Writer’s Corner: My First KickstarterPosted: March 6, 2023 Filed under: Book Promotion, Books, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Kickstarter, marketing, Women's Fiction, WordCrafter Press, Writer's Corner | Tags: Delilah, Kaye Lynne Booth, Kickstarter, Women in the West adventure series, Writer's Corner, Writing to be Read 5 Comments
A Kickstarter campaign allows authors to find supporters who believe in thier work and want to support them, and it is a method of direct sales for authors, which allows us to cut out the middle-man distributors and their percentage and make more money from our books. But it is also a platform where readers and fans can get some really cool stuff for their supporting dollars. It’s just a “Give me… Give me… Give me…” platform, but one where it is our job to make sure our fans and readers can get a good value for their buck, providing cool rewards in exchange for monetary support of the project. It is similar to the famous artists of the past, who found patrons to support them and their works, so they would have the time to create their art. A Kickstarter campaign is a similiar type of patronage available to authors. And what’s really cool is, we’re not begging, we’re selling books and other cool stuff without the middle man. No book distributors to take their cut. Of course, Kickstarter gets a cut, but the also provide the platformand tools to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, and the analytics to measure your succcess, which, I think, is well worth it. (More on direct selling with Kickstarter here.)
In Jaunuary, I ran my first Kickstarter for Delilah and the Women in the West adventure series. The goal I set was $500 and I decided on a thirty day campaign.
This series has three books planned so far, each featuring a strong female protagonist and appearances by historic female characters. Delilah is a western, but it is also historic women’s fiction and will appeal to all three audiences. Delilah was my first novel to be published, but the publisher really didn’t get what Delilah is all about, because they billed it as western romance. Although there is a romance thread running through this story, it’s not the main thread. Western romance is not a good way to categorize this book and it did not do well. When my contract ran out, I decided to revise it, making it read closer to my original story. I guess you could say this is the “unimproved” version, that goes back to before I veered from my original plot line. As I did the rewrite, I realized that there were other characters in this story who bear to have their stories told, and the idea for the Women in the West adventure series was born. But, this post is about the Kickstarter campaign experience rather than the books, and I’m veering from the topic.
So without further ado, let’s take a look at my Kickstarter campaign, what I might have done wrong, and what I might have done right.
How a Kickstarter campaign works
Kickstarter was designed with the creative economy in mind, before it was labeled the creative economy. You start with a project. In my case, it is Delilah, which is book one of my Women in the West adventure series. I chose this project because the book is finished, and already scheduled for release on March 21, so I knew for sure that I would be able to deliver the goods.
Once the campaign launches, your readers, fans, and others who would like to support your work can pledge their support at the different reward levels you’ve set up, or pledge for any amount, just because they believe in your project. I set up three levels: $5 with an early digital copy of the book, $25 with a signed print copy, and $50 with an opportunity to name a character in book two.
You can also offer add-ons for each level so they can get even more cool stuff if they choose, because you want to offer your fans as much value as possible, since this is a method for direct sales, not digital pan handling. I offered a PDF copy of my short story, “Don’t Eat the Pickled Eggs”; an audio reading of my flash fiction Western story, “I Had to Do It”; and an interview with Delilah.
You set a goal for the amount you need to raise. You don’t want to set it too high, because Kickstarter is an all or nothing deal. If you don’t reach your goal by the end of the campaign, your backers don’t have to pay anything and you don’t have to deliver anything. However, if you make it and are funded then you get anything over your goal amount, minus Kickstarter’s cut, of course.
I was fortunate to be able to follow Kevin J. Anderson’s Kickstarter campaign for his book, Double Booked and his Dan Shambles Zombie P.I. series, from start to finish and it was amazing. His Kickstarter funded within the first 36 minutes, which I thought was phenomenal. His campaign was one of the things that made me decide to give Kickstarter a try.
My Kickstarter Experience
I sent out media blasts in December announcing the pre-launch page, which received a total of five folks signing up to be notified when the campaign launched, which I did not take to be a good sign, but I figured that it could be because the pre-launch page did not reveal the rewards offered for supporting the campaign.
On launch day, I published a blog post about the campaign, asking for people’s supportand sending out social media blasts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pintrest. I also sent out a newsletter dedicated to the Kickstarter on opening day to alert my readers to the campaign. And, I know of several individuals who sent out social media blasts on my behalf. I even went out on a limb with some paid advertising aimed at super backers, for a minimal amount, since it was my first time using Kickstarter. Now if my campaign didn’t fund, I’d be in the hole, but I wanted to do everything I could to make this a successful campaign.
