Today on the Publishing for Profit Podcast, ALLi Director Orna Ross and Podcast Producer Howard Lovy discuss crowdfunding your book with Kickstarter. Orna successfully used Kickstarter to fund her book, Go Creative! Planning Program for Authors & Poets. Howard is getting ready to crowdfund a book on fighting antisemitism. Together, they ask and answer questions on strategies for a successful campaign.
Now, go write and publish!
Listen to the Podcast: CrowdfundingOn the Publishing for Profit Podcast, Orna Ross and @howard_lovy discuss crowdfunding your book with Kickstarter. Click To Tweet
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- Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter, by Russell Nohelty and Monica Leonelle
- Go Creative! Planning Program for Authors & Poets (Orna's Kickstarter project)
- A Practical Guide to Fighting Antisemitism (Howard's Kickstarter project)
About the Hosts
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 democratizing, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website.
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 35 years and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn, and X.
Read the Transcripts to the Podcast: Crowdfunding
Orna Ross: Hello everyone, and welcome to the Publishing for Profit stream of the Alliance of Independent Authors podcast. Here today, two members of the team. I'm here with Howard. Hi Howard.
Howard Lovy: Hi Orna. How are you?
Orna Ross: I'm very well.
So, part of this Publishing for Profit stream that we've introduced this year, we've got different speakers coming in on different topics, and today we're going to be talking about crowdfunding, specifically Kickstarter, because today I launched my very first Kickstarter, and Howard, who I'm talking to, is seriously considering doing his first Kickstarter.
Of course, we are not alone in the indie author community, more and more indies are moving towards direct sales and crowdfunding for launches and all of that. So, we wanted, while we're right in the heat of it all, to talk to you.
I do not consider myself to be by any means an expert, but I have set up my first campaign, it did go live today, and I'm very pleased to say that it has already, on day one, a few hours into it, reached the funding goal, and that goal essentially was to see, will this project go ahead in the way that I wanted it to? To test the waters, and see if there was interest, and I'm absolutely overwhelmed by the interest that it has shown so far.
Howard Lovy: That's wonderful. That's great. Congratulations.
Orna Ross: Thank you, Howard. Thank you so much. Yes, I'm really thrilled.
So, the project is for my Go Creative Planning, which of course you and I have talked about lots in the past on the podcast.
For me, it's sort of a validation. I've deliberately kept all that Go Creative planning stuff very small up to now, because I've been refining the method and working with a small group of authors has helped me to do that, getting their feedback, looking at how different authors respond to it and so on.
But I felt the time had come to take it much wider, because I really do feel It's needed, and I do feel that it works now; I have seen it work in every situation.
So, it's very exciting to me to feel that the support is there from the community. So yeah, a little bit over the moon this evening.
So, you now, tell people a little bit about what you're thinking about.
Howard Lovy: First of all, I'm using you as my advisor, but also, Russell Noehlty, who's our Kickstarter advisor at ALLi. He has a book, and I'm using that as my directory, and he's got some wonderful advice on how to crowdfund.
Orna Ross: Absolutely, I use that book too, and big shout out to that; we will have it in the show notes. It's Russell and I think his partner Monica as well, though they do acknowledge in the book that Russell is the crowdfunding expert, and he really is great. He's done so many successful crowdfunders.
So yeah, we will definitely give a shout out to that great book in the show notes.
Howard Lovy: So, yeah, when I'm not the podcast producer and editor for ALLi, of the other things I do for a living is I'm a journalist who covers Jewish issues, and I write about Jewish issues and antisemitism, and it's very much in the news these days for various reasons.
Don't worry, I won't get political on the podcast, but there's been an increase in antisemitism worldwide. It's very concerning for the people I write for and with, and in my community, and I thought that now is the time for me to write a book on how to fight antisemitism.
A lot of Jews around the world are feeling very helpless right now. So, I thought I could contribute something positive on its manifestations in the workplace and online spaces, educational institutions, and what individuals can do.
I'm a journalist, so I enjoy interviewing other people and other experts. So, I'm planning on gathering a lot of voices for this project, and I thought crowdfunding would be a good way to do it because I want to make this very collaborative with the Jewish community. So, that's my thinking there.
Orna Ross: Fantastic, and just to say that we're not going to be delving into the content of either your campaign or my campaign for this podcast.
