Sunday, January 19, 2014

What Works? Online Marketing Symposium - Kickstarter

"Do you ever wonder why some books become bestsellers while others can barely be given away? Why some businesses succeed and others fail? How does a blog post or a YouTube video manage to go viral? Is it a matter of luck or is there some magic formula for success?"

This is a blog hop! Follow this link to where Ninja Alex introduces the event and scroll down a bit to find other bloggers participating!

I'm writing on the subject of Kickstarter because I just ran a successful project for my debut fantasy novel - A Sawmill's Hope. I'm fully aware that what works for one person won't necessarily work for another, so I'll simply tell you what worked for me. I'm not going into great detail on my video or the prizes I offered. Those decisions were made as a result of comparing about 20 similar projects and taking extensive notes.

What worked
Facebook - Before I launched the Kickstarter I went on Facebook and dug through my entire friends list. I found the individuals who I believed would care and I proposed to them - "If you click 'share' when the event goes live, I'll give you a free book."
Each message I wrote was personalized, even to individuals I hadn't spoken to in years. It was easy because I believed in the project and I wasn't asking them for money. Just a moment of their time.
Most agreed. And most shared. I sent people the link to share throughout the duration of the event, several people per day so as to keep Facebook saturated throughout the event. There were people from all over North America sharing the Kickstarter. And not only did they share, but their friends shared and so did their friends' friends. Some even pledged.

Blog - I spoke about the Kickstarter several times before the project and then again several times during. I was as open as I could be, sharing details on the event, the video, the illustrator and editor I planned to hire, the artwork, the prizes and, of course, my heart in the matter. Several blogging friends took the initiative and helped spread the word during the event. Several pledged as well.

**Before I go on, please know that I didn't grovel for pledges. I tried not to even come out and ask (although I kind of did toward the end). I wholeheartedly believed in the project and I believed if the right set of eyes were to fall upon it, magic would ensue. I stayed positive on my blog and on Facebook and Twitter and wherever else, despite the raging storm of doubt inside me.**

What maybe worked

Enrichment - By about 1/3 of the way through the project, it occurred to me that people were genuinely interested in reading my book. I was a bit surprised... I don't honestly know why. Maybe I'd just never felt that gratification. It was pretty amazing. So I decided to "Enrich the Kickstarter" by offering secrets of the world of Silexare or the development of the story to anyone who would make any pledge whatsoever.
At one point Arianne "Tex" Thompson used the phrase "Silexare Army" for those who'd already pledged. I adopted it wholeheartedly and occasionally addressed my pledgers as if we were the front line of a great raging battle. Good times.

**If you follow my steps, I urge you not to be surprised when people pledge. Plan for people to love your story. After all, you do. And if your heart is in it, I promise you'll find more than a couple kindred souls. You just need to push your project to as many people as you can.
Now, we can't all have Nicholas Spark amounts of kindred souls... But I'd be superbly surprised if your heart is so unique that no one else on earth can identify.
**

Holiday Season - I couldn't tell you what's the best time to launch a Kickstarter project for a fantasy fiction novel. But that I launched mine in the North American season of giving didn't seem to hurt.

Business Cards - I had these made for when I ran into someone face to face and had the opportunity to share the event. Were they worth the investment? Technically, yes. Will they be for you? That depends on where your social strengths lie.

What I'd do better
Longer span - My whole argument was that "I just need to get this in front of fellow fans of fantasy fiction and art!" And yet I launched my project with a run time of only 26 days. I did it because I was impatient as hell and yet I wanted the project over before it got too deep into the holiday season. I didn't want the project competing with anyone's family time.
Kickstarter stats will tell you that about 30 days run time is the sweet spot for success.
Mine pushed it really close. I hit the goal within 4 minutes of the deadline. Please know there was some hooting and hollering done in my house that night.

Local Bookstores, Newspapers, Radio stations - These are venues I attempted to contact during the event. By then it was a bit late, with the way things take time. I urge you to contact those sources before you even launch the event.

Stretch Goals - If you future Kickstarters take anything from this post, let it be this. Cut all unnecessary expenses! You may be like me, wandering around Kickstarter.com and thinking, "Wow, that project reached $1,000,000? For that stupid thing? That one hit 600% of their goal and they're making that piece of junk? I can easily get away with $4,900. It'll be a breeze!"
No. It won't. You're going to have to fight for every $5 pledge you get. Marketing a Kickstarter is a full time job. Money doesn't just rain down from the sky on you.
Cut those unnecessary expenses. Make them "stretch goals" - goals that come available once the initial amount has been met and there's still time on the clock. Because with Kickstarter, if you don't reach the funding goal, even if you're $5 short, you get nothing at all.

I hope I've offered something useful here. Please feel free to ask me anything I didn't cover.
Make sure to visit the rest of this blog hop!

See you guys.

45 comments:

  1. You still made it work! Even with the holidays and cutting it short.
    Funny how you can think if you just get your book (project, whatever) in front of genre fans they will buy, but it doesn't work like that. Sometimes genre fans won't even be your greatest fans.
    Thanks for participating in the symposium!

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    1. Good point Alex... and coming from someone who'd know better than me!

      Glad to participate!

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  2. This was very interesting, David. I think I read most of your posts while you were in the midst of the Kickstarter event, but I still didn't realize how many spoons you had in the kettle. I also didn't know that if you don't reach your goal (even it is very close) you won't get the money. I also didn't know (and maybe I read this wrong) that you can have tiered goals. I believe you called them Stretch Goals. Does that mean you can have a goal to launch (first goal) and then a goal to lunch plus something else (second goal) and so on and so on??? That would make sense because then you could share what would happen each time one of those goals was met.

