A guest post by Kathy Strahs
Over the past 18 months, both first-time and established authors learned to crowdfund a cookbook on Kickstarter, and raised good money. Here’s a sample:
- Leanne Brown, Good and Cheap: $144,681
- Hank Shaw, Buck, Buck, Moose: $93,763
- Emily Kaiser Thelin and Andrea Nguyen: UNFORGETTABLE: $91,465
- Anna Watson Carl, The Yellow Table Cookbook: $65,815
- Leslie Jonath and 18 Reasons, Feed Your People: $40,805
Mine was one. After writing The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook with a traditional publisher in 2013, I published The 8×8 Cookbook this past fall by establishing a publishing company, Burnt Cheese Press, and crowdfunding my cookbook on Kickstarter. I raised $21,388 from more than 400 amazing backers and came close to breaking even in my first month.
Here are my tips to crowdfund a cookbook successfully:
1. Get to know your fellow crowdfunders.
My best education on crowdfunded cookbooks came through conversations with friends who had run successful campaigns. They advised me on what worked for them (such as aiming for a strong first day) and the challenges they faced (media coverage can be hard). I even made new friends in this process—it turns out that running a crowdfunding campaign is a bonding experience.
2. Be realistic about costs.
Plan on significant upfront costs if you want a cookbook with full color photos. My costs were around $25,000 to $27,000. When determining how much money to raise, consider these factors in producing a book:
- Editing (a must)
- Photography (if you’re not doing it yourself)
- ISBN, barcode and copyright fees.
Don’t forget the costs of running the crowdfunding campaign:
- PR (if you choose to hire someone)
- Graphics (if you’re not doing it yourself)
- Kickstarter fees
- Shipping supplies
- Postage and other fulfillment fees.
3. Rally your backers.
I read somewhere that if you feel like you’re mentioning your campaign too often, you’re probably just starting to talk about it enough. That was out of my comfort zone, so I had to learn not to be shy.
The vast majority of pledges, at least initially, will come from people with a direct (or one degree removed) connection to you. Backers become your best evangelists, so be sure to equip them with links, hashtags, and business cards. I was blown away by how many people wanted to help.
4. Get the word out through social media.
Facebook was a big source of pledges for my campaign. Every time I posted an update, either on my personal page or on the Burnt Cheese Press business page, I saw an uptick in pledges. I guided my Kickstarter backers to “tell people why you’re proud to back the project,” to make their social shares more impactful, rather than just forwarding a link without context. I created a custom short URL for the campaign through bit.ly that was easy to remember so I could quickly provide it to anyone as needed.
5. Structure your rewards to match your audience.
Backers receive rewards in exchange for their support. By far the most popular reward was a copy of The 8×8 Cookbook itself. Given that my campaign was running just ahead of the holidays, I gave people the option to buy multiple or signed copies for gifts. Close friends and family may be willing to support you at a higher level, irrespective of the underlying rewards, so give them the chance to do so. I created a $500 Founder’s Table for them.
6. Take time with your project page.
Budget plenty of time to craft your project page. It’s not something to slap together at the end. Here’s where to communicate not only the details of your project, but your passion for it as its creator. Show as well as tell by using lots of graphics (enticing food photos as well as informational charts) to help bring the project to life. I’ve extended the life of my Kickstarter video by cutting a new version to use on 8x8cookbook.com, GoodReads and elsewhere to promote the book.
7. Take charge of mailings.
I used a website called BackerKit to streamline the collection of mailing addresses, sell additional books and process shipping. Rigid cardboard wraparound boxes protected the corners of my paperbacks, and expanded to accommodate multiple books or t-shirts. I got a label printer, a digital postal scale, a bunch of rolls of packing tape and ordered stickers with my Burnt Cheese Press logo from VistaPrint to adorn the boxes. Inside the package, I included a one-sheet insert that thanked my backers and encouraged them to leave reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, join my mailing list and stay connected through social media.
Running a Kickstarter was grueling at times, but well worth it. On my official publication date, close to 700 copies of The 8×8 Cookbook were already in the hands of supporters and I neared break even on my costs. (I had printed 1000 copies through IngramSpark.) I will definitely consider crowdfunding for my next project.
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Kathy Strahs is the author of The 8×8 Cookbook and The Ultimate Panini Press Cookbook, the voice behind the blogs PaniniHappy.com and CookingOntheSide.com, and the founder of Burnt Cheese Press. She lives with her husband and their two children in the Silicon Valley.