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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I recently supported a Kickstarter for Kevin J. Anderson and his latest Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. novel, Double Booked. (You can find out more about the Kickstarter campaign here.) As a bonus, I also received a new short story from same series, Bump in the Night. How cool is that?
I’ll be honest. I knew I was going to love Double Booked before I ever started reading it. That’s why I supported the Kickstarter to get it. I’ve read several, if not all of the Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. series, and I have reviewed them here on Writing to be Read. (You can find my previous review of the Dan Shamble Zomnibus: Death Warmed Over & Working Stiff here.)
I was not disappointed. Double Booked is filled with Dan Shamble’s ghoulish zombie humor and all the loveable characters we’ve grown to love from this series. Once again, Dan, his ghostly girlfriend, Sheyenne, his human lawyer partner, Robin, and his vampire half-daughter, Alvina, are trying to save the unnatural quarter of the world after The Big Uneasy brought all manner of monsters to life. Dan Shamble is charged with the protection of the retired eccentric librarian who some say is responsible for bringing about The Big Uneasy, but when whole neighborhoods begin disappearing and the book behind it all is stolen, Dan Shamble has more than enough to keep him shambling through the Unnatural Quarter trying to solve this double mystery.
Likewise, with the short story bonus book, “Bump in the Night”, was equally entertaining as Dan Shamble and company try to save the Boogeyman from his overbearing aunties. Even though it is a brief tale, it’s an entertaining read.
Honestly, you know any of the books in the Dan Shamble Zombie P.I. series, by Kevin J. Anderson, are going to be an entertaining read, so Double Booked was no surprise, as it kept things rolling so readers won’t want to put it down. The bonus short story, “Bump in the Night”, was a pleasant surprise-not because it was an enjoyable read, but because it was an unexpected bonus. I can’t find it on Amazon or on the WordFire Press site, to offer my review there, but I give both books five quills.
Kaye Lynne Booth does honest book reviews on Writing to be Read in exchange for ARCs. Have a book you’d like reviewed? Contact Kaye at kayebooth(at)yahoo(dot)com.
Today, I’d like to let my readers know about a new site, called Kickstarter, that may be very useful to struggling authors, who are looking for ways to fund their publishing costs for their books. So I’ve invited someone who knows about the site and its program to tell you all about it. My friend, author Tim Baker has agreed to do a guest blog for us and tell us about this interesting fund raising program. Many of you may remember Tim from the profile that I did on him earlier this year. He is an independent author who has written and published five wonderfully entertaining books, and is currently looking to fund his most recent one, Pump It Up, through the Kickstarter program. Please welcome Tim as he tells us more about it, and feel free to ask questions or leave comments.
Kickstarter is a public web site where artists of all kinds can seek private funding for projects. It isn’t limited to writing. Funding has been secured for independent films, CDs, art projects, video game creation and, of course, novels and graphic novels. Just about anything “art” related can be funded. It is one of a number of sites which uses a relatively new concept called “crowd-funding”.
To start, the artist fills out a general information proposal on the site – giving the basic information of his project—what it is, why he needs funding, what he plans to do with the money, etc. The Kickstarter people review this proposal and decide if the project meets their guidelines. Assuming it does, the artist then writes a full blown project outline describing in detail what he/she wants to do. The inclusion of a video is recommended and pictures also help. The artist should also explain to potential supporters why he needs this money, what it will be used for and any other pertinent information. Then the artist must create “rewards” which serve as incentive to entice backers.
Since one of the rules of Kickstarter is that there can be no monetary payback or financial rewards (you can’t promise people a share in your profits or a percentage of sales) it is common to offer unique rewards. In my case I offered a variety of e-book packages, hard copy packages, etc.
A time frame is set by the artist as to how long he/she will leave the project active. Kickstarter recommends 30 days but you can go as long as 90 if you like.
Once the project is posted, it is then the responsibility of the artist to spread the word and solicit backers. This is where the artist must rely on the potential viral power of the internet.
There are a couple of limitations on the types of projects for which one can seek funding. No pornographic material, no “hate” material and no “fund my life while I create” projects.
The only true “rub” in the whole thing is this: Kickstarter is an “all-or-nothing” deal.
If you seek $1000 to fund a project and you select a 30 day time frame… if you do not raise the $1000 by the end of the 30 days, you get nothing – and the people who have pledged support pay nothing.
This seems unfair at first…people instinctually ask “why can’t I keep the money I raise?”
This is done to protect the backers.
If you claim that you will need $1000 and you only secure $750 – it is conceivable that you may not be able to “complete” your project as described. This would mean people donated money to an incomplete project. It would also mean your rewards may never happen.
All In all – Kickstarter is a great idea and really takes supporting independent artists to the next level.
For more information you can read the guidelines on the site and feel free to view (and share) my project to see a typical listing. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blindogg/pump-it-up-a-novel-by-tim-baker .
Thank you, Tim for all the great information on Kickstarter. One question that I had, was what if you raise more money for your project than the goal that you have set. Tim’s answer was that the artist gets to keep any money that they raise, as long as the initial goal is met. It sounds like a great way to help fund writing projects, although other types of artists may find it useful, as well. I hope all my readers will click on the link above and check out Tim’s page for his project, and don’t forget to make a pledge to help Tim meet his goal. Pump It Up is a great book, well worth your contributions. You can read my review of Pump It Up here: