How to Kickstart Your Book Project

How to Kickstart Your Book Project

I’ve been called many things in my life. Patient is not one of them.

So when I received strong interest for my fourth book from traditional publishers and was told they’d put it out in spring of 2012…

Well. Like I said, I’ve never been called patient.

I decided to take control of my own destiny and circumvent traditional publishers – and I’m going to tell you exactly how I raised money, planned my coupe and sped up publication of my fourth book by one full year, so that you can do the same.

Antiquated Is In the Past

I’m no newbie to publishing, having written three books already. I’m well aware that book publishers and the publishing industry at large are behind the times.

Many publishers cling to antiquated methods. To boot, those methods are becoming less relevant every day. And what’s more, the publishing industry often rejects books deemed to be too risky. That means your book may never see the light of day – and if it does, it takes forever to get it there.

Here’s the catch: People want to read and learn as soon as possible.

The good news? It’s easier than ever to circumvent old-school publishing gatekeepers.

Taking Control of Publishing

Many first-time authors don’t understand that when they sign contracts with traditional publishers, they’re not writing for readers.

They’re writing for publishers.

Your publisher’s editor has final cut. The last word. Executive decisional power. If the editor doesn’t like the direction of the book, she can change it. That means publishers can dilute the message of your book.

Suggestions to improve the book are one thing, but corralling the central theme to make it more “mainstream” increases the risk that it won’t be unique and great.

I believe I’ve written a great book. I didn’t want its fundamental message altered by anyone but me. I won’t have my book repurposed into a “me-too” publication.

Not on my watch.

Giving Your Book a Kickstart

Authors have an outlet: the internet. It’s never been easier to reach masses of people via books, blogs, music, or video. No longer do creative types need traditional gatekeepers, especially with the help of some pretty neat sites.

Like Kickstarter.

I found out about Kickstarter back in May of 2010 via Seth Godin. The site allows creative types to fund their projects, be they books, CDs, movies, works of art, or new toys.

Producing a quality book means using good people–and good people cost money. So I was intrigued enough to give Kickstarter a shot last year to raise money for my third book.

It worked in spades.

The results of my first Kickstarter project were amazing. After about a week and a half, I met 40% of my goal! I hit 90% of my funding in less than a month and locked in the full amount I needed just a few days later.

I’m using Kickstarter to raise funding for my fourth book too, and I’m off to a good start. I budgeted out how much I needed for editing, proofreading, cover design, interior design and book production, and then posted up my financial goals and project description.

How to Kickstart Your Funding

Kickstart won’t automatically bring you money. People need to want to help you fund your project – they’re the ones donating the cash, after all.

That means many Kickstarter projects go unfunded. Lack of interest, lack of believable marketing plan, lack of motivation, or lack of incentive.

Here are three tips on how you can maximize the chance that your Kickstarter project is successful:

  1. Offer an incentive – Books, CDs, posters, thank-you cards, or any other tangible object goes a long way to encourage people to donate.
  2. Run the gamut – Don’t make all your incentive rewards high-value… or low-value, for that matter. Aim for both – and don’t forget the middle.
  3. Stay involved – Frequent updates help keep the buzz going. If you offer them in a multimedia way, that’s even better

Once I’ve reached my funding goals, I’ll be heading to Lightning Source (LSI), a professional printing company for print-on-demand that handles older titles from big-time and traditional publishers.

This begs the question: Why avoid subsidy presses like AuthorHouse or Lulu?

While there are exceptions, many self-published books look unprofessional. Mine won’t. The New Small is a case in point. It turned out great.

And to make great happen, you need to hire great professionals: a cover designer, an editor, a production person, and a proof-reader. You’ll also need a good-looking website and money for marketing and public relations.

Maybe you’ve heard of the Project Triangle: You have the options of fast, cheap and good – and you can only pick two. It’s not possible to optimize all three – one always suffers.

I chose fast and good. Which would you pick?

Post by Phil Simon

Phil Simon is an author and recognized expert consulting companies on how to optimize their use of technology. His contributions have featured on The Globe and Mail, the American Express Open Forum, ComputerWorld, ZDNet, ABC News, Forbes, The New York Times, ReadWriteWeb, and many other sites. His fourth book, the Age of the Platform, will be published this year..

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  1. John Kowalski says:

    Thanks so much for your information! Very timely as I am in the infantcy stages of writing a book and was thinking pure eBook.

  2. This is great information. Traditional publishing seems like a thing of the past to me, unless you are already an established author with a history of strong books sales, and a rabid following.

