In today’s episode of the Creative Self-Publishing podcast: Creative Tips for Crowdfunding. ALLi Director Orna Ross has successfully funded her Kickstarter project and has learned a great deal about how to approach a campaign from a creative perspective. “Do it in a creative spirit, especially your first one. You don't know what's going to happen.” Listen to more of her advice for those just beginning their crowdfunding adventure.
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.
Now, go write and publish!
Listen to the Podcast: Creative Tips for CrowdfundingOn the Creative Self-Publishing podcast: Creative Tips for Crowdfunding with ALLi Director Orna Ross. Click To Tweet
Don't Miss an #AskALLi Broadcast
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Spotify.
- Go Creative! Planning Program for Authors & Poets (Orna's Kickstarter campaign)
- Direct Sales Mastery for Authors: The Definitive Guide (Russell's Kickstarter campaign)
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 to the Podcast: Creative Tips for Crowdfunding
Orna Ross: Hello and welcome to Creative Self-Publishing. There is a slight change with our new line-up that we kicked off last month, with this session. So, on the second week of every month now, when it comes to Creative Self-Publishing, I'm going to be expanding on what we will have discussed on the previous Friday.
So, this is going out, if you're listening just as it's landed, it's going out on Sunday, and on Friday last, Howard Lovy and I discussed crowdfunding because I'm in the middle of a Crowdfunder at the moment and he is also setting up in pre-launch. stage.
So, we discussed, from a profit perspective, crowdfunding, but today I'm going to follow up with more from a creative perspective and tell you all my tips, all my creative tips for crowdfunding, everything I've learned so far.
I'm not an expert on crowdfunding, I have to say, and I'd like to, first of all, guide you, as we did on Friday, but guide you again to two people, particularly one person, Russell Noehlty and Monica Lionel. The two of them together have a wonderful book called, the two of them, they are business partners, and they work together as Writer MBA, and one of their great books is Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter.
I've used this book. Howard's used this book. I think everybody I've spoken to has used this book because Russell has done, I think, more than 20 Kickstarter projects now, all successful. He's raised over £300,000 on his various projects. So, he really is an expert.
I am just in the middle of my first one, and so I stress these are very personal tips, but they are fresh, and I think sometimes it's good when you're speaking beginner to beginner. Sometimes the further we get along as experts, we can forget sometimes what it's like to be at the beginning, and certainly from a creative perspective, I have been more challenged by this particular launch than I have by anything I've done for a long time.
It's a different approach, and first off to say, I absolutely love it and I will definitely be doing it again.
So, I think the first thing to say about it, my first tip would be, when it comes to crowdfunding to do it in a creative spirit, especially your first one. You don't know what's going to happen, and in a sense, it's a test. It's an experiment, it's an exploration to see whether your readership is sufficient to attract whatever amount you want to raise. So, it concentrates the mind very much to think about crowdfunding.
I use the Kickstarter platform, it's a fantastic platform for publishing projects, I have to say, and they do a lot of things in the background that help you to reach more people, to find readers on the platform who you might not know about already, who may not know about you, but they also have all these kind of tricks in the background that help to increase the amount of money that your crowdfunder is going to make.
So, do it. Begin in creative mode. Don't expect that your first campaign is going to be a roaring success.
Set a low funding goal. That is my second tip. So, a lot of writers go in, and a lot of people who are starting a Kickstarter campaign, go in with the actual goal that they are hoping to achieve. I would recommend that you go in with the absolute minimum goal, because when you reach your goal, Kickstarter kicks in. That's just the beginning of your crowdfunding journey. You then set other the stretch goals. You have ways in which you can get your backers to help you to get further up along in terms of where you want to go.
So, you would have a minimal goal. So, to take the example of my campaign, which by the way if you want to see it or indeed would like to support it, it's still live at selfpublishingadvice.org/planners24.
