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Crowdfunding For Authors: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross And Joanna Penn

Crowdfunding for Authors: Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross and Joanna Penn

In this month’s Advanced Self-Publishing Podcast ALLi Director Orna Ross and Enterprise Adviser Joanna Penn discuss crowdfunding for authors. They share their own experiences and upcoming plans while providing insights into how to set up a successful crowdfunding campaign, engage your reader community, and smash your funding goals.

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On the Advanced Self-Publishing #Podcast, Orna Ross and @thecreativepenn share their experiences and insights on how to successfully crowdfund your novel. Click To Tweet

Show Notes

About the Hosts

Joanna Penn writes nonfiction for authors and is an award-nominated, New York Times and USA Today bestselling thriller author as J.F.Penn. She’s also an award-winning podcaster, creative entrepreneur, and international professional speaker.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Transcripts: Crowdfunding for Authors

Joanna Penn: Hello everyone and welcome to the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advanced Self-Publishing Salon with me, Joanna Penn and Orna Ross. Hi, Orna.

Orna Ross: Hi, Joanna. Hi everyone.

Joanna Penn: Hello everyone. Today our topic is crowdfunding for authors. It was going to be advanced crowdfunding for authors, but we think it's probably just crowdfunding with a little bit of advanced.

Orna Ross: Well, this is the advanced Salon.

Joanna Penn: It is, but we'll be covering some basics, so don't you worry. But yes, we'll be getting into crowdfunding in a bit.

But first of all, as ever, we are authors and we like to let you know we actually do some work, but Orna tell us what's going on with ALLi.

Orna Ross: We have been very involved, as lots of you will know, with doing the first ever global self-publishing author survey into indie author income, self-publishing author income. Thank you so much to everyone who took the survey and also who wrote in with ideas and things for next time out, which we have taken note of.

So, we have got our initial findings. We won't be releasing the full report until we'll be launching it at the London Book Fair, and then we'll be doing a part two, which is the big indie author data drop at Self-Publishing Formula conference in June.

But I can tell you at this point that it is good news for indie authors, and that the most significant finding is that indie author income is growing year on year.

So, I'm happy to say that much and you'll just have to wait a little longer for the details.

In addition then, we've just introduced a new feature, our member milestones feature, and thank you again for everybody who's written in with their milestones. We are going to be producing these as an update on the blog, weekly. We'll have three people talking about what they've done and how they've done it and why, and we'll feature them then in our member magazine.

I also then just wanted to remind people that we will be at the London Book Fair, which we'll be talking about a little bit later as well, and that if you want to get, we have some last discounted tickets if you're thinking of coming along. All the 100% off ones are gone, but we do have some half price ones left if you just sign up, register for the fair on their website, London Book Fair, and just key in ALLi50 as you make your registration.

So yeah, we hope to see as many as possible there. I know a number of people are flying in for it as well for the first time in years, so that's going to be great. I'm looking forward to seeing you.

What about you? What have you been up to?

Joanna Penn: Yes. Well, I have been finishing off my Kickstarter and we're talking about the crowdfunding, but I promised a course as part of my Kickstarter and as ever, I can't just do a half-arsed job, so I've spent quite a few weeks now.

Orna Ross: Can't even say it, nevermind do it.

Joanna Penn: No, I'm quite tired. We'll be talking about the amount of work, but it's a course on writing setting and sense of place. So, this is a topic that's really dear to my heart and something I actually, we all have our strengths and weaknesses in writing, and setting is one of my strengths.

It's so interesting, because I consider dialogue a weakness, and when I did this course live pretty much everyone there said their strength was dialogue and their weakness was sense of place. So, this is really interesting; it's either people speaking but no setting, or really good setting and no people speaking. So, I thought that was a really interesting dichotomy.

I'm also really thrilled to be researching my next novel, which the working title is Catacomb, and I really need to get back into fiction. You and I, we talk about this over the years, we kind of oscillate between one and the other, and I feel like I really need to write a story at this point. So, I'm happy to be in this sort of research phase, in the idea phase. So, yeah, the really fun bit, basically. How about you? What are you up to?

