Guest post: Kickstarter by Nathan Zink & Julie M Covert

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of Kickstarter is brought to you by Nathan Zink and Julie M Covert.

Nathan and Julie emailed me following a tout I put up for more interviewees (as I was getting low) on LinkedIn and both mentioned Kickstarter. I’d not heard of it so asked them to tell me more – this is what they said…

Kickstarter – Nathan Zink

Possibilities for the individual seeking to self publish are ever expanding.  For the aspiring writer, there are multiple avenues from paying for a print service to using an electronic format such as Kindle.  Another such option is Kickstarter.com.

The Kickstarter website’s basic idea is to be a forum where individuals can present a project seeking financial backing from other individuals.  Incentives for support can be as simple as a copy of the finished product to more elaborate enticements, and virtually every project will have multiple levels of support from which to choose.  While the site covers a variety of art and culture formats including design, film, games, photography, and even technology, there is a large section devoted to publishing.  This area is further divided into seven genres for categorizing one’s specific work.

Starting a project is simple, with the user following the process via a set of divisions that break it down into the basic components such as general project information, support rewards, and personal bio.  Personal touches include the ability to upload photos, video, and add links to your sites such as Facebook or blogs.  The real challenge is ensuring all costs have been accounted for when launching a project.  For some, this may seem a bit daunting, especially for one aspiring to publish for the first time.  Researching what is involved is key and much will depend on how the finished material will be produced.  Will it be a physical book or an ebook?  The former has printing and shipping costs associated with it while the latter has its own fees.  And while there is no cost to start a project, those that reach their funding goals are charged 5% by the website, which uses Amazon Payments to electronically transfer funds to your account, incurring another similar percentage.  In other words, potentially 10% must be worked into one’s funding requirement.

When it comes to securing the needed funding, the process is an ‘all or nothing’ endeavor.  This ensures a project does not get into the position of having to fulfill obligations to supporters without the necessary financial backing.  The one thing that is lacking is any substantial promotion of one’s work.  While the Kickstarter website does have some recommendations and “spotlight” categories for the casual browser, getting the word out still falls upon the shoulders of the individual.  One benefit is the ability to contact those promoting a project should you have questions about their project specifically or the process in general (as I did).

We decided to try our hand as a pair of aspiring first time publishers with our children’s book “What Did the Dog do?”.  After thoroughly researching all the cost variables, I settled on a complete do-it-yourself approach.  Compared to what a printer would charge for a small order, getting the supplies and equipment to make your own hardcover books had a comparable bottom line.  The advantage is it gives the flexibility to not only be freed from a fixed number of copies, but also opens up the possibility for custom personalized touches.  We offer the latter to certain level supporters from things like recognition on the back page to even having your own dog drawn into the story.

This book was written several years back, based upon my own family dog (now gone and still missed).  It wasn’t until I came across the Kickstarter website that I felt there could be an avenue for getting it published, the traditional route of submission being tedious, time-consuming, and downright discouraging.  With a bit of luck and a good deal of self-promotion, we can make it happen.

***

Creating a successful Kickstarter project! by Julie M Covert

I first heard about crowd-funding sites, such as Kickstarter.com, a couple of years ago when a client of mine created a project. After learning about how it worked I got excited. With Kickstarter I could pledge a set amount of money with the assurance that I would either be rewarded with a particular item (in this case a musical cd) when the project reached its funding goal or my credit card would not be charged if the funding goal was not met by a specified date.

Other crowd-funding sites have all the pledged money go to the person, regardless of whether or not the goal was met. Both types have their advantages. Today I’m going to focus on Kickstarter-type crowd-funding organizations; those where fundraising is all or nothing.

If you think you want to do a fundraiser, you need to create your project. You’ll need a thorough description of your project as well as a simple description. You’ll need visuals of your project, rewards for your pledgers, and you’ll need a marketing plan!

My project is to raise funds to print a coffee table book, “Art of Winter.” My brief description is “Explore the art and beauty that winter creates with ice and snow in this high-quality photography coffee table book, Art of Winter.” This goes on the general page and appears in linked text.

My thorough description appears on the project page. I’ll let the project page speak for itself.

Write the beginning of the description as if it is a query for your book. In this case you want to sell your book to backers rather than to an agent. Also tell about your inspiration and reason for writing this book. Who’s the audience for your book?

Answer all the who, what, when, where, why and hows. What questions would your grandmother, who loves you but hasn’t got a clue, want to know? Give compelling answers as to why THIS book is special, why someone should back you, make them feel part of the project.

Look through projects in your same category (book) and different (movie, arts, etc). How do they present their book? What do you like? What don’t you like? Which appeal to you? It’s the projects that tell you details that you can start feeling a personal connection to and begin to say to yourself “Gee I wish I had thought of that!” or “Wow I’d like one of those for myself.” Those are the projects that people are interested in supporting.

Look at projects that exceeded their goals and those that didn’t. What do you think they did “right” and “wrong”. What can those projects teach you? Contact those people directly and ask them “Hey, what worked (or not) for you?”

Get visual! Do a video! Get some face-time with your potential backers. Tell about the story and why it means a lot to you to get this in print and people reading it. Get something fun in there that is related to the project, but keep it professional.

Also show still pictures from the book. Show pictures of the manuscript. Show pictures of you sitting at your desk. Show something, other than just the house on the cover. And if you show the cover, let’s see the whole cover – title, illustration, your name, etc.

Go check out Alain: http://www.pozible.com/index.php/archive/index/5184/description/0/0 I think he does a very good job presenting his project, he tells me about his book, he shows me his book even though it is only a manuscript (now I’m starting to connect to it emotionally and personally). His book’s subject is not very flashy he’s got something – information – that he is assuring me will be of help to me as a business person. I’m beginning to think, “What does he know and what is he so confident about knowing that I don’t?” This creates a desire to have his information. How can you do the same with your book?

