The Kickstarter “crowd-funding” site has taken off in popularity in the last year, with lots of independent artists, musicians, and authors (like myself) using the platform as a way to finance projects. You can post your project, and people can pledge money to help out and receive rewards (as an author, you might offer signed paperbacks, advanced reader copies, the ability to name a character, etc.).
In my case, I was looking to use Kickstarter to get a little help paying for the creation of the next audiobook in my Emperor’s Edge fantasy series.
I decided on a goal of $2,700, enough to cover the production costs for Book 3, the rewards (among other things, I’m doing signed paperbacks, which means I have to pay for author copies of the books and shipping fees), and the 8-10% that Kickstarter and Amazon (the payment processor) take. Just over 24 hours after I posted the project, it was fully funded. You can see the details here.
I’m going to talk about how that came to be in a moment, but I want to point out that my story isn’t all that rare. A lot of authors, game designers, musicians, comic-book creators, etc. have been doing well with Kickstarter (some to the tune of a million dollars in pledges!).
So, what’s the secret? I’m glad you asked.
How to Succeed at Funding a Kickstarter Project
This is going to sound obvious, but you need to have a fan base established before you decide to post a project. Some independent authors want to use Kickstarter to fund the editing, cover art, formatting, etc. of their first novel, but it’s hard to drum up any interest until you’ve published something and made some fans.
That said, you don’t necessarily have to have a ton of novels out and legions of fans. I interviewed a gal last year who had a successful Kickstarter campaign after first publishing some of her work as a web serial. She raised enough to cover the costs of self-publishing her first novel.
It takes fewer people than you might think to finance a project (assuming you don’t have a huge goal). I hit the $2,700 mark with 27 backers. Obviously a couple of those were very generous backers, but that seems to be common for Kickstarter projects.
So, Step One is to get your work out there on the web or in ebook form, so that you can start developing a fan base.
A lot of people find that giving away something for free helps tremendously (my own fan base got a lot bigger when I started giving away the first ebook in my series on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, etc.). The people who check out your free work might very well become future book buyers (and maybe Kickstarter backers, eh?).
Turning readers into fans (and getting their email addresses)
Once you’ve decided to put some work out there, you want to make sure you can turn a one-time reader into a fan. A good way to do this is to put an afterword at the end of your free short story, novel, etc. and invite people to come by your site and sign up for your newsletter (What? You don’t have a newsletter yet? For more details on the how and why, you can check out my post on why authors should start newsletters).
You can also give out your social media addresses (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). While I think getting people to join your newsletter is the ideal situation (you can then send messages right to their inbox), having them as subscribers or followers in these other places can be helpful too. It’s all about building a community and turning one-time readers into long-term fans.
Once you have fans and can get in touch with them, doing something like funding a Kickstarter project becomes a fairly simple task. So long as you’re not asking for the moon, and you’re offering enticing rewards, your fans should want to help you out.
How to get the word out to your fans about your Kickstarter project
I’m not telling you to gather fans, get their email addresses, and create a community just because it’s fun. Once you have these people all in one place (or a couple of places), it’s easy to get in touch with them. With an email to your newsletter subscribers, a post to your blog, a note on Facebook, and a tweet on Twitter, you can let hundreds (maybe one day thousands!) of people know about your Kickstarter campaign all at once.
This is exactly what I did, and it’s why my project was funded so quickly. It’s also how I get the word out when I’m releasing a new book (as self-published authors, we don’t have the benefit of anyone else helping with the marketing, so it’s up to us).
Gathering your fans together like this means that you never have to start at Ground Zero for book promotion, fundraisers, or other instances where you may need a little help down the road.
How long does it all take? It depends on how much work you get out there, how good it is (after all, a story has to entertain someone before the person will become a fan), and how much you work at getting the word out. I’ve been self-publishing for about 15 months, and I make a modest living doing it, Kickstarter campaigns notwithstanding.
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