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  • Leah Outten

How I Used Kickstarter to Fund Publishing My Book




Since I was 16 years old, I knew this story would be a book. It was a dream planted by the Lord after having Kaylee, yet it took longer to bloom than I anticipated! However, now I see in hindsight why the Lord kept this vision in sight while growing our story. When I began writing this book and preparing to publish, Kaylee had turned 18 years old. We had officially walked out an entire childhood in a fully open adoption. It became a much more fuller picture as a resource of encouragement, testimony, and adoption education. While in the wait of writing, the Lord was growing my platform, connections, and experiences that all helped make this book a success (in my eyes).


Why I Chose to Self-Publish

For years I kept being told, "Your story is amazing. You need to write a book!" I had growing opportunities to freelance write and speak and continually kept being encouraged to write this book. I thought that would be a shoo-in to the publishing world, especially with my writing and speaking at Focus On The Family, but nope. I learned the publishing world isn't just about the messages..it's about the bottom dollar. It's still a business. Do they think your book can sell? I learned there is a fine line between knowing your niche market and being TOO niche. An adoption memoir? Very niche in their eyes. Yet, my soul needed to write this story...for Kaylee to know her story...for the Lord to receive glory...for others to learn from it.... so self-publishing made sense for this book.


The Issue With Self-Publishing

Self-publishing has a lot of advantages, including keeping the rights of content and having a higher profit margin. But, that means you don't have a traditional publisher fronting the cost of the work it takes to put into making a beautiful book. As a momma of 5 that barely makes each month's ends meet as it is, we didn't have extra lying around. I had to get creative: taking pre-orders, donations, and exclusive incentives through Kickstarter.


 

How I Raised Over $7,000: Kickstarter Campaign Breakdown



Take a look at my Kickstarter campaign here.

First, know that I did a ton of research from other authors who have done this. While most of them were fiction/fantasy genres, I applied what made sense for my book. Since mine is a non-fiction memoir, I also watched campaigns already on Kickstarter that were successfully funded (or didn't-- what could have they done better?). I highly recommend joining the Facebook group Kickstarter for Authors, and buying resource books like Get Your Book Selling On Kickstarter and Kickstarter For Authors to seek advice and approaches. The Facebook group has tons of breakdowns like this, which are fascinating to study!


TITLE: The Sixteenth Year

GENRE: Non-fiction, Memoir, Christian

PRE-LAUNCH: 6 weeks 

DATES LIVE ON KICKSTARTER: May 1st to 24th, 2023 (24 days)


GOAL: $6,000

I came to this goal by getting estimates and calculating every expense possible from large costs like editors and formatting to the smaller things like shipping labels. My husband is an accountant so he made sure I was thinking of every item and "what if" possible (like damaged books being replaced, etc). This was the lowest I needed to make to cover everything to create the book AND fulfill the orders. You'll see mixed advice on how to set your goal, but we couldn't financially take the risk to go less than this. We truly approached it as ALL or NOTHING. God had to make it happen.


ENDING AMOUNT: $7,153

We surpassed the goal-- yay! That meant I could add photos into the book, which raised print costs but we felt like was important. And, I now have extra savings for business expenses like buying books for speaking engagements, marketing tools, my website cost, etc. Because publishing is just one part-- selling it after publishing takes effort and finances too!


FUNDED IN: 16 days (it was a slow and steady rise. Whew.)


FOLLOWERS: 53 -- with 21 converted to sale (40% rate)


PROJECT WE LOVE BADGE: Nope


VIDEO: I had one filmed that I put together quickly with me talking, but no one was watching it. I decided to switch it to a reel from Instagram that went viral and explained my story in pictures. That performed better. Still, only 53 plays and only 50% of those watched fully.


BACKERS: 115 (plus 4 who gave money outside of Kickstarter. Some weren’t comfortable with the platform or missed the deadline. I kept track of them on a spreadsheet)


AVERAGE PLEDGE: $62.20


THE GOODS:  I offered 8 tiers ranging from ebooks, drop-shipped softcover books, a gift box with physical goodies included, virtual training taught by me, private calls with me, PDF adoption worksheets, and every backer got their name in the acknowledgments of the book. You can see tier levels here on the sidebar.


LOWEST TIER: $10 for ebook and name in the book


HIGHEST TIER: $300 for virtual training, ebooks for attendees, PDF handouts (this fit my niche as an adoption educator and how this tied into my book topic)


MOST POPULAR TIERS: The tier with one print book and ebook. Closely following were the Gift Boxes. It was limited to only 25 (I added another gift box tier later in the campaign when those ran out when things got slow, it worked!). It was the only one that offered a signed book, plus a gift card and custom vinyl stickers. The Sharing Tier was a huge help in reaching my goal of $100 each and I had 12 people who purchased that. It was 10 books that they could donate to local non-profits, churches, pregnancy centers, free libraries, etc. This was fitting for my niche as a teen pregnancy/adoption story as well to share the message of hope.


SHIPPING: I added $6 to physical book tiers to cover drop shipping. $10 for the Gift Box tier since it would have to ship to me first to add the other physical rewards, sign the books, cover the supplies, and ship out to the Backer. 


