Before you jump in, here are a few things that I learned from my Kickstarter experience.
I’m going to talk about the process of creating and running a Kickstarter campaign for my cozy fantasy book, Mrs. Covington’s. Hopefully, you can learn from both my successes and failures along the way. Let’s get right to it.
I think the first thing I should mention is that running a Kickstarter campaign is stressful and anxiety-
inducing. Although the phrase is a cliché, an emotional rollercoaster perfectly describes what it’s like to watch the amount of pledged money as it goes through seemingly never-ending lulls and sudden, unexpected runs. I knew it would be tough, but I underestimated how much of my waking consciousness would be consumed with watching and wishing for pledges.
One of the first questions you’ll have to answer is: where should I set my goal? As far as I can tell, there is no definitive answer, but I have learned a bit about “Kickstarter math.” Here is a very rough explanation using my numbers (rounded for convenience):
1) Figure out your total costs for the production of the book. This includes editing costs, cover art, formatting, and paying yourself a little if you’re so inclined. For all of these things, my initial costs came to $2,400
2) Take the highest-priced item you intend to sell and find out how many you’ll need to sell to cover that initial cost. For me, my highest-priced item was the hardcover, which I sold for $30+$5 for shipping. So, that told me the bare minimum I would have to sell would be 69 (huh huh) hardcovers.
3) Now calculate the costs of having those books printed. I did this on the IngramSpark website and came up with about $1,000. So, the new minimum goal needed to be bumped up to $3,400.
4) So, at this point, you’re hoping to sell 69 hardcovers to break even. But, if you’re like me, you’ll likely plan to sell paperbacks and eBooks, too. The beautiful thing about eBooks is that the money pledged for them is all “extra.” Their production cost is already figured in. You can do a separate calculation for paperbacks, but calculating for the highest-priced item and going from there just seems to work.
5) You can also create rewards that are absolutely zero cost to you. For my project, I had “Be a Character in the Book” and “Name a Capybara.” The character reward tier filled up amazingly fast. I considered expanding it beyond 5 characters but figured that would likely hurt the book. The quality of the overall product is, of course, the most important thing. Be wary of potential cash grabs if they could make your book seem frivolous.
I would like to give a big shout-out and thank you to Virginia McClain for graciously taking time out of her life to school me on Kickstarter math. It was very helpful!
Some astute reader might ask, “But your Kickstarter goal was $5,000, not $3,400. Why?”
I don’t have a good answer for that. Maybe it was because $5,000 was a pretty, nice, round number? I do know that several times throughout the campaign, when I was sure it wasn’t going to fund, I cursed myself for bumping it up higher than it absolutely needed to be. It ended up working out for me, but I would advise against it. The smaller your goal, the more likely you’ll get funded (obviously). But then once funded, the project tends to take advantage of people’s FOMO and can really get rolling. There are always things like stretch goals to entice potential pledgers even more.
This is an area where I failed miserably. But with a little luck and a lot of extremely generous help from book bloggers, I was able to make up for my lack of foresight. I didn’t put out a call for reviews until my project had been running for 10 days! This probably should have been catastrophic for my chances of funding, but I got lucky. If I had it to do over again, I would try to find as many reviewers as I could several months before the launch.
I recommend finding book bloggers who read books in your genre and reaching out to them. But be polite and understanding! They get tons of requests and can’t possibly review everything that comes across their paths. But if you approach them with kindness and humility, I’ve found that most of them are willing to give authors a chance when they’re able.
There is a lot of advice out there about advertising your Kickstarter campaign. I will present my results here and let you make of them what you will.
For my campaign, I decided to run 2 Facebook ads throughout much of its run.
Ad #1 ended up getting 167 clicks at 27 cents/click, which cost $44.83.
Ad #2 got 148 clicks at 21 cents/click, which cost $31.08
So, overall, I spent $75.91 to get 315 link clicks. That sounded pretty decent to me until I looked into how many pledges I got through Facebook. Those 315 link clicks resulted in…8 Kickstarter pledges. At first, this sounded really bad, but when I ran the math, those 8 pledges actually turned into $312. So essentially, I spent $75.91 to get $312. Those numbers don’t take into account the price for the books and shipping, but I still came out well on top.
Facebook only accounted for 4% of my total pledges, so its effectiveness is debatable. But if I ever do another Kickstarter, I’ll probably run ads again.
As soon as your campaign goes live, you will be inundated with companies telling you that they can give your project the boost it needs to get fully funded. Most of them are very easily disregarded with minimal research. But I’ll admit, when my campaign was going through some intense doldrums, I considered them. It still didn’t take a whole lot of research to dissuade me from the idea. I’m no expert, but most, if not all, of those “boosters” seem like scams at worst, and ineffective at best.
I hadn’t considered this until a few different project creators reached out to me. They offered to talk about my campaign in one of their project updates if I did the same for them. It was an absolute win-win. I highly recommend searching out projects that are similar to yours and contacting the creators about cross-promotion. Most will be receptive to the idea, and it can only help.
This is another area where I could have done better. I was so focused on just getting the project funded that I didn’t plan for stretch goals at all. I ended up in quick negotiations with the cover artist to do 5 interior illustrations, and because he’s a great person who’s easy to work with, we made it happen. That first stretch goal was set at an extra $500, and it was reached within about a day. So, that was great! But the next stretch goal I shot for was an audiobook, and it didn’t quite get there. I set the price at $1,500 for its production and would have broken even on it if it would have funded. I failed, at least partially, because of a lack of planning. If I would have had a clear idea of the audiobook’s production, including a narrator, I might have enticed more people to jump on board. But as I did it on the fly, it didn’t quite succeed.
Plan for all the “what ifs” of your project, including the good ones. What if it does fund? What will I offer next? Getting those things figured out before launching is ideal.
My advice about expectations is to try your best not to have any. As an example, I read several articles about the typical U-Shape of a Kickstarter campaign. This means that on a graph, your initial days will be great, with big tall bars representing the money brought in. Most of the middle days will be much less impressive, BUT the last days will be just as big as your first days, making a giant U shape on the graph. So, as the final 48 hours came, I envisioned a massive surge of pledges. Kickstarter sends out a reminder email at the 48-hour mark reminding people who had been watching your project. I had about 200 people watching, so I thought something like 50 would decide to jump on. The reality was closer to 5. My expectations made for a somewhat bittersweet ending to a campaign that should have been all sweet. Just another reminder to be cognizant of your mental health during your campaign!
Mrs. Covington’s did get fully funded. I credit a little luck and a lot of generosity from book bloggers (who genuinely seemed to love the book). I also have to give a bit of credit to myself for the way I set up my
project page and for my LEGO stop-motion video. Kickstarter will give you lots of helpful advice about setting up your page and making a video. I strongly suggest following their advice as closely as you can. Their success is tied to the success of their creators. They genuinely want you to succeed and it shows. Many people who pledged to my project said it was the video that hooked them. Take time, get creative, and make a fantastic video. It will make a difference, I promise.
If you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter- @Kyles137 or at my website- krrlockhaven.com I can’t promise I’ll have a good answer for you, but I will try my best to at least get you pointed in the right direction. A site that I found to be of great help during my campaign was https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter/full-list-chronological/
It deals with campaigns for board games, but the info works well for any project.
To check out my project page, go to
Thank you for reading, and good luck with any future projects!!
Kyle (KRR) Lockhaven