Kickstarting Indie Projects? Huh?

I have now seen this sort of thing pop up three times, enough that I know it’s probably happening more often, and frankly I have to say it baffles me.  There’s this website Kickstarter.com where you can set up a project (creative is implied) and ask for donations to help fund your project.  I have seen several indie authors with projects set up here with goals to raise $1500, $2000 etc. so that they can put their book out.

I’m sorry, WHAT are you spending all this money on? Is this supposed to be the indie version of an advance?

It seems to largely be indies who think you must come out in print first, that you must hire a professional copy editor from New York and a pro layout person in order to put out a quality product.  That you have to buy a big block of ISBNs from Bowker and create a small press in order to be taken seriously (even though we all know it’s still ONE PERSON).  Yet so many of them still seem to be neglecting having professional cover art (though that may just be the few I’ve seen).

I find this to be largely ludicrous and an unnecessary expense.

Are these authors so unconnected in the writing world that they don’t have other writer friends who are grammar Nazis and good editors with whom they can trade work to get it cleaned up and edited?  Do they not have a group of beta readers for that purpose who are happy to do it for free or trade?  Do they not grasp the concept that you can get professional, freelance copy editors without spending your first born?  Hello, I do professional copy editing and I only charge $35 an hour.

And I’m here to tell you that it’s entirely possible to design a good interior layout without using InDesign or selling off your second born.  You just have to bother to LEARN SOMETHING NEW.  Now, no doubt you’re thinking–well Kait, you don’t have a print edition, so how do you know what you’re talking about?–because I have friends who’ve done it.  Will a professional typesetter know the difference?  Sure.  Will most readers?  No.

Why am I on about this anyway?  I hate to see authors acting like they can’t put out their work without the charity of others donating.  It DOES NOT COST THIS MUCH TO PUBLISH.  I think it bugs me because it feels like it further supports the notion that self-publishing means you’re paying to be published rather than the other way around.  Yes, you’ll have some outlay, but not this much.  I’ve already talked at length about why I think you should start your self publishing journey with digital.  One of the biggest being that it’s a lot cheaper to start with and you can use the profits to fund bigger print projects. And you won’t look like anybody’s poor beggar cousin.

Take home message: Make friends, get a good cover artist, and dare to learn a new skill.  You’ll save a bundle.

14 thoughts on “Kickstarting Indie Projects? Huh?

  1. I had a whole long comment about what I spent and I lost it.
    I spent a bit under $260 on production costs of the ebook and print versions of Hush Money. $115 for the ebook cover and copyright registration, and I never paid for ISBNs. For me, “professional” does not necessarily mean “emulate NY books.” It’s fine for people who want to do that, but I think it’s a choice rather than a necessity. (Your cover costs will vary, but discussing your budget with your artist, who should be Robin Ludwig, if you ask me, will help you control that. Expect to go a BIT over whatever budget you set with the artist and give them some leeway to do it right.)

    Since there are no setup costs for Createspace, and they also provide ISBNs for free, I just had to pay for my cover art and title page from the artist, I paid the $39 for ProPlan so I could sell it cheaper, get giveaway copies cheaper, and keep more of sales, and I had to pay for my proof which was under $3.50 plus the shipping. I paid for pricey shipping on that, because of a personal scheduling thing, but it wasn’t necessary.

    No editing or formatting costs involved in the production, because I do a fair amount of editing stuff for friends and was able to call on them for help. Going forward, I’ll be able to help others with formatting too.

    For marketing, I haven’t done much except send out some paper copies to a few reviewers, and I’ve been paying the >$5/month for the Bookbuzzr thing. I think I’ve only paid one month of that so far and it does get me some traffic, though I’m not sure how many sales. For my current level, I’ve done fine with social marketing. I had those aforementioned friends I’ve helped, helping me there are well. I think I’ll wait and see how releasing another title affects things before considering any kind of serious promo budget. It’s gonna have to come eventually, if I have enough talent to go that far, but it’s not a right now thing. (And I also want to pay to produce Hush Money as an audiobook, but am not sure it’s a justifiable expense this stage.)

    Part of what makes me sad about everything that gives writers the idea that DIY is beyond them, is that it drives some of them to e-presses (some of which, I’m sure, are wonderful), some of which don’t seem to be doing much for their authors. Then authors’ rights are tied up in over-priced ebooks with ugly covers, being “marketed” on shoddy websites. This is hardly all e-press situations, but I’ve seen some that have not impressed me at all.

    But anyway, this Kickstarter thing was new to me and it made me think more of an advance than actual production costs. It’s interesting, but I’m not interested in doing it myself.

    I’m thinking of one trad published author who left us hanging on a series because her publisher didn’t want to pay her to continue it– wanted her to write more vampires, I guess, and she couldn’t put the time into something she couldn’t sell to the publisher. I would have donated for that at the time.

    Am I just babbling again?

  2. So I’m doing Kickstarter for a number of reasons.

    1. I have always wanted my own micro-press. I would have put up the money myself but the month I was going to throw down the money to buy my block of ISBNs, register for Doing Business As, etc, my car broke down. I’m determined to release Haunting Miss Trentwood this month, so Kickstarter was my only option.

    2. Of course I want to build up a buzz about my book, and Kickstarter helps me galvanize people who are interested in my work.