WHAT WORKED: 


  • Canva Pro. I pre-planned ALL my marketing language, posts, newsletters, IG stories, etc in Canva Pro. It made it very easy to create a cohesive design scheme in Kickstarter, as well as on social media. It was easy to plan dates, throw in something new as an update, or rearrange as needed. This was the biggest asset to my campaign to boost excitement during pre-launch and explain what Kickstarter is. People STILL were confused about how it worked, so you truly can’t say it enough and in different ways to phrase it. I posted 3 times a week during pre-launch and 1-2 times a day during launch. I broke down everything people would need/want to know. I shared excerpts from my book every Wednesday, people loved them. I also shared pictures from this timeframe in my life that corresponded with the scenes in my book, those were also more popular and got people interested. It was months of planning and I feel that it really paid off. People say to post more often than you think you should, and that’s true. In my stories I posted campaign updates with a link every morning and evening, it was awesome to see followers excited and sharing those too! 

instagram.com/leahoutten if you want to see my campaign marketing, you’re welcome to use my account as content inspiration.

  • Reminding people to share: I often reminded people to share my posts as an easy/free way to support my project, and that was a HUGE help to gain traction and get new eyes on my project. It also helped build excitement as people advocated for my story and writing.

  • Focus On What You Have: Since my book was very niche I didn’t have any backer swap opportunities that fit well. I focused on my social media presence and the connections I made through my freelance writing and speaking. I narrowed in on my audiences and how this book would benefit them.

  • Creating awareness in other ways: Being a guest on podcasts in my niche was a boost in sales and them sharing with their followers added more awareness. I had other author friends share my book and link. I also did some cold messaging with people I knew would be interested based on them being in my life during this season of time, people who are in the book, people I had worked with in the past and know my story, etc. That worked well, too!

  • Short-term boosts: Flash giveaways, short sales, stretch goals. I did an early bird special for the first 3 days to get a good boost. At 50% funded I did a giveaway to celebrate and boost more sales. The giveaway was for anyone who had already backed, and any new backers within 2 days to win a custom art design by my birth daughter (she helped me with the digital design and my cover!). Since my funding was so tight and I needed to reach $6,000 I kept stretch goals to myself until we reached 100%. At $7,000 I was able to put photos into the book and donate to local centers and maternity homes.

MY FAVORITE THING: The support I received, the encouraging messages, connecting with new audiences, and hearing from longtime followers…that was my favorite part! And, the sheer fact that this dream was happening.





My Book's Publishing Timeline


January and February 2023- I took a goal-setting workshop and that was the kick in the pants I need to learn how to make this dream a reality. That helped me to feel less overwhelmed at ALL the things that needed to be done and break it into little goals throughout the year. My goal was to publish by the fall once I decided on self-publishing. I went with Kingdom Winds Publishing since they had the best package price and I already have a relationship with them. I found Reedsy very helpful in setting myself deadlines (working backward from my end goal) and watching my progress inch closer! It's also a great place to connect with editors, etc. for quotes. Plus, it was easy to convert into an ebook for early beta readers.


March and April 2023- Along with continuing to write my book chapters at a time, I got busy with planning my approach and beginning pre-launch marketing to prep people for Kickstarter sales. I used this time to start planning out my Kickstarter campaign, pricing out the cost of fulfillment, researching ideas and options, what I could offer as tiers, getting the wording just right, creating graphics, and scheduling social media content that explained my project. So. Much. Work. But all the prep work paid off! Kaylee designed a mock cover so it was ready for graphics.


May 2023- I launched my campaign! I kept it open for 24 days. With a goal as large as mine, it was a slow, steady climb but it was funded in 16 days. Those early days were nerve-wracking! It was exciting! It was terrifying! I would put on worship every morning, praising the Lord either way. Trusting Him with the outcome-- and He made it happen! The manuscript was largely finished at this point as well, so I was wrapping up the first draft to send off for editing once funded.


June 2023- I paid Kingdom Winds and sent off my draft! I also met my editor for the first time. I also sent my book at this point to early readers and family for insight.


July and August 2023- I rested. I spend time with Kaylee and my family over the summer. My editor was doing the hard work behind the scenes.


September 2023- My editor was done with the first round of edits! I was rested and excited to get the book to the finish line. I spent about a month going through her edits and suggestions while making sure I had everything in there that I felt was important to the story.


October 2023- Fun things! Finalizing draft, official cover design, internal formatting, collecting photos, etc. This is when the book took real shape!


November 2023- Books started to be printed and shipped to Kickstarter Backers! They got their books before the public as an incentive to them. As they shared their books and packages, it also helped boost the excitement for the people who missed out that a public release date was coming.


December 12, 2023- Publically launched The Sixteenth Year on Amazon, Kingdom Winds, and Barnes and Noble.



Seek God and Follow Your Dreams!


I hope this information about my publishing journey thus far helps other inspiring authors out there-- whether a memoir is on your heart or a fun novel. If He's planted this dream, keep seeking Him for how He wants it to bloom. It may look different than you think it will, but it can still be good! He can make a way.







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