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Why Kickstarter Is The Most Creative Way To Launch Your Book: Creative Self-Publishing Podcast With Orna Ross

Why Kickstarter is the Most Creative Way to Launch Your Book: Creative Self-Publishing Podcast with Orna Ross

In the latest episode of the Creative Self-Publishing Podcast, Alliance of Independent Authors Director Orna Ross explores the innovative potential of Kickstarter for book launches. Sharing her personal experiences, Orna reveals how Kickstarter serves as more than a funding tool, fostering deeper connections with readers and authors. A valuable listen for any self-publisher looking to tap into the creative possibilities of book publishing through crowdfunding.

The Creative Self-Publishing stream of the ALLi Podcast is sponsored by Orna Ross's Creative Planning Program for Authors & Poets. If you’re feeling daunted by the enormity of your writing and publishing goals, or overwhelmed by your to-do list, or you’re just not sure what way forward is best, Orna can help with a proven planning process devised specially for writers. Check it out at Patreon.com/OrnaRoss.

Listen to the Podcast: Launch Your Book with Kickstarter

In the Creative Self-Publishing Podcast, ALLi Director Orna Ross explores the innovative potential of Kickstarter for book launches. Click To Tweet

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About the Host

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.

Read the Transcripts: Launch Your Book with Kickstarter

Orna Ross: Hello, and welcome to the Creative Self-Publishing segment of the Alliance of Independent Authors podcast. I'm Orna Ross, and today I'd like to talk to you about why I think Kickstarter is the most creative way you can launch your book these days.

I did my first, so I'm pretty new to Kickstarter. I know that some of you listening have done many projects and are flying on the platform. I did my first one at the end of last year and found it an incredibly positive experience, and I had resisted crowdfunding. I did a crowdfunder the first time seven years ago, enjoyed that process, but found it a huge amount of work, and I resisted doing another one until, as I said, the end of last year.

But things have changed in the crowdfunding space, and Kickstarter itself has been a complete eye opener. So, I just wanted to share some of my [00:01:00] thoughts about the platform.

A little bit about crowdfunding in general, I think it's great. I cannot speak to any of the other platforms because I've never used them. Pub Slush, the platform I used when I did a special edition novel seven years ago, that platform is no longer in existence. I have never tried Indiegogo or any of the others, and so I cannot speak to those. I'm only going to be speaking about Kickstarter here today.

Also to say that I am running a Kickstart with Me program now on my Patreon page. If any of you are interested in that, I'll be speaking a little bit more about that towards the end of today's podcast.

So yeah, why Kickstarter? Obviously, authors approach crowdfunding because, hey, it's a way you can get paid before you put your book together or before you put a special edition of [00:02:00] an old book together, before you invest. It can pay for your editing; it can pay for your design and all of these things up front. In a way, it's replacing the advance that we, as authors used to get from traditional publishing houses back in the heyday of that system.

So, obviously authors are attracted to the concept of crowdfunding for commercial reasons, but today I want to focus on the creative stuff because there are many good creative reasons to use a crowdfunding platform. But just to say on the commercial side, obviously you make your money more quickly, you retain a much higher percentage of the royalties than you do in trade publishing, and a much higher percentage of your sales commission than you do on Amazon KDP and other self-publishing platforms. But yeah, like I said, today we're going to focus on the creative stuff.

So, one of the reasons [00:03:00] I love Kickstarter is its mission statement. It is that it exists to help bring creative projects to life, and that's exactly what it does.

It is a home, not just for books, but for film, music, art, theatre, and most notably, I think, games, comic design, but also periodicals, art books, literary spaces, literary festivals, radio programs and podcasts like this one, bookstores, zines, lots of books; all sorts of things are funded through the Kickstarter platform.

In 2015, it became a public benefit corporation, and it's based in the US, and what that means is that it is a for-profit company, yes, but it prioritizes positive outcomes for society just as much as it prioritizes its commercial benefits. So, very much like ALLi, which is a community interest company, we are actually a non-profit, but again, prioritizing positive [00:04:00] outcomes, our community being super important to us and as important as the bottom line, and I love that about them, and I love the platform.

It's just so engaging and interesting when you're there. It's absolutely packed with amazing projects by amazing creatives. So, it's a really creative space to be hanging out in, and that's one of the things that I absolutely love about it.

From a marketing perspective, though, and this is where it really, I think, absolutely fire rockets your publishing and really gives you the very best chance of having a good book launch, a commercially and creatively successful book launch, it forces you to think creatively about your work. The way in which it is set up, so you have to first of all come up with rewards.

Crowdfunding in this way through Kickstarter and other places like that is not [00:05:00] like GoFundMe when somebody has physical hardship, poverty situation, where they're actually trying to raise money to help with something that has happened in their lives, which is more akin to charity.

This is a very different kind of crowdfunding, which is very much based on what you are giving to the reader. It's all based around the rewards that you offer them, the add-ons to those rewards, and honestly your creativity is really tested, because you have to think about what they would like to receive that is related to the book but is kind of more.

So, your job as creator on the platform is to actually excite and delight the readers, and to get them to become backers of your campaign. So, it immediately puts you in the right place for thinking about marketing, which is thinking about the reader.

