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Slow Lessons in Kickstarter Times
Contributor
Written by
Lone Morch
November 2015
Contributor
Written by
Lone Morch
November 2015

 

There are many paths to publishing today, some more circuitous than others, and in my experience, you need to explore and discover which way is the best for you and your book. 

I hybrid-published my first book Seeing Red: A Woman’s Quest for Truth, Power and the Sacred in 2012 with She Writes Press, because I could, because I was impatient and didn’t like waiting for a stranger to “like” my book. Also my prior experience with a NYC agent made me uncomfortable with the book business. Long story short, she dropped me, when my book didn’t immediately sell to the Big Five Club. 

Currently, I’m exploring the best ways to publish my second book, working title Unveiled. It’s a non-fiction book based upon my photo studio Lolo’s Boudoir and my intimate photographic encounters with hundreds of women over the past decade. Think a female photographer’s memoir meets fine art photography meets Anais Nin. Let’s just say, it’s been a big undertaking that’s involved not only my own vision, sorting through 1000s of stories and photos, but also getting women’s permission to share their photos and putting it together in an artful, thematic way. 

At first I thought I wanted a publisher to take on the book, because of its complex mix of fine art and non-fiction. I spoke to photography industry experts, photographers with books under their belts and researched publishers with a photo book portfolio. I even went to the photo festival Rencontres d’Arles in France this summer to meet European publishers. Along the way, I learned it’s very hard to get a photography book published, that many photo book publishers require pre-sales or that you invest funds upfront, and that many choose to crowd fund their book projects. 

I began researching platforms such as Indigogo and Kickstarter. With some you get the raised funds, even if you don’t reach your set goal. With Kickstarter you only get the funds if you reach your goal. To print a photographic book costs a lot of money, thus I choose Kickstarter to not end up in a situation, where I only raised half the funds I need to complete the book. I looked for high quality printers, talked to designers, and did all I could to understand what a project like this would entail.

A book is never just a book. Needless to say, I felt overwhelmed by the work ahead – at least 6 months of solid pre-campaign and post-production and delivery work, not to mention, the marketing required to get the book out there and the nightmare scenario of ending up with 2000 books in a garage I don’t even have. My resistance to kickstart my book grew, the more I learned, and I felt insane for even considering such a project as we all know, making books rarely make us rich.

In my gut, I knew my project has commercial potential, and decided to go the traditional route. I made a mini-documentary about my book project, a book website, researched the photo book market, publishers and agents, and prepared my query letter and a book proposal. I even secured a few endorsements and a foreword by a author and film maker I respect. But no agent bid and I felt increasingly impatient. I began to create my Kickstarter campaign. 

Kickstarter Lessons 

If you don't know Kickstarter, I suggest you check it out. There's plenty of information to get you going and completed campaigns to inspire your own. Also, Kickstarter staff will answer your questions by emails and finally, preview your campaign before you hit the green button. 

In brief: you set up a profile, make a video, find a title and write a description of your project, why it’s important and what you will use the money for. You also need a series of rewards levels that your backers can choose from to support your campaign – products you give in exchange for their money. 

Emotional Readiness and Resilience

Ironically, my working title for my book is Unveiled, and in my dance around doing a Kickstarter I have bounced up against all my issues and insecurities around asking for help, putting myself out there, feeling naked and rather unveiled. The upside, preparing a Kickstarter will help you build confidence in your project, make a case for its importance and your ability to make a beautiful book.

Creating an Inspired Campaign

How do you best convey your passion for your project? You need to make a case for your project that will touch and inspire others to believe in you and your book beyond just your friends. Think of this as a really good pitch for your book, with your personality and heart in it. People will support you, because they feel resonance. Write it out. Make the video. Get feedback from people who know you and people who don’t, to ensure it makes sense. You need to catch people’s attention in the first 30 seconds. Think of Kickstarter as your online real estate - you have the title, the blurb, a video and a page of text and images to play with. 

Compelling Video

The video can be simple or complex according to your skill level and budget. Some people record it themselves and edit together a simple video with no whistles and bells, others get professional help to make a more fancy; either works, the key is to make it simple, succinct, personal and heartfelt - your supporters will support YOU, more than your actual product. Find videos examples you like and use as template for your own. Keep it short, 2 - 3 minutes only. 

