I successfully launched a book on Kickstarter with Kristen Kavanaugh on December 12, 2015.
I’ve known Kristen since our days at the US Naval Academy. We’ve been friends since we were midshipmen and co-workers for the last 3 years.
Last year I was pregnant and Kristen wanted to get me an Army-Navy football game baby book. She looked high and low but couldn’t find one.
Fast forward a year and we decided to use Kickstarter to help make our Army-Navy baby book, Go Baby, Beat Army! a realty.
We’ve had a lot of questions around how we did it. Here’s the story.
Checking for Initial Interest
First, we posted our idea on Facebook to see if other people wanted an Army-Navy themed baby book. Many people commented and said they loved the idea and wanted to buy immediately.
Going from concept to execution would be the challenge – and would require some pretty substantial initial funds. I did a lot of research on publishing, designing books, distribution, and printing to get an idea of how much it all would be. The total was between $6,000 and $9,000. That’s a pretty big amount for a project in an industry we are brand new to, so we decided to see if our fellow USNA Alumni would be willing to help us launch the project.
Committing to an Epic Kickstarter Launch
A month before launch, we committed to making this launch as big a success as possible. I did a lot of research on previously successful campaigns and the formula is almost always the same: grow an actively engaged following and then launch.
The biggest reason for growing the following first is that you may have the best idea to come out since the Apple iPhone, but if no one knows who you are or you are limited initially to only the people you know, you will spend the one month of your Kickstarter campaign building your following rather than selling your face off.
We needed to earn $9,000 in one month. Our average product price is $28. If you do the quick math that equals 321 books we needed to sell. Kristen and I have a lot of friends on Facebook, but 321 is A LOT. So we are built our email list and following for Go Baby, Beat Army! on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Setting a Goal for Sign Ups
I made email sign ups my number one goal for the month prior to our Kickstarter launch. I even downloaded a google chrome extension, List Goal, that made me choose a specific signup goal and then it shows me how many sign ups I had each day to reach that goal. I love that every time I opened a new browser tab, I was reminded of my goal for the month.
To start the buzz generation for our book, we set up a landing page to collect email addresses and then pages and accounts for Go Baby, Beat Army! on social media. The first week or two we had the odd sign up here and there, but no one was looking for what we wanted to sell. We needed to figure out how to get people excited… and fast.
I collected as many adorable kids in Navy gear pictures as I could from my friends on Facebook, and then I started meming them. Everyone loves cute kids and funny memes, so putting them together seemed like a good idea. As we generated a following and got page likes, we needed to keep everyone warm and engaged for the month until our launch. Likes and shares show up in other people’s feeds which is good because Academy grads know other Academy grads!
I spent a couple days buried in social media and couldn’t sustain life in the real world, so I turned to Hootsuite to schedule my posts across the different media channels. Then, I only had to check in a couple times a day on each channel to share other interesting Army-Navy related posts (like amazing spirit spots!) and engage with the people that were liking and sharing our stuff.
On top of this, I put together a couple of Facebook ads and let them run.
This work slowly started getting us likes and email sign ups. But we weren’t moving fast enough. I only had a month to get some serious buzz generated!
To supercharge the number of page likes and sign ups we got, I turned to my network. I invited every Academy-related friend I had on Facebook to like my page. Now, I’m not a huge sharer on Facebook, so this was hard for me. I had to buck up and force myself to invite people. Seriously, if you can’t invite your friends and family to support you, how can you expect to attract perfect strangers?
Doing this launched our FB Page likes from 34 to over 100 in one day. That was a pleasant surprise.
I posted news of our pending launch in a closed FB Group for my USNA classmates. That got us another 40+ likes and 27 email sign ups.
Then, I started asking friends from other class years to post in their class year closed FB groups. I made it super easy for them and gave them a blurb they could just cut and paste. If I’m the one asking for the favor, I should do the work to make it easy for them. Every time someone posted, we got around 25 email sign ups. This is what I asked them to copy and paste:
Hey everyone! I noticed A LOT of us have kids or at least know kids. Some good friends of mine from ’01 and ’02 are launching an Army-Navy baby book on Kickstarter on… you guessed it… Army-Navy game day (Dec 12). You can learn more on their site http://gobabybeatarmy.com or like their FB page Go Baby Beat Army. Also, please share with any other Academy grads you know – no child left behind (and potentially liking West Point)! Share the joy of Army-Navy with your offspring and let’s keep on streakin’!
Then I posted in a couple of LinkedIn groups for Naval Academy grads. LinkedIn turned out to be a great source! Other than 3 posts, I did nothing with LinkedIn and 9% of my email sign ups came from there.
Improving Sign Up Conversions
As more and more people heard about Go Baby, Beat Army!, more people landed on our email collection page. Our conversion rate was around 14%.
Two days ago, I added our Kickstarter video to the page in hopes of improving our conversion rate. We saw a jump to 24% conversions!
Additionally, I posted our Kickstarter video on Facebook. It explains what we are doing and why we need everyone’s help. It turns out, people on Facebook LOVE videos. Our traffic from Facebook increased 33% in the two days following the video post – and the crazy part is that all of our friends had already signed up. Those new sign ups were people that didn’t sign up initially or that we didn’t know! Super exciting!
We decided to launch on the most relevant day to our Army-Navy Game baby book: Army-Navy Game Day. Everyone was excited to watch the game and share the experience with their kids. We piggy-backed on that excitement!
We had collected 331 emails during our pre-launch and decided to open our Kickstarter and email our list the night before the game so they could get first dibs.
As you can see from the screenshot, over 75% opened the email and over half the recipients went to our Kickstarter campaign!
By the time we woke up the next morning, we already had 71 backers! It was AMAZING! So many people were excited about our book. Throughout the day, everyone was excited to watch the Army-Navy Game and lots of people were on social media. We had lots of shares and project backings.
By the end of the weekend, we were 2/3 of the way to our goal and had over $6,000. Within another week, our project was fully funded at $9,000.
Interestingly, each spike we had in backers coincided with popular social media posts. Lots of folks were interested in the baby book, they just needed to be reminded to purchase.
Around the mid-point, we decided to try using a firm to do press releases, but it didn’t bring us any interest. Our baby book was too niche focused for a mainstream media outlet to pick up (or at least that’s my guess). If I had it to do over, I would have done a big press release a couple weeks before the Army-Navy Game. This way media outlets interested in talking about the Army-Navy Game would also have our cute book to mention.
Fulfilling on the Orders
Our Kickstarter campaign is over and now comes the hard work – figuring out all the details to get the book made.
During our campaign, we signed a contract with Mascot Books. They’re a small publishing company that helps self-publishing authors nail the publishing part. They have a big children’s book arm and support the editing, illustrating, printing, distribution, and fulfillment parts of making a book. Because Kristen and I work full time, having someone handle all these parts was really important to us. A friend of mine from the Academy who recently published an adorable Coast Guard baby book through Mascot Books referred us.
For the illustrations, before I discovered Mascot Books, I found an illustrator through fiverr.com that I really liked. He was the one that designed the cover, so during the campaign, I had him start on the whole book. He’s really produced some amazing results.
To help with all the details of getting everyone’s orders right, we decided to go with BackerKit. They made collecting addresses and helping people get the right package super easy. Not only do they help make our lives easier, we got the package that has them help make our customers’ lives easier. Ultimately, making our customers happy is our number one goal!
Doing Author Things
Now our Kickstarter is over and we are working to get Go Baby, Beat Army! into book stores and gift shops. We don’t know where this book will take us, but we are excited to find out!
If you have any questions about any of our process, hit us up in the comments or on social media! We’re always up for a book signing!