It's a Kickstarter for creative planning for indie authors and poets, and there are lots of different rewards. I'm not going to talk about that at all really today, except as it feeds into the various tips, but it's there if you want to take a look at it.
What I did there was I set a goal that I felt I would be really happy if I get enough of a contribution to the production costs that my new edition planners would go into production really quickly, early November, because I want to get them to people before January 1 for my big annual planning workshop, which happens on the 4th of January in 24, which I've been doing for many years and is always an event in my calendar.
So, I set the goal of $2,000, but in the back of my mind, I was hoping to reach $5,000, and as a wonder goal, I was hoping that maybe we might be able to reach $10,000, because that would then allow me to move into thinking about a facilitators program, which I'm interested in running for the Go Creative Planning method.
So, I'm pleased to say that the 2K came in very quickly, within a few hours actually of launching, and then I set the stretch goal for the 5K, and we have now reached that I think.
As I'm recording today it's around £8,000 plus, and still rising, and there are a number of days to go for the campaign. So, it has gone very well.
But my point is it doesn't matter how it goes in a way, because even if you don't get your financial goals, and I mean, one of the reasons why I have hit those goals is because I worked very hard in the months beforehand to lay it out and to learn as much as I could about crowdfunding and to set up a good campaign.
But even if you don't have time or energy to get all your ducks in a row, and I can get all of them in a row, and I don't think we ever do, but enough of them to reach even your minimum goal, you will learn so much about the project, the book itself, yourself, and your readers, in just doing the Kickstarter. That it's worth doing just for the sake of doing it, even if it fails, because you can always go again.
You take the learning from that campaign, and you take it into the next one until you work it through. So, it's a way of guiding you through the setup for good marketing. It's really a way of launching and a way of structuring and shaping and focusing your launch.
So yeah, I think it's worth doing for itself, because you learn so much, and I have learned so much already about the project that I had intended to do from feedback that I've got from backers, from watching which rewards the backers chose, which were most popular with them, and all of that.
So, when you are setting up, I think the most important thing is that you have a true and compelling story and vision for the project, for the book.
So, I'm saying project because I know some people, some authors, use Kickstarter, you know, a book is in there, but they may be bringing more than a book.
So, for example, in my one, the creative planning project, I'm bringing courses as well as the book, programs, planning programs. So, I'm using the word project and book interchangeably because it will be a book-based project regardless of what it is you're trying to raise money for.
So yeah, your pre-launch is important, and I'll go into that in a moment with a few tips that I learned from the pre-launch phase. But it's really important that all you get on your pre-launch page from Kickstarter is a heading, a subheading, and either an image or a video. So, you need to really maximize, there's a strict character count on both the heading and the subheading.
So, you really need to know what is the story behind your book and why are you using Kickstarter to launch and raise funds, and what is it you want people to do?
So, Kickstarter is a platform where people support crazy projects, way out projects, projects that wouldn't get a place in the world without the support.
The people who are there want to back, they like creative projects. They like creative doers. They like people like us who have dreams and who want to make them a reality.
So, the more you can articulate the story behind your book, why you're writing it, what makes it unique or necessary, the more you can inspire people and let them know how they can be part of your success, the better. So, it's good if your pre-launch page can capture that vision as much as possible.
The other thing you need to do is identify and understand your target audience. Who are you actually speaking to? People should be able to tell from reading your header and subheader, you know, this is for me, this is not for me. You want the people that you're not talking to be gone immediately. Don't try to appeal to everybody and narrow down your core audience. That is true for book marketing at any time, but as I said, crowdfunding concentrates the messages. So, who are your target audience?
I said a creative planning program for authors and poets.
What are their interests? Which online communities or forums or social media platforms do they frequent? Get your campaign's message to appeal to this group as much as possible.
On your pre-launch page, launch as early as you possibly can. You can get the pre-launch up and out there, just the bare minimum, with not a lot behind the scenes.
You don't have to be fully ready, in other words. You don't have to have your project and all your rewards worked out and all of that in advance. Just a really good heading, a really good subheading, and a good visual.
