Kickstarting Novels, part 3
Mar 03, 2015
Laura KajpustCreative Artist
Time for the third and final installment from my research on kickstarting novels! If you haven’t read the previous parts, I recommend starting there. (Part 1 & Part 2) This time it’s all about the money: determining your goal amount, rewards cost, and important things to remember when pricing and planning. Let’s get right to it!
- GET QUOTES. Shop around and get a variety of possible publishers or printers. Determine both the lowest and highest possible you may spend as well as your top choices. Have a backup plan in case your first choice falls through (for whatever reason), and regardless of which you choose, price it on the higher end and give yourself a cushion. Too many projects underestimate what they need!
- REMEMBER FEES. Whatever amount you determine you need, remember that you will actually need MORE than that because of fees that will go to both Kickstarter (5%) and Amazon/credit card processing (3-5%).
So if your highest quote is at $5,000, add another 10%--$5,500.
- TAXES, TOO! The money you raise on kickstarter is taxable income. If you spend all the money you earn in the same year you raised it, you might be able to write it off as business expenses. However, if you’re funded at the end of the year or don’t spend all of it, you WILL have to pay taxes on it. So be prepared and overestimate the amount.
$5,500 with ~25% comes out to $6,875.
(The exact amount is of course variable on your income and where you live, so be sure to look into this for yourself to get an accurate estimate. I just ballparked a generous amount of 25%.)
Kickstarter has more information about taxes on their website, here: https://www.kickstarter.com/help/taxes
- SHIPPING. Many, many projects (especially in Kickstarter’s early days) vastly underestimated the cost of shipping. This led to a lot of unhappy backers who ended up not getting their rewards, or project creators losing money! So when you price your rewards, make sure you include the price of shipping.
When getting your quotes, ask your printers for an idea on your books specs (length, width, height, and weight). Using those specs, you should be able to look at a number of shipping providers and get an estimate on cost. Again, overestimate a bit just in case things change (such as the book’s weight, for example).
If you are offering a hardcover edition, research the specs for that as well. They WILL be heavier and more expensive to ship than paperbacks! If you offer additional copies, posters, or anything else additional, make sure you add up the costs of shipping multiples together as well. Are you accepting international backers? Then get the additional shipping cost they will need as well!
And don’t only think about the cost to ship to your backers. If your supplier is far from your house and has to ship the books or other products to you, that is an additional cost that you should add into the cost of your book or materials.
For example, a book may have a cost per unit value of $8. Assuming you ordered multiple copies, divide the shipping cost by the number of units you ordered. Add that “ship per unit” cost to the cost per unit. That’s your REAL cost per unit value. Then add whatever profit you’d like (keeping it reasonable and competitive), and consider the ship-to-buyer cost. That final amount should be your book reward level. If you can pick up your books from your printer, you thankfully have a $0 “ship per unit” cost!
- PREPARE FOR THE WORST. Things can go wrong, and something probably will. That’s why you need to plan ahead! If a backer’s book gets lost or damaged in the mail, will you pay for a new one? Will you still be able to fund your book even if some backers’ credit cards don’t go through? Are there any possible family or personal emergencies in your life that could happen and throw off your deadlines? Consider these situations and determine how you will handle them. Be generous not just in your funding amount, but also in setting your deadlines--just in case.
- IS YOUR TOTAL AMOUNT COMPETITIVE? I mentioned in a previous post that successful novel projects tended to fall in certain ranges of their goals. How does your total compare? If everyone else is 4,000 and you’re at 15,000, you’ll have to work a LOT harder to prove that 1) you need that much and 2) you are reliable and can be trusted to follow through with this investment.
- IS YOUR AMOUNT REALISTIC? If you’re goal is $6,000 and the most popular rewards are your eBook and print book (we’ll say $5 and $25, respectively), you’d have to get at least 240 print books sold OR as many as 1,200 eBooks. Obviously this does not consider any in between or higher rewards, but this gives you more of an idea of what you’re in for. Think realistically about how many people you know and how much time you’re willing to put into marketing your project. Can you really get as many backers as you need?
- WHERE WILL YOU GET BACKERS? Related to above, think about the people you can get support from. Family? Friends? Do you have a blog or social media following who may help you? Consider all avenues you can reach out to. Any local libraries or independent bookstores? What about any organizations related to your book’s topic? Online forums and communities? Leave no stone unturned and make a plan for who you’ll reach out to and when. Remember to not be a salesman 100% of the time online or with strangers, as you might turn people away. So don’t spam your twitter feed with links to your project...still post as you normally would, and engage in communities and forums as a normal user. Just don’t be afraid to mention it or bring it up on occasion!
- ARE YOU ALL-IN, OR STARTING SMALL? If you have a small following or are nervous about starting a campaign, it might be a good idea to start small first. Get the most crucial basic essentials (professional editing, professional cover design, and eBook conversion). If even eBook conversion is too expensive, you may just provide a PDF as a digital copy. The point here is to give yourself a smaller, more do-able goal to get yourself out on the right foot. This will help give you a professional product in case you do decide to try again for a softcover later, and also gives you a professional product you can use to build more buzz! Having a successful project, even if small, will also increase your credibility in case you try again down the road for bigger goals.
- PROFIT...NOT. Don’t go into your kickstarter expecting to make a lot of money. You won’t. Breaking even is perfect, and if you make some extra, even better! Kickstarter is about funding a dream, not your bank account.
Finally, we’ve made it through some kickstarter basics! Don’t forget to do your own research, focusing on your particular genre and type of book. My hope is these have helped people feel more confident in what they need to do for a project so they feel less lost about how to start. There’s plenty more to learn! Don’t give up on your dream and I hope others share it with you!
There are also more crowdfunding sites out there, such as IndieGoGo and Pubslush, and each have a different community, rules, and expectations. Using a more popular site gives you a branded name people recognize to stand behind. However, a site with lower fees or that gives you all of what you earn, even if you don’t meet your goal, might work better for your needs. Browse all these sites and use the one that works best for you!