Welcome to the first installment of a short series on using Kickstarter (or any other crowdfunding system) to launch a novel.
Harsh Truth #1: 70% of Kickstarter projects fail.
Don’t become a statistic.
The frightening fact is that only about 30% of campaigns in the publishing category end up successful (according to Kickstarter’s stats at the time of this post). This number includes projects with much broader appeal, such graphic novels and cook books, which makes me certain that novels have a lower rate of success and a lower average funding total. It’s easy to set up a campaign, but much more difficult to be successful. I’ll help you steer clear of some of these traps and pitfalls.
Harsh Truth #2: Novels are more difficult
Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general seems easy at first glance. All you have to do is explain your idea and then people give you money, right? Well, it turns out that crowdfunding has a pretty steep learning curve and some serious potential dangers.
Some things that you can do to dramatically increase your odds:
- Know your goal. The majority of Kickstarter projects either barely hit their goal or they fall way, way short . If you set your target too high, people won’t bother with what looks unattainable. If you set it too low, you might find your project losing momentum as soon as it hits its mark. (More on goal setting in a future post.)
- Provide social media support. Gone are the days (if they ever existed) of simply posting your project and coming back in a month to find out how much you made. If you want to get funded, plan on dedicating every free minute to waving your banner online during your project month, and preferably for a long time before you even get started. (More on social media in a future post.)
- Offer something special. Why would anyone give you money now in order to wait many months to get their product? Because you’re offering something special that can only be found for a limited time. Consider personalized copies, special covers, backer names in the credits, and/or unique add-ons. (More on backer rewards in a future post)
- Develop a catchy video. Videos are optional… but only for people who don’t care if they succeed. It’s your chance to hook a whole segment of backers in an exciting way. (More on videos in a future post)
In my experience, most novels and novelists must leap over some special hurdles beyond what other types of products and creators encounter. Those hurdles include:
- Find good visuals. Okay, you have a great cover, but how many times can you post it on the same page? (More on eye-grabbing design in a future post)
- Demonstrate your quality. Most people aren’t willing to invest hours in reading an unknown book, let alone spend their hard-earned greenbacks buying it the first place. Your quality must be evident at a glance as well as under scrutiny. (More on page design in a future post)
- Convince backers of your reliability. Although many backers fail to keep this in mind, Kickstarter is an investment, and all investments carry risk. You need to convince your potential backers that you won’t let them down. (More on making your case in a future post)
I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest crowdfunding innovator, so what I intend to offer you here is a look behind the curtain so you can see what I do, learn how it works, and decide whether you want to try it yourself. Much of what I plan to do is an experiment, and that’s why I’m calling this blog series a “laboratory.” If my strategies work, then my campaign will be successful. If not, then you can still learn what to do differently.
Coming from a game designer’s background, my work with Exile Game Studio’s HOLLOW EARTH EXPEDITION opened my eyes to how powerful Kickstarter can be. I’ve also known some creators who ended up frustrated because they couldn’t get any backers besides their own mothers, and a few who got in over their heads and couldn’t deliver what they promised.
I’ve run one Kickstarter campaign (which was 380% funded) and been tangentially involved in several others. More importantly, I’m launching a Kickstarter in May of 2015 for GHOST STORM, the third and final book in the MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE series. I was successful last time, but I still have many new ideas to test this time around.
I don’t claim to know all the answers to creating effective crowdfunding campaigns—not by a long shot. Instead, as I walk through the steps of launching GHOST STORM, I’m simply inviting you to my lab to see what I’ve got bubbling in the test tubes. I’ll be honest about what works and what doesn’t. If it succeeds, I’ll tell you why. If it doesn’t, you’ll be able to learn from my example.
Whatever happens, I hope you find something to help with your own crowdfunding endeavor. Be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss out!