Please don't anybody write in with any political opinions about the content of either of our topics, because that's not what this is about. We're just going to be talking about crowdfunding as a way to reach a readership and as a way to grow a readership and as a way to get some funding, which allows us to do things with our work that we might not be able to do otherwise.
So, you had a few questions I think, and I think that's the way we'll run this session, where if you just ask me the questions that are coming up for you, I will help you as best I can given my, as I said, not particularly enormous experience.
I would like to then pass on some, if they don't turn up in the answers to your questions, just pass on some tips that I found particularly useful when I was putting my campaign together.
Howard Lovy: Sure, absolutely, and you are my hero because you met your goal.
So, I guess my first question is about use of my existing contacts. I might've jumped the gun a little bit. I sent out an exploratory email to contacts that I've collected over the years in my field, friends, family, publishing contacts, telling them that I'm about to launch the campaign and I invited them to join my Convertkit or SubStack mailing list for updates, but I hadn't yet actually created a Kickstarter landing page. So, I'm going to have to somehow guide them in another email toward the Kickstarter landing page.
Did I jump the gun and contacting all my contacts?
Orna Ross: First of all, I really want to say, there is no perfect way to do a Kickstarter or a crowdfunding campaign. There is no perfect way to do it, and the first time I think should be treated very much, and this was the spirit that I did my own, very much as a learning experience so that you pick up the things. There's no way to know it all in advance, it's just not possible.
And also, as a way to test your community and see is there interest there for whatever it is you're thinking about, putting the book together. Do you have the support that would allow it, and what it's allowing you to do is to test that upfront in a risk-free kind of way, in a way, because you're testing this concept to see, does it have legs, and that's a really good thing.
In the process of doing that, you'll probably find, certainly I found that as I went through it and I was talking to my own, warm people in the background before launching, I was getting lots of feedback that made me shift and mutate. Right up to the very end, before I pressed launch this morning, I was making changes as a result of either ideas that were coming to me or things that people had said to me.
So, there is no perfect way to do this. In an ideal world, before you speak to anybody, you would have everything in your prelaunch situation set up, and I think that's what you're referring to.
I'm going to talk about Kickstarter only. There are other crowdfunding platforms. I want to stress it's not the only one. It is, however, the only one that is really developing at the moment it's publishing section. So, it's a good place for authors to be right now, but there are other platforms. I used another platform myself for a crowdfunder years ago called Pubslush, they're no longer there, but I know we have Indiegogo and other ones.
But for Kickstarter, it's all or nothing. So, you either land your goal or you don't, but what they do have is lots of really good pre-launch tools. So, you can set up, your pre-launch page without having worked out your rewards even, without having pinned it down at all. All you need at that point is to get your money straight, so they know you are who you say you are, to give them an idea of the concept and, the name of the campaign, and a subheading and a graphic, an image or a video. That's it. That's all you need, really.
Then you see, the first time you start talking to people, you have a link, and they can then follow, they can just click a button on that, and that means that when you go live, they will be notified.
Howard Lovy: Yeah, so what I did, I created another step on the way. I said, click here if you want to be on a mailing list that will eventually get you to my Kickstarter page.
So, it's asking them to do two things, which might be too much.
Orna Ross: Yeah, but you needed to set up that list. You won't run your Kickstarter just on the Kickstarter page.
There are all sorts of other things in the background that you're going to have to get people over to Kickstarter. So, your own mailing list is going to fire that.
Kickstarter will bring some people to you, but they certainly won't fund your campaign for you. That's going to be your work, and therefore you need that list, not just for the Kickstarter, but for afterwards and going forward.
So, the Kickstarter is a way to build that list. So, while it might not be optimal, it might, have been optimal in your situation. You needed to start that list because you didn't have a specific list geared in this direction, your last Jewish book was fiction. So, this is a different, new departure, so therefore you needed to create that anyway.
So, I wouldn't say you've done anything terribly wrong.
Howard Lovy: Okay, good. It was also a way for me to see, I put it on my formerly Twitter and now X account, where I've gained kind of a devoted following of people who follow this particular issue. So, I wanted to see, it's one thing to be retweeted or liked, but are they willing to actually go the next step and support something like this?
So, I'm getting my answer now. How much does 16,000 followers on X, what does that translate into really? So, I'm getting an idea of that now.
Orna Ross: Yeah, that's great. I think it's a real milestone in an author's life when you begin to understand that, because it's like concentric circles, isn't it?