That first day, the campaign only funded 13%, but I was thankful that I had even a few backers. I launched on January 3, which was News Year’s Day (observed), so technically, still a holiday, so people may not have been back on social media. It went up to 19% on the second day, and it stayed there through day 4, when it went up to 20%. I sent out more social media blasts to promote the campaign. Then I watched and waited… And waited… And waited… But it stayed at 20%. I really started to worry.
What if it didn’t fund? Then all my hard work would be for naught. And a Kickstarter campaign is work, make no mistake. I know I’m not Brandon Sanderson, or even Kevin J. Anderson. I didn’t expect my campaign to fund within 23 minutes. But this was ridiculous. I couldn’t even get a quarter of the way to my modest goal of $500. I tried to keep a positive outlook, but it was frustrating.
I was driving myself nuts, checking the status of the campaign several times a day, so I vowed to stop, and instead, watch for the morning and evening updates from Kickstarter in my email inbox. My constant checking couldn’t make people want to support this project. They would come on thier own, if they were going to. I had known that the possibility of not being funded existed going into this. All I could do was wait…, and see what would happen.
I sent out more media blasts. I checked my twice daily updates. There’s was still no change by Day 8. I emailed Kevin, because he’s the only author I know of who has actually done a Kickstarter, and even though he is no longer my professor, he is a really nice guy, so he sent out an additional blast and sent me suggestions of things to try.
Day 10, and still no growth. What was I doing wrong? Are the rewards I’ve chosen to offer not appealing? Am I missing the mark with my target audiences? Was I targeting the wrong audiences? Is there really only five people out there who believe in me and my work enough to support me? All these thoughts were going through my head.
Friday the 13th saw the project past the 20% mark, which made me feel a little better, even if it was only up to 23%. And on the 15th, the campaign bumped up to 34%, which was downright heartening. It was a single pledge, at the $50 level – the first pledge I’d had at that top level. That fact was exciting to me, in and of itself.
Then, on the 16th, there was no growth once more, and I bagan to forsee another stall just below the $200.00 mark. I knew I wasn’t going to fund on the first day, like better known authors might, but I had thought that I would be funded by the halfway mark, so I could relax and have fun adding stretch goals and rewards. I wasn’t expecting to still be trying to reach the origianl goal at this point in the game, so I couldn’t help but to be feel a bit disappointed. I had a total of eight backers. Was there really so few people that believe in me and this project? So again, I waited… and waited… and waited some more.
I boosted a post on Facebook, in hopes of pulling in some more backers. Although it showed that people were engaging with the post, it didn’t seem to be bringing me any new backers. Was it because I chose a western for my project? I knew my covers for these books weren’t great, but if funded, some of that money was to go for improving the cover design. The boost ran out on the 26th, with a reach of 86, an engagement of 168, thru plays of the video 162 and one click through. The numbers didn’t seem to say the boost did all that great, even if the one clickthrough decided to back the project.
On the 18th, Kevin J. Anderson launched his Kickstarter for Dragon Business & Skeleton in the Closet, and his campaign funded almost immediately. By the time I checked in around noon, he already had double the goal that he’d set. I was definitely doing something wrong. I was still stalled at 34%, which might as well have been 0%, because if mine didn’t fund and reach my $500 goal, I wouldn’t recieve anything. Of course, it could still fund, but there was only 13 days left, and I wasn’t even close to halfway there.
I took a look at KJA’s successful Kickstarter campaign. His covers are very colorful, his story is humorous medievil fantasy, and one must keep in mind that his fan base is huge and he has worked to build it for many years. The campaign Dragon Business & Skeletons in the Closet gained 200 backers in two days. Mine was 20 days in and I had a total of 12 backers.
The one that I followed from behind the scenes for Double-Booked and the Dan Shamble P.I. series also featured colorful covers for humorous tales of fantasy or speculative fiction, and Delilah and the Women in the West covers are almost montone, with a minimal amount of color, and then they are westerns. Perhaps I picked the wrong project for my Kickstarter campaign. At the very least, I wasn’t getting it in front of the correct target audience.
Heading this section “Heavy Competition” is a bit misleading. It would be a joke to compare my Kickstarter campaign to Kevin J. Anderson’s. His has multiple support levels, with a variety of rewards such as personalized messages from the author, and mugs and tee-shirts featuring the very cool artwork connected to the cover art, with a numerous variety of add-ons available. Once his campaign funded on the first day, he began adding stretch goals, which means backers get even more more cool stuff as he reaches each one, if I understand them correctly. And his video attains a level of professionalism which I can’t hope to reach with my very limited skills in this area.
My three support levels and rewards couldn’t compare in any manner. My campaign goal was $500 and I couldn’t hope to launch a campaign the caliber of his, which was earning literally thousands of dollars, well exceeding his $2000 goal. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t learn from it.
