Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Kickstarting Zen Awesomeness

I have a deep and abiding personal respect for James A Owen. He’s a talented and successful author, comic books artist, and business person. He’s always been a good friend to me, giving me unconditional support and encouragement in not only my writing, but also my personal life. He taught me about the power of selling your Eggs Benedict and about the need to push yourself until you are just a little bit scared. His actions frequently remind me of the power of kindness and understanding. Now, he’s the one in need of a little help, and I’m for sure going to answer the call!

When first asked to speak to middle schoolers as part of his book tours, James decided that he didn’t want to talk about his Imaginarium Geographica series. If he was given only one hour to speak to the kids, he wanted to talk about what he thought was important in life. About the cumulative power of choice in our lives, on the need to decide what you want and work for it, and on the idea that it’s never too early to start shaping your destiny. This talk, Drawing out the Dragons, was so successful that he’s been asked to repeat it hundreds of times over the years.

When James realized that he couldn’t reach all of his audience personally, he converted the talk into a book. However, the story and the philosophy weren’t done there. He had more to share. And so, he wrote the Meditation’s trilogy to share his amazing life and philosophy of relentless optimism in the pursuit of one’s destiny.

My first experiences with the trilogy came when I heard James’ Drawing Out the Dragons presentation at the Superstars Writing Seminar back in 2013. I then read the first book, by the same name, and enjoyed it greatly. In fact, it is one of the few books I perpetually keep in my phone. Like everyone else, sometimes I just need someone to tell me that they believe in me and inspire me to keep pushing forward. James does this, both in person and in text.

Right now, James as a few days left in the Kickstarter he is using to turn these powerful books into a beautiful hard cover set. I’m a supporter, and hope that y’all would be willing to consider taking the leap of faith needed to help him complete this awesome project. I promise, you won’t regret it!

DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS: A Meditation on Art, Destiny and the Power of Choice

“James inspires and motivates both the young and young-at-heart with personal stories that share an important belief: that you can choose to lead an extraordinary life if you will just persevere, stay focused on your goals, and believe in yourself.” —LeVar Burton educator, actor, entrepreneur. Drawing Out the Dragons has the power to uplift, inspire, and change your life, and is the first book in The Meditation s series.

THE BARBIZON DIARIES: A Meditation on Will, Purpose and the Value of Stories

“Mythologies are huge, sweeping things. And the grandest stories are those with the widest arcs of triumph and despair. As much as we may want to, we may not be able to avoid the despair – but triumph is a matter of will.” DRAWING OUT THE DRAGONS was written for everyone, but this book is an advanced course in surviving the Refiner’s fire – because some stories are too important not to share, and some stories are too meaningful to hide.

THE GRAND DESIGN: A Meditation on Creativity, Ambition, and Building a Personal Mythology

This book brings together the ideas from the previous volumes in The Meditations series (Drawing out the Dragons and The Barbizon Diaries) about all of the things I know and believe are most important in choosing to live an extraordinary life. Significance is a choice; and the extraordinary can always be chosen. That’s everything. And that’s all.

Kicking out a Kickstarter

NobleArk_Left ThumbnailKickstarter is crowd-funding, right? Not promotion. It’s more than both of those things. Let me explain.

So, you have a finished novel and you want it to see the light of day. You have some options: get an agent to love it and leave it in their hands, go directly to a publisher, or publish it yourself.  My book, Noble Ark, had gained interest from agents and then found a wonderful one. She was putting the book out to the different publishers, but I pulled the book before I’d given it enough time to sell, deciding to self-publish. I loved my agent, but she’d told me herself that she wasn’t a Young Adult agent and everything else I had written, and was writing, was YA. So I decided to seek traditional publishing for my YA material. My New Adult book, Noble Ark, I would self-publish.

This is where Kickstarter comes in. It’s crowd-funding to help make artistic projects happen while giving back to those who contribute. I particularly like this explanation from the About Kickstarter page, “Mozart, Beethoven, Whitman, Twain, and other artists funded works in similar ways — not just with help from large patrons, but by soliciting money from smaller patrons, often called subscribers. In return for their support, these subscribers might have received an early copy or special edition of the work. Kickstarter is an extension of this model, turbocharged by the web.”

Why take this route?

1) Funding: Who can afford the costs that publishing companies put out for a book? And trust me, you WANT to compete with these publishing companies. With Kickstarter, everyone comes together to supply that funding, while everyone gains something from the process. It’s a win-win.

2) Promotion: What better way to get friends, family, and fans involved with what you’re doing. They have a stake in it, because they’re making it happen. This is exciting stuff, people! And getting everyone involved is what we’re always doing as writers, and what we’re talking about for the month. This is the essence of promotion.