You're on the outer circle, there are people who don't know you at all. Then the next one is social media. Then the next one is your email list. Then the next one's when you ask people to spend money.
Each of those is a deeper sort of engagement.
Then post spending the money, there's actually reading your stuff and then engaging with your stuff, and then becoming a follower. So, each of those numbers get smaller and smaller the further towards the bullseye at the centre of the circle that you get to.
So, in one way it's a numbers game, so it'll be interesting.
Of course, it's also about how much engagement those followers have, and the good thing about an organic following like yours is that it tends to be very genuine and there's lots of engagement on your feed already. So, that generally translates into people who at a very minimum are going to sign up for your list and express interest in your crowdfunders.
So, back to the crowdfunding platform again, the people who click the list saying they want to be notified, when the campaign goes live, again just a percentage of those are actually going to back it when it does go up.
So, as soon as you can get the Kickstarter pre-launch page set up, you want to start driving as much traffic as possible there. So, for the duration of your pre-launch and your campaign, drive your traffic to that page.
One of the best tips, one of the most important tips I think that I came across was you need to set up a link that will link to where the book will be on your website later on. So, at the moment, my link is selfpublishingadvice.org/planners24, and that, at the moment, directs people over to the campaign. When the campaign is over, that link will go directly to those planners where they are for sale on my website. So, that's seamless.
That link, when you start putting it out in newsletters and on Twitter and in various places, that link is going to remain live. If you use the Kickstarter link, then once your campaign is finished, that link is then dead, but if you use your own link, once the campaign is finished, and when it's out on the interweb in three months’ time, when the campaign is well over, people will still find the books on your own website.
Howard Lovy: Oh, that's great. That's a great idea. Wonderful.
I have a lot of questions about rewards.
The people who might want to engage with my content aren't necessarily interested in physical rewards, but they want to be a part of a solution. There are a lot of people who are emotionally attached to the issue right now.
So, I wanted to kind of make the writing of the book a collaborative process, which means my donors can help me find sources I might not have. So, I was thinking about a donor tier that includes, I'll include their name or organization and mission in the book, and maybe interview them as a source, and I'm worried that would interfere with editorial integrity. Do other people do content-related rewards rather than product related rewards?
Orna Ross: The general use of rewards is twofold as far as I can see.
One is to allow people who want to support the project to support it, and the other is people want the content you're going to be creating.
I think you might muddy the waters if you use the reward system to source your content. I think that might actually get confusing.
You mentioned the very good question of editorial integrity. If somebody has bought a reward that gives them a place in the book, it's fine as a credit, that they helped or that they backed at a certain level, but if they're going to be contributing content and supposing you don't agree with the content, then you're refunding them and you're getting the opposite sort of feeling that you want. A crowdfunder should feel good for all parties, and you could get yourself into a situation.
So, if I were you, I would keep those two separate. I would think about the rewards in terms of what you can promise you will deliver if the project is backed, and then if people give you that financial support, you will then be in a position to do the kind of reach out.
So, for example, you might be able to hire a researcher or hire an assistant who would help you with the content curation and creation. So, I think I would go in that direction.
So, Kickstarter is for funding, it's for giving people money who don't normally have money to do the things, to do cool things, to do things that they really want to see happen.
I think authors can underestimate how much some people are actually willing to pay to see certain things happen. I think particularly a community like yours who, as you say, is very activated at the moment, seeing somebody who wants to do something positive, who wants to cut through the narratives that we're being bombarded with on both sides of a very divisive issue, I think there will be a lot of support for that.
So, if you were to begin to think about the financial benefits, giving you the time and the space to devote yourself to this project, not to have to take on other work, to clear the decks as it were, and not to be afraid of the money, and not to be afraid to ask for the money.
I think that's what I see more than anything else with authors, that kind of reluctance almost to ask for that support. It's hard to put yourself out there and say, help me, give me some money.
Howard Lovy: Sure, yeah, and that leads into my next question. This is a very sensitive area because I don't want to be seen as profiting in any way from this tragedy, but at the same time, my time costs money, and if I'm really going to do justice to the topic and write a worthwhile book, I need to figure out exactly how much I'm going to ask.
Do you have advice on that? This is all or nothing in terms of I'm either funded or I'm not.
Orna Ross: Yes. So, I would say, while Kickstarter is all or nothing, you can stage it in your own mind. What I mean by that is you should have a goal.
First of all, you need to know all your expenses. You need to have an idea of not just the expenses of creating the book, but the expenses of the rewards and the delivering of the rewards.