Orna Ross: Me as a writer? Yeah, so I just published Mother's Day, another poetry gift book, and these are working really well, and I really like doing them because it's 10 or 12 poems on a concentrated theme. I'm looking at doing a special kind of gift pack, so getting into gift publishing a little bit more and enjoying that.

I suppose the other thing is that I had a bit of a mindset shift, you know the way, no matter how long you've been doing this thing, the mindset shifts every so often and you realize that, oh gosh, I have actually been standing in my own way a little bit and not really realizing, so I'm totally going all deep now. Everything is about my website and bringing people to my website. So, everything that I do is going to be direct back there, and that's how I have been doing things for a little while, but not full on. So, you're always half doing something because you think that's how it's done, or it's the way you've always done it, or whatever.

So, I'm just going back through every single thing that I do, and if it doesn't fall into doing that really well, it's gone, and if it does but it isn't quite there, then tweaking it. So, lots of tweaks to almost everything actually, autoresponders, and everything is affected if you just, for me, as I look through this lens.

So yeah, hoping to get all of that done and I'm going for a well-deserved holiday at the end of the week.

Joanna Penn: Well, just on that, because this is interesting, so are you removing links to other sites from your website? So, if you are on a book page, is it only you can buy this book from me or are you still linking through to Amazon and all the other sites, because this is something that I'm really thinking about too.

Orna Ross: Yeah. Well, I am for now leaving the options to buy elsewhere, but they are less prominent. So before, you landed and you got everything as a reader, you had all the options. Now, the main option is by here and then you know, it's by from Orna upfront or by from others down the back.

The other thing is that all links everywhere else lead in one direction. So, I had links going in both directions, a lot of links, and I still have, but that's what I'm working through. All the links are coming. So, it's a bit like having a pillar post scenario on your blog where you have to go back through everything and make sure that everything is leading in that direction.

So, it's lots of fiddly work, lots of broken links and things like that need fixing, but yeah, that's where it's at.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, it's funny, I actually was doing a bit of clean-up today as well, and again, we've talked about this before, that we've been doing this so long that every now and then you have to go through and clean up your website anyway regardless; the content, the structures, the links. But yeah, I'm with you too and I'm sure later on in the year, we've talked about the creator economy many times now, but I'm sure we'll come back to this later in the year, how much we've moved forward, because I'm moving forward on this too.

But today we are talking about crowdfunding, so we are going to get into this. So, we're going to start with basics just in case, because I feel like there might be a little misunderstanding as well with what crowdfunding is. So, Orna, when people ask, how do you define crowdfunding?

Orna Ross: I feel it's readers supporting authors, but it's lots, it's not one patron, it's the old idea of patronage reinvented for the digital age.

So, it's multiple backers and it's for a specific project, publishing project obviously, and then authors vary widely in how they actually use it but that is the basic, I think, that's the thing that links all the different ways of approaching it, all the different strategies, and all the different platforms.

So, basically lots of backers, a particular project, a moment in time, beginning and an end, and off we go. Does that cover everything in your definition?

Joanna Penn: Yeah. Well, I think the shift, and we're going to talk about this kind of shift, is that for some bigger projects for sure, like a game or a movie, the idea of crowdfunding is to make the money upfront in order to go and produce the project, and that might also be true for comics, graphic novels, things that actually need a lot of payment upfront. But what's happening in the author community now is it's actually much more about, I've already written a book, but the Kickstarter, or the whatever crowdfunding platform we use, is about getting that book in different formats, maybe some additional merchandise, and different projects.

So, I feel like the idea of it has matured.

You did a crowdfunding campaign back in 2015, so can you talk about that in terms of what that project was?

Orna Ross: Yeah, so back then it was very much thinking about, you only really thought about crowdfunding, in fact, I remember the advice was, do not expect your readers to just help you to crowdfund your book, that's your investment, that's your expenses. As an indie author, just get on with that and if you don't make enough money, you need to work out why you're not. So, that was the advice that people used to throw around then.

There was also a lot of kind of angst about crowdfunding. I remember one author saying to me, and I wrote a blog post about this, one author saying to me, crowdfunding disgusts me, it's just institutionalized begging, or something like that. And I wrote a post called, no, crowdfunding is not begging, and here's why. It's an exchange and so on.

