Kickstarter seems to be the latest platform for direct sales of your books. They aren’t new to the scene, but they have changed considerably since they first made their appearance. (Look here if you’d like to see a 2012 guest post about Kickstarter by author Tim Baker when they were first starting up.) Up until recently, Kickstarter has been looked upon like a platform where you would go ask for money from people, similar to Go Fund Me, but with , the spectacularly successful campaign that Bryan Sanderson did recently, which everyone seems to be talking about, it looks like that impression may be changing.
Platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon form what Joanna Penn refers to as the “creator economy”, which is similar to what artists did during the Renaissance to survive. (You can listen to Joanna’s interview with Bryan Cohen, author of the Sell More Books Show podcast, on the subjects of Kickstarter and multiple streams of income on The Creative Penn, here.) Renaissance patrons would fund artists and support them so that they could survive while creating their art. Likewise, authors today cannot be expected to survive on just their book income. Most of us would truly starve if we tried to do that. According to Joanna, there are readers out there who are not only willing, but eager, to support your work, you just have to find them.
No. Today’s creators must have multiple streams of income, and many have day jobs to support them, only indulging their craft on a part time basis. Kickstarter provides a platform designed for creatives, including authors, where we can sell our creations directly to our reading audience without the middlemen distributors, such as Amazon, and by selling direct, we receive more than our 70%, allowed by Amazon, or whatever percentage we get from other distributors, but there are a few things we need to prepare for a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Make no mistake. Kickstarter is not a platform where you beg for money, as some may believe. It’s method of direct selling, and when you run a Kickstarter campaign, you have to put in the work for your money. I learned this by following the Kickstarter campaign of Kevin J. Anderson from the operations side of things.
As his student, I was allowed an inside look into the workings of a Kickstarter campaign, and a quite successful one, at that. KJA ran a Kickstarter to fund his latest Dan Shamble Zombie Detective novel, Double Booked. He showed us how to set up the project overview, set your overall campaign goal, set up with Stripe and attach to your bank account so you can get paid, create a video to tell people about your project, set up incentives for the different tiers and stretch goals, etc… Let me tell you, there is a lot of work involved.
Kevin also gave the whole Dan Shamble series eye-catching new covers, which are absolutely fabulous. Then, once the Kickstarter campaign had run its course, the author must make good on their promises and provide the deliverables. For Kevin’s campaign, that involved doing print runs and signing each print copy of the book and mailing them out to his supporters at the appropriate level, (he actually ended up hiring someone to mail them all out, there were so many), as well as following up to be sure each supporter fills out and returns their Kickstarter survey.
KJA’s overall goal was $2,000, which he exceeded. He started at the $5 level, which provided a digital copy of Double Booked. This was the lowest tier of support, so anyone who subscribed to the campaign, at any level, received this. The tiers went all the way up to the $10,000 crazy super fan level, where Kevin promises to narrate an audio book, which he did anyway, then offered as a $25 add on during the campaign. I don’t know how likely it would be for him to actually get a $10,000 crazy super fan to jump on the campaign bandwagon, but either way he narrates his own audio book, and either way he makes money. (You can see just how well KJA did with this Kickstarter here.)
Advice from the hosts of the Six Figure Author podcast (https://6figureauthors.com/ Episode 048 – July 23, 2020) was to never do a Kickstarter for something which you can’t fund on your own, in case you don’t meet your goal. Kevin had Double Booked written before he began the Kickstarter. He knew he could deliver all the rewards promised at every tier. Doing this assures that none of your supporters go away disappointed. Satisfied readers are what is important here, because satisfied readers come back for more. They also suggest setting a lower goal at first, as low as $500, so you’ll be more likely to be able to meet the goal, then raising the bar for subsequent campaigns, building gradually.
Kevin’s campaign was not as crazy successful as Bryan Sanderson’s, which ran right around the same time, but both are examples of how an author can use Kickstarter to sell their work directly to their readers and make decent money. (You can see how crazy successful Bryan Sanderson’s Kickstarter really was here.) Granted, not all authors are Kevin J. Anderson or Bryan Sanderson. While some followers come from the Kickstarter community, it does help to have an existing following, people who already love and admire your work. I think it also helps if you are an established author with a decent backlist, otherwise you would have to make all the rewards new works, which would be even more work for the author.