Your video should cover: 

  • explain the inspiration for the book (you talking)
  • what the book is about (use visuals to underscore, if you can
  • why you think people would like to have it,
  • what you need (money) to make it happen,
  • gratitude, links, etc.

Rewards, Product and Delivery 

To get a full financial overview of your project, you need to know the format of the book your envision, find printers who can fulfill your order to your desired quality, get estimates of design and printing costs, including shipping and import taxes, and a solid sense of timeline. You also need to determine what rewards you will offer your backers, being mindful of what they will cost you to make and ship so as to not setting yourself up for crazy more costs and work. Allow at least 3 months but up to 6 months for the design, production and shipping of your book. Please note, you are tax liable for the funds you raise, and might consider the timing of your campaign so your income offset expenses in the same tax year.

Marketing and Outreach

Usually, a campaign runs for one month. How will you use this month to reach as many people as possible? Pre-planning this part is crucial, as to not get overrun, or worse, paralyzed by it all. Most campaigns succeed by your own network – friends, cohorts and affiliates. Consider where your audience hangs out? Bloggers who write about your topics? Hosting events? Fun ways to keep people informed and engaged in your campaign for the month. Use all your favorite social media platforms to drive people to your campaign. Enlist supporters to like your posts, it helps with the algorithms – the more likes, shares, comments, the more people will get to see your posts. I have yet to develop this part of my campaign, but will be sharing stories from my book, write blog posts, offer interviews, possibly do weekly video posts, and enlist the support of a good group of friends and peers throughout to spread all on social media. 

What to Expect

A Rush. Every Kickstarter survivor I have spoken with tells me it is a LOT of work, and a total rush during the month the campaign runs. Expect to spend a lot of time communicating, spreading word, talking to people and getting others to support you. Mostly you’ll see lots of support early and late in your month. A friend shared with me that he raised the majority of funds in the last 4 days of his campaign. This can be nerve-wracking. Remember to breathe. Make it fun. Use your fantasy. All highs are followed by a low, so expect a bit of post-campaign depression. Be proud, you made it. 

Fate would have it, that last week I was invited to a book pitch conference, where I met 4 agents who are interested in my project. I have put my campaign on hold for the moment, awaiting what will happen next, but let me share this: knowing that I will publish my book, no matter what, gives me a tremendous confidence. All of my preparation – the proposal, the research, the campaign – has helped me get under the skin of my project: I know what it is, I know how to pitch it, I know how I will market it, and this is invaluable, no matter what route my book takes. 

Godspeed to all you brave writers and book makers out there. Never give up.  

www.lonemorch.com

www.womenunveiled.com

 

 

 

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Comments
  • Lone Morch

    Hi Claire and Christine,

    Glad that this post is useful. There truly are many more options available to us writers, and yet, the challenge is to find the ones that work for us, for each project, etc. - and be realistic. All of it is work, ha ha, nothing comes easy, and so, one major lesson I'm learning is to hold the LONG VIEW, which honestly is counter to my most natural energy flow, I love starting projects, generate them, the creative process, all the rest, well, not so interesting. But alas, why make things if we don't share them right? 

    Claire, I do know pubslush, wasn't right for this project. :) What is the series you are working on? 

    Yes I will surely keep you posted, I have friended you here, but please find me on facebook etc. too. And you might like to subscribe at lonemorch.com to stay in the loop? 

    Exciting times. Enjoy the day. xoxo

  • Claire Amber

    Wow, thank you so much, Lone, for sharing your experience and composing this really well-organized and informative article! I've been thinking of doing an Indiegogo fundraiser for over a year, now, for my second book (which is the first in a series of 6).

    I came up with a list of "gifts", recently, but have been feeling overwhelmed, not knowing what else was required. This gives me a good idea the various things that go into raising money for a book, specifically. I appreciate that you highlighted the benefits of doing the research and composing a campaign, even if you decided to put it on hold. How exciting that you met agents who are interested! Best wishes to you with your book! I'm curious to see how things work out with it. Will you keep me posted?

    Also, do you know about Pubslush? It's for book projects, specifically, and I'm planning to do some research on that, as well. 

    Cheers! Claire Amber

  • Christine Weeber

    Fabulous. Thank you for sharing your story and the video. More power to you in this next phase of getting a publisher and/or completing your kickstarter campaign!