One year ago I successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign, enabling me to publish my novel 1001: The Qaraq, Book One of The Reincarnation Chronicles. At this time, I am celebrating my supporters and all those who have showed interest in my writing by giving away special offers. I am also looking back on how I went from a decade of writing in relative solitude to having a book out in the world and followers from Athens to Australia.
Obviously, the new print-on-demand, crowdfunding, and social media technologies catalyzed my choice to get myself out in the virtual world. Kickstarter was exceptionally easy to handle, and if anyone’s thinking of doing a crowdfunding campaign, there are only a few concepts to consider:
1) Use the scaffolding and advice of the company you’re working with, including its help center. If I had a question, an email would be answered the next day. Kickstarter is mostly about having a product (they love quirky, inventive things, but books are just fine), and writing text about it. The hardest thing for me was making the recommended video, but I took the lead from lots of people and did a purposefully homemade, funky little film. If you’re project involves technology or media, you probably want a higher end video to show your skills.
2) Have fun with your rewards. The only reason I gained courage and chutzpah to do a crowdfunding campaign was because of the rewards concept. The thought that I could give something to my friends and not just grovel for their cash was mildly comforting. Once I realized that I could be creative and meaningful with the rewards, and essentially offer pieces of my project to potential fans, I was hooked. I loved dreaming up names and special items for various levels of contribution
3) Don’t count on the community of people looking at the company’s website to be your donors. You have to reach out to your own community; I imagine this is true even for a celebrity, like Spike Lee, who’s crowdfunded for a project. I discovered that the most effective way of reaching out is through friends, family, and colleagues in my email address book. Since then, I’ve read in countless self-marketing articles about the power of email. Hardly anyone contributed via my Facebook page or website. So I re-invented the wheel doing my Kickstarter campaign, but it worked.
4) Kickstarter’s advice about having a limited time period to run your campaign is golden. 30 days felt ideal: it’s long enough to build momentum and encourage procrastinating friends; it’s short enough to create the pressure of a ‘limited time offer’ situation, and to preserve your sanity. The way I worked was to send out an email blast the first week, see who signed up, send out a new version of the email to the remaining group the second week, and so on. The last week I sent an extra email at the eleventh hour to those I still had high hopes would support me. Every time I sent new emails I got new supporters, so I also created sub-groups of emails and staggered them throughout the week. Ultimately, I learned to think of marketing in short campaigns, rather than constant, endless barrages. Healthier for everyone.
5) Use the company’s stats to tweak your email campaign. I noticed after a week that people tended to respond Sunday nights, and midweek nights. So I tended to send out the next emails at those times. This may not be true for you, but there’ll be patterns emerging from the stats. I did similar adjustments concerning my reward offerings (like lowering prices), and which group emails seem more effective (I had variations on my emails for sub-groups, like friends and colleagues related to music). And of course you can analyze patterns in hindsight for future use.
6) Finally, be realistic with your financial goal. With Kickstarter you lose everything if you miss your goal, but other companies let you keep what you raised. Even though the latter feels safer, I liked the pressure the enforced goal set up. Kickstarter prepares you for the fact that most campaigns start hot, die down, and then warm up again near the deadline. That helped me navigate my expectations. However, I was extremely fortunate that the outpouring of support in that early period enabled me to meet my (modest) goal very quickly. Then the trick was crafting new emails to celebrate the support, but clarify what more funding could provide for the project. The love kept coming, thankfully.
The most important benefit I received from this new crowdfunding tool was that it encouraged me to be a business person as well as an artist. After a decade of basically writing for myself, I was able to move into the world with my work. In the year since, I published The Qaraq, connected with a coach to learn how to use guest-blogging, and launched special events via my free email subscription series, 1001/Qaraqbooks News. Sign up! Now I just have to write the next ten books in the series!