You’ve successfully launched, promoted, and finished a great Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign for your next book—congratulations!
But don’t get out the lawn chair and margaritas just yet—your work isn’t done. You still have to fulfill all those rewards…and more importantly, keep up the momentum you worked so hard to build during your campaign.
In Part 1 of our Crowdfunding for Authors series, we checked out some different crowdfunding platforms authors can use to fund their books; in Part 2, we discussed tips and tricks for creating a sustainable campaign that can meet and exceed your goals.
Now that you’ve created a successful campaign, it’s time to look at how to harness that momentum to sustain your overall author career!
Timing the Market
The most successful crowdfunding campaigns see the highest percentage of pledges come in the first and last days of the project. You need to get the ball rolling fast, bringing in about 25% of your goal before the campaign starts to grow organically through word of mouth. Remember, people like to back a winner, so they’ll often wait to see that others have signed on to a project and that it looks like it will meet its goals before they’re willing to commit.
People are also busy and distracted, so they often wait until the last minute to commit to something—especially in an all-or-nothing campaign where there’s no guarantee the project will be created if the crowdfunding goal isn’t met. Sure, backers don’t spend any money if the all-or-nothing goal fails, but they also don’t get the book they wanted! So they’re far more likely to back a project that’s close to (or has already exceeded) its goal.
First Week, Last Week
What this means for you as an author is that you need to market your crowdfunding campaign throughout the whole project timeline—but focus your efforts on the first and last week of the project. If you’re going to buy paid ads or switch up any of your existing marketing campaigns, that’s the time to do it.
Do you already have books available? Change their descriptions on your sales pages to mention your crowdfunding campaign, enticing existing fans and curious browsers to check out your new work.
Set up widgets on your website and include a tab on your Facebook page to drive readers to your crowdfunding campaign, and don’t forget to update that often with news about the project, your writing process, and any stretch goals you’ve set.
In that final week, ramp up your efforts so that you can cruise over the finish line well above your goal.
Then, it’s immediately time to start converting that crowdfunding momentum into a longer-term boost for your career!
Now that you’ve successfully funded your campaign, you’ll need to encourage your backers to stick with you for the long haul. Relationships with your readers are key to building your author career, and they’re the secret sauce behind why crowdfunding can be so great for independent authors—you can turn early book sales into sustainable relationships that will help you launch even higher in the future.
Within two days of your project successfully funding, you need to be on top of your follow-through. Send a note to your backers through your crowdfunding platform thanking them for their support, then follow that up with a backer survey.
In the survey, ask for the information you’ll need to fulfill their rewards (email address, mailing address if you’re shipping physical goods, tee shirt size, autograph preferences, etc.).
But don’t forget to start building long-term relationships here. Always ask permission to include your backer on your email newsletter list. After all, they’re already interested in your work, enough to back it before it’s even produced. So odds are, they’ll want to know more about what you’re doing in the future!
If possible, it never hurts to send a personalized thank-you to backers as well. Once you’ve got all those email addresses compiled, run the spreadsheets provided by your crowdfunding platform through a mail merge program to allow you to semi-automatically customize thank-you emails with readers’ names. It’s not quite the same as a handwritten note like your mom always made you write, but a personal note sent a couple weeks after the project closes is a really nice touch that goes a long way.
What really goes far in ensuring that your crowdfunding success carries over for the long term, though, is rapid fulfillment. You need to be incredibly on top of your rewards and delivery, because backers get antsy when a project finishes—they want the rewards they signed on for.
You should have spent the duration of the campaign finishing your book’s draft and lining up the people you’ll need to help you produce it: editor, cover artist, etc. Some authors will have already written, edited, and produced the book; others will need the crowdfunding money to actually pay for these services, so they’ll have to wait a bit to finish up.
As soon as your project funds are deposited into your bank account, get going! Pay your editor and designer, work on the editing rounds, and get that book ready for prime time.
Meanwhile, keep your backers posted whenever you hit a milestone, like finishing the second draft. If you didn’t have a cover during the campaign, send it out as an exclusive announcement to backers when it’s ready. Engage your followers through the whole process so they know what’s going on…and so that they truly feel like they’re a part of your journey.
