Here are nine random tips for those of you who choose to use Kickstarter, or a similar service, to raise money for the self-publication of your book.
1. Ignore the promos.
About thirty seconds after I created my campaign, I got hit with the first promo message. It was from a person who claimed they were just browsing the Fiction section of Kickstarter, and they were so impressed with my project that they just had to write to me and let me know about this fantastic promotional service they’d discovered that was guaranteed to get me to my goal and beyond.
Here’s the thing about people like this. If you want to do business with me, great. I’m always open to listening to whatever it is you have to say. But the instant I sense I’m being bullshitted, I stop listening. And when you tell me in a completely impersonal email that you were just browsing the Fiction section of Kickstarter and thought my project was awesome, I know I’m being bullshitted, because who does that? Nobody, that’s who.
You’ll get lots of other types of messages, too. Some will offer to spam your Facebook friends’ inboxes for you if you just give them access to your friend list. Really? No, thanks. I can spam my friends all by myself, thanks very much.
I was also suspicious of the ones who offered to trade pledges. People wrote and asked me to pledge a dollar to their campaign, after which they would pledge a dollar to my campaign. The thinking here is that it boosts your overall number of pledges, and once you hit a certain number of pledges… something wonderful is supposed to happen. I don’t even know what. It doesn’t matter. It’s more bullshit. To me, it feels like when people ask you to vote online over and over for their kid to win a prize, or for their movie to get selected, or for their band to win a recording contract, or whatever. Voting is not supposed to work that way. If someone is going to pledge for my project, I want it to be because they share my passion, not because they’re trying to game the system.
I ignored every single promo message I received. I recommend you do the same.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask people directly for pledges.
You’re not asking for a handout. You’re offering something in exchange. I sent direct messages to a number of people on Facebook, and most of them responded positively. They seemed genuinely glad I asked. A few people never answered me. I didn’t take it personally, and I didn’t hound them. Ask once, politely and clearly. I admit I do struggle with this part–asking people for things is very hard for me. But if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
And I should have asked more than once. A few people wrote to me a couple of weeks after the campaign ended, asking me, “Is your Kickstarter thing still going on? No? Damn! I wanted to pledge and I totally forgot!”
3. As Kickstarter recommends, make a video.
They offer several pointers. They’re good ones. Your video does not have to be slick or professional. In fact, they recommend the DIY look because it’s more authentic. Keep it real and from the heart, and make sure you’re in it, talking about your book.
I made three versions of my Kickstarter video. In the first, I tried to be chatty and familiar, and I ended up rambling for several minutes about nothing. In the second, I kept it much shorter, and I read from a cue card. It sounded wooden. In the third, my wife filmed me standing in front of a picture of my great-grandmother, and she ordered me to drop the cue cards and speak from the heart. I ended up getting emotional several times as I talked about what my great-grandmother had meant to me. My tears didn’t make it onto the video, but the emotion behind them did. I don’t know how many people responded because of the video. But I have to assume that because the campaign was successful, the video played an important part.
4. Tell everyone you know at least once about your Kickstarter.
It’s a cool thing, and people will be interested, as long as you’re not overbearing about it. A lot of people will want to contribute but will forget or become distracted. They want to be reminded. See #2.
5. Don’t overshare on Facebook.
As important as it is to let people know, it’s also important not to overpost about it on Facebook, or people will start to filter you out. We’re already bombarded by dozens of requests a day for various causes. My policy was to post once mid-week, like Wednesday evening, and once on the weekend. Saturday night seemed to be a great time to make Facebook posts. Though I hate to admit it, people my age tend to stay home on weekends. Saturday nights, once reserved for partying and dancing until 3 a.m., are now for sipping a glass of wine and surfing FB. Sunday afternoon or early evening was the next best time.
6. Asking people to like and share is helpful.
I made a point of mentioning to my FB friends that sharing my post would be just as appreciated as a pledge. Dozens of them responded by sharing it on their pages. It made them feel like they were helping, and it resulted in some new pledges. Every little bit helps.
7. Let people know that very small pledges are just as important as the big ones.
Be sure to have a few very low-dollar-amount pledge options, and tell everyone that if they can’t do $20 or $50 or more, then $1 or $5 is also great. Otherwise, if someone can’t afford to do much and feels embarrassed about it, then they may feel less likely to pledge at all. If someone just doesn’t like the idea of giving away more than a few dollars, that option will work for them, too.
8. Let special interest groups know about your Kickstarter.
It’s not only a good way to get pledges, but it counts as pre-publicity for your book. In my case, I contacted several Polish-American groups. Some of them said they would post my campaign link, but not all. One lady who runs a prominent Polish-American genealogy page said that she couldn’t do it, because it was not in line with the stated purpose of the group. Fair enough. But when I wrote back to thank her for her time, she responded again, saying that once the book was published, I could come and speak to them if I happened to be in the area. Excellent. My first speaking engagement is already lined up. see how that works? Be gracious and mannerly and people will go out of their way to help you.
9. Use the whole internet, not just the Facebook part of it.
I mention Facebook over and over in this list because that was where the vast majority of my pledges came from. But that’s not to say you should neglect other areas. If you have a website, you should make a post about it, obviously. You can use that link to then drive traffic to your site, as well as to get visits to your campaign page.
Coming soon: Working with an editor