So, if I were doing your Kickstarter, I would keep it very, simple. I would focus on the book and the end product in different formats, and not an awful lot else besides that. So, the eBook, the print book, and if you wanted to also include an audiobook. The print book could be in paperback format and then a very special premium edition, signed, maybe with something special in there from one of your contributors, somebody who's highly regarded in the community or something like that.
But keep it simple and then give lots of add-on type extra things that people can add-on to the book and pay a bit more for, and also give the option of people helping just for the sake of supporting. Kickstarter does that automatically. It's its first entry is, support this just because you want to see it happen, but you could guide your people.
So, you need to know, first of all, what are your expenses going to be? It's not about profiting from, you're not going to make enough money that you're going to be making a big profit from the situation. The money is going to go to enable you to research and write this demanding book in a very short period of time. So, I think there's nothing ethically at question here, everything is open and transparent, people are going to get what you have promised, and they're facilitating you to do that.
So, I see no ethical conundrum there, but you do need to work out what are your expenses going to be to put the book together? What are your expenses going to be to deliver the rewards, shipping, all of these things, the cost of paper, particularly those print editions, how much they're going to cost put together. It's a big issue.
And then the support you need to make it happen, because if you're going to reach enough people, you probably need some support with social media and other marketing that you have to do, and perhaps as we already said, an administrator/researcher, put those down as your costs.
And then your bare minimum cost, you might say, okay, if I reach that, that's my funding goal. If I reach that, this project's going to go ahead. That's what I did. I put a bare minimum on. If I get that amount, I can deliver energy and other things that will make this happen. If I don't reach that amount, then that's okay, I'm not going to go ahead and do this.
But your goal for what you would really like to see happen and what would really help you might be a bit higher than that.
Howard Lovy: One thing that Russell recommends in his book is to take a look at what is being funded in Kickstarter, look at some comparable projects.
So, I did a search and there really are no comparable books. I mean there are Jewish related comic books, children's books, religious books, but I could find nothing that really tackles this subject. It's so timely right now and it builds off of what's in the news today. I guess, is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Orna Ross: It's a good thing and it's a thing that's happening to a lot of authors because we're in a sense creating the ground in Kickstarter as we go there.
It has been a platform for gamers and comics, and that type of end of publishing is very developed there, but your type of serious non-fiction is not so well developed there.
So, it's absolutely fine. Remember that you will bring most people there, and then people who are interested in Jewish comics and so on may well be interested in your book as well.
Howard Lovy: So, how much of the book do I need to have written to show potential backers, even though I'm asking for backing to give me the freedom to write a book?
It's kind of this circular argument, I guess.
Orna Ross: Yeah, it's a little bit of a catch 22, because there are some backers who are reluctant to back if they feel that it won't happen, but then there are others who really want to support somebody to make things happen.
I think what it comes down to here is what you're realistically going to be able to do, and rather than worrying too much about trying to have, again, the perfect scenario, you've got your scenario, you feel this is a very timely book, you want to get it out sooner rather than later, and you want to know that it has value for your community.
So, I think you have to be just open and honest about how long you think it's going to take to put together.
You have already produced a book, and I think that really helps people to have confidence. If it's a first book, I think people can feel a little bit kind of not sure, so you need to do everything you can to reassure them and make them feel it's safe. So, whatever you can do to reassure them.
So, there's a section in Kickstarter which is called risks, I think, and in there you explain yourself. You have to be honest, and one of Kickstarter's big values, and I know one of yours as well, is transparency and honesty. So, you don't try to pretend you've got more of it done than you have done, and various other things that people have made a mistake of doing before. You're just completely open and honest about it and then you let them decide. It goes, or it does not go.
The situation is you can't be where you are not. So, if you're going to go out now and do it at this point of the process, then that's what you're facing.
The alternative would be to get set up, get started, get going, and trust that you will be able to crowdfund it when the time comes, fund it some way in between those two, and then go out with a book that is first draft done or final draft done.
But loads of projects on Kickstarter haven't even been started. They're just an idea, and they get funding.
So much, everything about it, and this is why it's such a great thing for every author to do, I think. Certainly, that's my experience having done it, and I'm looking forward to doing it now for my fiction next year. It really trains you in that whole communicating with readers thing. and in positioning your work thing. So, you really have to think about how you're going to put this across, and that is excellent marketing training that authors need.
