Reflections on my third Kickstarter Campaign

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As a self published author, I am in charge of almost everything: marketing, finances, printing decisions, social media and more. Not only do I make 99% of the decisions when it comes to my books, but I now own my own publishing company, Hop Off the Press, LLC!

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I started this journey in May of 2017, not knowing ANYTHING about this world. I had never even heard of indie authors (I actually had to google it- embarrassing I know). I’m a mom, wife and teacher: I’m good at managing and teaching children, motivating and encouraging children and leading a classroom. I didn’t know it at the time, but these skills/personality traits would translate pretty well into the self publishing world as well.

I have other blog posts that chronicle my author journey, but I’ll just say it took a LOT of research, relationship building, motivation, hard work, determination, perseverance, and risk: all of which I was comfortable with except for the RISK (I’m still working on that).

Fast forward 2 years, 2 successful kickstarter campaigns, 2 hardcover books, 2 paperback books, tons of events and school visits and we come to the Fall of 2019. I decided to run my third kickstarter campaign, after I had already swore I wasn’t going to run a second campaign after I had run my first one (sounds like me after I had my first baby).

So, why run Kickstarter (or other crowdfunding) campaigns? Why did I choose to go down this challenging and stressful path yet again??

I had a project to bring to life. I wanted everything about it in one place. Kickstarter has millions of projects/supporters. It provides validation for your project. In my opinion, it gets your project more publicity and it’s easier and more organized than anything I could ever do! Many people have heard of it and know how to use it.

Okay let’s get down to business.

Frequently asked questions people ask me about crowdfunding:

  1. Is this like GoFund Me? No it’s not the same. GoFund Me is a straight donation platform. Kickstarter (and other crowdfunding venues) is a place to make a pledge in exchange for a “reward”. You become part of bringing a project to life and in return, you get something: a book, a game, a toy etc.
  2. What should I set my goal for? That’s totally up to you. My advice is this: write down and add up your expenses- how much do you need? Think about your audience- are they supportive? Will they back your project? Remember, with Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing- if you don’t make your goal in the amount of time you set (my advice: 30 days), you will not get anything. How are your marketing skills? How prepared are you? Don’t just rely on family and friends to fund your campaign; you need to be able to reach other people and create your own audience.
  3. What are your best tips for preparation? Research successful campaigns and ask their creators questions about how they succeeded. Back and support other campaigns. Start talking about your campaign on your social media at least a month in advance. Call/email local media. Create a 30-day campaign plan.
  4. How can I tell people about my campaign without spamming? First of all, don’t just post your link all over the place- especially in places you have never posted in before (groups on Facebook). Author groups, unless you have supported others and have been an important of the group for a while, aren’t a great place to post your link. Think about your audience: are they moms? Find mom bloggers, moms on Instagram and mom groups on Facebook. But don’t just post your link, become a part of their world first. Is your audience teachers? Same deal. Is your book about dental health? Find dentists. Dogs? Find dog lover groups. Use hashtags that have to do with your audience on Instagram. As far in advance as you can, create a website and start collecting subscribers. I emailed my personal list of family and friends first, announced what I was doing and invited them to like my author Facebook page and my website. I’ve also gotten subscribers at local author events, school visits (on my order form) and through survey monkey. Send emails throughout your campaign, but don’t be annoying about it. Make sure there is a reason for the email besides “buy my book”. A giveaway, exciting news to announce (you got on TV!), new illustrations to share, a milestone reached etc. Same with posting on your social media. Vary the posts: school visits, media, events, updates, illustrations, surveys, memes etc. Make it fun!
  5. How are Indiegogo and Kickstarter different? Which one should I use? The main difference between these 2 crowdfunding platforms is that Kickstarter is all or nothing. I personally like the pressure and sense of urgency Kickstarter gives, so I use that one. It’s up to you.

So what worked for me this time? What should I have done differently?

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What I did: I was able to meet my goal of at least 25% funded the very first day. I created a survey monkey and posted it in mom/local groups. I got 2000 email subscribers this way, bringing me up over 3000 subscribers. Those 3000+ subscribers got first chance at a discounted book the first day of the campaign. I also created valentine’s day cards and gave away 10 sets of them plus 1 mega bundle: people who pledged the first day were entered into those giveaways.

