When one of our Fat Witch Summer Kickstarter backers requested a blog post with tips for running a successful bookstarter, I knew it had to be one of my first real, in-depth blog posts. While there's no one "right way" to run a Kickstarter campaign, here are a few tips and tricks I learned from observation, research, and our Kickstarter Manager.
Set An Achievable Goal
While it’s tempting to pick a sky’s-the-limit amount of funding as your goal, setting a goal on the lower end is beneficial for numerous reasons:
1. It’s achievable quickly, which boosts the project in Kickstarter’s algorithm
2. Funding quickly is a selling point, i.e. “Funded in only 20 minutes!”
3. If a project is funded, backers can back with confidence knowing they will receive it
While no one knows exactly how the Kickstarter algorithm works, it’s very helpful to have a burst of activity and funding at the very beginning so it lands on Kickstarter’s radar. This can lead to the project earning the coveted “Project We Love” badge and it may also boost its positioning in Kickstarter’s browsing categories.
There are some backers who like to swoop in and help a project that is closing in on its goal in the final hours, but for Fat Witch Summer, we decided to set a low and achievable goal in the hopes that the early boost would ultimately lead to more readers finding the book.
Look At Comparable Titles
Want to know what a successful campaign looks like? Find and study Kickstarters for similar books in your genre! Anyone can view the "Story" part of Kickstarter campaign, giving you a sense of what backers first see when they land on a Kickstarter page. To a get a glimpse of updates and how often people schedule posts, back a few books to get an idea of what similar successful campaigns look like from a backer's perspective.
Following a campaign might even help you solve problems while running your own. For example, when it came time to digitally distribute Fat Witch Summer, I looked to the Kickstarter for It Came From The Closet to see how Feminist Press sent me my digital reward. This actually ended up being a cautionary tale—FP gave backers a coupon for their online store and I received a generic EPUB file that couldn’t display a cover properly. I recognized this wasn’t the experience I wanted for my backers and worked with BookFunnel instead of Shopify.
On another note, studying comparable campaigns will give you an idea of the funding range your book might reach. I was optimistic that, best case scenario, Fat Witch Summer could reach 10-15k because similar books that ran Kickstarters right before it ended at those levels.
By the time Fat Witch Summer was coming to a close at around $21,000, I knew that this was above average—and I was super proud!
Keep Campaigns Under 30 Days
Have you heard of the Rule of Thirds? Not in terms of photography, but Kickstarters? This is a popular theory that Ben, our Kickstarter Manage, has seen time and time again in the tabletop game campaigns he has run on Kickstarter.
Generally, the first third of a campaign’s funding is generated in the first two days. The second third is in the final two days. The last third is in the middle, regardless of length of days.
Longer Kickstarters do not necessarily raise more money because it’s hard to keep up momentum and keep people excited and engaged for much longer than a month. A longer campaign just means it will probably drag more in the middle.
Granted, these are just guidelines. Our first third was a little higher due to friends and family showing up early and enthusiastically (thank you!) while our final third suffered because our last two days were after Halloween. It's a timing issue I wish I had anticipated and I will talk about it more in a future post about what I would do differently next time.
Don't Skimp on Pre-Marketing
Some people see Kickstarter campaigns as a form of marketing due to the platform having a passionate base of people who support the arts.
However, it’s definitely worth it to invest some time and money into marketing the campaign to backers before it even launches.
“Free” marketing that I did included emailing my friends, family, etc. a few weeks before the launch to tell them what to expect. I also emailed them on the day the campaign went live. I also posted regularly on social media. Some specific examples included retweeting the official Kickstarter Twitter account when they shouted out Fat Witch Summer—I tried my best to support their tweet by retweeting it and also replying to show that I appreciated it. On Instagram, I made sure authors who blurbed the book, like Kim-Joy, knew when to post about the Kickstarter launching.
Paid marketing included boosting posts on social media and running some simple ads both before and during the Kickstarter campaign. Thanks to Kickstarter’s ability to make unique traceable links, you should be able to track how much money your ads bring in to make sure you aren’t spending more than you make.
I also submitted Fat Witch Summer for a Kirkus Review four months ahead of the campaign to make sure I had an external, unbiased review of the book. Thankfully, it was a positive review, but be warned that Kirkus is notorious for harsh reviews. And, because you are your own publisher, you have to put up the money to pay the reviewer.
Play To Your Strengths
Kickstarter campaigns are adding more bells and whistles every year. While it's possible to wear a lot of hats, try to pinpoint and recognize the areas where you may need help. Consider allocating some of your future funds to a professional website builder, a Kickstarter video editor, or a spiffy logo designer. Sites like Fiverr can be a godsend if you have limited time or limited funds.
It may seem obvious, but make sure that at the end of the day you create a Kickstarter campaign that is fulfilling beyond just securing the bag. Running a bookstarter involves weeks of hard work before and after launch. Play to your creative strengths, be that by writing engaging updates, crafting enviable swag, or stretching those graphic design muscles (in my case). Just remember that a bookstarter is about getting your book to readers—as long as you do that, you are on the right track.