Last week, I launched my Kickstarter campaign to raise the money I’ll need to print my collection of short stories The Prescribed Burn. In the process of preparing and launching my campaign and also by backing other projects (mostly writers), I learned that Kickstarter can benefit writers in more than just the most obvious way, which is to help them raise money for their creative projects.
Both navigating and using the crowdfunding platform can be a great writing exercise in itself. Here are five unusual lessons that writers can learn from Kickstarter:
1. Most writers aren’t also filmmakers, but storytelling is storytelling. Making the pitch video for my Kickstarter project was probably the most difficult part of preparing the campaign. I have very little experience with film making and felt uncomfortable working with the medium. I completed at least two dozen takes and tried filming in at least three different settings. In the end, I finally decided that “fancy” doesn’t necessarily make for the best pitch video, and the same is true with writing. Good stories aren’t necessarily full of elaborate images and five-dollar words. A good story has a beginning, middle, and end, and it maintains the reader’s interest in whatever way it can.
2. Talk about your project in a way that non-writers will understand. I noticed that many writers on Kickstarter provide updates about the technical aspects of their books, but they seem to forget that the people backing the projects (their fans and future book purchasers) probably don’t care about the technical stuff like editing, printing, and layout. The fans and future readers just want the book in their hands to enjoy. The last thing on their minds is how the book came together.
3. Get used to the hustle. When I was younger, I thought that published writers had it made. A publishing company waved its magical wand over the head of a talented writer, and that writer would forever be blessed. Eventually, I shook myself out of that daydream and realized that even writers picked up by some of the bigger publishing companies have to be their own hustlers or risk being dropped by the publisher when book sales don’t satisfy projected six-month goals. Kickstarter is the best way to test your confidence and your hustling skills because you’ll need them whether you self publish or publish with a larger publishing company.
4. Don’t be a stereotype. Who do you imagine when you imagine a successful or even an amateur writer? Someone wearing a beret and smoking a cigarette? Someone like Hank Moody in “Californication“? The Kickstarter projects that have most impressed me include pitch videos with the writers in front of the camera, being themselves. They have vibrant, charismatic personalities. They break any and all stereotypes that we might associate with writers. They are quirky and memorable. You have to be the face behind your book.
5. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine. If you expect people to support and read your book, you should probably support and read other people’s books too. You don’t necessarily have to love the work you support, though it helps if you do (and your endorsement will come across as more genuine). Above all, you should appreciate all creative endeavors. As a writer, you should know how difficult it can be to follow your dream and you should honor and respect the efforts of others.
Have you ever been a Kickstarter project creator, or have you backed projects on Kickstarter? What lessons have you learned?