    3. People like to be a part of something creative. Those who pledge aren’t doing it simply for charity, they are getting something in return such as a signed copy of the book and other related goodies.

    Now in terms of DIY, etc. I am doing everything for Haunting Miss Trentwood. Interior layout, cover layout, I bought my ISBNs, I made my book trailer… I’m lucky in that I own the Adobe Creative Suite and know how to use it.

    I found an awesome editor who charged me $40 an hour, and I’m super pleased with her work. Part of this Kickstarter project is to ensure I have the funds to hire her for my next book, to recover some of the funds from marketing my previous book, and to ensure I have the funds to market the current book.

    I realize I can do it all for little-to-nothing, like you say. But I want to own the ISBN to my book. I want to be the publisher on record rather than CreateSpace or Smashwords.

    I guess I don’t see what the big deal is. So what if I decided to use Kickstarter, and asked for $1.5k? I’m still doing the usual marketing for my books, I’m working hard and I’m not diminishing the works of fellow indie authors. In fact, I’m trying to pay it forward by getting their work out there as well through author interviews, retweets, and Facebook links.

    I obviously have a plan for that money and am ensuring that there are a number of readers who are excited for my work. That’s a good thing, right?

    • Kait Nolan

      You’re actually giving something back to those who donate, which is a lot more than I can say for some of the projects I’ve seen tweeted about. A few of the ones I’ve seen the finished product of, well they made me think that the money went to something other than professional workmanship (because yeah, people DO judge books by their covers, which is why I harp on that particular issue). Your project seems a lot more organized and professionally set up than the ones I noticed recently that prompted this post.

      • …That’s awful. I can’t understand why anyone would want to, or dare to, use kickstarter to make a sub-optimal product. I think that’s criminal.

        • Kait Nolan

          I think it boils down to lack of educating themselves about things, possibly getting taken to the cleaners, and thinking they could cut corners on the wrong things. But yeah THAT’s the kind of thing that totally baffles me.

    • Belinda, it does sound like all good stuff. I think you’re about the LAST person anyone would suggest diminishes others’ anything. On the contrary, you’re on my list of most thoughtful and willing to help others.

      Sorry about your car. I’m sure they know just when to crap out on us.

      I like the idea of your supporters really getting a sense that they’re helping and involved in what you’re doing. I hope it goes well for you!

      • Thanks Susan, I truly feel as indies… nay, as writers… we need to stick together and support one another. It’s just too tough otherwise.

        My car… man, I had such a love-hate-hate relationship with it. After two years and dumping $7k into it just to keep it running, I finally gave up on it. I had to buy a new car within the month in order to go back and forth to work. Ergo relying on Kickstarter. 🙂

        • I just want to add that I love anyone who uses the word “nay” 🙂

          • I often feel as though I was born in the wrong decade, or, you know, century. 😛

  3. When I first started out, I released Kept as an ebook. I did my own formatting and my own cover art. My total expenses for releasing Kept were: $20 for stock images $50 for editing software which I use on all my projects, $35 for copyright registration. That’s $105 total.

    Overspending doesn’t make you more serious about what you’re doing. Indies are better off to start on a shoestring and as their platform and sales grow, then they can start spending more. And I concur with Susan that your cover artist should be Robin Ludwig. She does all my cover art now. 🙂

    • It seems like spending money on promo doesn’t necessarily get people to buy your book, it gets people to look at it. Which is a big deal. But when they go to look, what are they seeing? That page looks better if it’s got some good reviews, if there have been some sales. In some cases, your paid ad might be reaching someone who has already heard a bit of buzz about you, and it’s just the push they need to get them to buy and try. So as a complete unknown, is your paid promo really working as well for you as it might have if you’d laid a bit more foundation first?

      Is that the idea?

      • The idea for me is to use this as venture capital. I’m an entrepreneur and that’s how I operate. Anyone who is using Kickstarter to fund one project, especially one writing/publishing project, at the amount I’m asking for is confused about how this works.

  4. It cost me $200 total to publish Tempest in paperback/ebook. $100 of that was for my insanely gorgeous cover art (I hear complements on it all the time). $60 of the remaining was unnecessary and my own fault – I was in a hurry, and paid for two proof copies shipped super-fast. The last $40 was the expanded distribution so I could price the paperback lower.

    I am going to set up my own personal publishing imprint, and buy ISBN’s for later releases. It’s a choice though (a business decision), and certainly not necessary…and not even incredibly expensive (the ISBN’s are, the publishing imprint isn’t). If I couldn’t afford it, I’d wait until I could. I may outsource my formatting for the next book, simply because it takes time, and while I *can* do it myself, I could also be using that time to write…and I have the money. Another business decision – time vs. money. My highest marketing priority is to get multiple works out there for sale, so my decisions are largely based on that goal.

    Self-publishing is a business for me, just like starting a flower shop or a bakery. Some people write up a business plan and take it to the bank to get a start-up loan…and I guess I see the site you mentioned as kind of the same thing, only asking for money from the public. Personally, I’d rather see people go get a small business loan if they want to start on a grander scale, but that’s just my opinion – I’d rather my readers just buy & talk about my books to support me rather than donating.

  5. Stephannie Beman

    Interesting idea, but I see the potential for abuse.

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