U.S.A. Today bestselling authors Russell P. Nohelty and Monica Leonelle coauthored Get Your Book Selling on Kickstarter, which talks about reasons to sell direct through Kickstarter, how to sell books on Kickstarter, how to budget and market your Kickstarter project, and more. This book takes you step by step through setting up your Kickstarter campaign, and even though I watched KJA do it, I must admit I was intimidated by the sheer number of steps which must be taken and the things which should be included, and of course, it helps to illustrate everything visually, which adds even more to do. It is really a bit overwhelming. This book reinforces the idea that while Kickstarter does have a community of followers who are looking for campaigns of interest to support, your chances of success will be much improved if you already have a flowing to bring with you to to the platform.
From the author side, there’s a lot involved, but from the supporter side, it’s pretty cool because you get all kinds of goodies. For my support, I received a digital copy of Double Booked, plus a new short story in the series, “Bump in the Night”. As well as stretch goal rewards of digital copies of Kevin J. Anderson’s Selected Stories: Fantasy; from his most popular epic space opera series, Saga of the Seven Suns: Two Short Novels; and a government mystery thriller which he coauthored with Doug Beason, PhD, Virtual Destruction. I’ll be posting reviews for all of these down the road, but there were so many that it’s going to take me a while to get through them. (For now, you can read my review of his Selected Stories: Science Fiction here: https://writingtoberead.com/2019/03/01/kevin-j-andersons-selected-stories-science-fiction-volume-2-a-must-read-for-science-fiction-fans/)
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.
Join Kaye Lynne Booth & WordCrafter Press Readers’ Group for WordCrafter Press book & event news, including the awesome releases of author Kaye Lynne Booth. Get a free digital copy of her short story collection, Last Call and Other Short Fiction, as a sampling of her works just for joining.
It’s not enough to just write the book.
Today’s author must be both writer and marketer. Authors in the the world of digital media and the rise of independent publishing are responsible for not only writing the book, but selling it, too. Even authors who are traditionally published are often responsible for a good portion of the promotional efforts.
These days, everyone knows that people can and do judge books by their covers. Most authors emphasize the importance of a a good book cover in selling books, but they’re talking about more than just the image and text on the front. Perhaps as important as that front cover, is the book’s description or blurb, found on the back cover for print books, or in your ebook’s meta-data.
A good book description’s job is to capture reader interest and make them want to know more,. Whether we’re talking about the hook of the first line, which must make you read on to the next sentence and then the next, or about the description as a whole, which must hook the reader, making them want to buy the book to learn the rest of the story, the book description is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal to sell books. According to Brian D. Meeks, a good book description has three elements: a powerful hook, engaging copy, and visually appealing formatting.
Mastering Amazon Descriptions
In Mastering Amazon Descriptions, Brian D. Meeks offers a formulaic plan for writing book descriptions that will sell books, including examples of description re-writes for books in varied genres. Although these descriptions are specified as Amazon descriptions, I’m sure this technique will work equally well with Kobo, or Barnes & Nobel, or even the Apple Store. By the time you’ve read through this book, you’ll be writing back cover copy like a pro, because Meeks’ method is simple enough that almost anyone can do it.
To prove it, I’ll share with you the re-write I did of the description for Delilah, which I am preparing for its re-release in the coming year.
Here is the original description:
“Brutally raped and left for dead, her fourteen-year-old ward abducted, Delilah’s homecoming from prison quickly turns into a quest for vengeance. Tough and gritty, sheer will and determination take her to the Colorado mining town of Leadville in her hunt for her attackers and the girl, Sarah. Somehow along the way, the colorful inhabitants of Leadville work their way into Delilah’s heart, giving her a chance for a future she thought she’d lost along with her innocence.”
Here is the description I wrote for the re-release before I read Mastering Amazon Descriptions:
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 the Colorado mining town of Leadville, where the colorful inhabitants work their way into Delilah’s heart, offering a chance for a future she thought she’d lost along with her innocence.
Now, here is the description I wrote using Brian D. Meeks’ method:
Haunted by her past.
Raped and left for dead; her fourteen-year-old ward abducted.
Sheer will and determination take this tough and gritty heroine up against wild beasts of the forest, Indians and outlaws.
Can the colorful inhabitants of Leadville work their way into Delilah’s heart, offering a chance for a future she thought she’d lost along with her innocence?
I don’t think anyone would argue that this last description is an improvement. It has a better hook, shorter sentences, and leaves the potential reader with a question to make them want to learn more and read the book.
