Kickstarter and The Indie Author

Independent writing can often be viewed as a community effort. Social networking is recommended to build a fan base and good word-of-mouth plays a crucial role in getting your work noticed.

To that end, Kickstarter can be a very powerful tool for the independent author.

We’re not talking about running a Kickstarter campaign so that you can pay your bills—we wouldn’t be artists if we didn’t struggle just a little bit, right? Besides, the people that run the show over there don’t allow that kind of project. However, if you plan to distribute your writing in a professional manner, there are a multitude of expenses that go along with producing high-quality work.

Lindsay Buroker ran a successful campaign for the free audio books of her Emperor’s Edge series. I am hoping to find similar success with my campaign for cover art for my new project. There are many other examples on the Kickstarter website in the publishing category—some with modest goals, others with…well, slightly more than modest goals. If you take a few minutes and browse through the various projects, you can get an idea of how it can be a valuable resource for an author.

If you are lucky enough to run a successful campaign, Kickstarter acts as a unique form of advertising. It is an added way to build interest in your project without spending a dime.

Here are some things to remember before starting your own project:

-Plan ahead: What type of campaign do you want to run? Will it be of direct benefit to your writing? Also, when setting your target goal, be sure to remember that Kickstarter will take 5% of your contributions, and Amazon (through which all payments are run) will take another 3-5% in credit card fees. On that note, make sure you start setting up your project AT LEAST A WEEK before you want it to go live. If your bank does not offer instant verification then you will have to wait up to 7 days for the slow process to complete. You don’t get any of the pledged money until the end of your established project deadline. If you don’t reach your goal, no money changes hands (i.e., getting $999 out of $1000 still equals zero).

-Rewards: Get creative. Popular rewards for publishing projects include using a contributor’s name in the story. Whatever you promise, make sure you can follow through. If you offer something that needs to be shipped, such as a hard copy of your book once it’s ready, be sure to factor that cost into your campaign.

-The video: Kickstarter pushes this aspect pretty hard, and for good reason. It is often the make-or-break factor for a project. Potential contributors want to connect with an interesting project on a deeper level than on-screen text alone can offer. Be charismatic. Be funny. Make your points clearly and quickly, and don’t veer too far off track. Consider that the viewers might be seriously thinking about giving you some of their hard-earned money, so treat them as you would want to be treated in that situation.

Now for some fun Kickstarter stats:

-Project Success Rate in 2011: 46% (up from 43% in 2010)

-A total of 5.1 million dollars were contributed to 774 successful publishing projects, coming from over 70,000 backers.

-Kickstarter projects that reach 30% funded have a 90% chance of reaching their goal.

-The largest number of successful Kickstarter campaigns run for only 30 days.

-The most common pledge is $25.

-The average project goal is $4500.

Overall, the process is easy and straightforward thanks to Kickstarter’s user-friendly interface. Everything is spelled out for you every step of the way. I suggest taking a good look at other similar projects before starting your own. Check out failed projects to see how yours can be better. Also, remember that this is not a “set it and forget it” type of campaign. Stay active throughout the entire run. Blog about it and tweet your heart out. Ask your friends and loved ones to spread the word.

From professional editing costs to cover art, from audio books to advertising, Kickstarter offers independent authors a way to make it happen with the help of a strong community that believes in supporting creativity. Just remember to give a little something back if you find a project worth supporting. You never know how far that person or project will go.