12 September 2016
I’m on a crowdfunding panel this Wednesday at a St. Louis Publishers Association event (full details are at that link in case you’d like to attend). It’s a unique event because we’ll specifically be talking about crowdfunding campaigns for books.
So in the spirit of this upcoming discussion, I thought I’d let you in on a little secret (readers of my book already know this): My first crowdfunding campaign did not raise $66,000. It wasn’t for a game. Rather, it was for two books.
The first Kickstarter campaign I backed and followed was in 2009. It was a book project called “Robin Writes a Book (and you get a copy).” I was absolutely fascinated by every aspect of the project, and it sparked a desire in me to do something similar.
I was in a writer’s group at the time, and I started talking with a few members in the group about publishing. As it turned out, two married writers, Jason and Kristy Makansi, were just as interested in testing the market as I was. So in January 2010 we formed a company called Blank Slate Press.
The idea behind Blank Slate Press is that we would focus on discovering and publishing the work of local novelists. The whole thing was an experiment–one of the benefits of being small is that you can try a lot of different things to see what works and what doesn’t.
One of those experiments was to put our first two books on Kickstarter. And the experiment within that experiment was that backers could pay less if they committed to spreading the word about the campaign on social media.
That was a mistake. I should have focused on authors, the mission of the company, and the content itself, not a marketing gimmick. I had the misguided perception that Kickstarter itself would think it was clever and would feature the project, which is embarrassing to admit. There are so many better motivators than “Kickstarter might like it!”
The campaign ran for 30 days, starting on June 1, 2011. 28 days in, we had only raised $125. A few generous pledges over the final 2 days brought the funding total to $305 from 17 backers, surpassing our goal of $250 and technically making it a “successful” campaign.
It certainly didn’t feel that way.
But I’m grateful for the experience. You have to start somewhere, right? Looking back, I’m glad there was so little at stake for my first campaign. I wanted the best for our authors, but barely funding didn’t ruin us as a company. It was the epitome of a “humble” campaign.
Plus, it makes for a nice story to tell people that my first campaign raised $305 and my last campaign raised $1.8 million. :)
I look forward to talking more in detail about book campaigns at the event on Wednesday. If I come up with anything clever to say there, I’ll make sure to share it here too. If you attend, please come up and say hi. I’d love to know about what you’re creating and how you’re thinking about bringing it to life.
Also, have you ever backed a Kickstarter campaign for a book? What was it about that campaign that compelled you to back it, and what made it special?
Also read: It’s Not Kickstarter’s Job to Give You Backers (It tells the same story as written above, but in a different way.)