In last week’s Let’s Kickstart a Book adventure, we discussed creating a Kickstarter project video on the cheap. This week, we’ll talk about project prep and preparing to launch!
It’s time to hit publish on your Kickstarter project. Congrats! Depending on your project, you may be able to launch immediately, or Kickstarter may require a project review first. Once you’ve thoroughly reviewed and proofread your project draft, you can submit it for review without going live. Be sure to plan ahead, just in case Kickstarter requires a full review, which can take several days. Launching a first time Kickstarter can be both extremely terrifying and exhilarating. It’s tempting to hit the launch button as soon as your project is approved—but you shouldn’t launch without a launch plan. Here are a few recommendations from my experience launching my first Kickstarter.
Assemble a Launch Team
I’d aim to reach at least 25% of your funding goal within the first day. How? If you’re building an audience from scratch, you’ll likely find a lot of support in family and friends. I know, I know, you want to strike out on your own and prove to the world you can succeed on talent alone, but a little boost from a few supportive members of your family can provide a bit of social proof. This is especially true if—like me—you started with zero fan base. If you are lucky enough to have a fan base, you’ll obviously want to let them know when your project launches.
What’s social proof, you ask? In this practical context, social proof means that others are more likely to back your project if they see it’s getting traction. I experienced this with my first Kickstarter project. The first day’s sales were mostly family and friends, but then others started to discover the project on the Kickstarter website. Potential backers are much more likely to back if it appears the project will succeed. Aside from Kickstarter, the concept of social proof is a critical one to master in self-publishing. Ingram does a nice job of explaining what social proof looks like in book marketing.
Kickstarter also has a category called Projects We Love. If you receive this blessed title, your project will be more prominently featured throughout the Kickstarter website and in Kickstarter emails. How do you get it? There’s no surefire way but a thorough project setup, cool video, and intuitive reward structure sure do help.
Identify 5-10 active projects on Kickstarter with audiences similar to yours. Perhaps someone’s Kickstarting a graphic novel in a similar genre or even something like a board game or movie. Shoot them a note asking if they’d like to cross-promote. Be careful, though—Kickstarter frowns upon spamming, and so will the people you bombard with a spammy message. I typically leave the link out of my direct messages and encourage creators to visit my profile, which they can do by clicking on my name. I find that I have better response rate this way, since it seems Kickstarter filters out messages that link to other projects into spam. Remember, the goal is to make genuine connections with creators that might result in mutual benefit.
Here’s a message similar to what I send when approaching project creators. This goes without saying—but the more you customize your message, the better.
I found your project on Kickstarter, and it seems that our projects might appeal to the same group of people. I was wondering if you’d be interested in cross-promoting projects. I’d be happy to post info about your project in my next backer update, if you’d be willing to do the same in yours. Here’s a bit of info about my project:
(Basic overview here. Be concise!)
Would you like to cross-promote? If you’d like more info about my project, just click on my profile.
Thanks for your time and good luck with your project!
If you’re going to find success in self-publishing, a few things ring true, unless you’ve written the next Moby Dick:
You’ll need to publish regularly. Few authors strike it rich from one book.
You’ll have to become a savvy marketer.
A Kickstarter project is a perfect time to develop some basic marketing chops. I put a question mark in the heading because, odds are, you’re not going to have a huge marketing budget, especially if your funding goal is $2,000 or less. I have barely dipped my toe into the ad world, but it’s a must for anyone who hopes to find success in self-publishing. You don’t have to dump a ton of money into marketing your Kickstarter, and it’s easy to blow through hundreds of dollars with zero return, if you don’t know what you’re doing. A little prep goes a long way. Regardless of your marketing plan, it is worth spending a few bucks to learn how advertising works, especially on social media platforms like Facebook. Advertising your Kickstarter is good practice for advertising your book when it launches.
If you are interested in learning more about marketing, especially Facebook marketing, I recommend Help! My Facebook Ads Suck. It’s a tremendous value for the price and helped me improve my ads by magnitudes. The principles also apply to other platforms, not just Facebook. If you decide to run ads for you Kickstarter, you can experiment with a budget of $5-$10 a day and use Kickstarter’s referral link system to see if your ads are resulting in any sales. If you notice sales that are greater than the cost of the ads, consider bumping up your budget to reach more people. If you spend more on an ad than the profit it brings in, it isn’t working—you’ll need to tweak your audience, the ad itself, or your ad delivery settings. In general, I’m a big fan of a cost-per-click (CPC) model, instead of a cost-per-impression (CPI). In general, I don’t care how many people view my ads—I care about whether or not they click, and ultimately whether or not they back the project.
A Word of Warning
Like chum in the water, new authors and project creators will attract scammy Kickstarter marketing sharks. Expect to receive messages, emails, tweets, and possibly even carrier pigeons, trying to sell you on Kickstarter marketing services. DON’T USE THESE SERVICES. Odds are, you can develop the skills to succeed without them, most of them are scams, and all of them can be incredibly expensive.
Track Your Progress
There are plenty of great tools out there to track your progress toward reaching your Kickstarter goal. Personally, I use Kicktraq. It does a nice job of showing project projections, although it’s worth noting that projects tend to see the largest showing of support at the beginning and end, so expect to see a mid-project slump.
Time to click the launch button. In my next post, I’ll discuss crafting interesting project updates. These public updates can pull in potential backers, keep current backers invested, and allow you to start building a group of dedicated fans.