When it came time to publish my second travel guide, Kiratiana’s Travel Guide to Multicultural London, I didn’t have enough money to do the research, and pay an editor, designer and proofreader. So how was I going to fund this project? Thanks to new crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo a lack of money can never prevent a dream project from coming to fruition.
I decided to use Kickstarter to help me fund my dream of publishing a Multicultural London e-book.
Kickstarter or IndieGoGo?
Having funded more than 10 Kickstarter projects, I always knew that I wanted to use the Kickstarter platform. When I was researching other platforms around May of 2011, IndieGoGo appeared to be the lesser platform, the one that people used when they didn’t to get accepted to Kickstarter. It was for people who were too scared to do the ALL or NOTHING model. But I have come to respect IndieGoGo in recent months.
To use Kickstarter, you have to propose a PROJECT, which pretty much eliminates non-profits and trips. With Indiegogo, there is no specific type of campaign you must have to raise money. Anything goes. Indiegogo also allows you to raise funds and keep some of the funds if you do not reach your goal. Another plus for Indiegogo – it’s open to international people. As of now, Kickstarter is only open to the United Kingdom. Now I think the platforms are equal to each other and Indiegogo might have even passed Kickstarter as the most respected platform.
Your decision on how much money to raise will be the most important decision of your campaign. Obviously, everything starts with the question of how much your project needs. But if your documentary or book needs $50,000 to complete, will you go for that?
Kickstarter says the average pledge is $70. That means for $50,000 you would need 714 pledges. A documentary that I’m working on, Fast Dreams needs this amount to be completed. Unfortunately the director, Harry Davis, is not a super networker (no Facebook or Twitter) and with me having tapped my own network for Kickstarter, our ability to raise $50,000 is limited. To fundraise for a campaign so large, we would have to make it go viral. When I thought about my own Kickstarter, I knew that there were about 80 people out there willing to support me.
When calculating money, also think about the fees (5% on Amazon Payments and 5% on Kickstarter) and the few people whose credit cards will not go through. So the $6,000 just became $5,500 after all the fees.
Kickstarter recommends that you do 30 days or less to keep the momentum going through a campaign. I chose 35 days just to give myself a little leeway. If you look at the chart below, I did not really do anything for the first five days. It finally took a friend to push me to start campaigning the day before memorial day weekend. If you have the supporters and really push your campaign I don’t think it will matter how long your campaign is (30-60 days). But do you REALLY want to be doing a Kickstarter campaign for TWO MONTHS?! No.
The Video & Description & Prizes
I spent more than 20 hours creating the video, description and prizes. For $6,000 everything had to look GREAT. When Kickstarter first began, many of the projects only had pictures. These days all successful projects have a video that describes their project. When you are creating your video, make sure that it can have a use after the Kickstarter project. With a little tinkering, I may be able to use my video as a trailer for my new book.
Creating prizes that were worth their value was very important to me. I had no intention of using Kickstarter for people to GIVE me money. I would offer them something of value you return.
$10 got you the book.
$25 got you the book and Black Paris Guide
$45 got you the book, Black Paris Guide AND PDF. Okay I’ll admit that one was priced slightly more than it should have been priced.
Do you see a pattern?
Having a spread like this gives someone, no matter what their financial situation, the opportunity to pledge to your campaign. A young person out of college can pledge $10 and your mother can pledge $500.
I had a relatively simple strategy to jumpstart and sustain my campaign.
1) Call my relatives and closest friends to personally ask for pledges.
2) Develop an email campaign for my friends, family and acquaintances.
3) Reach out to travel bloggers for support in the campaigns with blogs.
4) FACEBOOK and TWEET it to DEATH.
The last one is what would really put me over the edge. In hindsight, I really wish I had focused on number 3 more. When I posted something about the campaign on the Racialicious blog, it started to go viral.
Facebook versus Twitter
Before I began my campaign I knew that I wanted to use twitter and Facebook to promote it. I also wanted to see if I could leverage my twitter following (about 3,500 at the time) to support the campaign. So I did the following:
1) Encouraged celebrities to retweet the information about my campaign. While I am sure that this generated more awareness for the I could not find any connection between these tweets and pledges.
2) Changed my twitter bio to reflect the twitter campaign. (Insert screen shot). I was surprised by the impact of this relatively simple action. I received at least a dozen tweets from people who didn’t follow me telling me how cool the project was. Yes, twitter bios are extremely important.
3) Near the end of the campaign, I DM’d my best followers to they could tweet out the message below. Once again, I did not see a direct connection between any tweets and pledges but I am confident that twitter helped to increase the awareness of the campaign.
Now your use of twitter could also depend on the type of project you are proposing. Nick Disabato publishes a quarterly magazine about design and technology and he’s raised more than $25,000 on Kickstarter. According to my twitter chat below with him, most of his campaign promotion is split between an email campaign and a twitter campaign.
The Facebook Campaign
My Kickstarter campaign did not jumpstart until I launched it on Facebook. Obviously the easiest thing you can do is post it on your wall. Just doing that will not work. If you follow the steps below, I will guarantee you that your Facebook friends will start to pledge.
1) Create an event for your Kickstarter campaign. When you create an event, make the duration of the event, the duration of the campaign. Then INVITE everyone from your friend list to the campaign. Once you finish inviting them, then start posting into the Facebook group about your Kickstarter. I found that when ever I posted or sent a message to this event, people ALWAYS started to donate.
2) Send a Facebook message to 200 of your Facebook friends (Believe me people will be mad at you.
3) Post your Kickstarter project on your Facebook page and tag about 15 of your closest friends. This will help it to go viral and friends will start posting the project on their pages.
4) Tag anyone when they pledge to your campaign. When someone pledges to your campaign, give them props by tagging them in a Facebook Thank you post.
5) If I were launching a Kickstarter campaign today, I would use Facebook promoted posts to launch and sustain my campaign. Remember, people won’t give the first time they see the campaign. But after several viewings, they will probably do it.
The Email Campaign
Another important part of your campaign will be email. You MUST have an email campaign in which you send out multiple emails. I used Mailchimp to develop a nice looking email campaign.
1) Send your email to your closest friends and acquaintances. I sent an email to about 350 people. I sent the email twice to this list, but looking back I think I could have sent out one more email.
The Blogger Outreach and PR Campaign
This is something that I really wish I invested more time and energy into. I reached out to a few bloggers to blog about my campaign and they did as you can see here, and here. I think that their blog posts helped to raise awareness of the campaign but I can’t determine if it led to pledges. But with your fundraiser, you need awareness because on average, a person will not take action until they have seen something seven times.
It wasn’t until I did a guest post for Racialicious that I saw how reaching someone’s audience could help my campaign. It was only until then that I really saw my kickstarter go viral. I started to see new people that I didn’t know before pledge to the campaign.
The Final Product
After four months of researching, writing and fundraising for the book, I finally published it last week. Thank you to all of my Kickstarter funders, many of whom belong to the NABJ for helping me reach my 2012 dream.