Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Kickstarter and Kirkus

I know I'm overdue to post about my Kickstarter campaign for a Kirkus Review of Castles on the Sand. The more time passes, the more I have to say, so I'd better do this post before it becomes three. First let me talk about Kickstarter, and then about Kirkus.

Kickstarter enabled me to set up a campaign to raise money in exchange for rewards to the backers who pledged. I offered copies of a special edition of the book and was curious to see how many presales I could get. It seemed that the ideal situation would be to have fans come buy advance copies of the book and I just use their money for the review. I think for a lot of established artists, Kickstarter works this way.

I, obviously, am not all that established. Of my indie novels I've published two, one of which has been a solid hit. Not solid enough to live in luxury for the rest of my life, but in the ten months I've been an indie author, I have out earned my husband for two of them. I've clearly got fans, but not hordes of them. Another strike against Castles is the fact that it isn't connected to my hit, Someone Else's Fairytale, which will soon have a sequel of its own. Castles is also LDS fiction, technically, as one of the main characters is LDS. I don't think much of the divide between LDS vs. mainstream fiction, as I don't tell spiritual/inspirational stories in which conversion to religion solves anyones problems, but people used to the bright line demarkation will still consider my work to be non-mainstream.

Therefore, the people who turned out for my Campaign were friends and family. When I announced the campaign on Twitter, I got some backers. When I put it in Facebook, people poured in and funded it in full in a couple of days. Many reached deep into their pockets, pledging amounts that would clearly be a one time occurrence. Because this was my donor pool, this will be my last Kickstarter campaign for a while, simply because I'm not going to go back to the same people who gave so much and ask for another red cent. They've been more than supportive. Maybe, someday, if I get a broader fanbase, I'll try again, but who knows?

Now let's talk about the Kirkus Review. Kirkus provided a review with a fantastic quote that I plastered everywhere, on Goodreads, Amazon, etc. How many sales did the review generate? None that I can tell. My sales this first month that Castles has been out have been roughly on par with Fairytale's, though it's hard to say that absolutely. Fairytale started out at $.99 and free on Smashwords, so its sales on Amazon were only a small fraction of the downloads. Castles, I launched at $2.99, the price point I intend to occupy until I can build up a bigger fan base and revenue stream for myself.

Was the Kirkus Review worth it? Yes. It was essential to take that next step and invest a little more, even if the investment didn't earn immediate returns financially. It was important for me to prove to myself that I could get reviewed by the same Kirkus that reviews traditionally published books and walk away with a good review, on par with someone who's gone the traditional route. The review also opens the door to publicity services offered by Kirkus that I'll consider, but am not investing in these first few months.

More to the point, the Kirkus Review was exactly the right thing to finance with a Kickstarter Campaign. I'd like to think I rewarded my backers' faith in me by landing a good review. This book isn't in negative earnings, because I didn't spend my own money in the review. Also, from this experience I've gathered still more data on the world of publishing 2.0, which will only help me going forward.

All in all, a positive experience all around. But now I'm back to my old marketing tricks to build up a readership for Castles.

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