Simply put: Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. For those wondering what that means, crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. If you’re like many folks, your knowledge of the Kickstarter platform begins with that electronic cat accessory you almost backed and ends with a sweet-looking tabletop elf game your friend shared a link for in 2019.
But Kickstarter is not just for gadgets, games, and gizmos. No, sir. Kickstarter has a thriving community of artists with global projects in just about any medium, books included.
In fact, across the top of the Kickstarter main page are eight categories, the last of which is “Publishing.” Based on that information alone, one could reasonably infer that authors are finding some measure of success there. Whether this particular path is on your individual roadmap or not, we can’t say, but here’s ten tips for using Kickstarter to help you decide.
- Do Your Research: Review campaigns similar to what you’d like to create. What do they have in common? Is every campaign giving out a pin or signed books? Does each tier include an additional digital item or something else?
Most importantly: Is your project a good fit for Kickstarter?
Not all ideas work on a crowdfunding platform. If you are struggling to find any comparable projects that have seen success, there might be a reason for that.
You should absolutely have an idea of how campaigns related to your future projects look, work, and perform before starting. In the interest of honesty, your first campaign probably isn’t going to make a ton of money, but like books you publish after number one, you get better with each new endeavor. Research, organization, and realistic expectations are invaluable.
- Polish Your Pitch: In videos and on the page, use clear messaging, don’t ramble, and be professional. Kickstarter backers, like readers, can get bored or uninterested if the campaign pages are overly wordy, lack specific or attention-grabbing details, and generally don’t use good copywriting. Remember to make a solid, well-thought-out video for the story, aka sales page. The video and corresponding sales copy is your chance to pitch your project, not sell yourself. You should be answering the question “Why would someone want to buy/back this?” in the most interesting and concise way possible.
PRO TIP: Learn about copywriting. There are many books and courses available to help authors hone the skill of copywriting, something you will find a multitude of uses for during your author career.
- Lean into the Differences: What does your book or project have that is different or sets your project apart? If it is nonfiction, is there a thought-provoking personal story behind it? If fiction, what’s the quirky thing you can really capitalize on (i.e. distinctive alien species, vibrant setting, eccentric characters)? Within reason, don’t be afraid to emphasize the unique bits and pieces of your creative work. Readers and backers want to find something new and exciting. It’s your job to figure out what that is in relation to your project.
- The Imagery and Messaging Should Fit: Images and words are sales tools. Are you trying to publish a dark romance book? Use the copy and imagery to really drop the backer into the dark romance vibe: darker colors, grittier keywords, etc. Think of the imagery and messaging as part of the branding.
PRO TIP: Certain colors evoke certain emotions; this is called color psychology and can be used effectively to help consumers feel a certain way about a product, or in this case, a Kickstarter project.
- Use Tools to Help: Kickstarter has an entire resource section of free information, but there are also paid options. One example of a tool that might be worth the cost is BackerKit.com a crowdfunding management and fulfillment software platform that helps creators streamline surveys, add-ons, delivery of items, and more. Tools like BackerKit often have browser integrations for ease of use and can save you time, effort, and potentially cost in the long run.
- Rules are Not Meant to be Broken: Kickstarter’s rules are not suggestions, but a set of terms that creators agree to when creating their projects. If you like the Kickstarter platform and want to continue to use it, take five minutes to read the “Our Rules” section of the Kickstarter website. And before you get worried about what type of legal jargon you’re about to digest, it’s only five main guidelines that will all seem fairly innocuous upon review.
- Rewards are Life: As mentioned in tip number one, to give yourself a baseline, pay attention to what other campaigns give out as rewards. The sky’s the limit with rewards but be sure that you can afford the cost to produce the reward and that the reward is appropriate for the amount backed. Yes, your backers will love cool things, but a bank account in the red after a successful Kickstarter campaign defeats the purpose.
- Communicate with Backers Regularly: This includes checking in at specified dates and hitting all milestones, which is also a Kickstarter rule/expectation (see tip number six). Updates, thank you messages, stretch goals, and other communication is encouraged as well.
- Remember that Kickstarter is Marketing: This isn’t a platform that works without effort (do those even exist?); you can’t drop a new project in the queue with zero promotion and expect to find success. Sorry to say this, but you probably have to be social and put yourself and your project out there. If you approach any marketing without knowledge, commitment, or an interest in the project, you’re facing an uphill climb.
As author and successful Kickstarter creator, Russell P. Nohelty said, “If you’re not excited, the fans will not be excited. If you don’t show them why they should buy, they’re not going to buy.”
PRO TIP: Always include call to action buttons and social sharing links—a standard marketing guideline for any platform.
- Don’t Forget About Data: One of the most valuable benefits of Kickstarter is the data generated, everything from funding success rates overall to the performance of unsuccessful projects. You can even compare project dates with Facebook ads for a specified author (on Facebook) to see what type of advertising was run.
To add another insight from Russell, “Even if you fail, you get data. If you succeed wildly, you get data. If you are somewhere in the middle, you get data… As long as you are accumulating firsthand data, you’ll be further ahead than you were yesterday.”
With the above tips in mind, go forth and create… or at least research. Since inception, Kickstarter has funded over 200,000 projects with over six billion dollars—what do you have to lose by looking into it a little?
Just as Kickstarter states on their Publishing category main page, now is the time to “Explore how writers and publishers are using Kickstarter to bring new literature, periodicals, podcasts, and more to life.” Many thanks to Russell P. Nohelty and Monica Leonelle for their assistance with this article. If you are looking for more information, check out their book, Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter: The Definitive Guide, coming mid 2022, after a successful Kickstarter campaign used to fund the project!