So, I think that's a measure of just how much things have shifted in terms of the attitude to crowdfunding. I do think back then it was a bit harder, because readers were not used to it, the creator economy wasn't a live thing then, book publishing was still very much seen as an Amazon for indies. Going wide, people were talking a lot about going wide, like it was almost will you, or won't you? It's almost like a smaller number of people, a minority of people were wide, nevermind going directly to readers. So, I do think attitudes have shifted a lot and that in one way, at the old dilemma, in one way that makes it easier because readers are more open, in another way, harder because a lot more people are in the space.

So, back then it was easier to get attention for your Crowdfunder.

Joanna Penn: Although, I also think. I mean, well, let's just talk about some of the benefits for backers, because I was looking at the projects I've supported over the years, and the first one was Seth Godin back in 2013. So, it was a decade ago, and I've used different sites, but mainly Kickstarter, and in terms of the benefits for backers and your readers, people thinking of doing this, you can do special products. It's essentially a pre-order for your main product. So, my Pilgrimage Kickstarter that I've just done, the main product was the hardback.

Oh, you can see it behind me if you're on the video, it's just above my head.

The hardback edition was the main product, but then there was a whole load of other different formats, and bundles, and the course, and consulting, and all these other things that kind of went with it.

So, for backers, you can get early access, because I still haven't published it elsewhere. So, readers got it in February for eBooks and early for print, and then May, it'll be available elsewhere. There's special merchandise for some people.

You also get to connect with creators directly. So, I remember supporting Seth Godin, for example, back in the day and, it was like, oh wow, I get to support him, that's brilliant, and I still do that. But the other thing is, I've really shifted my way of buying books, and I often now just buy eBooks on Kickstarter instead of buying them on another store, and I'll just pay my $10 for the eBook version of whatever book I want to buy, and that has actually shifted in my buyer behaviour.

So, for example, I've been browsing Kickstarter, and also their algorithm serves me different books. So, I've got into a darker niche. So, I'm buying short story anthologies from authors I've never heard before, but they're around, they're using great keywords like skulls and death and dark stuff that attracts me as a buyer, and then I've also got this kind of non-fiction self-help vibe going on.

So, as a backer, I feel like there's so many benefits of being part of that ecosystem, but what about the creators? What are some of the benefits for the creators?

Orna Ross: Oh, it's fantastic, I think. Well, first of all, you get funding upfront which is really great, and that allows you to think about doing all sorts of creative things that you wouldn't do otherwise. You get paid a lot faster, you get a lump sum which is nice. It's almost like the trade publishing advance, where you get a lump sum together.

You definitely, if you structured it yourself properly, you will be making more per book, even on the core product, aside from any other products that you might include.

You've got this, I think it's just what I found that I loved most about it, was that direct connection with people who are willing to spend, particularly some of the higher things that you give, that connection and that sense that, oh gosh, somebody is actually willing to spend that kind of money. It really gives you a boost, I think, creatively to feel that.

A major advantage for me, and why I have now, with crowdfunding so much in the air again, have decided to go back in, is that it makes you market in a way that you might be too lazy to do with just an eBook.

Joanna Penn: Too busy, not lazy.

Orna Ross: Undermotivated maybe, because an eBook and a print book isn't that exciting necessarily anymore. Once you've done them, it's hugely exciting the first time, maybe the excitement never goes out of you, I can't generalize, but certainly if you do a Crowdfunder, you have to market and it really brings that up very much in your face, kind of thing.

So, I think from that point of view, for me, I need all the help I can get to make me do these things, because my inclination is to move on to the next maker project rather than give something it's due and you have to give it it's due for crowdfunding. So, I think from that point, that's another big advantage for me as a creator.

Joanna Penn: Yes, and connection with the backers. I've actually really enjoyed that, and seeing people's names as they've supported things, it's just another touch point, I guess. Obviously, someone like Brandon Sanderson, with his 41 million, he had 150,000 people, you can't look at all the names, but mine was just under 600.

So, I downloaded the backer list, and you can see everyone, and it's really cool, so you're having that connection.

