Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kickstarter experiment to fund cover for sequel: poster for you

One of the biggest hurdles for a self-publishing author is the initial monetary investment to get an ebook published. I’m talking about cover art and editing. Costs for these range from $50 to $2,000 or more. But you can often tell the difference between the cheap path and the expensive path.

My costs are $500 for cover and about $1000 for editing. That's $1500 per book up front, and it can take months to recoup that (at least for me).

One of the best things about getting a publisher is that they foot those bills instead of the author.

But what about us self-publishing authors? What if we don't have a couple grand laying around. That means we have to cut corners, and maybe settle for a cover that we don't really like.

Well, I'm going to conduct an experiment for my next book. I just started a Kickstarter project for the sequel to my cyberpunk novel, Dead Dwarves Don't Dance. I want to see if Kickstarter is an effective way to get some upfront funding without having a publisher.

The goal of the campaign is to raise $1,350 to get the cover art for the sequel. That amount includes $500 for the cover and $850 for the reward fulfillment. Any pledges above the goal go toward paying for the editing. If there's even more than that, I'll try some advertising maybe.

Anyone who pledges $1 or more will get a reward. There are different rewards for different pledge levels, including $1, $5, $10, $25, $30, $50, $100, and $200. Each reward level includes the rewards from the lower reward levels.

The primary reward in my project is at the $25 and is for a signed poster of the cover of Dead Dwarves Don't Dance. If the project succeeds, I'll get 250 of these printed up. That'll most likely leave me with a bunch to use at any conventions I go to.

But there are several more rewards available.

$1 - Computer wallpaper
$5 - Your name in the sequel's acknowledgments
$10 - 8.5"x11" signed print of Dead Dwarves Don't Dance cover
$25 - 19"x27" signed poster of Dead Dwarves Don't Dance cover
$30 - Nook or Kindle version of sequel
$50 - Signed paperback of sequel
$100 - Your name in the sequel's dedication page
$200 - Your name used as the name of a character in the sequel

Each reward includes all the previous rewards.

If 54 people pledge $25, the project is a success!

You can get more details on my Kickstarter project page.
This project lasts until July 2, and you'll only be charged if it is 100% funded. IF the total pledges do not meet or exceed the $1,350 goal, then no one is charged and I receive no money.

So, if you're interested in Noose the genetically engineered dwarf mercenary, cyberpunk, science fiction, or this Kickstarter experiment, you should go check it out!

Click here to visit my Kickstarter page, see a video of me and some of the rewards, and maybe even make a pledge!

And I certainly won't mind if you retweet or link to this blog or my Kickstarter project page. I'll need all the help I can get to make sure this is a success. Thanks!

After the project is over I'll blog about the results.


If you haven't heard about Kickstarter, it's a crowd-sourcing service for almost any kind of project. There are projects for music videos, films, board games, video games, festivals, and all sorts of other products like (lucid dreaming masks, made in America underwear, wine racks, wristwatch ipod controllers, etc.)

There have been some really amazing success stories on Kickstarter., for example:

The Pebble, a wristwatch to control your iPad/Pod, had a goal of $100,000. But so many people loved the idea that it raised over $10 million from 68,929 backers!

The Flint and Tinder men's underwear project, which promises to product made in America quality underwear, and create 1 new job for every 1000 pair they sell a month, they hire an additional factory worker (they asked for $30k and got over $290k in pledges from 5,578 backers).

The Shadowrun Returns turn based video game, which I unfortunately missed out supporting. They asked for $400,000 and got $1.8 million from 32,276 backers.

Lots of successes up there on Kickstarter. So much, in fact, that I foresee crowd-sourcing services like it will have a significant impact on product development and manufacturing in the future. Entrepreneurs and inventors won't have to go find some rich person or company to fund their project. Instead, they'll get thousands of ordinary folk to pledge money.

A Kickstarter project is an all or nothing deal. That is, each project has a monetary goal (mine is $1,350). If the total pledges do not equal or exceed that goal by the deadline (usually a month or so), then no pledge money is given, no money is charged, and the project owner gets nothing. It's either 0% funded or 100%+ funded.

That's right. The pledges can exceed the goal, and for most projects this unlocks stretch goals or additional rewards.

But what do you get if you pledge money and back a project?

All projects have "rewards" that will receive based on how much you pledge. Higher pledges usually get you better rewards.

If this sounds like a cool deal to you, please check out my project, especially if you want a signed poster of the cover of Dead Dwarves Don't Dance. And, tell all your friends! I just need 54 people to pledge $25, and with your help I can reach that.