    I will definitely look into your method for the book I am currently working through.


  3. What I really like about this model is that it keeps you honest with deadlines. For all the weakness of traditional publishing, at least there was accountability. Once you cashed the check for your advance, there was real pressure to crank out the pages. It was hard to slack off with an editor breathing down your neck. (I’ve signed three book contracts, so I know what the pressure is like.)

    Crowdfunding is like an advance — you’ve got some money in the bank, and now you owe it to your backers to turn out a great product. A little external motivation never hurts. If Kickstarter had been around in 1960, maybe Harper Lee would have written a follow-up to “To Kill a Mockingbird”!

    • Robert

      Thanks for the comments. Sounds like you didn’t need someone motivating you to churn out a book! I suppose that that’s a potential weakness in the Kickstarter model, but I know plenty of people who have the opposite problem: too much motivation.


  4. Kickstarter has intrigued me since the first time I heard of it. (I think it was via a tweet from Justin Kownacki, who used Kickstarter to fund his web series “The Baristas.”) I’ve been tossing around the idea of self-publishing a book (or e-book) for a while now, but have worried about the cost involved. It may be time to take a more serious look at Kickstarter and see if I can make this happen. Thanks for the info.

    • With or without Kickstart, independent self-publishing (avoiding the subsidy presses as mentioned) has become more and more affordable. I’ve followed the route Phil mentioned twice so far and have been very please with the results. I also haven’t spent an arm and a leg by any means to get the book out.

      Each author has their own set of unique circumstances, but getting a quality print book out and maintaining control is definitely do-able.

  5. Excellent tips, Kickstarter is a great resource and is perfect for authors looking to get their start. This statement was one that is absolutely true and one that no one seems to understand these days :

    “Producing a quality book means using good people–and good people cost money.”

    However, what few people know, is that there are a few publishers remaining which offer the same or even better publishing quality as traditional publishers while leaving the author in complete control. No longer is “writing for the publisher” necessary. With a publisher like this, you can write for your readers—and your publisher only helps you get there.

    Thanks for the article!

  6. I think people also need to get past the old stigma of so-called vanity publishing, which meant the book wasn’t considered good enough to be picked up by a “real” publisher.

    As a culture, we’re still hung up on credentials, and having an established publishing house behind you – at least for new authors – is a seductive idea that carries a great deal of confidence with it.

    A lot of people don’t understand how much control a publishing company really has.

    You’ve provided some solid information here, Phil, that people might not find so easily on their own. Thanks.

  7. Years ago, a friend of mine, another writer, told me that I should think about self-publishing. He had published one book traditionally, and after that self-published. He said he made a lot more money on his self-published books and had a better experience than he did with his publisher. I’ve never forgotten his advice. He has since passed away, and I just know his spirit is floating around wanting to kick my butt for not having done it yet.

    And now he’s laughing too!

  8. Great advice! I think so many people think that they can just whip together a book and watch the money roll in, but it really takes work to get everything together, especially if you’re going the self-publish route.

  9. Really inspiring! I’m ready to start following in your footsteps–I mean, starting *today*. 🙂

  10. Dear SImon:

    Well well, I have been impressed by the way you show your energy within Kickstart strategy . If I were you I will write more books because you deserve it.

    Ntarugera François

  11. There are so many tips. Here’s one: offer something tangible. I’m not sure that ebooks alone will be successful, although I am sure that some have been.

  12. Phil, I am very curious to learn how much it cost you to publish the book in your blog post. I’ve been aware of Kickstarter for some time now, but never once did I consider using it to fund my own self published book (WIP.)

  13. I am ADDICTED to Kickstarter videos. They’re so inspiring. My only worry about starting one of my own is that they seem to need a good fan base before embarking. Thoughts?

    • It certainly doesn’t hurt to have fans first, Kelley.

      It’s unlikely that a video will go viral anywhere, including on KS.

      Of course, that doesn’t mean impossible!

  14. I’ve been using this fab service from a UK self-publisher called Completely Novel – I worked with loads like Lulu and AuthorHouse but this is by far the best one I’ve come across ––2

  15. The tips are useful especially to one who wants to start writing a book. I think patience is still a great factor when one wants to be a great writer. 🙂 Thanks for the tips.

  16. This post is quite interesting. I have a few challenges about these international funding platforms. They usually restrict you to holding US account and i dont have a US bank account because I am in Ghana. What is in place for me? Any help and suggestion.

