Kickstarter Post Mortem
Don’t talk about money, my mother would say. It’s keekee.
(“Keekee” was Momspeak. It was reserved entirely for things that she found to be germy or not nice. Oddly, the word was used not just for things one should not discuss—like money. She also used it if you ran out of hands and had to hold the twenty in your mouth while struggling into your winter coat. “Don’t put money in your mouth—it’s keekee.” So money and the word “keekee” are closely tied in my mother’s universe.)
Over the long decades of my life, I’ve found that MOST people find the discussion of money to be keekee. That is, we all like to HEAR about money (how much did it cost? How much does she make? What do you suppose THAT cost them?), but trained by our mothers, we rarely DISCUSS money.
But every time I’ve actually talked about real dollars and cents, authors come out of the woodwork to whisper to me about how glad they are to have some frame of reference. So I’m violating the keekee-ness of a true money discussion. It’s a good thing my mother has passed on to her great reward in the sky.
HERE’S THE DOLLARS AND CENTS ON MY KICKSTARTER:
I spent $8,300 on it. I made $3,100 from it.
There. That’s the summary. Want the details? Read on, Gwendolyn.
I read a book about running a Kickstarter by Monica Leonelle and Russell Nohelty (which was very useful) which said that in the Venn diagram of life, the overlap between people who bought books on Kickstarter and the people who bought books on Amazon was very small; one could find a whole new audience on Kickstarter. That looked good to me; here are the two reasons why my interest proved to be misguided:
1. I have not even come CLOSE to maxing out on the Amazon reader! I mean, not even close. It’s absurd to think that I’d need to find new readers somewhere else.
2. While the universe of potential buyers on Kickstarter is vast FOR FANTASY AUTHORS, there just aren’t that many interested romance readers wandering past Kickstarter yet. As markets go, it’s a sleeping bear for romcoms.
I ended up with a (delightful) total of 79 backers on my Kickstarter, who pledged $3,514. Of those 79 people, I could personally identify about 60 of them—and the other 19 might have come from my newsletter list but are people who don’t interact with me much so I don’t easily recognize their names. I should go through the lists and check that; it could be that all 79 were already readers of my novels.
So I definitely didn’t burst forth, like Athena from the skull of Zeus, to amaze and mesmerize hordes of new readers.
But here are three reasons why I don’t mind that I spent $5,200 more than I made:
1. The project was FUCKING FASCINATING at every single turn; I feel like I’ve learned a huge amount. Whether I do a Kickstarter again or not (and I’m inclined to think I will, because it was so much fun—although I’ll hope other romance readers will have become familiar and happy with the platform by then), I really enjoyed the challenge. I’ve spent more than that on hobbies that have given me less joy.
2. Kickstarter is giving me a FAR greater percentage of the ultimate sale than Amazon would have. Including the cost of credit card fees, Kickstarter is taking about 12% of every sale, while Amazon would have taken between 32 and 72%, depending on if the sales were of ebooks or paperbacks. So while I lost money, some of the loss was offset by this greater percentage of profit.
3. Of those 79 backers, 77 of them pledged enough to earn the reward of my adorbs tote bag. Unlike the stretch gifts of ebooks from the AMPERSAND series, the provision of a tote bag means I mailed something to 79 readers. They have AT LEAST the tote bags in hand now, and many have the paperbacks and the folio of drawings. That provides an amorphous, nearly-invisible link between us. It puts us one step closer to the loyalty and trust of friendship…and for an author, that’s a precious link. Dispassionately, those people are more likely to turn into “ambassadors,” promoting my books to friends. Less dispassionately, those are the people who encourage me when I’m writing—who let me know they want to read whatever is coming next. That’s high-octane fuel to the creative spirit, baby!
I spent a fortune—and invested a LOT of time and energy. I think it was worth it. Your results may vary.
The keekee costs breakdown:
$3,000 –to Roberto, the artist in Colombia, who created the staggeringly beautiful artwork of the three houses in the SURPRISE HEIRESS series.
$950 x 3 (or $2,850) to 48HrBooks.com to get the books printed. I chose the quantity of 100, which turned out to be overeager—especially as they give a bonus 25 copies at that quantity. But it wasn’t HUGELY overeager.
$400 to the graphic designer who put Roberto’s drawings into the printer’s format
$1,000 to the printer who printed 100 copies each of three houses plus the full-color folio
$500 for the printing of 100 fabulous tote bags
$400 for postage to mail out the books and tote bags
$150 for mailing boxes, packing tape, the rent on a PO Box, the printing of mailing labels with the PO box as the return address
Could I have done it more cheaply? Absolutely. I overprinted the books. If I’d waited to get them printed until after the Kickstarter was over, I would have had fewer printed. The per-book cost would have been higher, but the total outlay would have been lower. But part of my lure for investment was getting the books to readers a month before they’re published (on Amazon—and in Kindle Unlimited—on Christmas Day), and I didn’t know if I could trust 48hr Books to get the books to me rapidly. So I guestimated numbers needed and ordered before the final results were in from the Kickstarter. And I guestimated high, rather than waiting to get the books printed at the end.)
(The answer—at least when NOT caught in the holiday rush—would have been yes, I could trust them. They really did print all the books in 48 hours, and shipping took about two more days. So if I’d known that I could trust them and was willing to wait four days, I could have saved some money.)
But the other costs? Hard to think of how to go cheaper. In the end, I think the best way to make a Kickstarter profitable in the romance world is to have more romance readers cruising Kickstarter in search of something cool to invest in. That hasn’t happened YET…but I think that day is coming. The potential is SO juicy; other authors are going to work this angle to great effect.
And I can already see a way to do a Kickstarter for my next series, which I’ll start writing pretty much as soon as I finish this blog post…so I hope the romance world wakes up QUICKLY to Kickstarter opportunities!
Questions? Let me know, through this post or at firstname.lastname@example.org