Jeff Seymour - Author of Fantasy, Literary Fiction, & c.: Marketing Soulwoven Part Two: The Kickstarter Launch

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Friday, April 25, 2014

Marketing Soulwoven Part Two: The Kickstarter Launch

Okay, time for part two of the ongoing series of posts on how I'm marketing Soulwoven (you can read part one here).

The second stage of marketing Soulwoven came with the Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter, like Wattpad, was a thing I found out about via the news. I started backing projects on it in 2012, with Amanda Palmer's album Theatre is Evil. Over the next year or so, I backed several projects and got a chance to see firsthand how they worked---what was exciting about the process, what wasn't, what other people did well and poorly, etc.

Kickstarter, for those who don't know it, lets people pledge money to support a creative endeavor. For authors, it's a way of funding all of the many expenses related to publishing a book, like editing, marketing, and cover design. In the traditional publishing world, your publisher foots those expenses in return for a large slice of the profits of the book. When you Kickstart, your audience foots those expenses in return for various backer rewards and the fun of being a part of your creative process.

Launching the Kickstarter was the first time I began actively marketing Soulwoven to anyone. I knew from backing other projects and from reading up on it that having a good video was extremely important, so I turned to a friend of mine from high school who runs a small video production company in Denver. He did a bang-up job on the video, which more than paid for itself.

I also reached out to my Wattpad followers, of which there were several thousand at the time, and asked them what they'd be interested in getting as rewards from a Kickstarter. I built a survey using Survey Monkey and asked them to rank my ideas in order from most exciting to least exciting, and then to write in any ideas of their own. I didn't get a ton of responses, but I got enough to correct some misconceptions I'd had about what would be the most exciting. I also realized that I wasn't likely to have people from Wattpad pouring thousands of dollars into the Kickstarter.

So I set my goals low. I knew I couldn't adequately copy edit a book of Soulwoven's length (because I'd already copy edited Three Dances myself, and it was a bear of a job even for a book so short). So I told myself I needed $550 to hire a copy editor I'd worked with through my freelancing for Carina Press, and I set up my reward tiers pretty aggressively to hit that goal. I was reasonably certain I could convince 25 people to pledge $25 each to back to the book, and I filled the $25 reward tier with all the goodies my survey respondents said they wanted most. I also set a number of stretch goals for the campaign, which would add interior artwork and additional editing to the publishing process if they were reached.

It worked well beyond my wildest dreams. My core fans were extremely excited to back the book, and I hit my funding goal about 12 hours after the Kickstarter went live. I eventually received 660% of my goal, allowing me to bring on an interior artist and developmental editor, as well as to launch with a pretty significant marketing budget.

There were a few other marketing tricks I pulled out for the Kickstarter that are worth mentioning. I noticed that being part of a successful Kickstarter was a lot more fun than being part of one that wasn't going very well. I also knew that if the book funded quickly, I'd have another flashy hook I could dangle in my marketing copy. So I set my funding floor low with that in mind. I also set up my reward tiers in a way that encouraged interaction between me and my backers. I wanted to get to know these people, who were making my dream a reality. I also knew that the more contact we had, the more likely they were to remember me.

This is getting long, so I'm going to break it off here and talk more about the process of fulfilling the Kickstarter in another post. But first I want to mention another marketing caveat. It's true of anything you do marketing-wise on the Internet, but it's especially true of Kickstarter:

It's never about what they can do for you. It's always about what you can do for them.

Marketing actively to people can make you come off as a sleazeball at relativistic speeds. The world is full of people and companies trying to separate readers from their money. Don't do that. Don't be desperate. Don't be needy. Don't be pushy. Your needs are unimportant to people who have never met you, and if you put your needs above the needs of the people who have met you, you'll start to push them away pretty quickly.

So find out what your readers want and what you can give them. Then offer it to them. When you ask for something back, do it humbly and with a smile on your face that says, "I'll still like you whether you help me out or not." Let the money question ride quietly and unobtrusively in the backseat of your relationships with readers and fans, because that's where it belongs.

And watch Amanda Palmer's TED talk. It will help you put things in perspective.

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