On the 20th, I sent out an email blast manually to other authors I have worked with, asking for their support. I just came out and said that I was stuck at 34% funded and asked them to help me reach my goal. I had to do something to find backers for this project. It is a good project, (I think), but I needed a little over $300 still to reach my goal. And the next morning, I woke up to find I had 2 new backers from the email of the night before, so maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. I still wasn’t fully funded, but it brought me over the $200 mark (41%), and got things moving in the right direction once more. Later that day, I gained another backer, pushing it up to 43%. It seems those $5 pledges add up. It wasn’t a lot, but I was quite happy to have made even this much progress. Yet, I also knew I still had a long way to go and the clock was ticking. There were only 10 days left in which to find enough backers.
The email blast brought out at least a few more backers. It was the best results I’d had from everything I had tried so far, so on the 22nd, I sent out another blast to folks on my other email contacts. This email was older, and had people in the contacts who I hadn’t contacted in a while and may not have made the switch to my new WordCrafter email. I knew each one of them, so even though it might be coming out of the blue, they weren’t cold calls. I got a couple of new backers out of that, bringing the project up over the half-way mark, (51%), but with only eight days left, I had my doubts that it would bring enough. It just didn’t look very promising.
I did have one recipient who recieved a message from the second blast, from my older email, who promptly notified me that I’d been hacked. Since I don’t usually send out form letters in email blasts, she was sure someone else must be behind it. She was looking out for my best interests, and I appreciated that. Even though I wasn’t asking something for nothing, and I was offering some appealing rewards, or at least I thought I was, this was beginning to feel like a I was just saying, “Hey, give me money.”
The 24th brought some excitement, with a second $50 pledge, bring the campaign to 63% funded. I was getting closer to my goal. I’d still need to find backers for another 37%, but I was closer. It was a brighter outlook than I’d had recently, as I was thinking I wouldn’t have a chance to make it. Now, it suddenly seemed more of a possibility again. This up and down Kickstarter rollercoaster was crazy. It seemed it might be easier to just send out posts and emails saying, “Buy my book!” Buy my book!”
Waiting for something to happen to raise the bar toward the goal was excruciating, and the days drug out as nothing significant happened. I knew I needed to make something happen, so I sent out one last blast on Facebook to see if I couldn’t muster some more support. I still saw no growth.
In the end, being stalled at 63% wasn’t that much better than being stalled at 34%, because neither of them can make a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s 100% or nothing, and with only two days left, it was looking more and more like it would be nothing.
On the 30th, I put out a last ditch effort to fund this project by putting out a plea in my WordCrafter News post. And I sent out another small media blast with a ticking clock. There was only one day left in the campaign, but it could fund in that time. It’s not likely that a rush of backers would show up at the last minute and save the campaign, but it could happen, so I put it out there. At this point, things looked bleak.
At the 36 hour mark, I recieved another pledge at the top tier, which brought it up to 80% funded, leaving only $99 to go. With 36 hours left, it was possible, but not probable. But this was really close to the goal. Closer than I thought it would get as I watched of the past couple of weeks. I allowed my hopes to be raised a little, but deep down, I feared that it wasn’t enough.
It came down to the final day of the campaign and the campaign was still stalled at 80%. It was close, but close doesn’t make a successful campaign. I intentionally did not check my Kickstarter pages again until we were down to the 3 hour mark. When
I finally did check in, I was pleasantly surprised to have moved up to the 90% mark. Now this was exciting.
The last needed $50 pledge came in with 2 hours left to go, and the campaign funded. I think I was in shock, at first. I’d been resigned to it not funding, and now here I was fully funded. I had an additional pledge come in My Kickstarter campaign was successful!
A successful Kickstarter doesn’t happen without the people who believe in it enough to back it. These are the external backers, which means they were not generated within the Kickstarter platform, but their support was the result from something I did to promote the campaign. I believe most of these backers were generated from the email campaigns which I sent out. In other words, I know these folks in some capacity, some in person, and others across vast distances over the internet, and that makes it more personal. These are the people which I’m lucky to have in my corner.
A big thank you to:
- Cheryl Boyd – my best friend from junior high
- Kevin J. Anderson – my friend and mentor
- Robbie Cheadle – blog teammate, WordCrafter Press author, and multiple anthology contributor
- Nancy Oswald – author friend
- Christy Burmingham-Reyes – blog follower
- Sara Wesley McBride – an anthology contributor and writing friend
- Kieth Hoskins – an contributor to multiple anthologies
- Ligia deWit – anthology contributor
- Amy Cecil – anthology contributor and author friend
- Mark Leslie Lefebvre – anthology contributor and author friend
- Marie Whitaker – WordFire Press contact and author friend
- James Richards – a WordCrafter Press author
- Avily Jerome – anthology contributor
- Tim & Wanda Ward – friends and neighbors
- Miriam Hurdle – blog tour host and anthology contributor
Also, a big thanks to those who supported the campaign in non-monetary ways, such as spreading the word to garner support for the campaign. In promoting the campaign, I said repeatedly that all support was appreciated, and I meant that, including social media blasts, retweets and sharing on social media. Although I don’t have names for all of you, since these things went on behind scenes and there are probably many who I don’t even know about, but I thank you all so much for your support. I could not have done it without you.