  1. I don't understand why people use Kickstarter to fund a book, or a portion of a book - like the cover, and then reserve the real prize (THE BOOK IT SELF)for a pledge amount equal to the cost of an actual hard back book or something else equally as pricey. $30.00 in order for us, your loyal fans to actually get a copy of the sequel? For an e-book? Your not going to list the e-book on amazon for 30.00 are you? DDDD is only 3.99.

    I don't understand why you would do this. To me, your priorities seem a bit out of whack. Don't you think you'd win out with volume if you set up a pledge for 3.99 or even 5.00 and assigned a copy of the e-book to it as it's reward? Hell, you could even throw in Dead Dwarves Dirty Deeds as an added bonus. This would sort of function like a pre-order and all of those people who would have purchased your book anyway could have then done it through the Kickstarter campaign and helped you solve your issue with financing a great cover.

    But wait, that's not all. Of the nice people who have clicked on your link, taken the time to watch your video, read the rewards, and pledge their hard earned money to your book you intend to list them in descending order of how much money they pledged?

    Why not just slap your fans in the face? Here's John Smith, he only pledged 1.00. Wow. I wonder if John Smith will ever participate in one of your pledges again?

  2. @Caine, that's a reasonable response, I suppose. except that in my experience - perhaps not as wide and varied as you or others - people support a Kickstarter project not for the rewards, but for the chance to help.

    Of course the joy is that you can choose to support it, or not, and you can choose to help Derek publicize it or not. You've made suggestions (Good on you!) and Derek may avail himself of some of them. If not this time, maybe the next. I sense that your annoyance arises from the level of pledge vs the reward, which doesn't seem all that unreasonable to me.

    Derek, good luck with this.

  3. I've already pledged because I like supporting fellow indies but I have to agree with Caine that the perks for this campaign are perhaps not the best.

    I've seen several books use Kickstarter successfully and I'd recommend looking at their perks because success can be learned from.

    Firstly Meilin Miranda's campaign for Son in Sorrow

    Secondly MCA Hogarth's Spots the Space Marine

    Thirdly also MCA Hogarth

    Good luck with your campaign.

  4. I hope the experiment turns out well for you, I'm really looking forward to the sequel. I'm a little concerned based on the funding total though that you've not accounted for the the cuts that Kickstarter and Amazon take as well as shipping and whatnot for rewards, like a few game devs have (

  5. Caine, I’ll try to explain my thought process here, and see if you agree or not. Warning: this is a long response and so I’ve broken it up into sections.

    You do not need to spend $30 to get a copy of the sequel. You can buy the ebook for $3.99 when it is published. You can buy the paperback for between $10 and $15 when it is published.

    I am not using this Kickstarter project as a pre-order system for selling the sequel. I already have the best sales system in the world to sell my ebooks: Amazon.

    At the $30 level you get more than the ebook. You also get the wallpaper, acknowledgment thanks, print, and poster. I guess you consider those rewards to be worthless. If those rewards are not appealing to you, then you definitely should not pledge for them! If you only want the ebook, the best and least expensive way for you to get it is to buy it from an online store when it is published.

    When the sequel comes out anyone can get it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble for $4. I will totally appreciate and thank anyone who chooses to support me by buying the book when it comes out. That is a very valid way to support an author and I appreciate it. If the only reward you want is the ebook, then it is completely valid and helpful for you to buy it at one of the online stores. If you do that, thank you very much!

    As tonyl suggests, this is not about the rewards. Nor is it about my fans getting my books. I am not using this Kickstarter project as a pre-order system. This is not about my Kickstarter project competing with Amazon to sell my books. Kickstarter is not a bookstore, it’s a way to pledge money to help folks pay for something. This is about seeing if people are willing to support independent authors before the book comes out to help defray startup costs. That means it’s for fans who are willing to pay a little bit more for something in return for some thanks.

  6. Another reason that I did not put the ebook at a lower reward level is because each ebook that I send to a supporter is a sale I don’t get on Amazon, and so my sales rank does not improve. So, I’m actually hurting my sales rank by giving away the ebook for this Kickstarter project. For an independent writer like me, every bump in sales rank, even from one sale, helps me get more people to see my book in genre best seller lists. I’m not getting rich selling ebooks. Yet. ;) In my first year publishing (2011), I grossed about $15,000. It seems unlikely that I will make that much this year. Unfortunately, my full-time job takes up so much of my time and creative energy that I can’t write novels as fast as I would like. I’m still a long way from having a novelist career. That’s why I need to do whatever I can to improve my sales rank. And part of that is not competing with my sales on Amazon.

