I'm the author of Science Wide Open and My First Science Textbook, two picture book series that get kids engaged in the awesomeness of science. They are both in the top 10 of Children’s Publishing Projects on Kickstarter and together raised $239,981 in funds.
Some people got pretty excited about the books. And if you're someone who backed or helped spread the word, thank you!
I’ve had a lot of people (nicely) ask me how the heck these campaigns were so successful. The short answer is actually three parts:
1. Science Wide Open and My First Science Textbook were written with specific readers in mind.
2. It was written for a company that was already successful on Kickstarter.
3. Many many MANY hours were spent behind scenes to make the campaign a success.
Successfully marketing and funding Kickstarters has already been written about pretty extensively. A google search will quickly overwhelm you with information, so if you’re interested in being curled into a tiny ball questioning your every move, that’s definitely available!
But if you’re interested in a simple overview of what works, speaking from my experience raising nearly $300K in funds over four campaigns - two for my books, two for other companies - then read on…
1. Build relationships and Superfans.
Build relationships without expecting anything in return - ya know, like a decent human being. I wrote these books for Genius Games, a company that designs awesome science-themed, tabletop games. But first, I was their Superfan, and then I worked for them as a grant writer and marketer. Because we had established a good working relationship and friendship, they approached me with the idea for the series, and I immediately hopped on board!
The company itself had already spent a lot of time connecting with Superfans. I like to think of Superfans as ultimate cheerleaders, the people who are interested in your project because it lines up with their ideals, their identity, or just something that they really really love.
How do you meet a Superfan? Go out into the world and tell people about your mission or project. (Also, don’t immediately ask them for something - ya know, like a decent human being.) You WILL find your champions. I’ve found some in very unlikely places! Your Superfans will be the first wave of people backing the campaign (after your parents, of course.)
2. Prepare in advance.
Successful Kickstarter campaigns take months of preparation.
Have a prototype or a preview ready to go. The projects that work out best are essentially pre-orders - it’s very clear to funders that you know what you’re doing, and so they are more likely to back.
Make a great video. Across the board, successful campaigns have a video that’s shareable and gets people motivated to back the project. I recommend 2 minutes or under!
Have an informative and press kit ready to go. This includes all the relevant details, quality images of your product or project, and a narrative for what your project is. Make it easy for people to learn, write, or share about you and your campaign.
When I head up the marketing and buzz-building, I spend 30-40 hours each week preparing. No joke. A lot of this time is dedicated to reaching out (see #3.)
3. Reach Out.
You have to let people know about your campaign!
Sounds like no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many projects fail because people think the money just rolls in or that they can rely solely on their personal networks to fund their project. Unrealistic, and unfair to the rarely-spoken-to cousin that gets hit up for extra money.
Before you launch, identify and contact journalists and bloggers who are already passionate about things like your project. Warning: this takes a LOT of research. So many hours. But ideally you’ll lock at least one article to go live on your launch day. Once you get one, it’s easier to build toward the next!
For large outlets, I do a very quick pitch - think 3 - 5 sentences - making sure it’s in the journalist’s coverage wheelhouse.
(There is advice out there that says it’s easy to get major outlets like Inc. and The Wall Street Journal to cover your campaign. After marketing multiple campaigns, I haven’t found this to be the case. Did I still pitch major outlets? Heck yes! Did I hinge the success of the campaigns on getting written up on Mashable? Heck no!)
For middle and small outlets, I make a point of mentioning an article or two they’ve written and why I think it would be a great fit for their particular audience.
If you don’t hear back, don’t be afraid to follow up, but don't be annoying. Wait a week or two after your initial email, and then send another email with an update on how your campaign’s going. There have been several occasions where people have said, “I'm so sorry I missed this, yes absolutely I will write about it!”
How do I know this works? Because the books were written about across the internet...
4. Social media is your friend.
I have a confession to make - my relationship with social media is a tumultuous one. But in a Kickstarter, social media is one of your BFFs. Figure out where your Superfans are spending their time, and then spend YOUR time there. The people most likely to back Science Wide Open and My First Science Textbook spent their time on Facebook, so that’s where social media efforts went.
Then, watch what works and what doesn't.
Pretty soon I realized that posts of adorable kids with the books got people excited (comments, likes, shares, RTs, etc.) Guess what I made sure appeared in the social media feeds?
Digging into analytics, which is a fancy way of saying “what happened with web traffic,” social media was one of the top places that sent people to the campaign. So don’t neglect it!
5. Say thank you!
Thank the people who write about you, the people who ask you about your campaign, the people who share your campaign on social media, and the people who fund your campaign. No matter how awesome your idea, the campaign would not be a success without the support of other people. So make sure to remember them and say thank you.
(Seriously, you can’t say thank you enough.)
Those are the best tips I have for you after four successful Kickstarter campaigns. May they help you as you launch your own amazing projects! See anything I missed? Let me know!
And don’t forget to tell me about your Kickstarter, because the world seriously needs your awesome project.
And, from the bottom of my heart, thank you!
p.s. I do a limited amount of individual Kickstarter consulting. Think we’d be a good fit? Contact me here for the deets.