Kickstarters are a lot of work. I knew that going into this, after watching behind the scenes for KJA’s campaign, so that was no surprise. Most of the people I know who supported the campaign are not big western fans. But enough people believed in me, and believed in this project, that it was able to fully fund in the end.
There are many things which could have affected negatively on my campaign: choosing to run a Kickstarter at the beginning of January, on the heels of the holiday season; chosing a project in the western genre; not spending more on paid advertising, etc…
But my analysis leads me to believe that I failed to reach my target audience effectively for this cross-genre series, which should appeal to lovers of westerns, and women’s fiction and even those who enjoy historical ficton, but it seems I missed the mark in the promotions. I thought I would reach a wider audience, since this series has strong female protagonists, bringing it into both the women’s fiction and historical fiction realms. Maybe, I don’t know how to find my target audience, but I will keep searching for them. An author friend of mine thinks I may be using the wrong social media channels, and suggested that I launch myself on Tik-Tok to tap into my target audience. Maybe I’ll consider it in the future, but for now, I must continue on my planned path and give things time to work out.
Kickstarter can be a successful way of direct selling. Not all campaigns will be as successful as KJA’s campaigns, but this proves that even the little, unknown, independent authors like me can have a successful campaign. Maybe my audience wasn’t big enough? Maybe I wasn’t reaching the right audience? Perhaps a different project would have done better. Maybe I’ll try again in the future with a different book, different genre and see what happens. Maybe…
The release date for Delilah is March 21, 2023. You can preorder a digital or print copy from your book distributor of choice here: https://books2read.com/DelilahWIW
Delilah is a woman haunted by her past.
Her homecoming from prison quickly turns into a quest for vengeance when she is brutally raped and left for dead, and her fourteen-year-old ward is abducted. Sheer will and determination take this tough and gritty heroine up against wild beasts of the forest, Indians and outlaws to Leadville.
Can the colorful inhabitants of the Colorado mining town work their way into Delilah’s heart, offering a chance for a future she thought she’d lost along with her innocence?
If you like strong and capable female protagonists, you’ll love Delilah.
For Kaye Lynne Booth, writing is a passion. Kaye Lynne is an author with published short fiction and poetry, both online and in print, including her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction; and her paranormal mystery novella, Hidden Secrets. Kaye holds a dual M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing with emphasis in genre fiction and screenwriting, and an M.A. in publishing. Kaye Lynne is the founder of WordCrafter Quality Writing & Author Services and WordCrafter Press. She also maintains an authors’ blog and website, Writing to be Read, where she publishes content of interest in the literary world.
Want exclusive content? Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. She won’t flood your inbox, she NEVER will sells her list, and you might get a freebie occasionally. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, just for joining.
I’ve heard how hard it is to reach a Kickstarter goal.So congratulations for sticking to it AND reaching your goal! Your detailed post was helpful to me because I am thinking of making a Kickstarter for my second book which I plan to have done by Nov. My work-in-progress is a mystery which follows the adventures of Emmie from my first novel Emmie of Indianapolis. In this next one, fifteen year old Emmie becomes a teen detective, her life’s goal! A Kickstarter would be used for a book launch, editing, cover design and advertising.
Thanks for writing such a great post. I read it today and happy Monday!
P.S. I sent you an email
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So glad to hear you are finding this helpful, Kay. Kickstarters are a lot of work, but if you set goals which are managable, I think they are a great way to sell books. IT didn’t make me a bestseller by any means, but I’ve already sold more copies of Delilah than I did in the whole five years the book was with a publisher. Wahoo! Feel free to drop me a line if you have questions on your Kickstarter. Happy to help if I can. 🙂
Hi Kaye, thank you for this interesting analysis of your kickstarter experience. I had never heard of this sort of fund raiser and it is good to know about it and read how your went about it and how it panned out for you.
That really was a lot of work. I don’t think I could do that! I am so happy for you that it worked.
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Thanks Jacqui. ☺️ It was, but I think it was worth it. It helped to set a lower goal. I think many authors watched Bryon Sanderson’s Kickstarter raise unbelievable amounts and jumped on the bandwagon, setting very high goals.Then, they’ve been disappointed of it doesn’t fund. By setting a lower, more realistic goal, since I have a way smaller audience and I’m still basically an unknown author, I increased the likelihood of funding, and I was able to set goals which I knew I could deliver on.
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