Tell about where your money is going. I know it takes a lot, but a person who doesn’t write or self-publish might think you want to pay your mortgage with their pledge.

How’s it going to be printed? If you are going to ask people to give you money it has to be for something professionally produced, not something one step higher than printing it on a high quality printer at home.

Have reasonable and appealing rewards. To get a copy of the book the backer should be able to pledge a reasonable amount – $15 to $30 not $125. If you have a PDF convert it to an eBook. If possible have personalized rewards – personalizing an autograph, naming a character or a cameo appearance.

If it’s a suitable book for a gift offer a reward of a couple of books. For example if you pledge $125 you get either three copies of  “Art of Winter” or a print and two copies. People love the idea for gift giving!

For your bio – pump yourself up. Even if you’ve never written anything before, don’t talk down about yourself. Describe yourself by writing about what you know and love and why you have the authority to be writing this story.

Marketing – this is your make or break point. It is the most crucial point. If you can’t do the marketing the sad truth is that it won’t happen. Kickstarter is a place for you to direct the traffic to; they do not direct the traffic to you.

Get the word out! Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, blogs, direct email and more. It’s all about word of mouth. And you have to ask people to pass on the word.

You have to get a tough skin and go ask for money. If you want to raise funding you have to ask, ask, ask! Keep your message clear. Change up your spiel. Figure out what works.

I’m sending out direct emails twice a week and posting to FB and LinkedIn more regularly. And I’m blogging about it anywhere and everywhere. Two weeks have passed by and I’m funded over 69 percent, but the work isn’t over yet.

Make up some business cards. Put your book cover on the front put your name, book title, phone number, email, website and Kickstarter site on the card. Hand them out to everyone. “I’d really appreciate if you would pre-buy a copy of my book.” “Will you pre-buy a copy of my book?” “Will you pledge?”

Give people five or six copies of your business card and tell them that in addition to pledging they can help by asking their friends, family and colleagues to pledge. Word of mouth scores them great karma points.

Don’t prejudge who might or might not want to buy/pledge. I’m a massage therapist and teacher. I have over 600 names of past clients and students and have sent them emails. There was one man who had only one appointment with me years ago. He was on my email list but I did not know if his email was valid or his interest in my book. He pledged for my book. Turns out he loves photography just as much as I do. He posted to his Google+ group that “follows” him – 1200 people! Someone from that group pledged and said he’ll post it on his sites.

A few days later he upped his pledge from $50 to $125! He had gotten my next email, with the suggestion to pledge $125 and get three copies of the book or two copies and a print. I thanked him for doing this. He said that he loved the idea of giving it as gifts! I would not have guessed that one email would have brought me $158 in pledges.

I also have about 500 people that I’ve corresponded via email over the years – my realtor, dentist, chiropractor, college alumni, insurance rep, etc. Each of them has gotten my emails.

I have over 300 Facebook friends to whom I’ve sent “Event Invites”. I’m keeping a list of people who have said they would pledge and if they don’t by the end of week two I’ll send them a personal note to remind them and ask them to pledge and pass the word on. Two other things to consider:

  • Check your project for typos – people will think that if you are a writer you should know how to spell. Have a couple others read it for clarity.
  • Be a backer yourself! Go back some projects that you believe in. It’s good karma and it shows that you value the projects of others, just as you want others to back your project. Kind of the “you reap what you sow” mentality. You can start here by pledging for your own copy of “Art of Winter”. 🙂

Thank you, both, and good luck!

UPDATE: on 23rd April I was advised by Tim Rowberry of his Kickstarter project ‘The First Halloween… Nativity Set!‘ and am happy to add the link.

If you have a project on Kickstarter and would like your link adding here, do let me know.

Nathan Zink was born, raised, and continues to live in New Jersey.  He graduated high school in 1986, briefly moving on to college as a computer science major before failing out.  Odd jobs followed, including working for a landscaper, plumber, pizza delivery, and fiberglass insulation.  Finally he returned to school, first getting an associate degree in applied chemistry at the local county college.  After that he landed a job working in an analytical laboratory for a contracting company performing analyses for the U.S. Army.  In 2002 he was hired as a federal civilian, where he once again found the opportunity to resume his education.  From the New Jersey Institute of Technology he went on to receive his Bachelor and finally Master in chemistry in 2009.  In July of that year he accepted a temporary position in Iraq, where he traveled throughout the country assisting soldiers returning home.  Today Nathan is back at his old job, as well as a second part time job working evenings at the local Home Depot. He lives in a quiet suburb with his wife and two children. His Kickstarter project is here.

Julie McKay Covert is a published author, photographer, therapist and teacher. Her passion for nature is seen in her photographs and expressed in her writing. She lives with her husband, Hugh, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on the shores of Lake Huron where she fell in love with winter. They live off-the-grid using solar energy for electricity and wood, and propane for heating and cooking. For more information about Julie and her work, photography and writings see www.JulieMCovert.com.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with thriller and mystery author Jeremy K Tyler – the three hundred and twenty-seventh of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks and free eShorts at Smashwords, Sony Reader Store, Barnes & Noble, iTunes Bookstore and Kobo. My eBooks are now on Amazon, with more to follow, and I also have a quirky second-person viewpoint story in charity anthology Telling Tales.

I have a new forum at http://morgenbailey.freeforums.org and you can follow me on Twitter, friend me on Facebook, like me on Facebook, link with me on LinkedIn, complete my website’s ‘Contact me‘ page or plain and simple, email me.

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