by M.C.A. Hogarth
You need a project. A nebulous “pay three months of my expenses while I write something” notion is not a project: at the end of the campaign you need to have a deliverable for your backers, something you’re all excited about. So have a clear goal in mind: you want to write a specific novella. You want to produce an audiobook edition. You want to get one of your out-of-print editions back online. You want to publish an anthology.
You need time. Preparation for a Kickstarter requires scheduling, accounting, planning prizes and pricing them, recording a video, writing your marketing materials, planning publicity and asking your test audience for feedback. Running the actual campaign will take at least half an hour a day of writing updates, keeping up with publicity requests and managing your prize production. And then if your Kickstarter succeeds you’ll be spending time fulfilling your backers’ prizes. Make sure you’re ready to commit that much time for the next 20-40 days of your campaign, and enough time afterwards to do what you’ve promised. Remember to plan for unexpected success: fulfilling prizes for 50 backers might not take long, but what if 1000 show up?
You need a fanbase. Statistics show that most Kickstarters attract 10% of their browsers from Kickstarter’s site. All the other backers are going to come from your efforts, and your fans’. If you don’t have a broad or energetic fanbase, keep your goals reasonable, and remember that 90% of that money is going to come from your marketing efforts.
You need a good sense of your costs. Before you set your monetary target, find out how much your project will cost to produce. Are you launching the first issue of a magazine? Total up how much you’ll be paying for contributors, a printer, artists, postage, etc. Are you issuing e-books? Research e-book production and find out how much it will cost to pay artists, designers (or software if you’re doing it yourself). Are you writing a novella? What are your expenses for the month you’ll spend writing it, and how much will it cost to issue it in whatever format you’re giving it to your backers?
Once you have this total, add another 20%: 10% for Kickstarter and Amazon Payment fees and 10% for taxes.
Now, look at the prizes you’re offering… and price out their production. If you’re mailing physical prizes, make sure you account for national and international shipping fees. Now double those costs so that backers are paying toward your goal as well as toward the production of their prize.
You need to deliver. Be sensible about your delivery dates. If you’re writing a novella and you tell people it will take three months, don’t let it take six. If you’re promising an anthology, don’t tell your backers it will take a year and then get it to them in five. Schedule your delivery dates with some padding, so if an emergency strikes and you find yourself unable to work you can still deliver on time. Make sure to account for production delays from contractors, freelancers or businesses you’re employing to produce your prizes. And if you can’t make your schedule, be up front about it.
You need to communicate. During your campaign you’ll be communicating with your backers and fans about your project regularly. Once your campaign has ended… you’ll still be communicating with them about your progress in completing their prizes. Don’t stop updating people once you’re in the fulfillment phase. Keep them apprised.
You need to believe in your project. In the end, you’re the one who’ll be convincing people to take a chance on your project. This will probably require activities outside your comfort zone, whether that’s interviews, videos, promoting yourself or exposing your work process. But the Kickstarters that succeed do so because their creators are as excited about sharing what they’re doing with backers as they are about doing the writing itself.
Crowdfunding allows you to connect with your fans in a way that gives them the chance to make a difference. Keep your costs low, your goals reasonable and show them how they can help and you have a good chance at success.
M.C.A. Hogarth has written over 50 science fiction and fantasy titles, serialized six novels on the web (for pay!) and run five successful Kickstarters in a single year, an experience she used to write her nonfiction book From Spark to Finish: Running Your Kickstarter Campaign. You can learn more at mcahogarth.org, or read her business columns at threejaguarscomic.net.