I’m Not Sorry

FailLast Saturday was the last day of the IndieGoGo campaign to fund printing and shipping costs for Advice for Beginners. And we did not reach full funding.

I basically saw this coming (for a few reasons) after just the first couple weeks of the campaign, so I’m not super disappointed. But I don’t regret the failed attempt, either. I still think it’s a super book idea with great potential and, in suffering catastrophic failure, I learned a lot about what to do better (or less, or the same, or not at all) the next time around. And I am more than happy to share that knowledge with you!

So! For your edification, here’s the great stuff I picked up during this fun adventure.  I:

Figured out the market risk free. This is the main reason I wanted to do a funding campaign instead of taking out a loan and peddling board book out of my trunk for the next few years/forever. A crowdfunding campaign helped me decide, risk free for everyone, if there was a big enough demand for this to be a financially viable project. And, at least at this point, there wasn’t. I’m glad I learned that before plunging my family into debt.

Learned about promotion. And more specifically, I learned just how deeply I fear and loath promotion. Asking people to give me money is about 13 ½ lightyears outside my comfort zone. But you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Nobody told me to knock it off. Nobody stopped following or blocked or unfriended me. Everyone was really cool about it and pretty supportive. People chipped in as they could, and they were really generous about spreading the word on my behalf. While I was actively promoting (I stopped once it became apparent this wasn’t going to fly), I kept it to a conservative 1-2 promos a day and everyone was absolutely fine with that. (I talked more about promotion in this post a few weeks ago- check it out if you want more information about the dos and don’ts I picked up.)

HOWEVER. For any of you considering a similar avenue, prepare yourself to be bombarded with spam about how to boost funding. The moment you send out your first promo, they will find your campaign page, your email address(es), your facebook page, your twitter feed, and your blog, and they will throng you. Fortunately, it all stayed digital, but it was still a little creepy at times. Brace yourself.

Recognized the importance of a solid launch. Unfortunately, I recognized it after the fact. That whole ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ notion I started out with did me no favors. I posted the pages for Advice for Beginners on my blog on a Monday, and received tons of positive feedback. So I whipped together a campaign page and had it up and running just three days later. And we all know how that went down. (Spoiler: in flames.)

If I got to do it all again, I would have taken an extra couple weeks to build up a little more support and momentum for the opening day. Another thing I would have done in those few weeks of prep? Draw up an actual promotion plan. *shudders* But seriously, my advertisements were thrown together the morning of- often the hour of. After a week, I figured, ‘Oh, I should make bookmarks to hand out to people I see so I don’t have to actually speak’. So I designed them and printed out a sheet of cardstock, and then I realized the ship was going down and bailing with a rusty tin can wouldn’t save it. So I never handed out a single bookmark. They’re sitting beside my computer at this very moment, uncut, waiting, a silent rebuke to my utter lack of planning.

Learned not to take it all so personally. Okay, I’m not even sure this is a choice a person can make, but do try. Back in the early days, this campaign sometimes broke my heart. I wondered why all those people went on and on about how I should publish this… and then didn’t bother to buy a copy. I wondered if it was me. Maybe they just didn’t like me. Maybe the book idea wasn’t as good as I thought. Maybe the numbers weren’t solid? Maybe I was using the wrong shampoo? And around and around it went in my head.

This tailspin of darkness and woe was stupid. The fact is, most crowdfunding campaigns don’t pull through. And given the amount of work I put into mine, it would have been downright miraculous if it had. I knew this going into it. And I figured out pretty quickly to just let it go* and keep chugging along.

(*- Am I the only person who feels like Disney has robbed the entire planet of the ability to use this phrase with any degree of gravity? Seriously, that movie straight up hijacked a perfectly good expression and I want it back.)

All things considered, I would do this again.  It wasn’t as horrific as I was envisioning it (which, granted, left a lot of room for improvement), and it was actually kind of fun at times.  Thrilling, even.  But if I do it again, it will be something I really believe in and I will give it the time and attention it deserves.  And maybe it will fly!