But you did mention getting paid upfront. So, there are those two models. Either you can do the Crowdfunder, get the money, and then create the product. But I guess one of the shifts is, we are creating the product, doing the Crowdfunder, and then getting the money.

So, it's the lump sum, like you say, and it's earlier than the other people. It's just not necessarily upfront from creating the project.

Orna Ross: Yes, sorry if I caused confusion there. What I really meant by upfront was, you don't have to wait for each book to sell, in the normal way that you launch and then you get paid per book, and it will be some time before you, because you do this kind of crunch marketing with a start and a finish, and everything comes in at the same time, then before your book has gone on general release, you've already got a lump sum. That's what I meant by upfront.

Joanna Penn: Yes, great, and it takes, certainly with Kickstarter, it's two weeks after the project finishes and then compare that to the 60 days, or the six months, or the two years, or whatever with other forms of publishing.

So, let's just talk about what kind of projects work. So, tell us a bit about your Secret Rose Project and why you did that, and I guess what other projects you've seen work in this way.

Orna Ross: Yeah, so I think the overall thing to say is that you have to do something that just gets people excited and ignites their imagination in some way. So, there are so many different ways to do that. For me, I think it should ignite your imagination as the creator. I think it should be something that you feel good about and makes you feel excited. So, for me it was, I was working on a novel about the great Irish poet and his muse, WB Yeats and Maud Gonne, and around the same time, the Yeats 150 birth anniversary was coming up and I thought, oh gosh, I'd really love to do. He has these very strange, very esoteric minority interest, short stories, but they're fascinating if you understand where he was coming from or what he was trying to do with them, and doubly fascinating if you know what was going on in his life at the time. So, I thought I would dearly love.

The other thing that made me interested in those short stories was his publisher had ruined them for him. So, he had these eight or nine short stories which were structured to lead to the final two stories, which were very esoterica culty, and the publisher dropped them because they were too unorthodox, was his word, and Yeats was devastated because the whole point of the book had been just ripped out of it.

So to me, I thought, wouldn't it be lovely to put it back together the way he wanted to do it in the first place, and put it together with my novel about what was going on in his life during the time when he was actually writing it, and do it in a replica of, he always made beautiful books, he went to art college, so he had a really good eye. His father was an artist, his sisters were artists. So, he made beautiful books and I thought, well, we could do a replica of the book that he did, and so that's what I set out to do, to see if that was possible, and I loved doing it.

So, it meant really good binding, very high production values, nice paper, and this beautiful gold and bossing on the cover.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and this is interesting because I also want Pilgrimage, it's my first memoir, it's a special book, a book of my heart, and doesn't fit with any of my audiences, it falls down the middle. But I also wanted to do a special hardback, nice paper, colour photos. So, both of us have done this in a special project type of way, and I'm certainly wanting to do another one, but I think I will keep it for special projects.

But what's interesting is another change I think, is that some people have actually moved to doing this as a release model. So, when I was in the US recently, I heard people talking about this particular comic book series that pretty much only releases on Kickstarter now. So, every quarter they release the next edition of the comic, and they sell out within minutes every time because people want the next comic, and it's very hard for comic book creators now, and especially with some of the changes at Amazon; they all have to put them on KU, and a lot of people essentially will lose the business unless they use a Kickstarter.

So, you've also seen this, haven't you? People actually just using it, not just for special projects, but actually for regular?

Orna Ross: Very much so, we have a number of members now who use the Crowdfunder as their launch, and it's just part of what they do with each book, and I'm seeing more and more people do that.

So, it's becoming definitely common to do that, I would say almost. It's again, a great idea because again, the marketing all has to be done upfront and you have to think it all through and all that kind of thing.

So, yeah. We can see the growth of Kickstarter and that's just one platform. There are so many different crowdfunding platforms, and their publishing wings are growing very fast. So, authors are really copping onto this as a way to do things.

Joanna Penn: And it really does come under the umbrella of creator economy, selling direct, all of that kind of thing.