What I should have done differently: I need to figure out how to get a higher open rate on my emails. I changed up how I write subject lines after receiving some great advice: don’t use too many capitals or exclamation points- those scream “SPAM”!!!!!!!

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What I did: I did a LOT of giveaways. I found people on instagram who make screen free activities (books, games, toys) and did one instagram giveaway each week with them. I am also doing an original artwork giveaway for anyone who increases their pledge amount by at least $5 AND I’m giving away an activity book to whoever is the closest their campaign amount guess. Did the giveaways get me a lot of pledges? Not a ton, but I did get a lot more followers and eyes on my books.

What I should have done differently: Next time I may try to find Instagram accounts who have more followers.

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What I did: I contacted local media. I googled local newspapers and TV shows and was able to get on TV again. I probably didn’t get any pledges out of it directly, but it definitely gave me something unique and exciting to post about on my social media and gave my project some validation.

What I should have done differently: I was interviewed on several podcasts. I should have promoted those better than I did. I’m not sure anyone even knew that I did them.

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What I did: I scheduled a ton of school visits during my campaign. My campaign ran during I Love to Read month (February). I emailed about 200 local schools last fall and did a bunch of visits during the campaign. I changed my school order form to include the new book and got lots of pledges that way.

What I should have done differently: I should have added my book onto the order form sooner- even before my campaign launched. I could have collected more pledges than I did.

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What I did: I created a screen free challenge, an Amazon gift card giveaway for 3 backers once I reached 75% funded and bookmarks with a special QR code on them that when scanned, would bring people directly to my campaign. I passed out these bookmarks to all students at schools visits.

What I should have done differently: I was surprised at how many people weren’t sure how to use the QR code and I forgot to put my website on the bookmark! The screen free challenge really didn’t take, not sure why. People are busy? People didn’t really like the prizes? I didn’t promote it enough? I wasn’t sure how to run the contest so that it would bring my campaign publicity.

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What I did: I create a stretch goal graphic on Canva and posted it directly to my kickstarter page before I launched.

What I should have done differently: Not sure. In my experience, once I reach my goal, it’s extremely difficult to get more pledges. People think “She’s already reached her goal. She doesn’t need any more money”, when in reality, self published authors ALWAYS need more money. There are marketing costs, printing costs go up, kickstarter takes 8% and so on.

Key tips:

*Prepare, prepare, prepare. You should start to prepare at least a few months in advance.

*Figure out who your audience is and the best ways to reach them.

*Research other successful campaigns and support others.

*Keep your audience engaged- what keeps you coming back to people’s pages? Exciting news, funny memes, giveaways, fun photos, interesting stats, great advice etc. Change it up! Look at other author’s Facebook pages to get ideas. Here’s mine.

*Find your fans! Who are your cheerleaders? Find people who will like, comment and share your posts. Find bloggers, Instagrammers and other influencers to share your project.

*Offer backers something special! Why should they back your campaign? (Besides that they get to help you launch your project.) Will you personalize and sign their books? Will they get a free eBook? Stickers? Bookmarks? And don’t charge a huge amount for one book! Call your post office or look up shipping costs online and research other campaigns before setting prices.

Helpful sites and tools:

*www.canva.com (graphics)

*remove.bg (removing backgrounds from images)

*https://www.cnet.com/how-to/kickstarter-101-when-and-how-to-run-a-successful-crowdfunding-campaign/ (a great article about crowdfunding)

*Facebook creator studio: available in your Facebook business manager (lets you schedule FB and Instagram posts)

*Children’s Book Authors and Illustrators: Publishing, Marketing and Selling: the best author Facebook out there! This group is full of supportive, smart and creative people who are more than willing to offer help!

*https://www.facebook.com/lisaferlandconsulting/ Lisa Ferland has helped many authors successfully crowdfund their books and has a ton of great knowledge and resources!

*Read my other blog posts about Kickstarter campaigns here.

*Read my blog post about marketing here.

*Check out my current Kickstarter campaign here!!! I have 3 days left if you’d like to help out! Take a look and let me know what you think!

If you have any questions about crowdfunding or any advice to give, please comment below!

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