3) Connections: As I let people know about my project, I’m connecting with friends and fans that I’ve been too busy to stay in contact with. They have busy lives, I spend all my free time writing, and we understand how that happens, but those good intentions to talk or get together have continued to fall by the wayside. Kickstarter has given me an opportunity to reconnect. It’s also given me a topic of conversation to create new friendships. Who knew that the receptionist at my car repair shop is an artist? She asked about my weekend, I mentioned putting together a Kickstarter, and now we both have new fans. Her work is edgy and interesting and I wish I’d known about it sooner. (Find her on Instagram at: thee_empress23)

Since this is promotion month, let me make some suggestions on promoting a Kickstarter. Many of these come from Kickstarter guru, Heidi Berthiaume, who will be putting a book together–via Kickstarter, of course—on how to run and promote a Kickstarter. Her help has been invaluable. (Full Discolosure: some of these suggestions come from Kickstarter and many are my own opinion.)

  • When you get close to release, let your fans know that a Kickstarter is on the way. Take this opportunity to introduce them to the concept.
  • Don’t think you can put up a post on fb or twitter and be done. This project is professional, but also personal. Send personal notes, email or IM, to everyone who might be interested. Make sure they understand the basic points: they pay nothing unless the funding goal is reached, there are pledge amounts to fit any budget (make sure that’s true when creating pledge amounts), full funding is required in order for your project to go forward.
  • Don’t ask for help, ask for participation in your great project. Focus on rewards they earn in the process of bringing your art to life.
  • Ask for help. Contradictory, I know, but this means go to the professionals you’re friends with, who already have marketing venues: the people with blogs, podcasts, etc., and ask them for suggestions. They’re familiar with getting the word out and may be able to help you find other avenues for promotion.
  • Don’t overwhelm, but don’t neglect. You don’t want every word people hear out of your mouth, or read on fb, to be Kickstarter. Put up regular content, but don’t harp on the cause. At the same time, people need to be reminded. Add something to the Kickstarter and let people know it’s there. I’m considering lengthening my video, and/or adding some bloopers. Throw out the occasional progress report. Get a short video from your editor or artist, talking about why they’re excited about your project and post it. Remind people in interesting ways that aren’t annoying. Remember, you still want these people to be your friends, whether they participate or not.
  • As it gets close to the ending date, build momentum. This is when the posts might come a little closer together, as you encourage everyone to reach a little farther to get the goal, or to attain a stretch goal. This is where you might put in add-ons, individual rewards people can add to what they’re already getting, in order to build interest. The perfect example of this is Tracy and Laura Hickman’s Sojourner Tales Kickstarter. It finished with over 200% funding, but in the last couple of weeks they were putting in add-ons, offering video chats with the authors participating in upcoming stretch goals (like Kevin J. Anderson), and put up a you-tube game play sampler. And they made sure everyone knows they can still join in by going to their website.
  • Almost forgot this last important bit—timing. Don’t start a Kickstarter in the middle of a government shutdown. A lot of people who would have contributed, have told me they’re waiting for the shutdown to end so they have a paycheck to work with. December is also usually not a good time for a Kickstarter, as everyone is thinking about Christmas. So think about what is going on in people’s lives and time your Kickstarter better than I did.

I hope this helps some of you understand Kickstarter a little better and be prepared to make a success of it. Another suggestion the Kickstarter team makes on their website is to participate in funding a Kickstarter before you start one. I volunteer mine, because I’m nice that way.


If you want to know more about my Kickstarter process, you can go to my blog, Black Space, where that will be my focus for the month.

Jess Owen: Kickstarter – The Indie Author’s New Secret Weapon

Guest Post by Jess Owen

If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter yet, as soon as you finish this article you’re going to be inundated with emails from old friends, family members and distant colleagues asking you to support their Kickstarter campaign. Just wait.

So what is it? A streamlined, user-friendly website to facilitate an idea called crowd funding. The folks at Kickstarter believe that, “…a good idea, communicated well, can spread fast and wide,”* . . . and gain support. Monetary support. What began as a grass roots fund raising method for indie music bands has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon that gives individuals the financial power to see any creative project through to completion, and gain a tribe of new friends and fans in the process.

Artists, musicians, authors, inventors, restaurateurs, film makers, you name it, Kickstarter supports it.

All you need is one tangible project, a timeline, a bag of goodies to hand out at the end, and you are ready to dive in. Don’t forget a “can-do attitude.”

I used Kickstarter to fund the hardback printing of my debut novel, Song of the Summer King. Rather than turn to POD, I decided to research printers in order to gain a wide view of all available options to the modern self-publisher. While I waffled on how best to go about paying for and distributing my book, a friend mentioned Kickstarter.

