This is a guest post written by Victoria Corva – https://tootplanet.space/@vicorva
People keep asking me to talk about how to run a successful kickstarter, and I guess I did that — run a successful kickstarter, I mean. But it feels disingenuous to say it. My kickstarter was a success because it fully funded, but the amount I was looking for was not high, and I don’t feel that the credit lies with me. I wasn’t looking to launch a bestseller career or get my name in articles or anything like that, and that’s just as well because I didn’t.
What I was trying to do was to get together enough money to publish my book. A small, specific dream. To cover proofreading, cover art, and ISBNs. I needed about £1000 to get all three, but I was so desperate to publish that I figured I would ask for just enough to cover proofreading (about £700) and would somehow pull the rest from my already drowning bank account.
That might not seem like a risky thing. £700 might not seem like a lot to ask from friends and family, and kickstarters regularly fund with thousands of pounds. But I knew my chances better.
General kickstarter advice doesn’t help much when you have a budget of zero
There are a few things that people advise you to when kickstarting.
- To rely on friends and family. This is where most of your money will come from, they tell you. But my family is broke and so are my friends, and I have a lot less of both than seems to be modelled by these kickstarter gurus.
- To have a flashy, professional campaign. Expensive physical rewards, shining prototypes, and you’d better have artwork already made. But for me that was all risk risk risk, and not one I could afford to take.
- To get as much money in early as possible. Campaigns that fund quickly do better. People want to support things when they know they’ll get the flashy rewards (that I wasn’t offering) and that already had lots of money behind them (which I had no way to get).
Sometimes you see campaigns with possibly artificially inflated numbers — the number of backers at each tier and total show that one person has backed for a couple thousand for a simple book release from an unknown author, for no reward. I don’t know whether these authors paid up themselves or whether they had a very wealthy family member backing them, but it seems unlikely that a wealthy benefactor just dropped a few thou out of the goodness of their heart.
… So I didn’t have any of these things. But I did have a low goal, a smidgen of media skills, and the benefit of it costing me nothing if I failed. Low risk, low reward, as they say, and I’d modelled my campaign accordingly.
The only rewards I could offer were digital. Copies of the ebook and supporting short stories, a collection of other short fiction as thanks. An offer to critique and provide editorial feedback for writers at a knockdown price.
It wasn’t much to offer in thanks, but it would have to be enough.
I was prepared to fail
As far as I could see, the only thing that would hurt if I failed was my pride. It wasn’t a small thing for me to put myself out there every day and say ‘Please give me money so I can publish my book’ which seemed an excruciating embarrassment, but I was willing to do it if it meant I could publish my book.
I’d polished everything as much I could. Created an in-depth campaign pitch and even a text-and-audio video making my plea. I’d done everything I could with no money and all there was left was to take a deep breath and stand on the social media street corner pitching my book.
But to my surprise … it didn’t fail. In fact, it was 50% funded only 3 days in. And the reason was surprising. My IRL friends and family were supportive but unable to share the campaign very widely.
But my online friends were on it and as a result it travelled so much farther than I ever imagined.
A small group of awesome people
You might be thinking: ‘Victoria! You never said you had a huge social media following!’ and the reason why is that I don’t. At the time of the campaign, I had about 200 followers on Mastodon and 150 on twitter (which was mostly bots). It wasn’t a following so much as a friendship group, with a handful of wonderful people on my home Mastodon instance of tootplanet.space and some a little further afield, and then folk I interacted with a bit less who were nonetheless always there for me when I posted a microfiction or shared a cat story.
We can go ahead and discount twitter because nothing ever got shared or retweeted there at all.
But on Mastodon and the Fediverse, with these good folk who I interacted with almost every day, people were quick to share and boost and promote me, as well as backing the campaign if they could afford it.
And to my surprise, it went far. Just far enough. I got messages from people I didn’t know saying how excited they were for my upcoming book. I also got messages from people letting me know that they refused to back me because there weren’t paperbacks as a reward (sorry guys) which was less encouraging but at least the message was getting out there.
I pitched once a day, every day. One toot or tweet that described the book and requested backers. And people kept boosting it. This is really what made the difference between my kickstarter funding and it failing a few days in. It was never one-and-done with my friends and supporters on Mastodon. They boosted and shared and talked about it every day, and as a result, every day at least one new person backed the campaign.
It seemed crazy to me. I was already deeply embarrassed about posting roughly the same thing every day begging for money, and here were other people begging for me, even though they were getting nothing out of it.
I’d never had any evidence that anyone cared that much about me or my happiness. And here were dozens of people working hard to help me achieve my dream of publishing my book for little more than the promise of an ebook, which some of them had foregone as well.
A lesson in self-worth
The internet paid me to publish my book in a twist so unexpected that I still find myself dizzy from the spin.
But more than anything, these good folk gave me a sense of self-worth I have rarely even bothered to seek. I put myself out there, and they not only helped me with that, but they put themselves out there on my behalf.
And now my book is a physical thing sitting on my shelf that I still pick up once a day just to reassure myself that it’s really there.
To me, the only credit is: I wrote a book that was at least good enough that some kind folk were willing to give me a few pounds for. And maybe that I was brave enough to ask for help when I knew I couldn’t do it on my own.
But to everyone who backed me, they gave me a dream realised and a legitimacy I didn’t think I’d ever get.
The internet paid for my book to be published, and I really couldn’t be more grateful to the friends and strangers who did.
(A final note: if you’d like to use kickstarter to fund publishing and you have a low budget and no idea where to start, you can feel free to leave a comment here or message me on the Fediverse and we can talk it out a bit.)
Victoria Corva writes things and reads things and reads things out loud, and sometimes she gets paid for that, which is nice because it means she can feed her cat.
She lives in Wiltshire with her partner and her furry familiar and as many books as she could fit in her small flat.
She is anxious and autistic and doing just fine.
Her debut fantasy novel BOOKS & BONE successfully funded on kickstarter and is out now.
To find out more about her and read more of her work, visit https://victoriacorva.xyz