How to Write Fiction Sales Copy
How to Write Fictin Sales Copy, by Dean Wesley Smith offers three different formulas for writing back cover blurbs and sales copy, which are aimed toward a wide distribution, and several different approaches. Smith is an old pro in this writing game and he’s good at what he does, (which is write). While his methods are not as formulaic and are not specific to Amazon, they are never-the-less effective in posing unspoken questions about the book and making readers want to know more. Smith also offers 32 actual story blurbs as examples in multiple genres.
To experiment with one of Dean Wesley Smith’s techniques, I thought I’d try to rewrite the blurb for my paranormal mystery novella, which is riddled with what Smith calls “The Author Problem”, which results from too many passive verbs and too much focus on the plot. My description doesn’t have a lot of passive voice, but it does focus on the plot too much, revealing more than necessary, which is a common author error. The idea behind the blurb is to give potential readers just enough to pique their interest and make them want to purchase the book. If you reveal too much of the plot, there’s no reason to buy.
Cassie is nervous about her return to her ancestral lands with her boyfriend Tony for more reasons than one. She hasn’t been up in these mountains since the unexplained drowning of her parents. And her parents aren’t the only ones who have died or mysteriously disappeared in the area. Cassie doesn’t really believe the old legends passed down from her Native American ancestors, but she harbors no desire to become the keeper of her tribal legacy or the protector of the gold that goes with it. In fact, she plans to tell her Grandmother to pass the legacy to someone else, perhaps her cousin Miranda, who has been searching for the treasure for years. Cassie wants nothing to do with it now that she carries Tony’s baby in her womb. When Cassie forces herself to go out on the lake that took the lives of her parents and she discovers a cave which holds the treasure of her people, she must admit that the legacy is real, which means the curse that guards the treasure and threatens the males of her tribe must also be real. When Miranda’s boyfriend, Jake disappears on the lake, Cassie must find a way to stop the curse, before Tony becomes the next victim.
So here is my attempt at a rewrite, using Smith’s basic blurb pattern, beginning with a character summary that “nails the genre if possible”.
Cassie wants nothing to do with the legacy her grandmother wants to hand down to her. She doesn’t believe in all those Native American legends anyway.
She and Tony plan to be married and start a family. They’re only returning to her ancestral lands now to tell her grandmother to pass the tribal legacy on to someone else, along with the cursed gold that goes with it.
When she forces herself to go out on the lake where her parents drowned, she discovers the cave which holds the tribal treasure and the lake takes another life. Now Cassie must rethink all that she believes. If the treasure is real, could the curse be real, too?
Can Cassie find a way to stop it before Tony becomes the next victim?
If you love paranormal mysteries, pick up a copy of “Hidden Secrets”.
Which one of these descriptions would make you more likely to buy the book? You can see what a difference a few simple changes can make.
Authors must be able to write sales copy, as well as fiction or nonfiction, because stories don’t sell themselves. On The 6 Figure Authors podcast suggest that if a book isn’t selling well, the first things to look at are cover art and blurb. We see here with the examples I provided, what a difference changing up the blurb can make. I recommend both Mastering Amazon Descriptions, and How to Write Fiction Sales Copy to any author who wants to polish their blurb writing skills and improve their sales copy.
Short fiction doesn’t sell well. – That’s what I keep hearing. Anthologies are hard sells. So why would you even write short fiction, if it is so difficult to sell?
What many authors need to realize, is that while an anthology may be harder to sell than a novel, when you have work featured in an anthology, it is a project involving many authors, each with their own following which they bring to the table, creating a much bigger marketing network than you would have for a novel. Being a part of an anthology expands your marketing reach exponentially by the number of authors involved, which could actually make the marketing and promotion of the anthology easier and allow marketing to a much larger audience.
For the past few months I’ve been exploring short fiction and short fiction markets from the other side of things, as I worked to compile two separate anthologies. My solo project for my masters in publishing is The Best of Weird Tales 1926-27, which meant reading twenty-four issues of Weird Tales and selecting what I felt were the best stories to represent the publication, then compiling them into a single collection. It had to be a careful selection process, because much of what was socially acceptable in 1926 & 27, is far from acceptable in 2021.
The other project required for my degree involves being on the editorial team for the Mirror, Mirror anthology. You may have seen the call for submissions posted here on writing to be Read back in July. And there’s a chance that you even submitted to it, since we had over 600 submissions. That’s a lot of short stories to read. But I learned some valuable lessons from the experience:
- It pays to get your submission in early. The early submissions get fresh eyes and open mind. But those submitted closer to the deadline, are seen by eyes that are tired by minds that have read so-o-o many stories, many of which are similar in theme or concept, if you wrote to the submission guidelines.
