How to get ready for crowdfunding a book

Author training | Are you thinking about trying to crowdfund a book, but you don't know how to get started? This post shares some easy ways you can get the word out about your book project to lay a strong base for a successful crowdfunding project. Many authors want to know how to crowdfund a book. You might look up some projects on Kickstarter and think one of two things. You might think that the process looks overwhelming and it would be too difficult to crowdfund your book. Or you might think it looks really easy and all you need to do is create a Kickstarter page and backers will magically flock to your project. Neither assumption is accurate.

The first thing you need to know about crowdfunding is that planning and advance publicity is absolutely essential. If you are even thinking about crowdfunding your book, start talking about your project now on social media. Start describing your book, sharing the plot or theme, and sharing research gems if you’re writing a nonfiction book. These posts should not be “buy my upcoming book!” Rather, you should just share your excitement and enthusiasm about your upcoming project. The point of talking about your project early and often is that when you launch your crowdfunding campaign, people will already know what you’re doing and you will have a good base of support out there.

When I was working on my first nonfiction book, I knew I wanted to try crowdfunding to help cover my expenses, which would be substantial since I was producing a pretty long print book. About four months before I launched a campaign, I started telling people I was working on a book and what it was about (it’s a VERY niche book about the discovery and exploration of a cave in north Alabama). At the same time, I also started sending Facebook friend requests to everyone interested in the niche of cave exploration. I looked for friends of friends and sent friend requests to people who participate in caving groups. My friend list swelled to about 600. I did the same thing on Twitter, following everyone related to caves and caving. I made sure people who like my niche found out about my book.

I got a lot of questions about the book. People wanted to know how long it would be, when it would be available, how much it would cost, and as I nailed down the answers to those questions, I shared. I posted photos I uncovered during my research along with a short caption or story that described the photo. I posted updates on my writing progress. When I finished chapter 17, I would share that news and describe what the chapter was about. When I hired an editor, I described what that process was like. I posted blurbs in online groups related to my niche. I needed help occasionally with research, and would post questions like “Hey, I’m working on a new book about Fern Cave and I’m looking for anyone who’s taken photos in the cave. If you have photos I’m looking for, I might include them in my book!”

By the time I launched my crowdfunding campaign, every single person I knew in real life and on the internet knew about my book, and the people who are interested in my niche topic were interested in buying my book.

The day I launched my crowdfunding campaign, I raised $1,000. That is only because I blabbed about it so much for so long, and went out of my way to share my excitement and generate excitement in others.

If you are thinking about crowdfunding, look at your writing and editing schedule and think about when you might want to launch a campaign. When you have a date selected, like June 15, 2017, back up four months from that date. On February 15, start talking about you book. I recommend talking up your project for at LEAST two months before you launch, then your crowdfunding campaign itself will last anywhere from 30 to 60 days. Just nail down your schedule, see if crowdfunding will work with your timeline, then start your marketing!

The next post in this crowdfunding series will talk about how to get ready to actually launch your crowdfunding campaign.

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Should you investigate how to crowdfund your book?

Are you working on a book and wondering how to pay for an editor, cover arr, and maybe even printing costs? Have you thought about crowdfunding? Setting up a crowdfunding campaign on a site like Kickstarter or Indiegogo is a realistic way to raise the cash you need to get your project off the ground. But first, you need to do some planning...Two years ago, before I started my own publishing company, I crowdfunded a very niche nonfiction book about a cave in north Alabama. Many people who don’t enjoy exploring caves asked how I could actually write an entire book about a cave, much less 300 pages! Well, the cave has a fascinating history and the story of how a bunch of guys from Huntsville, Alabama discovered and explored the 15-mile-long cave is similar to stories about people who figure out how to climb and explore remote mountains. When I decided to write a book about the cave, I knew I wanted it to be a really nice printed book, and I also knew I wanted to self-publish. The problem was money.

When I started getting quotes for all the help I would need to create a quality book–a professional editor, a cover designer, and a printer–the costs added up to around $4,500. That was way out of my price range for covering the costs myself. However, a few months earlier, I’d discovered a new fantasy author at a science fiction convention and bought a copy of her book. I’m always interested in publishing companies, especially small ones, and I really liked the name of this one: Silence in the Library Publishing. I checked out their webpage and discovered they were running a Kickstarter campaign for an upcoming book. The campaign had blown past its initial goal and was well over $10,000.

I was actually pretty shocked. I had no idea people would contribute to book projects on Kickstarter. An idea started to form. I could set up a Kickstarter campaign for my book project. Could I really raise the money I needed?