I know from my own experience and from talking to so many of you [00:06:00] that getting into that right marketing mindset is actually the biggest challenge that many of us face when it comes to marketing.

A few of us are natural marketeers, but I think it's safe to say that most authors are not when they start off, and I certainly wasn't. So, what I find about Kickstarter is it immediately, as I said, puts me in the right place of thinking creatively about my work and how I'm going to present it to them. My job is to make a new project and a compelling project that would get them excited.

That happens then about the positioning of the work, all the themes that come in around the book, everything that could be made, different kinds of items and offerings that you can make around the book, both digital offerings and physical offerings that will get backers excited. So, from that point of view of just aligning the proper mindset, that's one aspect of it.

Secondly, then the things you have to get together in [00:07:00] order to do a good Kickstarter page are things, marketing challenges, that you just need to meet. So, you have to have good samples. You have to get people to that pre-launch page. You have to actually have good images. You have to have an explainer video which tells people what the book is about and what the campaign is about and so on.

The things that you have to put in place are things that you need to put in place anyway if you're going to have a successful marketing strategy for your book.

When authors talk about crowdfunding being so much work, often this is what they're talking about, and the thing is, if you don't do a Kickstarter or something similar around your launch, then the temptation is to quietly just slip the book out and move on to the next one.

For all those who say the best marketing is your next book, that is true for some authors, but it's only true for authors who [00:08:00] already have an established following, which can be grown by bringing out another book. At the beginning when you don't have a following, that's when you need to think creatively about how you bring your readers to what you're doing, and this is where Kickstarter becomes really interesting in terms of what it forces you to create. It makes you do the work, in other words, because you can't put a Kickstarter page out there without having done the work or you are guaranteed to fall flat on your face. So, it makes the reality of marketing very real, and I think that's something that a lot of us need.

So, your readers will be offered special editions, bonus content, interesting merchandise, maybe bundles of your books, digital specials, print specials, early access, credit in the book. There are so many different things that you can [00:09:00] offer your readers, and I think it's important to say that a Kickstarter campaign doesn't have to be a huge campaign.

You don't have to aim to get into five figures or even four figures. You can do a very modest campaign to start with, which is just about learning those, particularly if you're starting off, I'm speaking to beginners here. While you are learning about marketing and learning those tricks of bringing your reader over, of identifying your reader, of understanding what niche your reader is in, what genre you are in, what other authors in that genre are doing; all of those things you can practice at a quite a small level.

So, you can set a very low funding goal and see how you get on. Aim to do a modest but successful campaign to start and then build on that success as you go forward.

The other thing I think about it is the creative connections and collaborations that it allows [00:10:00] with other authors. As I said at the beginning, it's a really creative space to be hanging out in. You will find when you go over there, books that you're interested in from new authors that you may never have heard of before. Certainly, that has been my experience. I have discovered now a whole new tranche of indie authors who I'd never heard of, wasn't aware of, and who are producing very cool books and very cool projects, and I'm supporting lots of campaigns now.

I had done a few over the years, but I hadn't really engaged with the platform as a reader, as a consumer, until I started to do my own campaign last year, and now it's dangerous. It's as dangerous over there as it is to go into a bookstore. You go in for one thing and you come out having purchased loads of things, but it's so super interesting and I love finding these projects in this way, and I love feeling that I'm supporting those authors [00:11:00] directly to bring their campaigns into the world and make them happen.

So, all of this sounds like a big ad for Kickstarter. I have no allegiance other than having experienced the platform and thoroughly enjoyed it. I really am just bringing it to you because I would like to encourage you, if you haven't tried Kickstarter before, to go there, and if you have tried it before and haven't succeeded, to analyse why.

And maybe to go again, because I think that's the other and final thing I'd like to say. From a creative perspective, there's no such thing as failure. We've often discussed that here on the Creative Self-Publishing Podcast. Failure is literally just a learning opportunity, but once you're a creative, that is the creative way to approach it; why didn't this work?

Very often that's about getting more real with yourself, getting more honest with yourself about what you did and didn't do, what you can and can't do, and [00:12:00] readjusting your creative conditions and everything else so you're in the right place to do better next time.

So, I would encourage you, if you have tried Kickstarter before and it hasn't gone well for you, to try to understand why and to build on that.

It's to that end that I have created this Kickstart with Me program, which if you'd like to find out more about that, you can do so on patreon.com/OrnaRoss.

It's a monthly program where you can dive in. There are a number of us who are bringing our next project to life on Kickstarter, and we're going through from pre-launch all the way through to launching later on this year and sharing what we're doing, and I'm opening up the back end of my current campaign and showing people what's going on in there, and why I'm making the choices I made, and what I learned from the last campaign and so on.

So, if you'd like to [00:13:00] join us there, you would be most welcome. Patreon.com/OrnaRoss for more details.

I hope that encouraged you to give Kickstarter, or another crowdfunding platform a go, and I'd love to hear about your experiences there, how it's gone for you, particularly any learnings that you've had.

So, let us know how you're getting on with your creative approach to launching your books through crowdfunding campaigns.

Thank you for being here and till next time, happy writing, 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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