    Also, I will be grateful if you link me to your KICKSTARTER page. I am working on my first and upcoming project. I need funding.

    Thanks oxox.

  17. Peter Micalizzi says:

    Thanks for the info! I have written a book (which needs a bit of editing before printing) and can’t/don’t want to land a publisher. I like the idea of kickstarter and self-publishing and this post was enough to inspire me to really pursue it!. I am still a bit confused being a complete newbie, but I’ve emailed Lightning Source for some more info on what to do if I get funded. Did you do print on demand or just buy a bunch of books and work directly with bookstores? I can’t quite tell what to do with my printed book.

    • LSI and Kickstarter have no formal relationship. LSI is a POD company and things are pretty self-explanatory on its site. I’m sure that they’ll respond and walk you through it. Good luck!

    • Peter, I have used LSI for a few years. They are a printer as Phil said. If you are not doing your own design/layout (which I do not recommend unless you are a professional designer) you will also need someone to do that and upload it correctly to LSI as they charge for changes/fixes.

      As far as bookstores, there are literally a million individual titles or more published each year now. Bookstores carry classics, those by top sellers and a few new ones and barely scratch the surface of potential inventory. Generally, that is not going to be your focus as a new author unless you have a huge following and know the books will move off the shelves quickly. I would not print a bunch of books. The beauty of Print on Demand is that you can order a box or two at at time as you need them. There is a lot to know as you can see. I would suggest getting some coaching or consulting to help you both understand LSI and to make a marketing plan before you print anything.

      • Agreed. It’s very tough to get into B&Ns. I was able to get B&N to buy copies of my third book but it took a good deal of work. It’s kind of nice to see yours on the shelf, though.

        Good luck!

    • You might also want to try testing the waters with a Kindle version before moving to paperback… it’s a hot trend these days, and lets you measure sales/success before getting into physical products.

    • peter micalizzi says:

      Wow! Thanks for all the feedback. I actually created a marketing plan for the book as a project in one of my last college classes but have yet to take action. POD and ebooks sound good, I just need to understand a bit more of how to create an ebook. Also, with POD, where is the demand if not by bookstore? Phil mentioned creating a website, and I suppose you could advertise on amazon or eBay as well but I’m not sure I’d get much exposure. Hope I’m not clogging your threads like this but this is a great opportunity to get these questions answered!

      • The plain truth is that bookstores are closing on a regular basis. Borders closing almost half its stores recently and filing for bankruptcy is a telling statistic. Amazon has a lot to do with that. To my knowledge, Amazon sells more books than all the brick & mortars combined. Also ebooks are catching up and often outselling printed versions depending on the genre. So testing with an ebook first, can be a good idea as it will give you an idea about whether you can promote and sell/whether you like to do it. If you don’t, having a print book could be a waste of money.

        In answer to how to create an ebook, I know of at least 3 people who teach excellent classes online about that. Feel free to message me, I also hope we are not hijakcing too badly.

        You note that you did put together a marketing plan. If it did not include online avenues and selling on some sort of website, probably Amazon or B & being part of that, in my opinion, you left out a ton. One of the advantages of printing with LSI is you can get listed on Amazon and other major booksellers easily. You can also work with them to do so with ebooks now as well, though there are other avenues for doing it yourself as the classes mentioned above can show you.

        No matter what format is used to create a book (print or digital) authors have the responsibility to build and sell to an audience. It is up to you to learn how to get the exposure you mentioned. Marketing is a marathon process and that’s what you have to be prepared for if you want to sell anything. The ways to do it are almost endless, and there are a ton of great resources to learn from. I can also point you in some good directions there if you wish. Hope that helps.

        • peter micalizzi says:

          My marketing plan “included” ebooks, a website, and lots of other things. I just haven’t acted on those plans yet and know very little about doing if all properly. There are a lot of resources for people with no experience but the important thing to me is doing it right because otherwise its a waste of time.

        • I’m curious who you’d recommend for those online classes on how to create an ebook; let me know? I’ve seen several courses crop up in the past 6 months or so about that, and I have to admit that not one is worthwhile, so if you know of a good one, I’m all ears.

          (Of course I began developing a course on it! Coming soon this summer… )

          • Hi James, my suggestion is for those who need help with DIY/how to for Kindle, not for the writing which is how I took the question. Daniel Hall has one (which Denise Wakeman endorsed). Kathleen Gage also has some step by step in hers that is focused on marketing a Kindle product. If someone doesn’t want to do as much DIY, it’s also not too hard to find a designer to do it for them of course.


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