My friend Rob Gard has an interesting story to share about the intriguing project he’s using to fund his book! Here’s Rob:
We are writers, storytellers, chanters of the ancient hearthside songs and sagas. We crawl through creative tunnels and mine the deepest depths of our experiences, beliefs, fears and hopes to connect with the shared human experience. There’s no room for Excel budget worksheets and media lists in that world… is there?
Two weeks ago, I launched a campaign to fund the publishing of my memoir/travelogue Distilling Rob– Manly Lies and Whisky Truths on the crowd sourcing platform known as Kickstarter. The platform gives artists and innovators the opportunity to reach audiences directly for funding creative projects. I made this move as a business decision to break into the volatile publishing market.
Kickstarter is a conduit for creatives to bridge the gap between imagination and implementation. The funding platform is not a vehicle that will drive your story to success. However, it is a tool that can help make the ride toward reader acceptance and financial gain go a little more smoothly.
My Kickstarter campaign has served as rocket fuel for my book journey. I exceeded my funding goal within the first 24-hours. Less than two weeks into the campaign, I’ve nearly doubled that goal. My project is an extreme exception. Less than one-third of Kickstarter publishing campaigns succeed. Of the successes, the majority just squeak past their funding goal. Less than 75 percent of successful projects make more than 20 percent beyond their goal.
How did “Distilling Rob” become such an exception? More importantly, how can other writers considering a crowdsourcing platform find their way into the narrow window of success? I hope to answer those questions and more through the use of alliteration and bold lettering. After all, nothing says, “I know what I’m talking about” more than bolded alliteration.
Preparation: The planning for my Kickstarter launch took as much time as writing the first draft of my book – five months. The preparation was equal parts creating the campaign and researching what I needed to publish the book. As a novice to independent writing, I had to learn everything about the process. Blogs like Molly’s Createspace vs Lightening Source informed me about options for printing physical copies, creating e-books, nabbing ISBNs, building audiences like Twitter, etc. At the same time I was writing the copy for my campaign page, I was drafting a budget so I knew how much to ask backers to fund.
Platform: No word is more intimidating for new writers than “platform.” And, nothing is more important to have before a Kickstarter project than a platform. My story is built around my experience of moving to a Scottish island to work at a whisky distillery. I’ve written about whisky for years, but fell away from the community for 2-3 years while traveling and writing. I had to rebuild that audience through my blog and through interacting with other whisky people on Twitter and their blogs. Their support and acceptance is vital to the success of this book. The same is true for family and friends and other members of your “tribe.” There is a direct correlation between Kickstarter success and the number of Facebook friends the project creator has.
Proof: Many of the failed Kickstarter publishing campaigns I’ve seen tend to follow this pattern: “Hey, so I’m thinking about writing this thing ‘cause it’s kind of cool. I need $$$$ to do it. Thanks.” The failed projects often don’t offer proof that the person asking for funding is actually capable of completing the project. They don’t detail why they are asking for the amount they seek. I have a mountain of articles, scripts and blogs I can point supporters to that show I’m experienced. This book is also completed, so I can direct people to the “Distilling Rob” website which has sample chapters. I explain how this Kickstarter funding is needed to complete the final edit, design, publishing and marketing of the book.
Project: Your calling card to backers is your project page. If you don’t successfully communicate why you’re doing a campaign, you’re doomed out of the gate. Explain why this project is so important to you. The most successful campaigns have engaging videos that tell the story of the project and let them know about you. Offering potential backers a number of funding levels with attractive incentives is vital to let people know that every dollar is important.
Poach: View as many Kickstarter projects as possible while building your own. Note the things that catch your attention – from incentives, to the video, to the page design. Adapt them for your project. Conversely, pay close attention to what doesn’t work on project pages and avoid those pitfalls. Talk to people who’ve successfully completed Kickstarter campaigns. My friend Matt Forbeck was a great resource. His campaign to fund 12 books in 2012 was a massive success, and his advance guard experience helped me along my path.
Participation and Politeness: One of the most exciting aspects of a Kickstarter campaign is the feeling of community that builds around a project. Make backers and potential backers feel like they’re part of something larger than their single donation. Rally people around your story, your funding goals, and provide frequent updates to let them know how “we” are doing. Buying a book off Amazon is a solitary experience. Funding one through Kickstarter is a solidarity experience. Be gracious, sincere and frequent in your gratitude for their support.
Persistent Promotion: There’s a reason you “launch” a Kickstarter campaign. The process needs to have perpetual motion until the campaign ends (after 30 or 60 days). I’ve carefully balanced my Twitter, Facebook and email outreach to keep the project fresh in people’s minds without slapping them with it. I’ve given a couple of media interviews along the way that allow other people to tell my story, which I then relay back to my potential audience, while also reaching new backers.
Publish: The last day of the Kickstarter campaign is the first day of what we all came here for: getting the book into the hands of readers. Whether it’s a final edit, as it is in my case, or sitting down to write the first paragraph of a new book, you’ve made a contract with your supporters. A shocking number of successful Kickstarter projects miss their promised delivery dates by months. Don’t let your supporters down. They’re the ones who will give you Amazon reviews the first week of release, who will tweet and update about this great new book they are reading, and who will bring others to your story.
Kickstarter does exactly what its name says: it kicks-off creative projects. Hard work goes into a successful campaign. Harder work is needed to take the momentum from Kickstarter and propel you deeper into the writing universe. As independent writers, the responsibility for acceptance and success often falls squarely on our shoulders. The base created by a Kickstarter campaign lightens that load a little bit and helps us to keep moving forward.
Robert L. Gard is the former editor of a large chain of community newspapers in Los Angeles and has written more than 2,000 articles ranging from political exposés to celebrity profiles. He is also an award-winning television writer, director and producer having written for travel and sports shows in the Midwest, including a show produced by and about his beloved Green Bay Packers.
A respected whisky expert, Rob’s columns and reviews have appeared in Whisky Magazine, Patterson’s, and The Tasting Panel. He leads whisky tastings and pairing dinners throughout the country. His blog focuses on the relationship between whisky and writing, especially whisky as a metaphor for larger life experiences. Rob’s pieces have been described as “writing beyond the liquid.” He currently resides in Los Angeles where he works as a public affairs consultant, writer and leads whisky tastings and dinner pairings.
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