Challenge,  Kickstarter Campaign

What to Study On Kickstarters…

Thinking of Doing a Kickstarter Campaign Some Day?

Here are some things to study. And since we do not have a campaign going at the moment, I thought I would give some suggestions.

First off, you need to study ongoing Kickstarters. Say you are thinking of launching your next book with a Kickstarter, here are some basic steps. Plus what to look for when you are following other Kickstarter campaigns.


1… Have the book done and going to be published out about six months. Up for pre-order when you can on each site. You want to do your campaign to give the book early to your fans, but you also want it up for preorder. (Never do a campaign for an unfinished book.)

2… Professional cover must be done and branded to genre with professional art. (Can find on any royalty-free site.) These are book covers, not gaming cards. Game art looks horrible on book covers for the most part, and on books on a Kickstarter campaign, just looks sad.

3… Have a list of your rewards already done. If you have other books or another series, include that as a reward. Study what kinds of awards others are doing (see below).


1… The campaign ask. Most single book campaigns for newer professionals ask is around $300 to $500. You want your campaign to fund quickly, that helps.

2… Total up their awards, see if the campaign has enough awards that are reasonable (not too cheap) to make the ask quickly. Does it have a couple really high awards?

3… Is their art and book covers professional?

4… Do they use section art between each section of the story.

5… Is the body of the story all text or lively with art and book covers?

6… Is all they talk about is plot? If so, watch that one, they will have trouble funding.

7… Do they mention audio and the costs as the reason they are doing the campaign. If so, they will almost never fund.

8… Watch the ones that tell you why they are doing the campaign. Often the reason like editing will turn off more backers. Just never say the reason. No one cares.

9… Watch the ones that have a lot of physical products that will cost money. I saw one last month that if it had funded, it would have cost more than the funding. Caution, watch for those when studying. “It seems like a good idea…” is often a thought that should worry you when studying these.

10… Back the campaigns you are really watching to get an idea of how it ends, what their survey is like, their updates, and so on. Back at least five other campaigns before you think of launching your first.

11… See a campaign you would like to do one similar, then also look that person up on Facebook and see what they are doing there and other social media sites. Go to their website.

12… Watch their video. Short and interesting? Should be slightly rough.

13… Study how they do add-ones. (Again, a reason to back a number of campaigns.)

14… Does the campaign feel like fun? Are the rewards clear?


1… Kickstarter campaigns are a great place to grow fans, get some cash before the book even publishes, and free advertising for your book (which is up on pre-order for those who like the looks of it, but don’t do crowd-funding.) But you have to keep that goal firmly in mind.

2… Don’t think you can make a lot. You might, but you might not. Set your funding low and hope to fund quickly. No lower than $300 for a single book.

3… Check all prices of any physical item and then only ship inside your own country. Make sure you are not undercharging for physical items or shipping.

4… Most importantly, have fun with this. The first one is a learning curve. Enjoy the stress. The next ones are easy.


  • T Thorn Coyle

    Terrific checklist, Dean. I’ll be passing it along.

    Now that I’ve run two Kickstarters, and figured out what does and doesn’t work for me, I’m making them a regular part of my publishing plans. My third launches this coming Tuesday. The classes you and Loren put together really helped.

    Kickstarter has been a great way to reach new people.

    • T Thorn Coyle

      Just an FYI: I only shipped in my own country for KS #1, but KS #2, I had a person in Germany wanting hardbacks, and one in Northern Ireland wanting my whole catalog in print. I looked into it, and was able to easily drop ship books from Ingram’s UK plant. But I only did it because of special request and because it was as easy for me as shipping to the states. Ingram even has the proper customs boxes to check off on the order itself. I assume it’s similar if you drop ship from their plant in Australia.

      If I was doing my own shipping? No way.

      • dwsmith

        Most writers, early on, do not have that capability to not only go through Ingram, but do that kind of set-up. Easier early on to just ship in your own country.

    • dwsmith

      Thanks, Thorn. And yes, it is an amazing way to build fan base, especially slowly and over time. One of the best free (actually make money) advertising you can do.

  • Lyn Perry

    Did my first Kickstarter last year using these guidelines and was very happy with the results. Dean, what would be a good hook as to the reason why an author wants to raise funds (besides editing and audio book)?

    • dwsmith

      You don’t need a hook anymore than you need a hook to sell a book on Amazon. You are giving your fans an early read of your next book. That’s it.

      Needing a hook is a myth. You are giving fans a book, maybe slightly (and only slightly discounted) and ahead of time. And giving them a chance at other books and stuff of yours as well.

  • Michael W Lucas

    I’ll throw my suggestions in here for beginners, because why not. (Yes, I only have two kickstarter campaigns, but I’ve been doing various kinds of crowdfunding for almost fifteen years now.)

    My vital components to crowdfunding are “execution and expense.”

    1) Execution: Start simple, with things you KNOW you can accomplish. If you want to do the more complicated campaigns and rewards, add one and only one per Kickstarter. One new thing at a time, so you can see how they work out. Your first time, though, just making the dang campaign work, at all, is your experiment.

    2) Expense: Build a very pessimistic spreadsheet of the cost to fulfill each reward. Assume the worst, and add on a layer to accommodate your mistakes and business changes. If the USPS or printer raises their rates, well, you get to suck that up–so assume they will. If you don’t make enough money to fulfill everything, you’re in trouble. If you make too much money as a result, well, you’ll figure out a way to survive. 😉

    If you get these two things right, and keep getting them right, you can slowly expand. And you will attract repeat backers, because those people will know that you deliver.

    • dwsmith

      Everything that Michael said. And he just funded a great campaign, so I would add in another two things…

      1… Great art.
      2… Great author voice.

      Michael had both and it worked out great!!

      Thanks, Michael.

        • Michael W Lucas

          Aw, thanks y’all!

          I’d say that if you’re gonna publish a book, you BETTER have a voice! 😉 But yes, bring that voice into the campaign by all means.

          And sadly, stock art for “Orcs during Prohibition” is super hard to come by…