In January 2016, we ran our very first Kickstarter to fund the publication of the first book in our fantasy romance. Where we expected a meager $400, we ended up with $1600! Along the way, we learned a few things, and that’s what we’ll talk about today. As always, your mileage may vary. Genre, audience, and many other factors can play into success. But generally, here are some tips to follow when running your first book Kickstarter.
Why Are You Doing It?
While it’s entirely possible to create and spit out a Kickstarter (or any other crowdfunding campaign) in an hour, it’s not recommended. You should give as much thought and effort into your crowdfunding campaign as you do your final release date of the book. That means, you guessed it, a project plan.
First, figure out what you want to do. Are you just trying to get early copies out to your readers? (In which case, Kickstarter might not be the best idea, but we’ll hit that in another post). Are you trying to offset the cost of cover and editing? Or are you just testing this new thing out to see how it improves your bottom line?
For the purposes of this blog, we’ll say you’re going with #2: offsetting publication costs.
How Much Do You Need?
To calculate this, you’ll need to know a few things. Obviously, how much are you planning to pay your cover artist and editor. If you’re going to seek them out after the Kickstarter, then get some estimates and timelines. Then, take your (already complete) manuscript and figure out how many pages you’ve got. You can use a tool like IngramSpark’s Print and Ship Calculator to then estimate how much it’ll cost to print your books. This is very important, as it might be a lot more than you think (especially if you’ve never published a book before). Are you including any swag like bookmarks, buttons, or tote bags? Add that in there, too.
Now that you’ve got all your costs, it’s time to figure out how much you’ll need. This is a bit of a give-and-take process, as you won’t know how many books you’ll need to buy until the end of the Kickstarter. But you can make an educated guess, based on where your audience numbers are right now. Basically, you’ll be taking the amount of money you need for your publication costs (the reason for the Kickstarter) and compare it with the profits you’ll make from your rewards, and come up with the minimum.
Paperback rewards: $10 each / Cost to print book: $6.50 per book = Profit: $3.50 per book
Editing Costs: $500 + Cover Design: $500 = Total cost: $1,000
$1000 / $3.50 = 286 books at $10 each to cover the cost, so a total goal ~$2860 (Rounding up to $3,000 for Kickstarter Fees)
(Keep in mind this doesn’t take into account rewards with swag or people donating more than the cost of the reward, but it’s a good place to start)
Set Your Goals High, But Reasonable
One of the big risks you take with Kickstarter is that if you don’t make your goal, then you don’t get a thing. So while you could absolutely set a goal of $3,000 or $5,000, do you have a current audience base that would support 300 individual orders? If not, it may be wise to lower your goals to something more achievable. If it’s your first book and Kickstarter, a lower goal like $500 might be a better place to start. You can always go over, and set up stretch goals to keep momentum moving.
As far as timeline, remember the idea of marketing momentum. You will most likely have a flurry of activity at the beginning of your Kickstarter and at the end, and the middle is what’s known as “soggy.” But keeping your schedule open for at least two weeks means you’ll be able to capture sales from folks on a biweekly pay period, and you’ll have a wider net to capture more potential backers.
Ten Tips For A Successful Kickstarter
We’ve put together the below infographic to help guide your planning. If you still need more help, then use our contact form at the bottom of the post to let us know how we can help you!