I invested a four-figure sum in the graphics for my campaign up-front, because I felt that design would sell this project, and I think it really has. The fabulous Jane Dixon-Smith, if I can give her shout out and say how wonderful she is. She captures the rewards and the sense of abundance, and charts, and planners, and exercises, and the sense that this was a real doing sort of program, not a book, but workbooks and planners. She captured that essence in the graphics, and I'm absolutely sure that's had a key part to play in the success of the campaign.
So, I would say to you definitely invest in really good graphic design, factor out your expenses in advance. Design, I think, is one that is really important, and the other expense that you really need to think about is shipping and physical rewards.
So, I have at the moment, I think, six rewards. I added a reward or two from speaking to backers. Added a workshop and a facilitator's course, but most of them are digital.
So, there's one core physical product, and that's proving popular, but physical products have to be shipped, and therefore you need to work out your shipping costs in advance, and if you're going to be shipping all around the world that can really eat into, you can look like you've raised a lot of money, but a lot of it can go on shipping.
So, expenses to really watch out for, I think are design and shipping. To me they're core in terms of working out your costs.
So, get your pre-launch page up as early as possible, and Kickstarter will then give you a link that you can share the draft with people and get feedback on your draft proposal, but also you can begin marketing.
They have a simple click button which says notify me on launch, and so if you begin to circulate that.
I'm doing another one next July for my fiction project, but the actual pre-launch page is up already and I'm slowly beginning to gather, or as soon as this is all over, I will be slowly beginning to gather some people who want to be notified on launch day, because that means that you can launch with a bang.
So, I had almost 200 people who had clicked that button, and on launch day they all got a message to say, hey, it's live, go on over and back.
Obviously, not everybody does that immediately, but it gets you off to a strong start. So yeah, get it up as early as possible.
As you're going through, you may find a strange thing happens, this happened to me, it happened to Howard, and I've heard it happening to other people as well, where you're trying to submit for review, but there is no submit for review button.
In my case, what was stopping it was the AI statement, which I had ignored. I went in and filled out, you know, Kickstarter wants to know, is it AI assisted or is it an AI driven project or whatever?
Once I'd filled in that statement, I got my review button. Once Howard filled in his statement, he got his review button. When you press that button, sometimes, one of my projects automatically was instantly up. One needed to go into manual review and that takes about two to five days, depending on the project.
So yeah, that's the pre-launch stage.
So then when you have, in terms of the actual story, Kickstarter calls it, that you're going to tell the potential backers. Essentially, story is a nice word for your sales page, really. It's your page where you're going to tell everybody why you're doing this project, who is it for, why do they need it, want it.
I really recommend that you include samples. So, the best way to get somebody to buy your work is to give them a sample excerpt that encompasses all that is good about the actual full project. So, that might be an actual link to some samples off the Kickstarter page, or in my case, for the planners, I actually dropped in some of the planner pages, because I felt that was the best way for people to see the exercises, rather than bringing them off the page.
But it very much depends on the project, but I think samples are essential for, if Kickstarter is going to bring people to you who've never heard of you before, you'll be bringing your warm people and they won't need samples necessarily, though they might, but certainly cold people who have never heard of you before are going to want to know, get a taste, essentially, of your writing style, of the book's content. Is it for them?
It's essential in terms of building trust in the quality of your work and so on. So, samples, I think, are really important.
The other thing that's really important is the video. I didn't leave enough time for this, but I was really lucky again with a helper, Laura. Thank you, Laura Park.
Laura put our video together, and it breaks the rules. It's too long according to Kickstarter according to all video wisdom, and we knew that it was very long when we were putting it out there, but there are lots of rewards and we wanted to explain all the different aspects of the rewards, and people have been watching it right through to the end.
So ideally, I think a video of about two and a half minutes would be the right way to do it, if you like. Our video was seven minutes long.
Whatever you do or whatever the project demands, you will do, and that is what the creative perspective looks like.