Now, yes, all these platforms have fees involved, but the fees are very small. So, the Kickstarter fee is 5%, for example. So again, if you can get your finances sorted, then the money that you make is going to be more per book, more per customer than on another store, as you mentioned.

So, given the time, we're going to jump into our top tips for success and then we'll do some mistakes.

So, I'm going to start with one of these things that I discovered. So, I've been publishing, as you know I was self-publishing before even you, so 2008, well, 2007 really. I started self-publishing in 2008 online, and I thought I knew a few things, and obviously I do know quite a lot.

But I really felt like I had to learn this entirely new ecosystem, and I feel like we often forget this, and I've seen people who have failed to make their numbers and that's because I think they have not appreciated that this is a different platform and every platform we do, and I'm not sure how much the lessons, I think probably the lessons carry over whatever platform you are working on, crowdfunding platform, but I feel like I really had to learn new ways of doing things.

I haven't written a proper sales page for a long time. We write a sales description, the paragraph we put on the stores, but I'd not written a proper sales page with really trying to think about what the customer wants and then why they should back me, and I made a pitch video, and so I did all these things that I really had not considered. And as you said, it gives you a chance to really make an effort and to switch your mindset into that mindset of the customer, like, what will make this book and this project something they want.

Then it was even the back ends of the platform, the backer report, how the emails work, how the downloads work. Then things like getting the printing, how do you do the printing? How do you do the fulfillment? The connection with backers through the platform. So, it feels like there was a lot to learn, and yet once you learn it, then next time it's a lot easier. So, that was one thing for me was this really whole new ecosystem.

What about your ideas?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think that's it's really important to say, that I've seen a number of authors who, because they have a big mailing list, they think it's as simple as just put the idea on a platform and then tell your mailing list about it, and that isn't enough. Generally speaking, it isn't enough, it's a whole different way of doing things.

I think it's important to recognize that it's going to take time. So again, it's not just doing what you normally do, because especially the first time, everything first time out takes a lot more time.

So, that was something I didn't do or didn't recognize at the time when I was doing it. I remember looking back, being very frazzled, not because there was anything particularly difficult or challenging, but simply because everything took longer than I expected it to take. So, how long did yours take, did it take longer than you expected?

Joanna Penn: Yeah. I mean, realistically doing this sort of, lessons learned in finishing the course, like I mentioned earlier, that was the final thing. So, it's really been around four months and that's not even including the book. So, the book was finished in mid-December and then really this whole thing has been, well, I guess three and a half months.

Orna Ross: And how much of that would've been exclusively the marketing, say, this extra kind of effort on the marketing and being more salesy minded? Because the thing about when publishing a book on the other platforms, and even on your own website is the reader can feel a little bit distant. You're sending emails, but you're not really sure where, whereas this brings it much more upfront.

Would you have a sense of how much longer the marketing took?

Joanna Penn: Well, I think, and having a much broader idea of what marketing is like, that sales page, the story they call it on Kickstarter, really took ages, and I kept getting feedback from people and rewriting it. And I mean, we make videos, I've been making videos for over a decade, I know how to make videos technically, but even making a three-minute pitch video, that took all day. Just stuff like that, that I underestimated.

So yeah, it definitely took more time. Even things like the fulfilment of stuff, I didn't anticipate things taking so long in terms of uploading orders, like I checked so much, check, check, check, because I thought, if I get this wrong with the printer and they send the wrong book to the wrong people, then I'm going to be really out of pocket, because I'm going to have to pay again.

So, I think I probably did a lot of extra checking in terms of all of that kind of stuff, but it paid off because I haven't, touch wood, had any issues.

Orna Ross: The other thing I think that is more than you might expect, especially if you're used to publishing, is that it's a bit scary, which I certainly found, you're really putting yourself out there in a different sort of way, and I know you've spoken about feeling almost like you were back at the beginning of your career.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, I mean, there is literally a button that says launch the campaign, and I was so nervous, and I mean, I was afraid of failure for the first time in a long time. Because failure to me, when you put a book up on general release, there really isn't any failure because I've just published the book and it's available and I don't have any targets.

