On July 6, I’ll be launching Christmas in July: THE PLAN FOR THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE Kickstarter Project. (Sign up here to be notified when it goes live.)
One frequent question I receive is about using crowdfunding for a publishing project. I had no answers because I’ve never tried it - till now! So, why now?
Last fall, Dean Wesley Smith, self-publishing guru, and Loren L. Coleman, Kickstarter guru held an online video course about using Kickstarter to fund fiction. Coleman also ran a successful project, Crowdfunding Your Fiction: Best Practices.
It was a timely class, sparked by conversations with Coleman, who had originally used Kickstarter for gaming projects. He wondered why more fiction writers didn’t use the platform on a regular basis. For example, writers would apologetically tell him about a project three years ago that only brought in $5000. Only! They writers might have been slightly ashamed of such a low funded project, but Coleman put it into perspective.
From a traditional publisher, the advance on a first-novel or first-picture-book might be low-balled at $5000. For that, you sign a contract licensing all your rights to the story for the lifetime of the copyright (your lifetime + 70 years). Instead, the successful Kickstarter took 30 days (the average length of a Kickstarter), and you still hold the copyright to all other licensing rights.
In other words, it’s a pre-publication short-term gain like no other, which leaves you with the ability to market any rights wherever else you want!
Brandon Sanderson’s Brilliant Kickstarter
In 2020, science fiction author Brandon Sanderson stunned the publisher and Kickstarter communities with his epic Kickstarter project, a 10th anniversary leather-bound edition of The Stormlight Archive. It brought in $6.7 million, with 29,778 backers. An active segment of his fan base flocked to the project and spent an average of over $200 on leather bound books. (Read Dean Wesley Smith’s take on Sanderson’s project.)
Sanderson’s bold project bypassed traditional publishers and produced one type of book, hardcover and leather bound. For one of the many rights available to license for the stories—for one small slice of his copyright—he grossed $6.7 million. How else could an author reach fans with something that delights them, while also earning a nice living?
Kickstarter - Logical and Profitable
So now, I was convinced that from a copyright standpoint, a Kickstarter was a logical funding method. And Sanderson certainly proved that it has the potential to be profitable. I backed Coleman’s project ($100 goal; funded at $4848) about crowdfunding fiction and avidly read his book for those best practices.
Here’s one of the most interesting things Loren said: “Kickstarter is my favorite social media platforms.”
MARKETPLACE & AUDIENCE. His idea is that Kickstarter is a separate marketplace, and that you can build an audience in that marketplace, nurturing them in unique ways using the platform. Once your project funds, you will be emailing people for their addresses to deliver rewards. That email will be one of the highest open rates on emails you’ll ever send. Next time you launch a project, you can also send it directly to these folks.
PRE-PUBLICATION. Kickstarter projects must be for a new project, something fresh and exciting. That makes it a perfect pre-publication market. What if before your publication date, you pre-sold 500 books and made a couple thousand in profit? Maybe the profit pays off your investments in art, copyediting, etc., and the project is already in the black. The excitement of starting a project with a bang is enticing!
FAMILY & FRIENDS. When you market on Amazon, the marketing gurus suggest that Amazon’s algorithm needs clean data to determine your best audience (See David Gaughran discussing Also Bought pollution) . If you muddy the waters by sending family and friends to your book during the launch period, they suggest you may damage sales because the algorithm can’t figure out the right audience. Let’s say you wrote a YA romance. Your mom loves cozy mysteries, your dad loves military history, and your sister loves chick-lit. Whey they buy your book, the algorithm might think your book is a YA romance, with some mystery set in the middle of World War II, with a dash of chick-lit thrown in. Or some equally mixed-up version of your story. Amazon will show the story to exactly no one matching your ideal audience.
But Kickstarter doesn’t care about Amazon’s algorithms. In fact, it’s the perfect place to send friends and family! They are the ones likely to want the larger rewards, for example, ten copies to give away to colleagues or friends.
My Kickstarter Project
So, I’ve resolved to bring my project to the marketplace on July 6! Following Coleman’s best practices, I’ve set up a project, Christmas in July: THE PLAN FOR THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE.
TIP #1: Focus Your Story
How will you pitch your book? STEM or SEL? For several years, the appeal of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) has been huge. But after the pandemic last year, I’ve heard that schools are looking for more SEL (social and emotional learning) books. These include topics such as resilience, self-control, honesty, feelings, grief, overcoming challenges, identity, friendship, taking risks, and fear and anxiety.
Because I have a strong list of science books, I decided to keep the STEM discussion, but to keep it brief. Instead, in my video, I emphasize the SEL aspects of my story: resilience, taking risks, and overcoming challenges.
See the project video here to see how I focused it on SEL.
TIP #2: Pre-Launch
Before a project launches, there’s a period of time when you can promote it by sending people to a landing page where they can sign up to be notified when it goes live.
You must set up the entire project, submit it to Kickstarter for approval and then they’ll set up the Pre-Launch Landing page.
The first 24-hours is CRUCIAL!
This is important because successful campaigns fund 50% or more within the first 48 hours. If you fail to do that, you’re in trouble, even though you have another 28 or so days to go. There’s lots of excitement in the first 48 hours and in the last 48 hours. The sagging middle (hey, we know about that from plotting fiction!) sees little movement.
Let’s say 100 people sign up to be notified when your project goes live. That email goes out and they respond within a couple hours. Bingo! You’re on your way to your goal, and a successful funding project.
So - here’s my big ask! Please sign up to be notified when THE PLAN FOR THE GINGERBREAD HOUSE goes live! When you get that email on July 6 🗓️, check out the full project right away. If it resonates with you, please support the project as soon as possible! 🌟 If it’s not a project you’d normally support, you can follow along (get all the email updates, etc) by doing the lowest level support.