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.
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