I really want to stress this more than anything, be more you, do what you want to do and let that attract the people who are attracted to that. That's the opportunity that Kickstarter affords. So, the personal touch is actually what is going to sell the concept to your potential backers, so don't shy away from that, and the video, obviously, really encompasses that.
The other thing that's super important is to give good thought to your rewards. You want attractive rewards, obviously, that complement the book, obviously.
Definitely have a mix of digital and physical. If you have more digital that's good because you don't have the shipping costs, but it should be said that Kickstarter is a platform that is full of people who like physical stuff. They're there for stuff.
So, if you're doing a book, you definitely need to have physical copies of the book, signed copies, that's really important.
The better and more lovely and more artisan the book can be, I think that really goes down well with the Kickstarter audience.
You can include, when it comes to your rewards, you can include other books, books that are related, maybe around character, maybe around theme, maybe around, if it's a non-fiction book around the topic, some other aspect of the topic.
You can give rewards that include acknowledgement in the book, a limited edition. I've seen some authors giving the opportunity to name a character in a fiction book. There are so many different ideas. I recommend asking ChatGPT or an AI for ideas. I didn't, I forgot to do that. But then a friend was doing a crowdfunder campaign and I did it for them because they're not AI wired as yet.
I did it for them, and when I saw the ideas just pouring out, I thought, wow, this is great. I wish I had thought to do it for mine, and I will do it for my next one and my subsequent ones.
So yeah, really take the time to brainstorm the rewards. It could be a good opportunity before you put your rewards in place to tell your followers, your subscribers, that you are contemplating doing a Kickstarter and ask them what's their idea of a perfect reward. Ask around, think about it, free write it, take notes, put creativity into the reward tiers.
The other thing is that Kickstarter is very clever in how it sets up the products and items and things on the campaign. So, you would get a list of every single item that you're going to include in every reward, and then the rewards are bundles of those items.
There's also a thing called add-ons, and this was a tip directly from Russell and Monica's book, for mine, I added on all the self-publishing books that I have at the Alliance of Independent Authors, not just my own books, but ALLi digital copies of all the books at a special Kickstarter price, and people have really gone for that.
Lots of those books have now found an audience that they wouldn't otherwise have found, and I wouldn't have thought to do that. I was only doing add-ons that were related to the actual planning stuff. So, when it comes to add-ons, add on all your other books because people might be interested. There's nothing to be lost in terms of adding on digital rewards, and it can add significantly to the amount of money that you raise.
The other thing, I did an early bird special for my subscribers, and that has been very successful. So, I set a sort of a closing date of the 11th of November, midnight, and said, anyone who pledges before that will get a special video, a quarterly planning review and forecast video. Pay on Kickstarter, send me a copy of the screenshot of the payment, and we will send you the video when we're sending you the other reward, and that's gone down very well.
So, I would encourage you to think, even if you're not a discount kind of person, and I'm not really, you know, if I want something, I just buy it if I can, do without it if I can't, and I'm not really somebody who thinks much about discounts, or people offering me things on discounts. It's not a real motivator for me, but it is a real motivator for lots of people. So, bear that in mind.
I am not yet at the end of the crowdfunder, so I can't speak to what happens at the very end. I'm not even midway through as I'm recording this. So, there may be follow up stuff to this. I imagine we'll do a blog post on the ALLi blog.
We'd like to get Russell and Oriana from Kickstarter to come and give a webinar for ALLi members early in the new year to talk about it, because more and more authors are thinking about what they can do.
But I will say that I'm in the middle of the campaign now, and it's an identifiable sort of thing, that in the middle of the campaign things begin to peter off a little bit. The beginning of the campaign is when you get a lot of interest because people who are keen jump in and buy, and the end of the campaign apparently, so I'm told, you also get a lot of last-minute people who only ever buy at the end. Oh, I must, do that, and then you tell them it's the end, the deadline is nigh, and that's when they come in. But in the middle, it can peter out.
