This is a pretty long read, so I’m putting this first …. Support the Kickstarter for the new Ben’s Adventures book – it launches on Kickstarter Thursday May 2. Link here.
I developed the first Ben’s Adventures book knowing that I wanted to do additional books and turn it into a series. I didn’t want Ben to have only one adventure! When I started thinking about this new book back in the fall, I didn’t know that I would plan a Kickstarter. In fact, I just thought I would choose to pay out of pocket for the printing which is what I did for the first book.
As an indie or ‘self-published’ author, all expenses are paid for by the author (me), and it all starts to add up – editors, illustrator, graphic designer if you hire one (I didn’t), printer, PR person if you can hire one (I can’t), promo stuff like bookmarks, bags, shirts, flyers, etc. I chose to crowdfund with a Kickstarter campaign simply because it is a great way to secure pre-orders of the book. The money from the Pre-orders will enable me to cover some of the upfront costs of the book printing.
Being an indie author is incredibly rewarding, and I get to develop exactly the book that I envision. I never expect to make the NY Times Best Seller list and that’s okay with me. My core motivation has been to honor my son. BUT … it’s a significant amount of work. Planning the Kickstarter itself has almost been a full-time job from the point I decided to use Kickstarter to crowfund. I thought I might lay out the steps here for those that are interested:
About 3 months ago, I started scouring the Kickstarter website, studying other campaigns (children’s book specific and others), comparing successful vs unsuccessful ones to understand the differences and spot any indicators that might lead to success or failure. Did I see any obvious reasons? And for successful campaigns, I would visit their social pages (fb, IG, etc) to take note of their current following. What types of posts do they do? Were they active throughout the campaign, and more? I started my list of to-dos and not to-dos for my own campaign.
Taking notes on tiers or reward levels. Part of my research was to help guide ideas for my own reward tiers. In this I wanted to see what tiers were most backed and what ones were not. For example, if someone offered a reward tier that included 7 books with a puzzle for $152 but it had 0 backers, that is probably not a tier I would replicate. What is the price point of the reward tiers? Is there any early bird incentive or strategy? I studied and researched campaigns for probably at least the first 3 weeks to help me get a grasp of what was effective and what wasn’t. I still click around Kickstarter and study reward tiers every day. Mostly now to just affirm that I’ve gone in the right direction with my own.
I started backing campaigns. So far, I have probably backed 7 or 8 other children’s book campaigns. If you became a backer, you can then see what the owner does for those that are already backers, from communication/update emails to additional incentives. And I jotted down some ideas on what other authors were doing throughout their campaigns. Also, Kickstarter knows who is active on their platform and who isn’t. It only helps if you’ve gone in and backed other campaigns. I know a couple of folks with ‘superbacker’ status … that is NOT me.
Every Campaign Needs a Video – most successful campaigns have a video. I started watching all the videos. What ones were most engaging? What is a common length? At what point, did it lose my attention? Did it look professionally-edited or would my iPhone video suffice? I first wrote the script then read it out loud ‘slowly’ with a timer. The first version that I read ended around 5minutes. That wouldn’t work – my goal was to have it under 2 minutes. I probably worked on the script for at least 3 days… cutting, rewriting, moving things around. And let me just say I am WAY OKAY with non-professional but I did get an estimate from a local videographer here and quickly decided it was not in my budget. My budget could afford my iPhone as a camera in selfie mode, script print-outs taped to books as my teleprompter, and my own basic editing using Filmora/Wondershare (which is GREAT by the way – very simple to use but I’m sure it’s capable of more than what I’ve done so far).
In planning the ‘studio’, I tested lighting in various spots in my house by taking selfies and test video clips… in front of windows, with artificial lights, without artificial lights, facing certain directions. I chose the nook in our bedroom that is right in front of a large window. And luckily it’s been fairly dreary here this spring so I didn’t have to contend with harsh sunlight on the day I planned to do the video. (And just a side note .. for any novice videographers out there… most anyone will look decent-enough in natural light on a cloudy day. You don’t want harsh mid-day sun and artificial light is very difficult to control, is creates shadows, etc).
Other things I tested out – How close I needed to be to have decent ‘head room’ without a lot of extra stuff in the background … combined with does it pick up my voice to give me decent audio (since I don’t have a microphone). And what is the proper angle to make me look my best?
Lots of planning, but finally I had clips of video to use. And I was up for the challenge in piecing it all together to make it look decent.
Graphics. PicMonkey is a great graphics/design tool. I’ve used it for all my graphics for both Ben Smiles (www.BenSmiles.org) and Ben’s Adventures (www.Bens-Adventures.com), facebook posts, blog posts, website headers, IG stuff, you see it … I created it with PicMonkey. You can do simple things like crop or resize photos, or more elaborate things such as photo collages or flyers. There are templates for various sizes (facebook covers, IG stories, pinterest pins, etc).
I need graphics ALL THE TIME – not just in planning the Kickstarter – although I needed a ton of graphics here. So I started with my list of what I would need for the video (first and last frames, slides in middle to break up video and show book), what I would need for the Kickstarter campaign page – graphics for rewards, headers, photo collages and more.
And EVERY SINGLE DAY, I think of another graphic I need – so go to the PicMonkey bookmark on my laptop and get to work. Although I’m trying to be prepared and have graphics ready for various posts during the campaign, I’m sure I will still be coming up with ideas daily after the Kickstarter launches.
Tactical Calendar. This is where I think my marketing director background may help me. Again, I made another list of marketing tactics, what I was going to do when. I plotted it out in a calendar for April, May and June. (pre, during and post campaign). Mapping out what I do leading up to the campaign launch to grow my following and engagement. Then what do I need to do during the campaign – this includes daily tasks, blog posts, what to post on social, when to launch fb ads, etc. And do you know what is on my daily task for May 1? This blog post. I’m sure my tactics will change and shift as I progress through the campaign but it helps to have a starting plan.
Wrap up. So that pretty much sums it up. I’m sure I left something out. But I’m sitting here the day before launch with a growing list of things to do before tomorrow, feeling a bit anxious. I firmly believe things happen for a reason and what will be will be. So I’ve done my prep work. I feel prepared. Is there something else I should be doing? Probably. Something else I can do? Most definitely. But it’s time to put it out there and see what happens.
Wish me luck.
If you made it this far in the post, then I’m assuming you’re fairly engaged in my books and mission. Thank you reading. To support the campaign, visit Kickstarter.