I am fresh off of running a successful Kickstarter campaign in one of the least popular genres in one of the site’s most unsuccessful categories* – the personal memoir. Deadly I tell you! I know, because I researched the successful Kickstarter campaigns, as well as the “publishing” and “nonfiction” categories in search of a map. Photography books had great numbers. Graphic novels even better. Prescriptive nonfiction. Marketing books. Anything with a famous person. Or multiple collaborators. All did well. But for my type of book there was no good model. So I took my background in marketing and PR to create my campaign, and I’d like to share these best practices with you.
I chose Kickstarter primarily because I was already familiar with it. I knew about their all-or-nothing policy (frankly I agree with it; otherwise you can’t fulfill your obligations to your funders), and I knew about their hefty 10 percent fee (5/5 split with Amazon Payments). What I liked about Kickstarter is that they are specifically trying to help artists make money. Artists should make money! Why begrudge Amanda Palmer’s million dollar plus success? Her triumph doesn’t take away from you. Do you know how much money there is in the world? It’s like love. The source is abundant and plentiful though you can poison the well.** So don’t! Try these tips instead.
1. Be nice
You’re going to need a good email list to make this work. You’d be amazed how kind people can be if you treat them with kindness, too. Don’t be fake. Blech. But be nice to folks you meet. Ask for their emails. Add them when they ask you! They will be far less likely to become immediate unsubscribers when you do send that email.
And even if they don’t fund this particular project, who’s to say they won’t show up at a reading? Keep that list healthy! The worst thing they’ll be able to say about you? She was just so dang…nice!
2. Use a good email service
Your emails should help you track who’s clicking and converting, so use html! Besides, people are more inclined to engage with a pretty email, and you need engagement if you’re going to get people to open their wallets for you. So make it gorgeous! I use MailChimp (and there are plenty of others) because they make it easy to look like a pro. If there’s one thing I learned from years of working in fundraising for the arts, people want to fund quality. They want to be part of something that’s thriving. It’s so easy to make it look good, you can’t afford not to!
3. Like yoga, radiate from your core out
Typing out the above list reminded me that I started by sending email to a core group of fans. People who have been interested in my work for a long time. That way, when I sent the mass email, there was already some pledge activity. Again, it’s that same mindset. People want to back a winner.
4. Don’t overdo it
People don’t want to hear about your Kickstarter constantly. You have to keep pumping out what your fans know and love about you. In my case, wacky lady facts and news, random bits of NYC and personal anecdotes. You can even skip mentioning it on your social media outlets on some days! Just be sure you’re firing on one cylinder somewhere, an email, a blog post or a good old fashioned appearance somewhere. Yes, even a cocktail party. But be judicious here as well. At Mailchimp you can track subscriber activity, so if you’re talking to X and know he’s opened all five emails, you probably don’t need to mention the campaign. He’s either broke, extremely duplicitous (and I just know you have better judgment than that) or waiting to make a big pledge at the end when it really counts! Then again, if you notice that Y hasn’t opened any and is a big fan, it’s ok to send a direct Facebook message (be very very selective with these) and ask if she’s received your stuff. ALWAYS be ready to back away from the conversation if he OR she expresses no interest. People who don’t live in New York are often too embarrassed to say they don’t have any spare money.
Using Hootsuite helped me time my Tweets and Facebook posts for optimal effectiveness; they wrote the algorithm on not oversharing. So I had to be careful. A big story about Qatar broke and I posted it immediately. This pushed my subsequent Kickstarter post for Facebook to the next day. Grrr. Because frankly, I also found I got very little traction with Qatar itself. Facebook is about people and pictures, if you don’t have that in your post it won’t succeed. Twitter has a shorter lifespan, but also a shorter shelf life. This is where you can post more than once a day about the same thing without completely screwing yourself, though most of my (tracked) conversion came from Facebook. (The actual majority was “no referrer information.”)
5. Do your homework
What is it you are trying to accomplish? Do you really know how much money you need to do it? Could you write a budget? Set goals and think about what you need to achieve them before you finalize your campaign. You can’t be fuzzy on what you’re asking people to give up their hard-earned cash for and expect to get a response.
6. Make a video
Even Kickstarter tells you up front: campaigns with videos are more successful. Don’t overthink it. Directo-to-camera prevails, so open your laptop and go for it.
7. Tell a story
You should get at least a little personal even if your book isn’t.
8. Aim low
At least on Kickstarter, you only get the money if your project successfully funds. Figure out the smallest budget you could possibly need, then think about the parts that comprise it. If you want $10,000 but could accomplish x, y and z with $5,000, think about asking for five. And don’t be afraid to let people know your strategy. And be grateful for whatever you get. Very grateful. And let them know as soon as possible. It’s a miracle when people care. And if they care enough to give financial support, that’s golden. Don’t be part of making civility a more fragile economy. See #1.
BONUS TIP: Don’t run your campaign too long. Kickstarter recommends a month, but know that this means staying on top of it every day. It’s pins and needles style exhausting. You might even go shorter. I went 36 days. Not smart.
*From my personal, nonscientific (but not too poorly researched) guestimation.
**Admittedly, I’m not wild about famous people – for whom more traditional fundraising sources are open – using this platform. I can only look forward to the day when even this doesn’t bother me.