The Independent Author | Using Kickstarter to Launch a Bestselling Book
Kickstarter is a very popular crowdfunding platform with an active publishing category. It’s a great way to raise the funds to finish a book (editing, narration, artwork, etc…), and is also an excellent addition to an overall marketing strategy and can provide the necessary funds to be able to run a kick-ass marketing campaign leading up to a book launch.
Now what do I mean when I say that a Kickstarter Campaign can be used as an extension of a marketing plan? Its all about mindset. Most authors who use Kickstarter do so for the sole purpose of raising the funding they need to get a book edited or narrated or for a print run or whatever. They seldom consider the possibility that having an active campaign on Kickstarter is in and of itself a way to further spread the word about their book. What I mean by this is that even if a fairy godmother jumped out of my closet and gave me the $75,000 dollars that I need, I would still run a Kickstarter Campaign.
- It gives you a goal to hit and to hit that goal your going to have to market yourself. (Defining Marketing for Authors | What is Marketing?) Goals are a powerful thing, its a psychological thing, and it can force you to work even harder towards a successful general launch of your book.
- As you will see later in this post, its a great way to generate extra re-portable sales so you can have a strong launch.
- When you pre-sale on Amazon you won’t have access to your sales numbers until the book launches. When you pre-sale on Kickstarter you have real-time numbers that you can show to wholesalers and bookstores, thereby showing social and economic proof of your book.
The problem though is that the book pre-sales that you make on this platform, or on any of the other crowdfunding platform, do not get reported, therefore do not contribute towards reaching a bestsellers list. I believe that I’ve found a work around for this though and I’m talking with Amazon’s Development Team to see if we can get the software in place that will allow the pre-sales made on Kickstarter to contribute towards your amazon sales rank, since Amazon reports sales this will also contribute towards reaching the other lists.
*Note: If Amazon decides not to play ball with this there are other ways to work around this problem, working with Amazon is just the most convenient. I’ll keep you all posted.
In this post I’m going to assume that you all know and understand a few key things.
- That you understand that due to a general lack of marketing, the average independent author will only sell a hundred to two hundred copies of their book a year.
- That you understand that the reason this is true is that most authors do not build the needed author platform.
- That you understand how to market your book and are already doing so. (If you do not, please feel free to contact me and I can at the very least give you some resources).
- That you understand that reaching a bestsellers list is important and can greatly increase your sales.
There is so much information on the web about book marketing, much of it false and harmful to the independent community. There are people who will do anything to get you to buy their book on how to use social media to sell more books. Please know that using Social Media to Sell More Books a Myth.
I’m going to say this once again, to understand this plan you’re going to have to have a basic understanding of marketing. If you don’t, then send me a message.
- Create a budget and understand how much money you are going to need in order to create a best seller. My budget is $75,000. That’s not a random number, each dollar is accounted for and it represents a comprehensive cost analysis.
- Take 45% out of your budget. For me that is roughly $35,000. This is going to be my original funding goal. Cut another 30% out of the budget, for me that is roughly $10,000. The $10,000 is going to be your funding goal for the first 48 hours of going live. The reason we do this is because of the long-term statistical probability of getting fully funding, then overfunding, is extremely high. If you are able to hit 30% funded within the first 48 hours you have a 90% chance of funding.
- To hit that 30%, you are going to need to have a pre-built email list. If you don’t understand the importance of the email list, then you need find out asap. In short, you collect enough emails so that using marketing best practices, and knowing email marketing CRV (conversion rate) you know how many emails you will need to collect so that you can hit that 30% in the first two days. Email list CRV is very high, it’s the highest of all marketing CRV besides direct mail. Some people have as high as 25% CRV on their lists. I have set my CRV a little more conservatively, at 10%, so that I can ensure I have enough emails. For me to guaranty that I will hit that 30% in the first 48 hours I need to collect 10,000 emails. If 10% of those people purchase my eBook at $9.99 then that well get me to $10,000. (Understand Kickstarter backer rewards. The eBook is my lowest backer reward).
- Once you hit that 30%, Kickstarter’s algorithm takes over and if you continue your marketing plan using your Author Platform (blogging, social media, etc…) you should be able to fund the $35,000 in seven days. This is where things get interesting.
- For this purpose, we are going to set a conservative expectation and assume that the vast majority of your sales are at the lowest backer reward level, which is your eBook at $9.99. So, $35,000 in sales would equal 3,500 customers. At this point you set your first stretch goal, $45,000.
- When the first funding goal of $35,000 is reached you open the first part of your secondary merchandise. (For me it is these, Guardians of Atlantis Poster, Seal of Atlantis Patch, Bookmark). You use your secondary merchandise, as well as continuing your marketing, to reach $45,000. Once you reach it you set a second stretch goal of $65,000.
- Laundering Sales: Once you hit $45,000 you reward your backers. Every backer who has purchased an eBook, will receive a second eBook for free to give to a friend. At $45,000 you have 4,500 customers. By giving out a second eBook you now have 9,000 sales. Depending on the time of year, this will almost guaranty that you hit every bestseller list in the country.
- This is where backer reward fulfillment comes in. You do not fulfill the order. You issue an Amazon promo-code. You set the promotional price at $.99. The backer enters the code on Amazon, Amazon deducts $.99 out of your account, you receive 35% of this back at the first billing cycle as royalty, and now the sales count towards your rankings. (Keep in mind that all pre-sales count as if they were made on day one of launch. So if you have 9,000 sales spread over a 30 day Kickstarter Campaign, and another couple thousand during your 90 day Amazon Pre-Sale Campaign, these all count as if they made on day one of publishing). So, by offering a second eBook for free, you only make $8 per eBook sale, plus the 35% of $2 you make back in royalty.
- When you reach your second stretch goal of $65,000 you do the same thing, but with the digital audiobook version of your book. You say that everyone who is a level 3 backer or higher will receive a free audiobook, or however you want to do it. The purpose of this is pretty straightforward, you generate more recorded sales, and offer an incentive for your level 1 and 2 backers to upgrade to level 3. Your backer rewards are your decision, but my level 3 reward is $19.99.
This process can be repeated using different formats of your book.
Kickstarter has had 31,000 campaigns in their publishing category. 9,100 of those have been successful, raising a total of 80 million dollars that went into the pockets of authors. None of that money made its way to Amazon and that is what we use to get this system in place. As far as I know I’m the only person who has ever called Amazon about this. If more of us make the call then there is a higher probability that they will place this system in place. They already have a promo code option in place for print books and audiobooks on Audible. It’s only a matter of time before they do the same for Kindle.
So, what do you need to do? Call Amazon, (1-888-280-4331) ask to be transferred to KDP. Tell them about Kickstarter, tell them how many successful campaigns have been run and how much money has been generated. If you have questions shoot me a message.
Our industry is in the process of shifting from Traditional Publishing to Independent Authors. Over the last 15 months, Traditional Publishing Market Share has dropped from 40% to 25% and the Independent Author Market Share has risen from 25% to 40%. The Traditional Houses have abused authors for a long time. They want to give you 15% royalty, take full editorial control of your manuscript, they want all your rights: eBook, Audio, paperback, hardbound, film, foreign, tie in (meaning that they can license someone else to write their own story into your story), and many, many more. They want to offer you a small advance or no advance at all and then give you nothing in the way of a marketing budget. Unless you are a mega hit author you can expect that whether you go the tradition route or the independent route, you will be responsible for the marketing of your book.
We all know authors who are outside of this group. If you think they need to know this then please feel free to share it.
This article was written by Jake Parrick.