So, it's really important that you plan in advance that you have some publicity going out each day of your campaign, especially in the middle.
So, get some good people who are connected to your book and ask them, can you do a podcast? Can you do some kind of show? Can you do something that will spread the word?
Also, another thing, the stretch goals that you use mid-campaign, when you're setting a new goal, you can promise all backers that they will get something if you reach a certain point, and that's what I have done.
So, at five thousand followers, 5,000 backers, I promised a copy of Creative Self-Publishing, my own self-publishing guide, plus some downloadable PDFs that are related.
If we hit 10,000, I'm going to give them a signed print copy because I'd be absolutely delighted to have got to 10k and very happy to send off the print copy at that point. Then adding on other options if we should go beyond that.
So, keeping that there is, I think, really important. Those extra bits and pieces that you are adding on, they should have real value. They should be very connected, obviously, to the theme of the campaign, and while they may not actually encourage somebody to back who wasn't going to back, they do have the merit of keeping people there, knowing that they're going to get that in the end.
So, that is something that happens with a Kickstarter or any crowdfunder, sometimes people pledge and then they cancel their pledge. So, those backer rewards help to keep them in place.
Utilize your network. Even if it is small, make sure you tell people that you're going to be doing this. Tell them when you are doing it. Tell them when you're halfway through and tell them when it's almost over. That's really important. Contact book bloggers, local media, any publications that might be interested in your particular book.
One of the merits of the Kickstarter is it makes you do these things. It makes you go and research these people, because that's what you should be doing anyway for your book. But we don't always do that. We do what we can and then we move on, but there's something about the public nature of the Kickstarter campaign that makes us work harder, and that is a good thing.
So, you can create a virtual book tour for yourself, which could include online readings, a podcast, interviews, Q&A's with you. You might even want to do a physical tour. I heard the other day about an author who's actually going to do a physical tour for their Kickstarter.
So, that's certainly not going to be right for everybody, but the point is, don't just sit there, actually put a good marketing outreach plan behind it.
Also consider collaborating with other authors or influencers in your genre who'll be interested, who can take you to a wider audience, and put that in place early.
Some of that is happening for me right now as I'm in the middle of it, and I'm doing too much right now because I just had a personal thing that happened the week before I was due to go live, and a lot of the things that I had planned to do didn't happen then, so I'm catching up.
But I will say that trying to do that and trying to organize now the fulfilment of the rewards and all of that, trying to do it all together is not to be recommended. So, setting up the marketing in advance makes a lot of sense.
Finally, I want to go back to talking about what I think of as the feedback loop here; it's really key. Be open to the feedback from your backers. Look at what they're actually choosing to buy from you. From the available lists of rewards that you put out there, which are the ones that they are picking, what's most popular with them, but also engage with them, talk to them.
Kickstarter gives you an opportunity to update them. Update them regularly. I know authors are sometimes afraid. They think people don't want to hear, but if they've backed your project, they do want to hear how it's going on. They support you. They care and they will be delighted to know. So, let them know.
You might even say, you know, your support here has allowed me this week to do such and such, depending on what it is that you're setting out to do.
When it's all over, you will have a contacts list of some kind, no matter how it goes, to integrate into your mailing list, and you can use that mailing to begin to think about your next step, to keep those people who engage with you on Kickstarter, to keep them engaged with what you're creating, and to help make them part of the community that will help you to do what you do and make a better book next time, reach more readers next time.
So, I hope those crowdfunding tips were useful.
As ever, just let us know your questions at ALLi by emailing [email protected].
Let us know if you're interested in a crowdfunding webinar with Russell and Oriana, who's head of publishing at Kickstarter. I think that would make a really useful webinar for our members, and hopefully you agree.
Yes, as I said, if you'd like to take a closer look at my campaign, it's at selfpublishingadvice.org/planners24.
So, until next time, happy writing and happy publishing. Bye, bye.