From May 13th to June 3rd, 2024, I did something I thought I would never do. I held a Kickstarter campaign! My little introverted heart was filled with trepidation as I launched a crowdfunding project to bring Code of Reanimation Deluxe Editions into this world. These special collector’s editions would have new covers, enhanced interior designs, and beautiful illustrations. I even planned for gold foil and dust jackets for the hardcover versions. But only if my funding goal was met. Kickstarters are all or nothing, after all, and if you don’t reach your funding goal, you don’t get any funds. After all the stress and self-doubt, I’m thrilled to share that the campaign was a success, and proof copies of my deluxe editions are currently being shipped to my home. I cannot wait to see them in real life! Once I’m happy with the final product, I will be shipping the books and swag to all of my amazing backers!

Now that the active part of the campaign is complete, I can sit back and reflect on the experience. This post is not intended to serve as a Kickstarter promotion, or a guide to setting up your own campaign. For that I recommend heading over to fellow author, Kayla Ann’s Instagram page @kaylaannauthor where she has a Kickstarter for Authors Crash Course packed full of helpful information. Her tips were a lifeline to me during this daunting process. On the contrary, my intentions for this post are simply to share my experience, any insights I gained from the process, and things I would do differently if I decide to venture into this territory again in the future.

A Little Backstory

I originally set my campaign to launch early last fall, in hopes it would help fund the launch of my fifth book, Code of Reanimation. But after my mom suffered a massive stroke, and then passed away from complications, I decided to postpone my campaign, and actually contemplated canceling it altogether. My heart wasn’t in it anymore, and my book officially launched in the meantime, so I started to think the moment had passed me by. But here I had these amazing illustrations created for my campaign by Ludmila V., whom I discovered on Fiverr, already in my pocket. Plus, my Kickstarter page was mostly set up and I had publicly announced I would be doing a Kickstarter campaign, so after much deliberation I recommitted to the project.

What is Kickstarter?

If you’re unfamiliar with Kickstarter, it is a crowdfunding platform that can help fund your creative project… whether you’re an artist, musician, you designed a cool new game, invented a unique product, or in my case, wrote a book. Backers who believe in your concept can donate whatever amount they desire, and in return they receive rewards, usually in the form of the product they backed. Although there are countless types of projects that this platform supports, I’m going to focus on ones of a literary nature since that was my campaign’s goal. As an Indie author, I can vouch for the countless expenses that accompany self-publishing. Cover design, illustrations, editing fees, marketing, and the list goes on. The idea of having some funds donated towards your upcoming novel to help keep your budget afloat is tempting indeed. But Kickstarter provides more than that. It also allows you to tap into an amazing bookish community exclusive to Kickstarter, and that community is consistently growing.

Insights and Takeaways: What I Learned From my Campaign

  1. Offer something unique. In order to encourage people to back your project, you need to offer something they can’t get anywhere else. Early editions, deluxe collector’s copies, foiled covers, unique cover art, interior illustrations, sprayed edges, bookish swag. The possibilities are countless. You just need to decide which ones work for you and your projected budget. You can get ideas by checking out other literary projects currently live on Kickstarter.
  2. It takes work. Setting up your Kickstarter page requires graphics, which take time, an editing program, and lots of work to prepare. Graphics you’ll require include a main banner, several headers to break up your page and direct your backers to specific sections, and pictures of your rewards so your backers can pick which ones they want to receive for supporting your project. For this reason, it is vital to have a working picture of your product. In my case, the book cover design needed to be completed before my campaign launched. I had my deluxe edition covers designed by Blue Raven Book Covers, and I couldn’t be happier with how gorgeous they turned out! If you’re offering bookish swag, you also need pictures of all the items you wish to offer.
  3. Marketing! Be prepared to market your project across all your social media sites throughout your Kickstarter campaign. If people don’t know about your Kickstarter, they won’t be able to back it. It is mainly up to you to get the word out there, but definitely enlist as many friends and family members to help stretch your reach.
  4. Join the Kickstarter Facebook group Kickstarter For Authors. This site is a font of valuable information and the members are extremely supportive. Although I joined the group, I was shy to interact with the members, which was to my detriment. Next time I intend to be more involved, asking for advice on my graphics and campaign strategy. Not only do you get feedback to enhance your campaign, but you might also gain some backers for your project.
  5. Keep a budget. It’s ridiculously easy to lose track of costs and go overboard. Keep in mind, Kickstarter takes 5% of your proceeds off the top. And then you need to consider shipping costs, which can vary depending on where your backers are from, and if you’re allowing international backers. Predicting shipping costs was by far the most difficult part of the process for me. There are different shipping platforms, such as Easyship, that can help you figure out how much your packages will cost to ship to each destination. I recommend getting rough estimates before you set the reward tier values for your campaign so you don’t price things too low and than get dinged in the end at the post office.
  6. Follow up on missed funds. Once your project is complete, your backers are charged for their donations, but not all of the funds will go through automatically. It is up to the project creator (i.e.. YOU) to follow up on unsuccessful payments. I’m not going to lie, I was uncomfortable fulfilling this role, but the end result was worth it. Everybody came through.
  7. Ordering products doesn’t always go smoothly. Whether it’s printing issues for your bookish swag, or problems with the book publisher, you should allow yourself flexibility to get orders out to your backers. I recommend three months. I’ve already encountered issues, and I’m grateful I allowed for a three month buffer.
  8. Go big or go home. I intentionally kept my project small and didn’t market as much as I should have to make it manageable for me. I get overwhelmed easily in unfamiliar territory, so my goal with this campaign was to get comfortable with the platform and the process. Dipping my toes in to get wet, so to speak. Now that I know how to set up the project page and how the process unfolds, I would go bigger next time. After you put all that effort into the campaign, you might as well reap as many rewards as possible.

So, would I do this again? Yes, yes I would. Would I do things differently? Absolutely! I would dedicate more time to the prelaunch phase, and get as many followers as possible signed up for notifications. This ensures you have people interested in your campaign even before it launches, boosting the success rate once your site goes live. I would also offer more bookish swag and add-ons. I was hesitant, it being my first time and all, but the more you have to offer, the more people will get excited about backing your campaign. And I would try, God-willing, to run the campaign before my book launches next time. It could help offset funds, plus build a buzz around my new novel, whichever one it may be.

My final thoughts… this was an amazing experience. I’m glad I persisted with my Kickstarter campaign despite my doubts and fears. I raised money, sold books, and gained new readership. And I’m deeply humbled by the love and support my backers showed me. So, was it worth it? One hundred percent, yes!

If you decide to try one yourself, do your homework first. Check out the resources I recommended and of course, feel free to reach out to me with any questions. And I wish you a successful and prosperous campaign.

Enjoy the rest of June and the summer ahead! And don’t forget to keep reading!

💋 Lanie Mores