    Actually, I would prefer people not pledge $30. Instead, pledge $25 and then buy the ebook for $3.99 when it comes out. That will help my sales rank. You won’t be getting the ebook any earlier by pledging.

    Given all that, I thought fans would want unique rewards. Stuff you can’t get anywhere else. Posters are cool, especially of the great cover art that Igor Kieryluk did. So, I researched costs for printing and shipping, and it seemed reasonable for a $25 pledge. But, I wanted some lower level pledges, so I added the $10 print, acknowledgment thanks, and wallpaper. So, for $25, you get a computer wallpaper, thanks in the acknowledgments, a print (signed and dated), and a poster (signed and dated). I thought that was a pretty good deal.

    I guess if more people agree with you, and just want the ebook, I won’t have much success. But if at least 54 people want a unique poster and print, it’ll work.


  7. Then someone suggested that I make the ebook one of the rewards. I didn’t really want to, for the reasons mentioned above, but I figured that I would in case someone wanted it. Again, I do not expect very many people to pledge more than $25. That’s the primary reward.

    Then, I thought people might also want a signed paperback. When published, the paperback will cost $10 or $15. I cannot beat that price here on Kickstarter. I have to order the paperbacks from Amazon Print on Demand, ship them to me, then sign them, package them up, then ship them to each pledger. My costs for the paperback will be at least $10 or $12. And the whole point of this project is to pay for the cover, so I also need to make a profit on top of that $10 or $12. I thought that $8 for my signature might be reasonable.

    So, I do not expect many people to pledge the $30 or $50 or any level above that. Those are just there in case some avid fans REALLY want to help. And that’s what this is about. Helping a bit more than buying the books.

    The whole goal of this project is for me to make a profit so I can pay for the cover art. I have to pay for printing, shipping, and packaging for every print, poster and paperback I send out. On top of that, I have to make $500 more to pay for the art. Unfortunately, Amazon is not going to give me those paperbacks for free. Nor is the printer who’s making the posters. So, unless I tack on some extra cost, I won’t be able to pay for the cover art.


  8. As for thanking people in the acknowledgments in descending order of pledge amount:
    This means that all $5+ pledgers will be thanked. The person who pledged the highest amount will be listed first, followed by the person who pledged the second highest amount, etc. All the way down to everyone who pledged $5. Are you suggesting I should use a different order? What order should I use?

    In order to prompt people to pledge more, which is the whole point of a Kickstarter project, I have to provide more value at each level. At the $1 level, you get the wallpaper. I can’t put everything into the $1 reward level. Why would anyone pledge more than $1?

    I thought a thanks in the acknowledgments would be a good $5 reward. This is also the pledge level that other authors have used for acknowledgment thanks (see Becka’s links above). I’m sorry that you think $1 should be the acknowledgment reward. I thought it was worth $5. I guess we disagree.

    In closing, I think that I could have been more clear with the purpose of this Kickstarter project. This is not a pre-order system. This is a way to get some posters in exchange for helping me get the cover art. For $25, you get a signed and dated poster, a signed and dated print, your name in the acknowledgments, and a wallpaper. I get some upfront investment that will help defray part of the cost of the book.

    As tonyl suggests, I have learned from your concerns and suggestions. I will certainly try to be clearer if I ever do another Kickstarter project. In fact, I will go add these issues to this Kickstarter project. But, for the reasons I list above, I won’t be changing the rewards levels (in fact, I can’t change them now that the project has started).

    Caine, please let me know if my lengthy response here has addressed your concerns.

  9. Tonyl,

    Thanks! That’s how I see Kickstarter working as well. I don’t see it as a pre-order system or a way to get the product that I’m supporting. I can buy the product when it is released. For the projects I’ve pledged on, I’m first helping the project owner with getting their product to market. Then, I’m also getting some swag that might not be available. That is what I am trying to do here.

    And, of course, everyone is free to support this project or not. If you’d rather just buy the book when it comes out, that will be very helpful, too! But if you want a sweet signed poster, this is the only place to get it. Who knows, if I’m ever famous that poster might be worth something.

    1. Your logic regarding the placement of the ebook, now explained in full, does make more sense. I don't know that I'd classify the other rewards listed as "worthless" but I do think that it would have been beneficial for you to mention specifically that you weren't trying to sell books with the Kickstarter campaign. Yes, you do say that the cover art is the goal, but I think society in general - particularly readers are trained to consider an author who isn't writing is selling.