I actually wasn’t very familiar with Kickstarter when I first started poking around on their webpage to investigate book projects. I noticed than some campaigns were wildly successful while others maybe only raised $100. Others raised a modest amount of money and reached the project’s goal. I started to wonder what made a crowdfunding campaign successful. Marketing and advertising were obviously critical. Just posting a book campaign on Kickstarter would not be enough to gain backers.

I did more research and discovered crowdfunding was becoming a pretty big thing, and there are lots of different models out there for raising funding. Kickstarter requires projects to meet the project goal or you don’t get any money. If your goal is $5,000 but you only raise $4,750, you’re out of luck. However, other sites let you keep everything you raise. If your goal is $5,000 and you raise $100, you get $100 (well, minus fees you owe the crowdfunding web page). That sounded like a good bet for me and I decided to set up a project on Indiegogo. I was fairly certain I could raise at least enough to cover printing. If I didn’t raise the full amount–well, maybe I could dip into savings to hire an editor.

I decided to crowdfund my book with a goal of $5,000. This is what I did:

  • I spent some time researching and planning out the whole process. I outlined my timeline and what I needed to do along the way to get the word out about the book and the campaign.
  • Four months before I launched my campaign, I started talking about my book on Facebook and Twitter. I talked about it A LOT.  I posted about my progress on the book. I posted photos I’d uncovered during my research, along with a little story about the photo and a mention of my upcoming book (this was really popular and many people shared the photos, thus helping get to the word out to a much wider audience). I posted random short stories I’d uncovered during my research that would interest people.
  • I set up my campaign page early, came up with perks I thought people would like, and created a simple video (even though I had zero video experience) using Microsoft Movie Maker and still images I used in the book.
  • Two weeks before launching the campaign, I told everyone about it. I told everyone how much editing, design, and printing would cost that that there probably wouldn’t be a book at all if I couldn’t raise the money to cover costs. I shared the different perks people could get. I talked about when the book would be ready. I talked about the campaign A LOT for two weeks until I pressed the button to make the project go live.
  • The day I launched, I had a whole series of blog posts, social media posts, and web pages ready to go to promote the campaign. I told everyone about it and asked for their support. On my first day, I raised $1,000 (in all fairness, one of my best friends pledged $500 on that first day, so really I raised $500–still not too shabby!).
  • Over the two months the campaign was active, I posted updates, more photos from the book, the cover design I was going to use, and more stories from the book. I kept the book front and center for people on my social media feeds.

I reached my goal. I will admit I slacked off a bit raising money after I reached my $5,000 goal because I knew I had enough to cover production costs and I wasn’t sure what else I could do with additional funding.

What I learned from this project is that crowdfunding can be very successful, but is reliant on some key factors:

  • You must have an author platform, or social network of people who are potentially interested in your book
  • You must thoroughly plan a crowdfunding campaign
  • You must do a LOT of marketing way before you launch, as well as market during your campaign

Should you investigate crowdfunding your book? I think it’s definitely worth it. It can help you pay for essential services like editing, cover design, and marketing. If you’re really ambitious, it can cover printing costs and creating an audio book. But whatever you do, don’t just decide one day to launch a Kickstarter page, post it, and expect fans to find you. That won’t happen.

Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more posts about the different aspects of planning and executing a crowdfunding campaign, for both fiction and nonfiction books.

Every author needs a good website

Over the last year, I’ve participated in many different Facebook groups dedicated to helping authors thrive and sell more books. I am always surprised when an author posts a question asking if they need a website. YES YOU NEED ONE.Over the last year, I’ve participated in many different Facebook groups dedicated to helping authors thrive and sell more books. I am always surprised when an author posts a question about why they are not selling more books when they have six, or seven, or eight books available on Amazon. Many times, when someone asks to look at their website for some clues, the answer is often “I don’t have a website.”

Do authors need a website? Yes. The answer is yes. End of post.

Just kidding about the end of this post. But I’m definitely not kidding that all authors need a great website. Here are just a few reasons why.