And this is like you're telling people what the target is, and then I was afraid that if I didn't fund it would be very embarrassing considering that I have a platform and all of this kind of stuff. And in fact, you said to me, oh, I thought your target was £5,000, how come it's now £1000, and the fact is, the night before, I was so terrified of failing I thought, I'm just going to change it to £1000. And I mean that's crazy, so we wanted to share that.

Orna Ross: And just tell the good people who don't know how much it actually made.

Joanna Penn: It made over £26,000. But here's a little tip, if you have a low funding number and you go really fast, your trajectory is really fast, then basically Kickstarter, their algorithm, noticed me and I got that ‘project we love' badge within 24 hours.

So, again, there are these tips and tricks, and I'll shout out Monica Leonelle and Russell Nohelty's book on Selling Your Book on Kickstart, a great book, and on my Creative Penn podcast, I just did an hour and a half on all this.

But I think the fear was fear of disappointing people, and I've said this to you before too, is that I don't want to do a Crowdfunder because I might disappoint people, or I might get it wrong, or I might have all these bosses who want stuff from me, and I don't want that, I like my freedom too much. Freedom to stop work if I need to, and all of this.

So, I felt like I had a lot of fear. Fear of being out of pocket, fear of getting the books wrong. I mean, there's so much more that I was afraid of. Any other fears that you think people might have around this?

Orna Ross: No, I do think it's all summarized in that thing that you're really putting yourself out there in a whole new way and you're really getting very close to the readers. So, the benefits come out of the fears, don't they?

The being forced to do a sales page, and being forced to do things that you wouldn't normally do, it's good for us. It's good for us to put ourselves in those situations. But yeah, if it's terrifying, I always think you're doing something right.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and I feel like next time I will understand a lot of the challenges and I'm going to push myself further and I know what's possible.

But in terms of common mistakes, moving into common mistakes, probably one we've touched, but assuming it's a magic money tree, and it'll be either the new author who's never published anything, and it used to be, oh, you put a book on Amazon, you'll make a million dollars. And now it's, oh, if you put a book up on Kickstarter, you'll make a million dollars. And again, neither of these are true, neither of these have ever been true.

But it's like any other way of selling books, you need a great product, you need a page that converts, you need an audience. And in fact, I've had some emails from people saying, oh, well it's okay for you, you've got an audience.

And I'm like, yeah, but I had to build my audience like everybody else, and also this was a book on pilgrimage, this is not a book that is aimed at either of my audiences, which is why I'm more confident next time if I write a book that actually is aimed at my audience, I might even sell more.

But I think this idea that it's a magic money tree and it's easy is wrong.

Orna Ross: Yeah, I agree. I think also there is the second book syndrome in crowdfunding, as well as everything else. So yes, definitely you learn a lot and you bring stuff to it, but there is also the thing that your audience will fund you the first time, but they won't fund you again, whereas some of your audience will and they become somebody who constantly stays with you.

So, it's like other forms of publishing in that way. It can take time to build it into something if that is your aim. If you are going to use this and bake it in, if you like, into your publishing process, it can take time for it to actually become something that's growing, project on project, campaign on campaign.

Joanna Penn: And you basically have to re-educate your audience again. So, if you've been, like we were talking about at the beginning, if you've been directing your audience to one particular store for a long time, then you are going have to re-educate them in order to get them to buy in a different format from you.

So, I made a video about what this means and all of this, and some people had never even heard it, and it's funny. Like my mum's like, I don't even know what this is, but just, can you tell me which button to press? And that's my mom. But you have to actually educate your audience into these new ways, even just buying from our websites, right? That's important too.

But another thing that is really important and a big mistake that people can make, is the production costs and the shipping costs. So, because I've got an international audience, I was like, oh, I'll just ship these books anywhere in the world. I'll just raise the price of the level a bit and add a standard shipping cost, and then I realized that if you want to ship this hardback to Peru or the Philippines or something, compared to the US or the UK or European Union, it was $50 more, for example. So, I was like, oh, I can't do that.

So, I had to go back and change what I wanted to do around shipping. So, in the end, I went with six shipping areas, because you have to type them all in, people have to agree to pay that shipping, and then I just put on my sales page, if you are from another country that I haven't included, please email me and I'll add it in.

