Author Education Series #11a
Choosing Crowdfunding Reward Incentives
By AJ Walkley
On April 9th, I launched my first crowdfunding campaign to fund the publication of my third novel, Vuto. I had started to look into crowdfunding opportunities upon finishing the last edit of my novel, wanting to get it into readers’ hands. Not being in a place financially to do so myself, I turned to this platform in the hopes that I would find success. After a couple weeks of research and tweaks to my project, as well as my video, I was ready to put all of my energy into this venture.
Thirty days later with countless hours invested into outreach and promotion, I witnessed my project reach 175% of its funding by the time the clock hit 0. Throughout the campaign, I took copious notes on everything I did to reach and ultimately surpass my funding goal. While I won’t be crowdfunding for another novel or creative project anytime soon, I wanted to record my journey in the hopes of bestowing what I’ve learned upon others thinking of using crowdfunding to finance a creative endeavor as well.
Looking back, one facet of the crowdfunding experience that I found to be of utmost importance was the ability to offer reward incentives. In my initial research prior to launching my own, going through campaigns to see if there were any I wanted to back, I found that the likelihood of me pledging was based on my interest in the project itself, as well as the pledge tiers for the rewards and the types of incentives being offered.
When it comes to rewards, in my opinion, rule number one is to offer something for everyone, even potential backers who can only afford to give you $1. For some reason, those campaigns that started their rewards at $1 made me want to donate even more than the minimum.
I wanted to offer the same on my own project in the hopes of attracting more donors, as well as backers who were further incentivized to give over that minimum pledge level. I also wanted to offer a wide variety of donation levels with varying rewards attached to each. The levels I chose were: $1, $5, $10, $25, $35, $50, $100, $200, $400 and $500. I even had incentives of $1,000 and above at the beginning of the campaign, but ended up deleting them in the last couple of weeks feeling like the amount of might be overwhelming for certain viewers. In many ways, even the $1-$500 might have been going a little overboard. If I were to do it again, I would probably cut it down to between five and seven tiers.
As far as choosing rewards for each tier, I first determined what I would be able to offer: blog shout-outs, postcards, bookmarks, eBooks, paperback books, posters, the backer’s name on the Acknowledgements page, and Skype “meet and greets.” I then did a cost analysis to figure out what each of the aforementioned would cost me and how much it would cost to ship the physical items.
Next, I set rewards for a specific giving level, aiming for each to have value to potential backers, even the $1 reward (a shout-out on my blog and a personalized postcard). Having already determined the monetary tiers, I then paired the rewards with a giving level. I made sure that the rewards being offered for each level made sense based on said level. So, for instance, $10 backers would receive an eBook of my novel, a signed bookmark, a blog shout-out and a postcard – considering that my eBook will likely be priced a bit higher than the $10 mark once published, I saw this as a great deal for backers who would essentially be getting a discounted deal on the book along with the other goodies.
I would say that value and cost-effectiveness were my focus in deciding my reward levels. In the upper levels, I sought to provide added value to the backer without raising my own costs post-campaign. I did this by offering e-versions of my previous titles, which were of value to the backer, being that purchasing them online would cost them $10-$20 otherwise, but cost nothing for me to provide them.
While nobody took advantage of the $400 and $500 tiers, I still kept them up as I felt like the rewards associated with them were clever and might inspire other authors going this route:
$400: the backer would receive all previous rewards, plus their name as a character in my next book.
$500: limited at two, the backer would receive all previous rewards, plus a 20-minute Skype “meet and greet” and the ability to choose the topic of one of my next two books.
Along with the initial reward tiers, I would also highly recommend adding new rewards mid-campaign to keep the momentum going. Statistically, most campaigns hit a slump in the second and third weeks. To try to prevent donations from dropping off too much during this period, I rolled out a few different interim rewards. For instance, in the second week I added a $30 reward – 20 backers could get a handmade bracelet from me in the colors of the Malawian flag (the country in which my novel takes place). I received six additional donations at this level, which was significant for me. Once I hit $3,500, I posted an update letting everyone know that if we could get to $4,500 by the close of the campaign, I’d film myself making a traditional Malawian meal to send to all backers. Once that goal was met, I set another stretch goal of $5,000 – if we hit or exceeded that amount by the end of the campaign, I would publish an eBook of short stories and poems that all backers would receive for free.
Just before we hit the last week, I let my current backers know that a pledge increase of just $7 would get them a tote bag with my book cover on it. In the final week, I let backers and potential donors know that the next 10 people to donate at least $50 would receive an advanced reader copy of Vuto prior to release.
I found great success with these tactics, leading to more donations and pledge increases in the last few weeks of my campaign. I hope these tips will benefit others venturing into the crowdfunding sphere, as well.
A.J. Walkley is the author of Choice and Queer Greer. Based in Arizona, she currently blogs for The Huffington Post, primarily focusing on issues related to the LGBT+ community. Walkley has served as a health volunteer for the United States Peace Corps in Malawi, Africa, teaching villagers how to protect themselves from contracting HIV; this experience inspired her to write her third book, Vuto, which will be published in the latter half of 2013.
Crowdfunding Educators features He Never Liked Cake by Jana Leyde . We are SO excited! (via He Never Liked Cake by Jana Leyde featured on Pubslush | crowdfundingeducatorscrowdfundingeducators)
An interesting fact about publishing on Kickstarter:
Did you know that less than 32% of Kickstarter publishing projects get funded?