  1. Your website should be your main hub of information. One of the reasons many authors cite for not needing a website is that they use Facebook to get the word out about their books. Although Facebook and social media in general can be good marketing tools, relying on social media alone is not a good marketing strategy. To ensure that you have a place where readers and potential readers can go and easily look up all of your books, find links to all of your social media sites, find out more information about you, and access all of your contact information, you need a website. When correctly designed, your website should serve as a vital and central hub of information for readers.
  2. Your social media sites don’t really belong to you. When you pay for your own website domain and set up your website, you own and completely control all of the information. You control what to post, what the public can see, and what the site looks like. That’s not the case with social media sites. Social media sites could completely change the way they work overnight, creating massive problems for people who use the sites for marketing. Just think about Facebook’s recent changes to Pages. A few years ago, when an author shared something on their page, everyone who likes the page would see the post. That’s no longer true. Now, you’re lucky if 5% of your fans see your post unless you pay to boost it. Social media sites can change their rules overnight, leaving you with no good ways to share information about your books if you don’t have a good website.
  3. You can’t easily find old information on social media. So you shared information about your newest book on Twitter two months ago. Great! Can people who like saw that post easily it find it again? Nope. Social media is great for immediate engagement and meeting other people online. However, it should be just one part of your marketing strategy. If you have a great website, it’s easy to frequently share content from your website on social media to drive traffic to your site where readers can then find nicely organized information about all of your books.
  4. Your website can easily and elegantly display all of your books. If you set up your website effectively, your books will all display in a nice, organized way with your book covers, a book summary, and online ordering information right at your reader’s fingertips. Your website will make it much easier for your readers to learn about all of your books, your book series, and read a blurb or book excerpt. Social media sites are not as effective at this as your own website.
  5. After you set up your website, you don’t have to worry about it every day. Your website is a great central hub of information, but after you spend time writing all of the content, you don’t have to worry about updating the content very often (unless you have a blog, and then you still only need to post once a week or less). If you write crisp and compelling book blurbs, provide book excerpts, and provide great information about you, the only thing you’ll need to do with your website is add new books, update your event calendar, and fix any errors you find. Unlike social media, you don’t need to post every day, making it a great static tool for your marketing efforts.

 

If you are serious about selling books, build a website. If you already have a website, take a close look at it and make sure it’s a beautiful and effective showcase for your books.

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Steampunk coloring book almost ready!

We’ve been working hard on two new adult coloring books, one with a mandala/symmetrical art theme and one with a mechanical/steampunk theme. We’re really pleased with how they turned out! Here’s the cover for the new book to give you an idea of what the images in the book are like.

Here’s the front cover:

steampunkcover

Here’s the back cover. We had a good time coloring the images to create the covers! back

Here are a couple of examples of images inside the book. We’ll share more with you as we get closer to the publication date. inside1  inside2

Independent Book Publishers Association conference

I’m in Salt Lake City, UT right now attending my very first Independent Book Publishers Association’s annual conference. I joined the IBPA a few years ago when I was frantically working on my first self-published book, and it’s a fantastic organization. I’ve learned so much just from the online classes and the monthly magazine, so I decided coming to the conference would be a great investment in my publishing projects.

I have spent a little time in Salt Lake City over the years, usually flying here as a launching point to drive down to the Moab area to backpack and run around in the backcountry of canyons and desert. This is the first time I’ve spent more than a day in the city, and so far I’m enjoying it.

Last night the conference kicked off with a reception for conference attendees, and I met so many inspirational people. So many people are running such innovative and interesting companies, and so many authors are publishing such great books. I can’t wait for the rest of the conference.

Better get started.

What I usually do in Utah: hike. This photo will soon be included in a coloring book about the outdoor world.
What I usually do in Utah: hike. This photo will soon be included in a coloring book about the outdoor world.

Launching new science fiction and steampunk coloring book series

Adult coloring books are all the rage, and we’re getting in on the act with an offering that is a little different. We’re working with the amazing artist Steve Pitts to publish a coloring books of his intricately detailed drawings of mandalas and Celtic designs, but also steampunk and mechanical drawings.

Zororaster symmetrical universe adult coloring book
Scan of the original pen and ink drawing Zororaster

Steve has created his amazing drawings for many decades, entirely freehand with only pen and ink. Everyone who sees an original is blown away by the skill and creativity it obviously takes to draw something so beautiful and so detailed.

When people started to mention that his drawings would make great coloring books, we were intrigued. We took a look, and with some work we were able to put together two lovely books based on his artwork. Because his original drawings are all a fairly large format (14×17 in most cases) we included each original drawing, but then broke the book down into detailed views of many of his most complex drawings. We believe this will give you a great opportunity to use your creativity to design your own colors and interpretations of the drawings.

Steve’s mechanical drawings are also unique in the world of coloring books. Many of his drawings are inspired by spaceships, electronics, and machines, so his drawing will be attractive for people who enjoy the world of steampunk and science fiction.

symmetrical universse mandala adult coloring book steve pitts

 

The coloring books will be available on Amazon on April 20. Get a copy and share your coloring inspirations with us and we’ll publish them here!

symmetrical universe science fiction art steve pitts