      I disagree that the "reward" is not the goal of the Kickstarter campaign. If the pledge was the goal and rewards mean nothing then why have them? Why not just write an essay about why you need support, make a video and throw caution to the wind? As another commenter pointed out, many successful campaigns have very engaging rewards that seem to be highly sought after.

      Finally I still feel as though your "thank you" placement via money pledged is elitist (and I don't throw that word around). A fan is a fan. A fan who supports indy artists is a fan who supports indy artists. It may be a much much bigger deal for someone to part with $5.00 than someone else to part with $25.00 and you can't really know that. I personally would worry that it would feel like a huge slap in the face to even one of my fans.

      Thanks for taking the time to explain your position. I really enjoyed Dead Dwarves Don't Dance, Dirty Deeds, and am looking forward to the sequel.

  10. Becka,
    Thanks a lot for being my first pledger! I think that might be worth a little something extra if the project is a success. ;)

    I checked out the links you provided and I think that my rewards are actually better.

    Son in Sorrow $30 reward: 2 ebooks, acknowledgment thanks, and early manuscript.

    Spots $25 reward: ebook, acknowledgment thanks, and five cookie recipes.

    Rosary of stones $25 reward: acknowledgment thanks, ebook, postcard.

    My $25 reward: wallpaper, acknowledgment, large print, big poster.

    Considering that you can buy my books for $3.99 when it is published, I think my rewards smoke those other ones. The best $25 reward they give is a postcard. I give you a page sized print + a big poster.

    At the $50 level, I’m right in line with the other projects by giving a signed paperback.

    Maybe I’m living in a plaid sky world, but I think my rewards are pretty darn good in comparison.

    And, since I can't change the rewards now, they'll just have to stand as is.

  11. Blue Kae,

    I’ve calculated the costs and $1350 should cover all the costs. $500 for the art. $135 for Kickstarter/Amazon fees. The rest for printing and shipping the prints, posters, and paperbacks.

    I don’t know where War Balloon got their posters printed, but I found a good deal. It’s the shipping that costs the most for me. But I should be good. Don’t worry, I have it all calculated in a spreadsheet.


  12. Well, I think it's cool that you're doing this and I respect your process.

    But I disagree on your $500-$2000 up front cost for ebook publishing. Maybe you think the cheap way looks cheap, and maybe you're right, but my average cost per book is about $20 to pay for my stock cover image. And then I just use Preview or a simple free program to make my cover.

    And I've been doing this full-time now for a year.

    Some people need to pay to get good editing and formatting and covers, but it's definitely not a necessity, and as you've shown, it also eats into your bottom line and now your time as well.

    I say, learn to do these things yourself and cut costs. Spend time writing and making covers, not fundraising.

    Best of luck.


  13. I hope your kickstarter project gets some traction. I was wondering if one way to satisfy the desire for those that want a copy of the ebook for a certain level of support *and* your desire to have your book go up in sales rank would be to use the gifting process at amazon. When I do giveaways at goodreads and send promo copies of paperbacks out, I use my prime membership to ship them to people on the mainland. It helps my rank, and it's cheaper than me sending copies that I buy from createspace and then pay for postage from Hawaii.

    I haven't tried using the kindle gifting to see if it drives sales ranks like a purchase, but I may try to see if it does...

  14. I think the idea that "no one" donates to a kick starter with out rewards is wrong. With the exception of movies (which I prefer is use as a pre-order system for the blu-ray or whatever) I often use the "no reward" option at checkout. There are times when I want to donate to a project but do not want the rewards, either because I am not interested in them or more often because I would rather all the money be used for the project and not spent on the rewards.

    However, as usual, I realize I am not the norm on this, ha.

  15. What a neat idea. I've never heard of kickstarter, but I'll definitely donate a few bucks. Good luck.

  16. If you shop around you can get covers done for as little as $50-100. Will they be hand drawn. Probably not, but there are plenty of books with stock photo covers that are selling quite well. And as for the editing, yes, this is by far more expensive, but if you get lots of beta readers and and then pay for a line edit you can cut at least a grand off your projected expenses. I'm one who thinks that indie authors need to shell out cash up front to make sure they're delivering a quality product, but $1500 seems rather high. Doing a PBS style pledge drive to fund your books doesn't sound sustainable to me. But I'm more than happy to eat those words if I'm wrong.

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