Board Member’s Memo
Crowdfunding Books with Kickstarter
by Stephen Blake Mettee
Planning on publishing another book, but money is a little tight? How about getting funding for it from complete strangers and paying them back with “rewards” instead of cash?
A reward might be an autographed copy of the book. Or a walking tour of your city’s downtown area led by your author. Or a handwritten postcard from the author. Or anything else you can think up that a contributor might like.
Several crowdfunding sites exist (see “Crowdfunding Sites to Check Out,” below), but I’m going to focus on Kickstarter.com, the “funding platform for creative projects”—including books. According to Kickstarter, 29,000 projects have been successfully funded, and $360 million in funding has been pledged.
Kickstarter is free and easy to try. Using simple instructions you’ll find on the site, you’ll be building a Web page at Kickstarter.com that makes the case for your funding. For most of it, you’ll simply upload images and cut and paste copy into the online form Kickstarter supplies.
To get started, write a short description of your project.
This is kind of like writing a book proposal. Explain why the book will benefit or entertain the reader, how it differs from similar books, and why your author is the person to write it. Include your plans for marketing and distribution. Come up with a project title.
Kickstarter suggests your title be short, descriptive, and memorable. Here are a few I gathered from the Kickstarter site:
Stay Alive—Not Undead (Zombie Coloring/Activity Book)
This coloring/activity book is aimed at educating kids about “zombie safety and awareness.”
Ghosts of North Dakota: The Book
The project’s goal is to produce a “coffee table book featuring photos, history, and stories about North Dakota’s ghost towns.”
The GRL Talk Book: 231 Quotes from ROCKRGRL Magazine
Rockrgrl, now defunct, was a magazine for women musicians.
When you pick an image to be displayed on your project’s Kickstarter page, bear in mind that it needs to be attractive and have something to do with your book’s subject. If your book is a biography, it might be a photo of the person your author is writing about. For a novel set in Paris, a photo of the Eiffel Tower might work well. If the book’s cover has already been professionally designed, use the cover image. You can use more than one image, but don’t overdo it.
You will need a short bio explaining who your author is and why the author is qualified to write the book. Skip the part about your author’s architect-designed home or love of cats, unless those facts are pertinent to the book.
A video that makes the case for funding your project is not mandatory, but if you fail to include one, you do so at your own peril. Kickstarter reports that projects without a video have a considerably lower success rate—30 percent versus 50 percent.
Equipment to shoot your video may be as close as your cell phone, and simple-to-use video editing software abounds. Windows Live Movie Maker ships free with Windows 7. The powerful Movie Maker app for Mac may be downloaded for less than $30. [Also see “15 Steps to Powerful Videos” in the October Independent.]
Your video can be as professional as time and skill permit, but a simple video of you or the author talking about the book will suffice. As Kickstarter puts it, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
Have the video tell the viewer about the book. It should include some or all of the information in your written description of the project: It should explain how the book will benefit or entertain the reader, how the idea for it came about, and where the author is in writing it and/or where you are in the process of publishing it. Recounting a short anecdote from the book and showing objects or photos discussed in it will add color.
Don’t forget to mention how fabulous the rewards you are offering are. Perhaps most important, ask the viewer to make a pledge.
Brainstorm rewards for those who pledge to fund the book’s production. Kickstarter suggests that you be creative in crafting your rewards and that they have a value similar to the amount pledged. You could have one reward for a pledge of $10, another for a $25 pledge, and a third for pledging $75.
According to Kickstarter, the most popular pledge is $25, and the average is $70, although rewards may be set at any level.
You will need a funding goal and a deadline by which to reach it. The funding goal should be the amount you need to get the book done and into distribution. Include things like the costs of editing, cover design, and printing and e-book production. And don’t forget to cover the costs of the rewards you are offering and their delivery.
After you have your Kickstarter project up and available for pledging, promote it. All the ways you’ve studied to promote books themselves come into play in promoting your Kickstarter fund request. Email your contacts, and have the author do the same; mention the pledge request on Facebook; share it on LinkedIn. Both the author and you should tweet about it to Twitter followers.
Don’t overwhelm, but do be persistent in mentioning your Kickstarter project. Post and tweet updates as the book and your Kickstarter fundraising progresses.
Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing model. You set the amount you need, and if the pledges fall short by the end of the time frame set (usually 30 to 60 days), no money changes hands. If the goal is reached, those who pledged have their credit cards charged, and the money goes into your bank account, minus the 5 percent that Kickstarter keeps and the fee charged by the company that processes the credit card transactions (in this case Amazon Payments), which is 3 to 5 percent. But you can include these amounts in the funding you are requesting.
The last step in this whole process, if your project meets its funding goal, is delivering the rewards you promised to those who backed your project. Your signed agreement with Kickstarter legally binds you to supply the rewards as promised, so don’t ignore this step. Kickstarter provides a survey tool that will let you contact the people who made pledges to obtain the information you’ll need, such as mailing addresses and names to use in autographed copies.
Stephen Blake Mettee, CEO and publisher at The Write Thought, is chair of the IBPA board. He blogs sporadically at TheWriteThought.com/blog.
The Creston Books Launch with Kickstarter
In 2011, IBPA member Marissa Moss, upset at the declining number of children’s picture book publishers, decided to take matters into her own hands and start Creston Books. She was partially driven by Random House’s purchase of West Coast icon Ten Speed Press and its children’s imprint Tricycle Press, which had published her best-known titles, including Amelia’s Notebook.
Moss, whose work has been published by many East Coast houses, told Publishers Weekly that the idea “came to a head after Random House bought Ten Speed and threw Tricycle away. An innovative voice in children’s publishing was gone.”
Moss’s request for funding wasn’t for a single book, but for funding for Creston’s first two years’ frontlist. Apparently never daunted by big goals, she fixed her request at $50,000.
She then set 10 reward levels. The rewards she offered included postcards (one for a pledge of $10, two for a pledge of $20). A pledge of $100 would get you two signed books and five postcards. For a pledge of $3,000 a contributor would get an original piece of art from the Amelia’s Notebook series and a copy of each of the books published during Creston’s first year.
How did Kickstarter work out for her? She got 222 contributions totaling $51,496, including six $3,000 contributions.
Helpful Web Sites
If you’re new to making a video, let YouTube.com show you how.
Kickstarter provides step-by-step instructions here.
Marissa Moss’s colorful site.
Crowdfunding Sites to Check Out