Oh! You guys
hate love these!
If you’re just joining us, a hotwash is what the military does after an exercise. It’s where everyone gathers around a table right after an exercise and talks about what went good, what went bad, and what could be improved.
Overall, The Island Kickstarter was a smashbang success. I not only met my minimum goal of $400 in the first 90 minutes, but then we went ahead and smashed the first stretch goal of $1,000 and even covered nearly all the expenses sunk into preproduction of the book. To say I was flabbergasted was an understatement. Our total amount raised was $1599 *eye twitches*
Beyond that, I was completely surprised to see the number of followers and friends who were 1,000% behind this project. I’d thought that I’d be screaming into the vacuum, but hey, look at that, people kept RTing my blog posts and links. So thanks everyone.
The most surprising thing was the sheer number of people who reached out to me and asked me to give them money to promote my kickstarter. That, at least, was not very fun.
I had a couple of reasons for wanting to run a KS for The Island. First and foremost, while recouping costs was definitely part of it, it wasn’t the main reason. As a brand new series, I wanted to start the “pre-release” excitement about four months early. Since I have Fusion releasing in the middle of Feb, I needed something that could be a big burst of excitement, and get books in hands (and, by extension, reviews on blogs and such). I tried doing Preorders with another company with Alliances and that was a big dud. But a Kickstarter seemed to be kind of the best solution for what I wanted to do.
First and foremost, I began planning this Kickstarter about 2 months in advance. I identified all the different rewards that I could presumably give to people. I reached out to Kickstarter Guru and all-around magical unicorn Emily from EmilyReadsEverything and listened to everything she said.
I decided to do both eBooks, paperbacks, and hardcovers, and added on Swag Packs with buttons, bookmarks, and maps. I also added a Razia set of books (randomly way more popular than I’d anticipated) and two shoot-for-the-moon rewards, the MS review and the $400 dedicated to your love reward. I used the Kickstarter feedback tool to get feedback from my Street Team.
I also was very careful about budgeting. To be honest, $400 would’ve covered half of the line edits, depending on how many rewards were print vs. electronic. Knowing the cost of international shipping, I also made sure to limit the number of countries I could ship to (but when one of my followers asked to ship to her country, I added on). I created a spreadsheet that tracked who bought what, how much it cost to produce and ship, and my total cost delta.
That last bit wasn’t necessarily important, but you know. #moneyanxiety
Social Media Outreach
Emily told me that I wouldn’t be growing an audience during the KS but that I would need to leverage one that I had already. I had a pretty decent sized following on Facebook, Twitter, newsletters, and a straggling number on IG, Google+, and Tumblr. During the two months leading up to the KS, I made sure to continue to grow GOOD followers (that is, not just spambots) so that when we went live, I had a nice cushion.
Overall, here were my going-in social media assets:
- ~1600 Twitter followers
- ~840 Facebook fans (plus shared to my personal page)
- ~380 newsletter subscribers
- ~230 Instagram followers
- ~100 google+ followers
- ~30 member street team (on facebook)
And here’s how the pledge sources broke down:
- Twitter: 27% of all pledges
- Kickstarter: 20% of all pledges
- SUsherEvans.com: 19% of all pledges
- Unknown/direct: 17% of all pledges
- Facebook: 16% of all pledges
- Google+: <1% of all pledges
Here’s how the backers broke down:
- Social Media Friends/Fans: 51%
- Personal Friends/Family: 26%
- Random/Unknown: 23%
I also prewrote and prescheduled a lot of the promo content, which helped during the week. I made sure to pop onto Twitter every few hours to interact with people and make sure they knew I hadn’t turned spam!bot. I tried to vary up the content, adding stuff about Theo, Galian, and their countries. I also held two giveaways, but I could have done a better job at marketing those.
One of the big things I planned for the KS period was the first Twitter chat! I planned eleven questions to go live during the hour chat, and prescheduled them with images to make them easier for chatters to find. What ended up happening was I was about 5 minutes ahead of schedule, so I’d remove the schedule time and send the tweets out as the flow of the conversation warranted.
