Going through my first Kickstarter campaign, I learned a lot that I wanted to share with others considering this route to crowdfund a novel or writing project:
1. Reaching out personally to friends, family and fans is ESSENTIAL.
The first half of my funding was generated solely through personal messages I sent via Gchat, GMail, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter utilizing direct messaging. Initially, it might feel strange to send what could be construed as solicitations to people you may not have actually seen or spoken to outside of the Internet in years -- but it pays off.
Utilize your Facebook Author Page to reach out to fans personally in this way as well. They'll feel connected to you and will be more likely to donate with that first-person touch point. Also, while updating your Facebook status and tweeting about your project multiple times a day is important, these updates can get lost in your followers' feeds. When I reached out to individuals, many were unaware I had a Kickstarter going on. This is why personal messages are all the more important.
Retrace your steps and retouch those who didn't answer your first message in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th weeks of the campaign with reminders.
2. Talk about your Kickstarter until you're blue in the face.
By the end of the first week, I already felt like a broken record talking about my project -- but I knew there were still plenty of people who didn't know about it that I needed to reach. So, I kept talking. And emailing. And messaging. And tweeting. And blogging.
The experts don't lie when they say that the first and last weeks of a campaign attract the most donations. By the second week, there was a big drop off in the frequency of donations coming in -- but this just propelled me to keep publicizing the project all the more.
3. Reach out to blogs -- and blog yourself!
I have had my previous books reviewed on a variety of book blogs in the past. I reached out to every single one to see if they would feature my Kickstarter project in any way. A few were reluctant to publicize such a request -- but they were happy to feature an interview or guest blog about the book itself. Even such blog posts where Kickstarter wasn't specifically mentioned helped me publicize my book more, which led to an increase in donations as well.
I would also recommend lining up 10 blogs to feature your project, interview you or review your book prior to launching your campaign. This will save you ample amounts of time reaching out once you've launched, freeing up time for other outreach activities.
4. The more creative your outreach, the better!
I created homemade bracelets in the colors of the Malawian flag (the country in which my book takes place) and offered them to backers of a certain threshold. I made flyers with a QR Code that went directly to my Kickstarter site, and passed them out at cafés and local independent bookstores in my area.
I tried to spice things up by creating new rewards mid-project to try to keep the initial momentum going -- a tactic I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! For instance, just before we hit the last week, I sent an update to my current backers letting them know that a pledge increase of just $7 would get them a tote bag with my book cover on it. I also added a stretch goal of $5,000, letting everyone know that all backers would receive a free eBook of short stories and poetry by me if we reached it by the deadline. All of these mid-campaign rewards definitely led to more donations, as well as pledge increases.
5. Think about when you're asking people to donate money.
My Kickstarter went live on Tuesday, April 9th -- four days before most people would be getting paid. This being the case, several people I reached out to assured they would donate once they had their next paycheck in hand -- yet that didn't always happen. Despite the fact that funds aren't taken out of anyone's account immediately, people will be more willing to donate once they've been paid -- think the first of the month or the 15th of the month.
6. Don't just tweet about donations.
Reveal more tidbits about your writing process, the plotline of your novel, rewards you are offering, etc. Keep things new and interesting for those who are following your campaign closely, mixed in with messages regarding donation for those who are just seeing your tweet or update for the first time.
Use the Project Updates via Kickstarter for this purpose. Keeping your backers and potential backers apprised of what's happening in your campaign, as well as providing more information, is important for retaining backers and attracting new donations.
7. Figure out which hashtags will garner the attention of the audience you are looking to target.
While there are some who feel as though blind-tweeting people using choice hashtags that speak to your project's content is not a best practice -- I'd beg to differ. I definitely got a handful of donations by targeting those on Twitter who were tweeting with hashtags like #peacecorps, #malawi, #africa and #womensfiction -- all topics related to my book. This tactic likely won't garner an overflow of backers, but it could fill in some of the gaps.
8. Use the Kickstarter Status Board!
The Kickstarter Status Board is a tool that will help you determine where backers are coming from in order to tweak your outreach. You can download it into your browser's toolbar, add your Kickstarter URL and continually check back to see your progress at any point.
9. Start a Facebook Event for the final 24-hour countdown.
Every hour on the hour for the last 24 hours of my campaign, I updated the Event page with blogs that had picked me up over the last 30 days, interviews, images of the rewards and general updates regarding the current pledge level. This created even more excitement in the final hours of the campaign, and led to some new pledges and pledge increases.
10. Make sure to update your page before the campaign ends.
Once the project has reached its deadline, you will not be able to update the main Kickstarter campaign page again. This page remains online after the deadline. I updated my page the night before the end of my campaign, thanking all of my backers right at the top. I wanted that to be the message everyone who came back to the page in the days, weeks and months to come would see.
I hope the above will help others planning on Kickstarting or crowdfunding a project -- fiction or otherwise!
Have you crowdfunded a project before? Do you have any additional tips or tricks to share? Please do so in the comments below!