So, that was really interesting that I had to figure that out when I went in with the idea that it would be fine, and it is totally not fine. So, you also have to look at, if you're doing it yourself, like what kind of mailing envelopes.

You did a box, didn't you, with nice wrapping and stuff like that? So, what did you have on the actual production stuff that you learned?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think the biggest thing I learned actually wasn't on the production side. So, yeah, I gave a box and a poem and a card, signed and all of that, and part of that and other parts of it, I over promised.

So, I would say, not just being careful with the production and shipping costs, but also being careful with the rewards that you offer. Sometimes we're adding in a lot because we feel, oh, I won't make my target if I don't give myself away, and that's not necessarily true, and I certainly I promised stuff that afterwards I felt, oh gosh, I didn't need to do that in that way, I should have thought a bit more about how I was going to do this.

So yeah, think carefully about your rewards and that you're happy to do them and that they're relatively easy for you to fulfil, I think that's an important aspect as well.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, and then another mistake, of course you mentioned this earlier, is not marketing enough. I mean, I only did a two-week campaign, but in order to have marketing going out every single day on that campaign, I did all these podcasts interviews with other people, my own store, I was making videos, I had social media all scheduled, I had email marketing, all of these different things going on.

And then I intended to do things like more live video, some press stuff, and I didn't do those. So, my tip there, well, the mistake is not doing enough anyway, and also a mistake is not preparing enough in advance.

Because again, you get sick of it. I was sick of it, even in two weeks, and some people say you need four or five weeks, and I was like, there is no way I could sustain marketing for that long, but another tip is with Kickstarter, I don't know about the other platforms, but you can have a pre-launch page, which you can set up well in advance, like months in advance, and you can get people to sign up on that page, and when it clicks over, when you launch it, those people get notified first, and those are the people who will pretty much fund your campaign.

So, I think understanding how the marketing, the pre-marketing works, and then the scheduling. But yeah, it was a challenge, and I threw almost everything I know at this.

But how about you?

Orna Ross: Yeah, in terms of marketing, so again, at that time, I don't feel that I marketed enough. I set my goal quite low, I just wanted to pay for the production. I think if I was doing it again, I would market more and set a higher figure that allows for that marketing time and some assistance as well with the parts of it that are a bit of a drag, the fulfillment or whatever it might be. So, not setting the figure high enough.

In your mind, obviously you have your goal and as you said, there are techniques around what you actually put out there as your goal, but in your mind, you have your goal that you actually need to make it work. So, when I did mine it was, if I got the money, then that was the voter confidence in the project, and the project would go ahead. If I didn't get the money, then the project was not going to go ahead.

So, thinking all of that through clearly. I think also dividing it into three, the pre-going out there, the actual time of the thing itself while it's live, and then the post, and being realistic about listing all the tasks that are involved in each of those, I think is helpful.

So, we do have some tips and tools on selfpublishingadvice.org/crowdfunding. I know you got your massive podcast up yesterday; do you have an audio link for that?

Joanna Penn: Just the Creative Penn podcast, and it's from March 2023, depending on when you're listening to this.

I was just going to say there, because you mentioned, I love the separating it into three, that's a really good idea, and I hope it's clear to everyone that you do need to be pretty organized to do this. I think if you're not organized, then you need to hire someone, but this is actually something I'm thinking about, and the other thing that's changed is that there is an emerging ecosystem.

Now, there are lots of people, lots of companies, who support Kickstarter campaigns for gaming companies and artists and all of that, but they're starting to move into publishing as well. So, I'm definitely considering hiring someone, like a freelance Kickstarter assistant or something, or just a Project Manager type person to help me next time, because like you said, there's a lot of work to do and I was really tired.

The other thing that struck me was, I've always been interested when traditionally published authors always talk about how tired they are during launches and all of this, and I was like, are we going back to traditional publishing ways of doing things? Is this literally a traditional publishing playbook?

Orna Ross: It's certainly more like the traditional model than the kind of just let it go out there and put your marketing on it consistently. It is a launch model. So, you know, the reason that trade publishing is like that is because it has to be concentrated. You only get your 6 weeks, 10 weeks in the bookstores. So, all the marketing has to go into that time period and it either succeeds or fails.