Are you sending out rewards other than just your book? If so, the minute it looked like your project would meet its goal, you should already have been finalizing the design of all your planned rewards so that all you have to do now is enter the quantity with your vendors and finish the order.
It takes time to get tee shirts and shot glasses and other merch produced, so you want to make sure this process is cruising along while your book is going through edits and so on. Again, take pictures and send them to backers when merch arrives, keeping them in the loop and excited.
Make It Special
You’ve spent a lot of time and energy creating the best book possible, running a great crowdfunding campaign, and presenting yourself as an awesome creative professional. Don’t disrespect your own effort and the faith of your backers by just chucking your book and other rewards into a used, wrinkled manila envelope and sending them on their way!
Take the time to present your backers with something special. Get inexpensive brown paper or wrapping paper from the dollar store and wrap up your books. If you’ve got a ton of packages to prep, call some friends and make a party of it! Include little bonuses, an extra note, a bookmark for another book you’ve written, etc.
Basically, make your backer packages a little gift. It’ll make the experience even more memorable for your backers, increase the chances of a nicely wrapped book or other merch going on social media and boosting your exposure, and create a lot of lasting goodwill for how well you’ve presented everything.
If you’re in the US, order free Priority mailing materials from the US Postal Service to be delivered to your house. Many rewards for book crowdfunding campaigns can be shipped in Priority flat-rate envelopes or flat-rate padded envelopes and although you might spend a few cents extra to ship Priority flat-rate instead of first class for lighter packages (13 ounces and under), you’ll save a lot on shipping materials by using these. Plus, backers will get their rewards faster when you do ship, which counts!
Use either Stamps.com or PayPal Multiorder Shipping to print batches of postage for your rewards packages. You can upload your backer spreadsheets quickly and easily, rather than having to type in addresses one at a time as on the USPS website.
Then just pay and print, tape the labels onto your packages, and schedule a home pickup on the USPS website.
Keep It Up
Don’t let the relationships you’ve worked so hard to build slip away! Include a note in each rewards package thanking your backer—if you’ve got tons of backers, generate the note on the computer, but be sure to sign it by hand. In the note, ask readers to leave a review of the book on Amazon and Goodreads, which will help you convert the momentum from these early supporters into social proof to help you climb the Amazon rankings and earn more sales there.
Include little freebies that your new fans can give to others, like buttons or bookmarks. People love to share things they enjoy, and many backers are eager to promote authors—all you have to do is give them a way to do so.
Encourage your backers to share pictures of their rewards packages on social media, maybe with a photo contest and hashtag tied to a giveaway of another of your books or some other reward, like an upgrade to additional rewards.
Welcome all your new subscribers on your email newsletter and social media. Don’t inundate people with email blasts and updates all the time, but do make sure to send out regular updates during the fulfillment process and beyond, both via the crowdfunding platform and your own outreach methods, to make sure that your backers stay engaged for the long term.
And perhaps most importantly, start planning your next crowdfunding campaign!
If you think of crowdfunding as a way to fund your book’s production, engage with readers, and manage pre-orders, it makes a lot of sense as part of a sustainable author career.
- If you can, have the book basically wrapped up before you start the campaign so that you can speedily fulfill the rewards you’ve promised.
- Set reasonable goals and deadlines for your crowdfunding campaign; don’t get so ambitious that you set yourself up for a struggle.
- Have fun with creative rewards, but remember that you’ll have to fulfill them—don’t go overboard or you’ll spend more time producing rewards than writing!
- Focus your promotion efforts on the first and last week of your campaign.
- Keep backers updated throughout—not just during the campaign, but afterwards as well.
- Bring backers into the fold by getting their permission to subscribe them to your email newsletter for future updates.
- Add personal touches wherever possible. Half the fun of crowdfunding for backers is feeling like you’re personally contributing to a project’s success.
Have you tried crowdfunding? Let us know about your experience in the comments!
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For more on building a sustainable author career, read on:
- The Power of Outsourcing: How to Write a Book While Having a Full-time Job
- How to Choose a Bestselling Book Title for Fiction or Nonfiction
- How To Earn a Full-Time Income as an Author