more tips.

Lyndsay’s tips to making your Kickstarter work

Generate pre-buzz. This is as important as when the Kickstarter fundraising actually begins. Annoy the heck out of friends and family by talking about it a lot, tweet, make Facebook posts, get a buzz going. Then, when you finally open the gates, support will flood in.

Budget everything ahead of time. How much is production PLUS mailing? Make sure you cover your butt in case the Kickstarter succeeds and you actually have to fulfill 300+ pledges! This includes budgeting time.

Your video is super important. Make it under a minute long. Film yourself talking about it. Be genuine. Be excited. Tell people why it matters and why you need their help. People have 30 second attention spans – this is your elevator pitch.

Offer pledges that are actually appealing and not too overpriced. Most people want to spend about $20-$40 and not much more. Offer some top-level big price tag prizes, though, because people can be very unexpectedly generous. Also, assuming you are successful – expect mailing costs to be ridiculous, and reflect these costs in your pledges.

Make your Kickstarter page writeup to-the-point. Answer the obvious questions simply and succinctly. Use headlines or a Q&A format so it makes sense. What are you trying to fund? Why do you need money and what’s in it for me as a consumer? Who are you?? Why should I trust you?

Expect stress. No matter how good your Kickstarter is doing you will be worried beyond belief for the entire funding period. This is normal! Let the panic flow through you – you’ll be better at self-promotion if you’re secretly freaking out. And remember, Kickstarter funding works in a U. It’s fast at the beginning and then dreadfully slow in the middle, and then a mad dash to the end!

Children’s books are really difficult to launch through Kickstarter. Understand your target audience. Who likes children’s books? Moms, middle-aged women, your aunt, your grandma. Does she know about Kickstarter? Probably not. Your audience probably doesn’t understand how Kickstarter works or how cool it is. I personally sent emails to as many moms and grandmothers as I could and took advantage of their social circles. Direct contact, while time-consuming, often works where friends and family are concerned.

Most important: Promote to the point of being annoying. I know it hurts to bother people with your fundraiser, but that is how sales are made. Make posters and put them up in libraries/bookstores/coffee shops, email people you know and don’t really know, contact schools you have connections with, contact local papers, make noise. Chances are there will be someone out there who will be excited for you and start promoting FOR you.

Get on twitter and be annoying there, too. Tweet AT people of importance, organizations, celebrities. Colin Mochrie, from Who’s Line is It Anyway, will retweet anything if you sound earnest enough.

Get your community to vouch for you. Promote yourself as a local artist/writer/inventor. People love to promote local industry! Tweet using your local hashtags – find out who is the most vocal and try to get their support.

Make your posts look nice, and use language that attracts the right audience. People are more likely to look and click if there is an image on an online post. Avoid using ‘kickstarter’ as a buzzword if that buzzword means nothing at all to your audience. “Support local artist in publishing adorable Children’s Book” is better. Yep, I just called my own book adorable. It’s narcissistic, and I hate doing it, but people will more likely click it.

Have fun. Money is scary but it is thrilling to see your dream become a triple-digit reality. Be good to yourself, get some sleep, and stop looking at those supporter numbers before you go to bed!

* * *

So there you have it. A few pointers from a duo who has been in the kickstarter trenches. Lyndsay says she would definitely do it again. Me? No way!

Although one thing I’ve learned these last few years of following my creative impulses is ‘never say never’ because you never know when you might be eating those words.

And saying ‘yes’ to this ‘no’ resulted in a pretty awesome book.

Down in the Jungle - front cover png

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