The difference, of course, is that with crowdfunding you will learn from your mistakes, and you'll be able to do it again next time, if it fails. In traditional publishing, that's the end of you, goodbye. So, in some ways, yeah, in some ways no.

Joanna Penn: In some ways, yeah, the spike model. I think I just literally have not done a spike model for so long, but it is interesting.

So, let's answer the question, will we do it again? So, you said earlier that yes, you are going to go back in. That's what you said. So, what are you going to do?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I am going to go back in. I'm thinking that I might do l a small, steady, measured kind of thing biannually. I'm doing these gift poetry books, and I think they lend themselves very well to this model. So, I'm going to try that.

Though, aside from that, I'm going to do one for Christmas this year. My brother-in-law did, back to that book that I did back in 2015, I rushed that book for this Crowdfunder, and I was never really happy with it. And I have, as you know, I've gone back in there and it has become a longer and a bigger project. But my brother-in-law has gone into the book, and he has done this amazing piece of word art from sentences, it's literally just composed of sentences from the book, and it will make an amazing scarf, merchandise, bookmark, whatever.

So, for Christmas, I'm going to do, I think I will actually launch the novel in this way, with his thing worked in in some way, and hopefully the box set of the three books to go out, but certainly one.

So, I'm going to go in more than way. What about you, will you go again?

Joanna Penn: Yes. So, I have been talking about my shadow book for over a decade. This is writing from the shadow side, the Jungian psychology, the darker side, and I feel like it's something I'm now ready to do. I feel like almost maybe I needed to write my memoir, Pilgrimage, before, because there's a lot of darkness in there.

So, I really feel again, it's a special project. It will have a lot of other things that go with it, and yeah, so I'm probably planning on March 2024. So, as we record this, that's a year away, and partly because I've got about 40,000 words of that book, so I've got some idea, but it's one of those wrangly books that's going to take some work. So, after I finish this novel, the novel's a bit of a palate cleanser, and then I will get into this deeper shadow work, but instead of planning for sort of three months’ work, I'm going to plan for six months work and really just try and start a lot earlier.

So, by September I should be very organized with how it's all going to work. So, I feel like that's the only way to make it a success, is to plan it, as you mentioned.

And I mean, you often talk about doing things by quarters and I feel like this Kickstarter I've just done for pilgrimage was a one quarter project over three and a half months, and I feel like the one I want to do, the shadow book, I need to do a two quarter.

So, obviously not entirely full-time, all the time, on it. But if I want to do a bigger launch, which I do, then I need to really put the work in. So yeah, that's how I'm thinking.

So, if you are going to do it for Christmas and it's already April pretty much, you are going to have to get on that pretty soon.

Orna Ross: Yes, I think that's what I'm going to. Rather than doing the launch I had planned to do, I'm going to launch it this way instead. And you'll be going for more than £1,000 this time, I presume?

Joanna Penn: Yes. Well, there's a difference, for people listening, there's a funding level, which means it's definitely going ahead. So, that's the one you can put down at a reasonably low level, but then you have stretch goals and other targets. So, I'll have a funding level and then I'll have some stretch goals.

But yeah, so exciting year ahead then considering, you know, new things for us, I think, new things.

Orna Ross: Yes, and as always, we'll bring you the news as it happens.

Joanna Penn: Yeah, absolutely. So, next month we are going to give a bit of feedback and thoughts on 20Books Spain. We're both going to be speaking at 20Books Spain, in Sevilla in Spain, and then we'll also be at London Book Fair. So, we'll be really trying to see what the European indie scene is all about.

So, if you are going to either of those, please say hi to either one of us, tell us what is going on in the European language scene, because we're still in Europe here in the UK, very importantly.

So, okay, anything else, Orna?

Orna Ross: No, nothing else to report. Just a busy month ahead, getting out and about into the world. This will be my first speaking since before, you know what, so I'm excited to be getting back on a plane to go and speak and meet people and meet other authors again.

Joanna Penn: Fantastic. Right, so until next time, happy writing.

Orna Ross: And happy publishing. Bye-bye.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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