Kickstarter lab for writers: pick your add-ons

laboratory blog

Many Kickstarter campaigns offer special goodie like a shirt or extra content that you can only get here and now. You don’t need add-on items, but if you choose to have some then you should make sure they enhance or connect to your book in some way.

Coming from the game industry, I found it much harder to come up with good add-ons for a novel than for an RPG or a board game. Games usually have lots of artwork to spin off into really cool bonus items like special character sheets, art books, or special game tokens. Nevertheless, a project creator can get good ideas from the thriving world of crowdfunding for games.

If you want to see a great example of a Kickstarter for a game supplement, check out anything being offered by Fat Dragon Games. (You might want to go to Kickstarter and search for Tom Tullis, who is the original Sad Fat Dragon and Dorito Master.) Fat Dragon’s Kickstarters never fail to go supernova and a big reason is because they offer great options to enhance the basic offering in a way that fits each backer’s needs.

But that’s for a game. What can you do for a novel? Here are some ideas:


Glorify the backers

Offering to put a backer’s name in the credits is a wonderful way to honor your supporters and it only means adding one extra page to your novel.

A more dramatic option is to offer high-level backers the option to name characters after themselves. This is a tough one for me, because I’m usually very particular about character names. Also, I find I can’t just jam in an unnecessary character without disrupting the pace of the story, so each of the namable characters must be important in some way. With GHOST STORM, I’m offering naming rights for four characters, so my backers will get some good choices.

ghost storm 300


Do whatever you can do to make your Kickstarter novel or add-on feel rare or unique. Signing and personalizing a novel is a great bonus that will help you connect to readers in a very powerful way. You might also consider an alternative cover or hardcover copies. Check the costs before you jump in, though: your print service may charge a fee each time you switch the cover image and/or you may need to pay significantly more for hardcover.

A cheaper alternative is to design a cool sticker (perhaps with a version of your cover art). Then you can print and stamp unique numbers on the stickers for each book. If people know they’re getting a limited edition, they’ll want it more.

Let them live the adventure

If you can find some way to allow your readers to feel like they’re part of your book, you will win at Kickstarter.

For my Kickstarter campaign for THE NON-ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, I offered items that were important to the characters in the novel, namely lab coats emblazoned with the Institute logo and diplomas with their choice of major (Ph.D.s in “Mind Control” and “Death Rays” were popular choices). Thanks to Jeff Combos, creator of HOLLOW EARTH EXPEDITION, for the idea of diplomas!


“Live the adventure” items might not be feasible for every book: I doubt it would be cost-effective to create special swords or suits of armor for your fantasy novel, but wands might work. So might a map or a packet of letters from your book’s characters. You could even print the letters on special paper to look old-timey and thus lend it the feeling of greater authenticity. You’ll have to use your imagination, but, hey, imagination is exactly what authors are good at, right?


Extra material

This category is often the author’s friend, because most of us have short stories waiting in line to get out of our brains. Now’s the time to open that door and let them free! Not only do short stories make great side-perks guaranteed to interest the people who buy your book, they also make excellent stretch-goals to keep up the momentum when and if your campaign hits its basic goal. (More on stretch goals in a future post.)


Get crafty

Maybe you have a knack for knitting or you thrive on 3D printing. Handicrafts, drawings, and all other forms of art made by the author make attractive bonuses. Beware of quantities! If you promise something that you can’t mass-produce, consider setting a limit on that reward level. Otherwise, if your Kickstarter explodes, you may end up weaving baskets or hot-gluing magnets for the rest of your natural life.

This time, I’m gambling on some 3D printed hazard symbol jewelry. It’s designed and produced by a high school tech club. (And they’ll probably spend all their earnings on robots and video equipment– kids these days!)



T-shirts, mugs, posters, bookmarks, and so forth make great swag, but they might not be the best ways to motivate backers. One thing I considered for my GHOST STORM Kickstarter was a skin for the backs of phones or laptops. Aside from costing too much, I just didn’t think there would be too many people out there who wanted stickers for their phones, with or without the Mad Science Institute logo on it. Most people I know don’t really need more t-shirts or coffee mugs, either. That’s not to say they would hate to have them, but I kind of doubt it’s going to get anyone to bump up to a higher pledge level. True, I’m offering mouse pads and t-shirts as add-ons because they’re neat and people like them, but I think when my supply runs out I won’t re-order.


How many should you make?

The right add-ons can help sell your books, but if you find that you have to use your books to sell your add-ons then stop and ask yourself what kind of business you want to be in. I wouldn’t recommend having more than one or two different things for your first Kickstarter campaign.

Offering your previous novels, however, is a knockout idea and can help you grab new readers who find this project and want to start from the beginning. Be sure to include offers for everything you’ve published.

Here’s what I’m offering as add-ons for the GHOST STORM Kickstarter:


About Sechin Tower

Sechin Tower is a teacher, game developer, and author of MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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