- Follow the submission guidelines. This experience drove home to me how important this one really is. Going into this, my instructor and mentor, Kevin J. Anderson drilled in the importance of following the submission guidelines and took great care to make them clear in the call for submissions. It called for proper manuscript formatting, something every author should be familiar with, but just in case, he also included a link to a site that defined and explained what proper manuscript formatting is, and still we got manuscripts that were not formatted properly. Toward the end, I know improperly formatted manuscripts got set aside without a full read, because it hurt my tired old eyes too much, so this is really an important one, but many authors just didn’t get it. Publishers don’t want to work with authors who cannot follow simple instructions and format their manuscript properly or follow the guidelines, because this hints that they might be a pain to work with.
- Only submit a story that fits what the call is looking for. I was surprised how many stories we got that didn’t have a mirror in them at all; not even a compact for the character to check their make-up. Who sends a story without mirrors to an anthology titled Mirror, Mirror that requests a mirror be central to the story. I’m told that last year someone submitted Christmas cards for the call for submissions for Unmasked, last year’s anthology, which may evoke a chuckle when you hear it, but for editors overwhelmed with submissions, reading through a story that doesn’t even come close to meeting the guidelines or match the theme, it feels like a big waste of time. Editors have feelings, too. Be kind and only submit stories that meet the theme and guidelines, instead of trying to cram your story into a frame that doesn’t really match.
- In today’s market, busy editors are looking for something that is close to being publishable as is, so be sure your manuscript is polished. I feel like I shouldn’t have to state this one, but with as many seemingly unedited submissions, I guess it needs to be said. I was expecting it toward the end, when authors were rushing to meet the deadline, but even early on there were manuscripts that were riddled with misspellings and typos. Many of these may have been good stories, some even written to guidelines, but they were passed by because they would have required too much editing to ready them for publication. It would have required more time than my class of student editors would be able to give. So, I strongly urge having another set of eyes give a critical look over all stories prior to submission. Turning in a clean manuscript will strengthen the chances of your submission being accepted, or at least read clear through for a fair evaluation.
- Choosing favorites is much harder than I thought it would be. We were cautioned that last year’s anthology received over 500 submissions, with more than 100 received in the last week of submissions. Mirror, Mirror received over 600 and so many of them were truly excellent stories that choosing the few that we had the budget for was really difficult, especially since not everyone had the same favorites. In the end, we ended up with a heck of a selection of stories for this anthology. I think it will be great!
Although all of my personal favorites couldn’t be included, I did find a way to make 2022 a great year for anthologies at WordCrafter Press, with two by invitation only anthologies in addition to the annual short fiction contest and anthology. I gave you a sneak preview for the submission call for the annual anthology, which will be titled Visions, here. The official call for submissions will be posted in January, so stay tuned.
Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribing to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.
Covid 19 brought changes to the way we do many things, including how we celebrate Halloween. Many folks may not be comfortable being exposed to children in costume coming to their door. Many parents may not be comfortable letting their children go door-to-door this year. I know of neighborhood residents who have gotten together to allow trick-or-treating only within a close-knit group, where everyone knows everyone else and they are all vacinated, and I’ve seen more haunted houses this year than ever before.
One thing that hasn’t changed though, is the love of a good ghost story or two on Halloween night. That’s why this weekend only, you can get a digital copy of Where Spirits Linger, this year’s WordCrafter paranormal anthology, to draw your ghost stories from. You’ll be captivated with the lingering spirits in these short stories, including the winning story from the 2021 WordCrafter Paranormal Short Fiction Contest, “Olde-Tyme Village”, by Christa Planko. Work from other authors which is also included in this short fiction collection: Roberta Eaton Cheadle’s ghost with an agenda in “Listen to Instructions”, my own ghosts who want to care and be cared for in “The People Upstairs”, S.L. Kretsmer’s ghost who wants to be remembered in a positive light in “The Final Portrait”, Stevie Turner’s ghost who wants revenge in “David’s Revenge”, and you’re sure to get a chuckle from Enid Holden’s ghosts in “The Chosen Few”.
Don’t miss out on these great ghost stories this Halloween. Only .99 cents starting today through Halloween. Celebrate your Halloween Where Spirits Linger. Click the link below to have your digital copy delivered right to your reading device of choice.
Like this post? Let me know in the comments. You can be sure not to miss any of Writing to be Read’s great content by subscribing to e-mail or following on WordPress. If you found this content helpful or entertaining, please share.