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Kickstarting Novels, part 1

Kickstarting Novels, part 1

Jan 13, 2015

Laura Kajpust
Graphic Designer

Many people are interested in crowdfunding, and Kickstarter in particular, for getting the money necessary to turn their book into reality but they often have no clue where to start! So join me in a three-part series researching the good ideas from the bad when it comes to successful crowdfunding.

If you’re planning a Kickstarter, definitely start your research by examining other projects that are similar to yours—both the ones that succeeded and failed. To create a specific place to start, I chose to research Young Adult novels and primarily fantasy or science fiction. The more similar the project is to your own, the more what you learn will help you.

To start off my research, I didn’t watch a single video or read any descriptions. We will get to those in another post! For this part, I focused only on the rewards and the numbers. I made a list of projects I felt were similar enough to be helpful and made a list of all their reward tiers. What did they offer for how much, and how many people chose that level? I hoped this would give me some insight on what people who want to support YA Kickstarter books were after. (Many of these I believe will cross over into other genres as well, but I highly recommend doing your own research to know what may or may not work for you.)

Here is what I found:

EVERYONE WANTS THE BOOK. Granted, no surprise here. Most backers go for the tiers providing either an eBook or printed copy (signed books also do okay).

  1. NO, REALLY. From what I saw, a lot of rewards to get “other stuff” actually do REALLY poorly. T-shirts, bookmarks, and all that stuff are nice bonuses, but few people are interested enough to make them worth doing. This makes sense when you think about—if they haven’t read the book yet, how can they know they’ll love it enough to wear a t-shirt promoting it? Knowing this adds production costs anyway, I’d recommend novelists skip on these.On the other hand, it turns out peopleWILL pay for additional copies!
  2. EXCEPTION: Posters and prints. People do like these, especially if signed by any artists you’re working with. Luckily, you can get these fairly cheap!
  3. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU. Here comes a harsh truth, so brace yourself. For whatever reason, it seems many self-publishing authors think offering critique sessions, marketing advice, and personal chat sessions are good rewards for those upper $100+ areas. It turns out . . . they’re not. No one really wants these. At all.Why? Because most people don’t know you or your background well enough to trust what you have to offer is both accurate and worthwhile. So, sorry, but you’ll have to keep your genius to yourself for now. However, if you are extremely popular or well-known in your field, then—and only then—will this be a worthwhile incentive to provide.
  4. FEW WANT RECOGNITION. It’s fairly common for being listed in a “thank you” page or acknowledgments to be a reward. In comics (my bread and butter), I have seen this listed on the low end a lot, but after looking at the numbers, I recommend doing the opposite. Even if at a $1, people first and foremost want the eBook or print book. They don’t care about the recognition. So put it as a higher bonus, so the big donors are who get their name listed—and, for what reasons, none of them seem to mind.
  5. PRICING: Value your book too low and it doesn’t seem worthwhile. Value it too high and people will think you’re crazy. ($100 for a book? Really??) Here is what I’ve noticed:
  1. eBooks are often at either the $5 or $10 tier
  2. print books are often $20 or $25, with $30 for signed copies

(This is actually very similar for comic Kickstarters, which surprises me a bit since their black and white books shouldn’t be costing as much to print!)

Most backers go for: $5, $10, $15, $25, or $35

While higher-paying backers are all over the place, they are rare, and (for YA novels at least) often don’t give more than $300.

  • NUMBER OF REWARDS: Too many is confusing, and too few gives little flexibility. 8-12 seems a good average. Personally, I feel 10 is pretty good. Something like: $1, $5, $10, $15, $25, $35, $55, $75, $100, $200
  • HARDCOVERS? Hardcovers are crazy expensive to print, especially for someone self-publishing. But don’t despair—it turns out people are okay paying a lot for them if you make them collectable and worthwhile! The only risk here is that it’s still an additional production cost on all the rest AND will cost more to ship. So if you do this, make sure you price it well.
  • PEOPLE WANT TO BE IN THE BOOK: Another good expensive reward is to name minor characters after donors. Turns out people like this more than following any “behind the scenes” stuff!
  • DOES GOOD DESIGN HELP? In the comics category, good design will help you a lot to get ahead, especially since you’re in such a visually dominated category. But for novels, it turns out (for better or worse) that it doesn’t matter as much as you think. Badly designed projects had just as much chance of getting funding as well designed ones, and were equally likely to fail. But for what it’s worth, well designed projects WERE more likely to be staff picked and made slightly more money (although not significant).
  • WRITING IS A HARD CATEGORY TO GET FUNDED. Publishing projects struggle to get funded on Kickstarter, for whatever reason. It is a long fight to reach your goal, and often slow. Even those that get funding barely get over 100 backers, or even 200. If they meet their goal, getting over that amount is just as difficult. I think this is important to keep in mind while planning.
  • For people only printing their projects (no publishing), their goal range was anywhere from $500 to $2,000. For those seeking publishing services (professional editing, cover design, layout, etc.) the range was between $4,000 and $7,000. These seem to be good, safe ranges to stick to.

To end my research so far, I’ll note some unexpected reward ideas I saw that worked:

  • Posting a PDF of the novel one chapter a week as a low tier, while those at a higher tier get the whole thing at once.
  • Related to above: a Facebook group to discuss the book as it’s being posted/edited/written.
  • Audiobook (higher tier reward)

PHEW, this is a lot of information to start with, but we’re not done yet! Next, we will look more specifically into videos, descriptions, and how to pitch it and impress. After that, we’ll end discussing how to plan out the process, determine your goal amount, and price everything out. I hope these posts will help authors understand what to look for when researching while also removing some of the uncertainty of the Kickstarter planning process.

Stay tuned for more!


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