5 Dos and Don'ts For Your Book's Crowdfunding Campaign

Today’s blog post comes from Wise Ink author Erin Twamley, who’s latest book Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers, came out this past spring and is a result of an outstanding Kickstarter campaign! We asked her to share some of her tips for how to hold a great crowdfunding campaign with our Wise Ink audience, and she did not disappoint. For more about Erin and her amazing vision, visit www.erinedu.org.

As an author and educator I have used Kickstarter to support other projects, but this was my first time creating my own Kickstarter to help offset some of the book creation costs. The hidden secret of authorship and publishers is that creating a book is a large investment! Not just all of our time and energy, but a monetary one to ensure we have the best team and final printed copy of our new book! Here are some tips about our successful Kickstarter for Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers that we launched in March 2019 that earned $8,087 of our $6,500 goal!

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Don’t overspend on your video, but it is important!

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A video is important and is less than 90 seconds, but don’t overspend. Think of it like an interactive tool to use even after your Kickstarter ends. There are tools like PowToons to create your own or tons of video animators on places like Fiverr and 99Designs. But our success came from our community, a family member of a college friend! He not only was detailed and diligent but because he supported the cause gave us a huge discount and great video.

Besides a video animator, your script is SO important. Our children’s book, Everyday Superheroes: Women in STEM Careers, is non-fiction! We are explicitly trying to tackle a problem (stereotypes in STEM) that is well documented! We wanted to connect the research to our book. We also had numerous people review and edit our script, including ourselves! We had teachers, friends, librarians and marketing gurus take a look! Don’t forget to use the awesome Wise Ink team! Your video is key -- in fact we had nearly every pledge supporter watch our video and at least double that number watch it.

Do use social media advertisements strategically

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Most of our sales were from our 1st network -- AKA people we know. We made a list of over 1,000+ from family, friends, business contacts and education contacts. A little bit of spend on Twitter, Facebook or GoFundMe Ads is not going to get you pledges! What we saw is a large number of clicks, we went from 1,000 to 8,000 clicks, but our pledges didn’t really move at all. If you want to spend the funds on advertisements, make sure you identify where most of your traffic is coming from. We found most of our traffic was through Facebook so we capitalized on posts and ads there -- our biggest advice -- now, in the middle of the KS campaign, is not the time to learn a new social media.

It’s all about your 1st network sharing with their communities

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I have a co-author, Joshua Sneideman and together we have both large communities that are interconnected and separated. What we learned is that it is important to use BOTH communities and make sure that the Kickstarter project is clear that you are CO-AUTHORS! Because Kickstarter has usually 1 project creator, my name appeared first (I am also first author of the book). What this meant was if you looked at a snapshot of our Kickstarter project or page, you saw my name and his was a little more challenging to find. This in the end worked against us, because some contacts of his weren’t clear on his role in the project and we lost a few backers this way! (They told us so, upon meeting in person).

We did discover the following best strategies for expanding from your 1st network:

  • Our families, although often our number one supporters can make all the difference and sometimes forget to do the basics like fund our project or share it on social media. Make sure you send a personal note to family members asking for their initial pre-order of the book from your Kickstarter. They might not know that this is a critical step.

  • Use your book reviewers, your initial number one fans, to share the Kickstarter project with their communities. Get specific, ask them to forward an email or share a link to the Kickstarter project on their social media!

  • LinkedIn Posts may not gain initial attraction, but over time posting your project in a relevant group like “STEM Education Resources” will reach others in your like minded communities.

Go for a bigger goal or a stretch goal!

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Everyone, from our WiseInk team to people who have used KS to run a book launch before advised us to go big! That meant be ambitious for our funding goal. We were nervous! Kickstarter requires that you meet your goal to get ANY funding. We talked with successful book KS project creators to help figure out how to calculate costs, expenses and funding needs. What we underestimated was the compilation of the following:

  • Marketing Material Creation Expenses for the Kickstarter

  • Advertising Expenses for the Kickstarter

  • Kickstarter Fee

Bottom line for a book, it seems your KS creation and launch expenses + kickstarter fees means you lose about $2K right out of the gate!

To ensure you get your calculations right here are some tips:

  • Calculate your book creation costs vs. book printing costs separately.

    • You have to print your book, this is an investment. If you use the Kickstarter to “pay back” your book creation costs you will feel successful! No matter what you have to print and store books (unless you do Print on Demand) so this is an inevitable cost that KS probably won’t touch, you will have to wait for your massive book sales.

  • Identify the MSRP price for after Kickstarter.

  • The Kickstarter book price should be your MSRP + the value you are adding, like a signature or a bookmark.

  • For shipping, don’t forget packaging costs. We estimated our shipping just about right, but forgot all about that packaging cost!

  • Have a stretch goal AHEAD of time. If we would have been ready to say Our Print Books are funded, now fund our ebook -- I think we could have kept our momentum! We didn’t think of this until the middle of the campaign and by that time we were honestly well, tired.

In the end, because we EXCEEDED our goal, we were able to take our initial goal home which nearly covered our book creation costs! The challenge with exceeding your goal is that potential new backers may not back because you made your goal! We made our goal with nearly 10 days left -- had we had a higher goal we could have used that last 10 days for a big push. Once your goal is met, it is hard to get backers -- at least in our experience. We have seen and heard with other products this is not the case!

Is it worth it? YES!

To be honest, I was always hesitant of running a Kickstarter. I had read so much about the time and effort to creating a Kickstarter, yes it is intensive! People had shared stories about losing more money or the expenses of shipping. Let’s get real, in shipping books they are heavy and can have weird dimensions! All in all, it took about 3 weeks to package up all the Rewards and products, we spent time creating labels and doing an assembly line, but we actually also got to touch each book with an inscription and signature. In the end, I think our KS was worth it. We learned a lot about marketing the book, what works and doesn’t work that we have continued to apply to our marketing today! In the end, we got paid back nearly all the book creation expenses, identified new great partners and found that our message of Tackling the Stereotypes in STEM resonates.