Kickstart This: Six Lessons Learned

By Kerry Schafer

Recently I ventured into completely uncharted territory for me - a Kickstarter campaign for the purpose of producing a quality Indie book. When I say recently I mean so recently that the sweat from my shaking fingers hasn't yet dried on the launch button. I can't set myself up as a success story if we judge success by how well the Kickstarter does in the long run. But I have managed to get as far as Launch, so I thought I'd share some lessons learned from that part of the process.

Whether you're an Indie writer or a Hybrid writer who might someday want to try a Kickstarter, or just somebody who is interested, here are six things I've learned about Kickstarters in the last few weeks.

1) What IS a Kickstarter Anyway? I've sort of passively wondered about this for awhile. I knew they existed and involved money and crowd sourcing, but that was the extent of my knowledge. Basically, Kickstarter.com provides a place for creative types to present a business proposal for a creative project. Backers commit to supporting the project at varying financial levels but no money exchanges hands unless and until the project is fully funded. In exchange for their support, backers are rewarded in the form of some item directly connected to the project. For writers these rewards often take the form of books, contact with the writer over Skype or phone or coffee, input into the story, a chance to name a character, and so on.

2) Successful Projects Start with a Video, or at least so says the Kickstarter website. It's possible they have sadistic people working there and just like to see introverted creative types squirm like a worm on a hook. Or maybe their claim that potential backers want to see and hear from the project creator is valid. Whatever the truth of the matter, if you find yourself in this situation rely on the kindness of friends. You'll be amazed at what they will do for you in terms of support, editing, advice, and even possibly appearing in your video.

3) You'll Need to Do Math. You may think I'm kidding, but this is true. People who are considering backing a project want to see a reasonably detailed budget. How much have you allocated for various expenses? Does it all add up to what you've set for your goal? Have you considered the costs of the rewards you've promised? Oh, and don't forget the 5% Kickstarter claims if the project funds. Backers want to be sure you'll be able to deliver on the promised goods.

4) It's Scary and Exciting. Putting yourself and your beloved project out there - whether it's a book, or a CD, or something you're building - pulls out all the emotional stops. There's the excitement of a whole new adventure, combined with the fear that nobody - not even your best friend and your mother - will back your project. Not funding could be ego crushing, especially when you consider that the Potato Salad Guy made, like, millions. On the other hand, having people back your project is like an unexpected visit from your fairy godmother.

5) It's Business. At the end of the day, what you're really doing is asking people, some of them total strangers, to support a business proposition. So it's not really about you and whether people like you or not. That said, it is important to present as trustworthy and reputable. You don't want to look so dodgy they think you're going to take the funds and run off to become the next evil overlord of Gotham. The advice I was given is to be as transparent as possible and present your plan and your goals clearly.

6) You'll Need Help. This is one of those things you can't do on your own. You'll need people to talk you down from the trees and people to give you a motivational kick in the pants. You'll need eyes on your proposal to see what you've missed. You'll need voices to help get the word out after you hit the launch button. The good news it that writer types are the most generous people on the face of the planet. Ask your people. They will be there for you.

 

Kerry Schafer
Kerry Schafer writes fantasy with its teeth sunk into reality, mystery that delves into the paranormal, and (as Kerry Anne King) women’s fiction that explores the nooks and crannies of family and forgiveness. More about Kerry on her website.

3 thoughts on “Kickstart This: Six Lessons Learned

  1. Good post ! Did a Kickstarter earlier this year for my late pal Gary Reilly and we might have just set our sights too high: aimed for $15K and “raised” nearly $10K, which was fantastic but not successful. GREAT tips … you need a team and the video is key.

  2. Good info, Kerry, thanks! I’m glad you got to have the scary parts before I eventually might/probably/will have to. Glad. To see that doing so well, you and The Nothing certainly deserve the backing, and probably chocolate.

  3. Thanks for all the good information on Kickstarter, Kerry. I know it’s used for all kinds of fund-raising projects, including helping out folks with huge medical bills. It’s very helpful to get some first-hand information on the inner workings.

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