For most of the scheduled tweets, I used Hootsuite, but from here on out, I’m going to use TweetDeck for scheduled chat questions. A couple reasons for this, one is that I’m in Tweetdeck for the chat itself, and two is that I can set a time to the minute, instead of to the 5 minute like on Hoosuite.
I definitely will be doing these again near to/around book release days. Besides the obvious attention to a release, they’re actually just plain fun.
Emily warned me that the first few days would be a bonanza, then there was the “soggy middle,” and the last day would be a flurry of activity. With the exception of the Tuesday Twitter chat, that was the case.
As I said above, 90 minutes after we kicked off on Sunday and I was funded. What that meant, though, was that there was less incentive to back the project. So I had to change all of my messaging from “fund the kickstarter” to more focusing on the preorder campaign. It wasn’t a big deal, but it did require a little bit of retooling. If I do this again, I would still set a low goal, but I’d make sure my messaging presumed we’d get funded.
The 8 days between the first two days and the Twitter Chat were basically dead. I go back and forth as to whether the long duration (12 days) was too long or not. On the one hand, it allowed folks a little more time to get in their bids, on the other, by day 10, I was exhausted of my own message.
For the most part, I waited until the KS was over to figure out how many of each thing to buy with the exception of the Maps. VistaPrint was having a sale, so I said, “Why not?” and bought 50 of them. Unfortunately, only 12 people bought them, leaving me with a crapload of posters.
When I added up E-VER-Y-TH-ANG that I have sunk into The Island so far:
- Printing costs of books (including giveaways and ARCs), buttons, bookmarks, posters
- Line Edits
- Cover Art
- Shutterstock for video and stock photos
- Facebook Ad
- Ingram Set-Up Fees for both PB and HC
- HC Proof
- VistaPrint Banner
- PB Proof
Minus the KS fees and processing charges, I ended up about -$100 for the whole thing. And let me tell you what, that’s a damned good number to be at 90 days before the book goes on sale. Not only that, but I was able to get an early copy to almost 70 people. So, assuming they love it as much as I do, I’m fairly sure that word of mouth will result in some preorders which will push me to breaking even and, eventually, profit.
And since this is my livelihood, profit = good thing.
Would I do a kickstarter again? Yes, but under the right circumstances. I, personally, would not do a kickstarter for an unfinished book, a follow-on book in a series, or one that was publishing soon enough that I could do preorders on (The Island was finished, a first in a series, and the Kickstarter ran 100 days out from pub date). I also hope that, with six books available for sale, previous books will start paying for new books’ set-up costs and the business will continue to grow.
I do have (potentially) a new series starting in October. I say potentially because now that I’m all hyped up on romance and lovers, I don’t know if I want to switch gears and finish my YA fantasy right now. But I digress.
But for that one, and probably for The Chasm, I might consider doing preorder rewards separate from Kickstarter. So you preorder, email me proof, I send you bookmarks and buttons and such. I’ve seen a couple other authors do it, and I might be at a point where something like that would be worth it.
I know that 12 days seems long, but you also want to coincide with paydays too. After your first kickstarter, it become easier to build an audience. You have backers to draw from now as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if you host another one down the road. I will be first in line to back that one too!
Exactly! that’s why I think it was overall good. I’m glad I did the twitter chat on the second week, but I might move all the giveaways to week 2 as well.
We will definitely see! Since most of the backers came from Twitter, I might try out the preorder campaign and see if I get similar results.
You’re my magical unicorn.
Nice to see it turn out so well for you, and also thank you for the insights and breakdown! I had a lucky run myself to kickstart some of my projects and I might go back to that well again. If I do, your findings will be really useful. Social media and, especially, self-promotion are still by far my greatest weakness.
You can’t think of it as self-promotion. You have to make relationships with people and /then/ they’ll want to support you. It’s a long, arduous task that takes months or years to come to fruition. But it does work…eventually. Best of luck on your next project!
I think that’s the hardest part really: retaining that mind-set. That and making those first connections. But the first step is always the hardest, right?
I’m so glad this worked so well for you!!! It was fun watching everyone getting so excited and spreading the word about your book! I can’t wait to see where you go from here!
I hope that the book lives up to the hype! And thank you so very much for being such an awesome supporter! <3