(In closing, a real quick shout out to Madison Dusome, who was kind enough to share with me her hard won research on crowdfunding campaigns; and to Marie Hogebrandt, Tante Willemijn, and CM Schofield, who coached me on promotion; and to the dozen or so folks who glanced over the campaign page before it went live and offered me delicious feedback.  Any sliver of success this campaign enjoyed was probably due in large part to their generous input.)

Promotion Commotion

VendorIn case you missed it (although I’m not sure you how you possibly could have, since I’ve been screaming it at the top of my lungs for a week and a half), I am currently running a crowdfunding campaign to cover printing and shipping costs on Advice for Beginners, a book that came about when I started asking children what advice they would give newborns about living a good life. So you can understand that promoting this campaign has been on my mind lately.

Having never run a crowdfunding campaign, or even tried to sell anything more interesting than peach pies with rugby ball crusts and “bruise” jam (‘Cause black- and blue-berries. Get it? Ha!), I wasn’t sure how to go about this. My presence on Twitter was fairly steady, but my Facebook page has been known to go neglected. Suddenly bombarding both with desperate, hourly pleas to throw money at me didn’t seem particularly classy. Fortunately for me, I surround myself with wise friends. After much brain pickin’s, I reached the following conclusions about that all important question:

How much is too much?

The general consensus seemed to be that two, maybe three, a day is the sweet spot. Once a day is fine, but won’t be seen by many. More than that just gets annoying.

Bookmark

This is a bookmark I made to hand to random people everywhere I go. So I can hassle folks in real life, too!

But between those few promo tweets (or posts, or whatever, depending on your venue of choice), be sure to reemphasize that you’re a living breathing person who isn’t there just to shove your product at anybody with a nickel. In a world where people are increasingly skilled at ignoring advertisements, interaction keeps you on people’s minds in a positive way. (You know, assuming positive interactions. Now may not be the time to go pick a fight with the rival team.)

Another thing that will make you less likely to be written off as annoying and tacky is perceived usefulness. Usefulness can be straight up utility, whether for the consumer or for the good cause you’re trying to support, but it can also be entertainment. Figure out exactly what it is that makes your product special- it will change lives, it will make you a better cook, it will keep your dog safe in a car wreck, you will laugh until you pee your pants- and center your pitch around that. If you can’t come up with what makes your product special, or don’t have it front and center in your pitch, then don’t expect anybody to bite.

Ideally, your promotions will be so wonderful, so interesting, so genius, that you can get others to spread them around for you. Retweets, mentions, shares, etc, are gold, spreading your reach to new audiences. You trumping your own horn is alright in small doses. Getting others to toot it for you is worlds better.

A few other things to consider:

Vary your pitch. Sending out the same ad, over and over and over, isn’t going to catch anyone’s attention. Sending out slightly different ads are more likely to pique the interest of a broader audience. Another thing to vary? Timing. Try to spread your promos over multiple time zones. Even though you live in Guatemala, there may be someone in Australia just dying for what you’re trying to sell.

Go easy on the hashtags. Nothing will make your tweets look more like irritating spam than a solid block of blue. Hashtags can be useful tools for specific searches, but nobody I talked to used them regularly, and then only when they knew exactly what they were searching for. Although one or two thoughtful and accurate hashtags can broaden the audience of the promo, an excess of hashtags tends to do more harm than good. (Same goes for all caps. Less is more.)

Be clear. This should go without saying, but if it isn’t crystal clear what the link leads to, people aren’t going to click on it. Make sure that it is perfectly obvious what you are promoting and where the link will take people, and for pity’s sake, no bait and switch.

Use images. 120 characters only gives you so much room to play. Add a link and you come up even shorter. But a picture says a thousand words. Even on platforms that don’t limit your posts, try attaching pictures, images of text excerpts, videos- anything that gets your message across in an engaging, easily digestible way.

Follow these tips and, at the end of your promotional campaign, you just might have a few friends left! Haha, but do remember that I’m no expert. If you can think of any tips that I’ve left off the list, please let us know in the comments below. Sharing is caring! And happy writing!