This is how it works: an individual creates a project. This must be a tangible goal with an end date and a product (like an album, a book, an art show; no “fund my life” projects). For me, it was printing the hardback book. A traditionally published author might want to create a whole bunch of snazzy schwag for her launch event, but not have enough funds. Kickstarter can do that too. Once you create your project, you figure how much money you need, set the financial goal, give yourself a time limit within the maximum of 6o days, and launch! (For more detailed information on the mechanics, read through the Kickstarter School on their web page.)

I raised $9,000 in thirty days, with an initial goal of $6,000. Here’s how I did it.

I found my audience. It is critical that you know where to find the people who will actually want to read your book. If this is starting to sound like every other writing article on marketing, it should. If you don’t understand marketing yet, it will be difficult for you to succeed with Kickstarter or any other fund raising program. Kickstarter is basically a way for readers to pre-order your book, plus fun and prizes. So know where your peeps are, and how to get their attention. I write fantasy, and for years have also been a minor member of the fantasy art community. Still, this was a place to start. I began to draw a lot more gryfons and wolves when I knew I was going to self-publish, and with that work, I started to attract fans, fellow artists and readers with those interests.

In other words, I built a platform. Start doing that now, no matter what stage you’re in.

Next, involve your family and friends. My family and friends were my biggest supporters. I hope yours are too. If they aren’t, go to your chosen family, your good friends, your writing buddies, your neighbors, church-whoever supports you. Don’t be ashamed that you’re asking for money, either. Be proud! Be excited! You have created something, or you’re certainly about to, and the people who love you will be excited for you.

Have a plan. I had a plan to give interest a boost at the beginning of each week of my campaign. The first week was family and friends. The second week, I had artists post pieces of special promotional works centered around my book. Yes, I had to pay for them, but I was supporting other artists. Also, their work was better than a simple advertisement, because their 10,000 interested fans were suddenly looking at beautiful pieces of art about my book, with links back to Kickstarter. The next week I was in my hometown newspapers, and after that, I appealed to bloggers. It doesn’t matter what your plan involves, as long as it targets your audience base.

As far as figuring out rewards and timeline, I researched other projects. Art featured heavily in my rewards, because I’m close to the fantasy art community. I picked a cover artist who appeals to my target audience, and offered prints of her work at several reward tiers. I was also surprised that my own artwork was a relatively popular reward option.

Choose rewards that are pertinent to your story. Got a cool sci-fi novel? Get nifty badges or buttons or figure out a way to do super slick holographic bookmarks. Think of what you’d want in a grab bag from your favorite author, and offer that stuff as rewards. Study what other publishing projects are offering. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel, just figure out what’s already working.

Remember to factor the cost of rewards into your funding goal. This is a mistake I made, and I’ll admit it without shame. (The point is I’m wiser now . . .) Factor in rewards, shipping, and the percentage that Kickstarter takes out for processing credit cards. I asked for $6,000, raised $9,000, and walked away with $8,110 because of the processing fees and people whose pledges didn’t go through. I had just enough to cover my project.

Aside from all the technical information, what I will say is what I think Kickstarter, and websites like it, mean for authors-particularly, self-published authors. Many aspiring authors have sometimes said or thought, “If I could just get my work out to the people, they would love it.” Well now’s the time to saddle up. You can use Kickstarter to raise money for that professional editor, cover artist, layout and lettering designer, and any other initial costs associated with self-publishing.

We are in the Information Age. Anyone who understands how to move information and get it to the masses will succeed. Writers who can track down and target their fan base will sell books. Now, that fan base can invest even more love and support by actually helping you publish your work. The psychological power of active community support is going to be huge in the near future. Your fans are not just fans anymore. They’re investors. They’re partners. They’re going to be excited for more than just your next book, they’re going to be excited for you. And that is priceless.

Kickstarter and other websites that facilitate crowd funding are about more than just money. They’re about community. They help you find your fans, your friends, your colleagues. They help you build your tribe. The people who pledge to your project don’t just want to buy your book. They want to help worthy dreams come true and watch people succeed. And they want to be a part of it. Even if you’re an independent author, there’s no reason you have to do it alone.

To me, that’s pretty darn exciting.

Guest Writer Bio: Jess has been creating works of fantasy art and fiction for over a decade, and founded her own publishing company, Five Elements Press, to publish her own works and someday, that of others. She’s a proud member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Authors of the Flathead. She lives with her husband in the mountains of northwest Montana, which offer daily inspiration for creating worlds of wise, wild creatures, magic, and adventure. Jess can be contacted directly through her website, www.jessowen.com, or the SOTSK facebook fan page, www.facebook.com/songofthesummerking