So, there's something about the immediacy of the crowdfunding audience and readership that's there waiting to look at your book that makes you feel that and makes you aware of that, and makes you think about them and what the value is that you're offering, and all those things that we're always talking about in book marketing, but that somehow when you have a book on a retailer store, an online retailer store out in the world, it just doesn't, and you have your own website and mailing list, it just doesn't have that sense of immediacy. And the immediate intimate connection of the crowdfunding experience really concentrates the mind around the value of you as an author and of the book that you're offering.
Howard Lovy: I can also show them that I'm not new at writing about this. I have a lot of experience, and I can show them what I've written on this subject before. So, it's not like I'm just some guy or some random guy who had an idea.
Orna Ross: Absolutely, one hundred percent. That's what it's all about.
You've long experience as a journalist, you've long experience as an editor, you're a responsible sober citizen. You have a community that you're already engaged in writing, you've written for magazines, and all of that, all those credentials. You need to get those down so that you reassure the person who's thinking, oh, what if this guy doesn't finish?
So, you are able to bring that reassurance to them.
Howard Lovy: Okay, wonderful. We figured it all out. Now all I have to do is do it.
The next thing I need to do is come up with a title and an actual book cover. Is it risky to come up with a book cover before the book is actually finished?
I mean, I have a book cover designer in mind who's willing to do this for me, but am I jumping the gun in asking for a book cover now?
Orna Ross: I always do my book covers before I write my books. Always, yeah, I find when I have the book cover it helps the creative process for me. I'm just saying that to say that it's not unusual, it's not unheard of, and it's certainly not a complete no.
Once you have a good sense, and I think you do, a good sense of the subject matter, the topic, and the tone. I think once you understand topic and tone, then I think a good designer can kind of take that.
They don't read your book anyway. They just need a good brief from you that gives them a sense of what the book is about, and you may find that seeing the cover concentrates your mind.
So, I personally don't think it's a problem.
Howard Lovy: Okay. Well, I have a lot to do as soon as we hang up from this call.
I'm going to hit the ground running. My goal is to have this campaign launch about a month from now.
Other people have given me advice that to really do this right I should wait 90 days, but I just feel like this is so urgent. I don't know what the world is going to look like in 90 days.
Orna Ross: Yes, I understand. You know me, I'm a complete believer in going with the creative flow, and if something is moving you to do that, it's almost like an energy you can't stop. Get all sensible and managerial about it and there's no guarantee anyway, so I definitely feel you should just go with the flow.
I will say, it's an incredible amount of work, a Kickstarter campaign. So, do budget for some assistance, I really, recommend that you do that. You will make more profit in the end, even though you're paying somebody else to help you, because you'll have the energy to do the bits that only you can do really well.
With that sort of time frame, you can kind of clear the decks really for the next number of weeks because you've got lots of stuff to do. Just quite simply there are a lot of tasks to do, but then the book is so much further along at the end of that four weeks than it is than it is right now, that it's work that's not just, and I think this is the other great thing that I'd just like to say about the crowdfunding experience before we sign off, you do it to raise the money and all that kind of stuff, but at the end of that process, it's not over. You then go on to sell this book.
So, it's a way of launching. It's a way of getting the book up and out there in the world in a different sort of way. It's a way of reaching a new audience, but it's the start of something. It's not the end of. It's not the be all and end all in and of itself. The life kind of only begins, and I certainly feel that way about my crowdfunder, it begins today. It's funded today and today is actually the day this whole project now begins. So yeah, go for it, but just know that you're going to work as hard as you've ever worked on anything.
Howard Lovy: Well once I'm in the zone, I can go pretty fast, so I'm not worried about that.
Orna Ross: Yes, I agree, and I think that's what it's all about. Actually, that's what my crowdfunder is about. Go Creative planning. It's about getting that creative energy, because when that creative energy comes in, we are immensely empowered. We're much more powerful than when we're working from our thinking mind only, and there's nothing like a clear, focused goal with a tight deadline to actually get the creative spirit up and moving.
So yeah, good luck with it all.
Howard Lovy: Wonderful. So yeah, I'm very much looking forward to your book, too. I contributed, so I can't wait to get it. I know we've done creative podcasts in the past, but it'd be great to have a manual for how to do it.
Orna Ross: Fantastic. Thank you very much for contributing, for being a backer, for being a first day backer and making it happen. Thank you so much.
Howard Lovy: Thank you, Orna.