As a brief background, I have to date written and published two books in the Sean Yeager series – DNA Thief and Hunters Hunted – which have received good, honest reviews from readers in the target age group (8 to 14). My favourite being a Canadian teacher who praised the books. For more information please see the Sean Yeager website.
So my latest experiment in the realm of reaching readers through book publishing and promotion is with Kickstarter. Here are my learnings so far:
I set up a Kickstarter project for Sean Yeager Adventures Claws of Time to ask for advance sales for my third book and to fund some of the costs. The rewards to backers being printed books.
Here is the Kickstarter Project: Link to Kickstarter SYA Project
1. Set Up
This was fairly easy, the trickiest parts were with deciding on reward levels and the dreaded video. It also took many hours to fine tune and complete the copy. It is like an extension to both your author biography and your book blurb with a pitch on top. I should though be able to re-use the same copy in future.
2. Kickstarter usability
The website is pretty straightforward to use. It’s quicker to prepare content in Word and then paste in, but you still need to reformat in Kickstarter which is a pain. Regular saving is also important in case your session freezes. It took me a few attempts to understand how to edit a project, because I was looking for this option. You actually need to select the project a couple of times and you return to the set up tabs. It would be better to have an Edit Project option in my view. Overall though I found the set up screens to be usable.
3. Learning materials
Kickstarter offer plenty of videos and guides for the basics of how to create a project and run a project. Mostly they are useful and fun. They also help shape your planning. I began by modelling my project on another which was doing well, this helped with formatting and the content themes to cover. The usual challenges of how to promote your project effectively became a recurring topic and an area I am still grappling with.
4. Effectiveness in raising funds
So far, so bad. It seems you have to promote heavily to gain any kind of traction, now where have I seen that before? The idea that people will browse your project and offer help in exchange for a reward (a printed book) seems to be a pipe-dream. And to be honest that is what I set out to test as an experiment. I have Tweeted and Facebooked the project link a couple of times, I draw the line at begging from family and friends.
On the plus side, I have received thirteen marketing approaches from people willing to take my money to promote my Kickstarter project on social media. Hmmm. So I could pay money to a stranger in the hope of gaining promises of funding and perhaps breaking even? Not an attractive deal. With Kickstarter (and many other crowd fund sites) if you don’t make your entire funding target you collect zero funding, therefore you could easily be out of pocket with such a paid promotion scheme. A regular catch-22.
5. Next steps
The project has 22 days left to run at the time of writing so obviously I’ll continue to spread the word as best I can. It remains to be seen how easy a re-list is on Kickstarter, I may try this or call it a day on this particular experiment. I will probably try Patreon next or a book specific fund raising site. On the plus side, I have the copy and a refined view of how to pitch Claws of Time. However, I remain to be convinced about the effectiveness of crowd funding for a middle grade book. It could be that it is too early or too wide of the target market in terms of what people are willing to crowd fund.
It’s a little early yet, but it does seem that Kickstarter is unlikely to work for my funding aims. I seem to lack the reach on social media and traditional media. One successful campaign I saw had TV coverage and (through my own research) links to a religious community group. All great to have and beyond my current spheres of connection. I am also unlikely to trust a stranger with publicising my cause, because their reach could easily be bogus and unfocused – you can still buy followers on Twitter etc. I am therefore looking at options to test the parent buyer market further when promoting my published books. Next stop Facebook.
I have also realised that you pretty much need to have your book ready before running a crowd funding project. It would be a real distraction to be constantly tending a promotional campaign while writing. Ironic given my stated funding aims. I noticed this with several other projects which gained traction. Several had book covers and piles of books ready to go.
7. Meanwhile, Sean Yeager Claws of Time….
I’ve been writing Claws of Time anyway in between bouts of social media and real life activities. I am very happy with the plot and the quality of what I am writing, which is just as well all things considered. I find it ironic the constant circles that spiral back to ‘how good is your book?’ It really is a matter of believing in your work long before other people ‘discover’ your books for themselves. I will continue to learn the art of promoting books in parallel.