    Congrats on making your Kickstarter goal. Sounds like those last few minutes were nail biters!

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    1. Please know that I was on the edge of my seat for like 4 hours.

      Stretch goals aren't quite as official as tiered goals... It's more like, if I were to reach $4900 and people were still pledging, I'd come up with something else... Like, if we reach $7k (or however much this might cost), I'll publish a book strictly containing Tracy's art created for A Sawmill's Hope, including abandoned images and inks and rough sketches.
      (Which I would still freaking love to do!)

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  3. I haven't tried kickstarter, but I have heard great things about other's success. I imagine it's a mixed bag--with the amount of effort that goes into a successful campaign. It's wonderful learning that people are really exited about your creations, eh? I think that's the best part of the whole publishing gig.

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    1. It is a lot of effort (Unless your product is just so amazing it sells itself... but even then it needs to reach the right eyeballs) and a lot of twisty emotions.
      And yes, it's wonderful to learn that folks are excited. I'm still riding that feeling.

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  4. I had never heard of Kickstarter before – thanks! And congrats on your successful launch!

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  5. Amazing, I'd never heard of Kickstarter. Seems like you really tackled it and won, congratulations. Great advice, and a wonderful example! Thank you for participating!

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    1. No problem, Yolanda! Thanks for visiting

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  6. It definitely takes time and commitment to do it right. Thanks for this informative post.

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    1. You're right. Thanks for stopping by, M.J.

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  7. I've also never heard of Kickstarter, but it is definitely something to remember. Thank you for sharing, and congratulations on your success with it!

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    1. Thank you! Yeah, Kickstarter seems to be gaining steam... A lot of self starters about these days.

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  8. *waves at Chrys* Hey you!

    Love this post!! I too had my debut fantasy novel release last year. If only I had seen this post BEFORE its Oct release. What a great idea on the Kickstart. I should have contacted all my FB peeps, (begging) to help promote. Ah well.

    Definitely took some notes for the next release this Oct! Thanks!!

    Cheers!
    Terri @ Scribbler's Sojourn

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    1. So glad I could help a fellow fantasy enthusiast! I'm going to check out your page now!

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  9. Kickstarter is a new one to me. I have to check it out.

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    1. Have a look at it, there's a whole lot of awesome coming from it and not just in publishing!

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  10. A friend of mine, who's also an author, told me about Kickstarter. It sounds really great but yes, you're right, you'll have to "fight for every $5 pledge you get".

    The Musings of a Hopeful and Pecunious Wordsmith

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    1. Tis true indeed! At this moment, while my editor works and my illustrator sketches and the state of Ga considers my paperwork for the publishing house I'm trying to launch, I must say it was worth every moment!

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  11. Really great advice, especially about contacting radio and newspaper outlets. I'll keep all this in mind for the future, for sure.

    Sarah Allen
    (From Sarah, with Joy)

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  12. Thanks for sharing this. Haven't ever done anything like this, but it's another idea to jot down from this hop.

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    1. Indeed! As a do-it-yourselfer, I kind of love Kickstarter right now.

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  13. Great advice. Thanks for sharing your experience. I've heard a lot of wonderful success stories from people who used Kickstarter.

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    1. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by, Christine!

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  14. You rocked that Kickstarter! High five. :D

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    1. Yeah!
      Thanks again for all the advice you offered!
      (and for the advice you have yet to offer:) )

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  15. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hadn't heard of kickstarter and will explore there, see if running a project there could be approrpiate for me in the future. And congratulations on exceeding your goal.

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    1. You're welcome Damaria! Thank you for coming by!

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  16. Kickstarter is a great way to get a project off the ground for people who are serious and believe in their project. Awesome to hear you reached your goal.

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  17. Dude, let me just throw myself on top of the dog-pile here and say that this post is SO juicy, for like eleventeen different reasons. You're like the kid who ate something he found under the monkey bars and lived to tell about it - boldly doing what nobody *I* know has done before!

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    1. If I could only remember how many times I've been that kid!
      It was a close call indeed. Thank you for your constant enthusiasm and support during the event!

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  18. I've heard of Kickstarter, but I had never thought of using it to promote books.

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    1. Oh yeah! I'm not saying I achieved this (I did aspire to) but I'd say be as original as you can if you're launching a Kickstarter for a book. Once you know what everyone else is doing... do something else!

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  19. Congratulations on your successful launch!
    And I like the personalized FB message proposals idea... the personal touch is a winner!

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    1. Thank you! I agree. Using a "Hey does anyone mind sharing this?" approach would have just seemed uber-indifferent.

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  20. Although I am not a writer, I can use some of these tips for my photography. Thanks for the help.

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    1. By all means, use what you can! Thanks for stopping by.

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  21. Hi David, What a interesting post, so glad I found you on the Symposium List. I'm fascinated by Kickstarter, haven't used it myself although I've toyed with different ideas. Your experience proves it is not "easy money." Participants must work for it just as in any area of marketing. Thanks for sharing!

    Cheers!
    Karen

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    1. It's not easy but if you have an idea you're enthusiastic about and your idea is unique and you have a platform from which to market the event, I strongly suggest it!
      It was quite a ride.

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  22. It's really cool that this worked out for you!

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