Going through my first Kickstarter campaign, I learned a lot that I wanted to share with others considering this route to crowdfund a project – while these tips are slightly skewed to fiction projects, any and all can apply to any platform:
1. Reaching out personally to friends, family and fans is ESSENTIAL.
The first half of my funding that came in the first three days of my campaign launch was solely due to personal messages I sent via gChat, gMail, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Goodreads utilizing direct messaging. It might feel strange initially 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. It can also help reconnect you with those people.
For authors, utilize your Author Page on Facebook 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 status on Facebook and tweeting about your project is important, most times these updates can get lost in the feeds of your followers with all of the other updates coming through. You might think that posting 5+ times a day is enough, but I found that even with public updates, when I reached out to individuals, they were unaware I had a Kickstarter going on. This is why personal messages are all the more important.
I sent out 1,000+ personal messages within the first week and a half of my campaign – and then I retraced my steps to retouch those who didn’t answer my first message. This also proved to be important as some of those who got my first message forgot to actually click through to my Kickstarter page or had gotten distracted and let my request go by; this second touchbase garnered in more funding in the second and third weeks of the campaign. Within the last three days of the campaign, I circled around yet again for a third, final touch to those I had still yet to hear back from. This proved effective once more, friends thanking me for the reminder and pledging in the final hours.
2. Talk about your Kickstarter until you’re blue in the face…and then talk some more.
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 could 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.
As a blogger for The Huffington Post, I also wrote up two different blogs in the hopes that they would be accepted – neither of which were TOO self-promotional, but did mention my Kickstarter at the end. Both ended up being published within hours of one another and definitely helped increase the publicity to a larger audience.
I would also recommend lining up about 10 blogs to feature your project, interview you or even review your book prior to launching your campaign. This will save you ample amounts of time reaching out to people 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 a bit by creating new rewards mid-project to try to keep the initial momentum going — a tactic I HIGHLY RECOMMEND! For instance, once I hit $3,500, I posted an update letting everyone know that if we could get to $4,500 by the close of the campaign, I’d film myself making a traditional Malawian meal from scratch and send it to all backers. Once that goal was met, I set another stretch goal of $5,000, letting everyone know that if we hit or exceeded that amount, I would publish an eBook all backers would receive for free of several short stories and poems I’ve written over the years.
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. In the final week, I let backers and potential donors know that the next 10 people to donate at least $50 would receive an advanced reading copy of Vuto prior to release.
All of these mid-campaign rewards definitely led to more donations, as well as pledge increases.
I also made sure all of my social media platforms were leading people to my Kickstarter page. I updated my Twitter background to my book cover; added the cover to my Facebook banners; and my web designer was able to quickly turn around the following update to my website’s homepage, taking people right to my Kickstarter page by clicking on the bug in the corner of the below image:
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.
Also be sure to let people know that any money pledged won’t be taken out of their accounts unless the project is fully funded, and then only after the campaign has ended.
6. Don’t just keep tweeting out the link to your project; let people know what the project is about and give more details.
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.
I highly recommend using the Project Updates you can send out via Kickstarter for this purpose. Backing projects myself, I’ve been surprised at how little this feature is utilized — but keeping your backers and potential backers apprised of what’s happening in your campaign, as well as providing more information, is quite important for retaining those backers and attracting new donations.
7. Figure out which hashtags will garner the attention of the audience you are looking to target with your project.
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, #womensfiction, #amreading and #amwriting – 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!
I wish I had known about this amazing tool much earlier on in my campaign, instead of when I did – with only 5 days left! Nevertheless, the Kickstarter Status Board is a must to 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 the campaign (minus when I was asleep), 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 even 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 up and live online after the deadline, considering that you will be sending out surveys to backers regarding their rewards, as well as Project Updates as you fulfill those rewards and see your project through to completion. 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.
There will probably be even more to share as I continue this process, fulfilling rewards and completing the publication of Vuto. 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!