Marketing/self publishing with Harry Steinman

Doors & Windows 004When you first begin anything, there is cause to be frightened of the unknown. Searching out unfamiliar territory and trying to get everything you need lined out for a new book project is no exception. Usually, if a door closes a window will open. Harry Steinman is here to give you some ideas about how to bypass the window and the door and knock out a wall instead. Need funding to get that book going? Here are some ideas.

The Kindness of Strangers:

How To Fund a Self-Published Novel With Kickstarter

By Harry Steinman, a One-Hit Wonder

Like it or lump it: self-publishing costs money. Every element of your book must be excellent. You must spend your hard-earned shekels or your book will look amateurish.

Good things are rarely cheap, and cheap things are rarely good. Don’t skimp on buying the expertise you need, and don’t publish unless your writing is as good as the work of the design and production experts you hire. You’re book is up against almost 2 million eBooks and nearly 30 million hard cover and paperback books—and that’s on Amazon alone. If you’re going to go head-to-head against 32 million other works, yours has to be letter-perfect.

First, a quick review of what I spent. Some of my purchases were ill-considered—I didn’t follow my eBook-focused strategy and wasted money on printing. (I should have handed paper books to a POD printer.)

1. Structural edit: $1200
2. Line and copy editing: $740
3. ISBN #s (purchase of 10): $250
4. Bar Code (for point-of-purchase price scanning): $25
5. Design and print bookmarks: $70
6. eBook conversion: $150
7. Print ARCs: $100
8. Cover and interior design: $1500
9. Shipping: $220
10. Print 500 books: $1873

Total: $6128.

My original budget was $5000 and I set out to raise half that through a program called Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a website that helps people raise money for creative projects. Each creator—artists, writers, sculptors, inventors, filmmakers, musicians, and others—provides potential sponsors with information about his or her project, including a brief video pitch. Sponsors make pledges on the Kickstarter website. If the artist meets the funding goal on time, pledges are collected and transferred to the artist, less a 5% fee to Kickstarter. Amazon Payments charges a fee of 3 to 5% for collection and disbursement of funds. Sponsors enjoy the security of knowing that pledges aren’t collected if the funding goal isn’t met.

On July 13, 2012, I launched a $2500 Kickstarter project. During the 30-day pledge-raising period, my project that raised $3,027. Direct contributions raised an additional $1,185 for a total of $4,212. After fees, I grossed $3,909. After paying for the rewards to backers, collateral materials, and shipping, I netted about $3400—a bit more than half the cost of self-publishing Little Deadly Things.

So, how do you use Kickstarter to raise funds for your self-publishing project? Hard work plus a few basics is all you need. Here’s what I learned.

Write a damned good book and a perfect Kickstarter pitch. Twelve percent of my funding—one out of every eight dollars—came from strangers browsing Kickstarter for interesting projects. Indifferent pitches produce few pledges. Here is mine:

Aim low. Set a funding goal that you can attain or exceed. If you fall short of your goal, your project will not be funded.
End your project on the second weekend of the month. The first paycheck of the month pays the bills. The second check is more disposable. Don’t end a project at month end, when the money’s spent.

Short projects work better than long ones. Maintain a sense of urgency, and stay focused. Most successful projects are open for thirty days.

Backers help people they like. People you know won’t care about your project so much as they will care about you. They don’t have to like your book to support you. You’re looking for a pledge, not a pat on the back.

Everybody likes a hero. Nobody likes a mooch. Use social networks wisely. For months, I posted daily on Facebook about my novel’s progress. The posts were very brief, always with a photo. I worked very hard on writing short, interesting entries. People experienced my journey vicariously and, by leaving comments and “liking” my posts, followers developed the habit of being supportive. That meant that I needed to mention my Kickstarter project only three times—not enough to annoy, but enough that one-third of my pledges came through the Little Deadly Things’ Facebook page.
You must have a project video. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Check out the LDT video. It’s clearly home grown, but it worked. An extremely simple video from writer Kelly Thompson, raised over three times her $8000 goal. Check it out:

Keep your video short. 238 people clicked on my five-minute video, but only 20% watched to the end. Your video should be well under three minutes.

Communicate well. Successful projects require strategic Updates. Too few, too many, or overly long Updates can mean failure. Short sentences and paragraphs are easier to read, and photos draw the eye. Here’s an example:

Rewards rule! The perceived value of the reward should approximate the size of the pledge. Browse Kickstarter to see what other project creators offer.

Rewards, II. You must include low-dollar value rewards. Nearly one out of three of my Kickstarter backers pledged $10. Their reward was an eBook, (which carried no inventory or shipping costs).

Rewards, III. International backers prefer eBook rewards due to extra shipping costs and customs fees. If you ship print books internationally, indicate “Gift” on the customs form to avoid customs fees charged to the backer.

Rewards rule, IV. Shipping is the tail that wags the dog. I underestimated these costs. Also, I offered posters as one of the rewards. I had to purchase mailing tubes and extra postage. Wish I’d thought that through!

Do NOT kick in your own money in order to hit your goal. It may be considered money-laundering. Get caught, and your project will be taken down and the pledges cancelled.

Compliment Kickstarter with direct mail. One-third of my support came from people who do not frequent the internet. Bone up on how to write a fund-raising appeal. Ask local shopkeepers how they handle requests for donations. Six percent of my proceeds came from shops I patronize.

Support one of the nation’s premier young writers program. Read Little Deadly Things. Little Deadly Things funds a quarterly scholarship for the Grubstreet Young Adults Writers Program. You can help YAWP—and read a damned good novel—with your purchase. Buy from the LDT site, or from Amazon. Or borrow the Kindle version free, from the Amazon Prime Lending Library. (Amazon pays me a royalty for each loan. It’s a good deal!)

Kickstarter is a heckuva lot of work. But it’s worthwhile. Best of all, it will make you a better writer.

Next week: the magic and mystery of cover design and interior design. Don’t miss it!


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Every purchase supports the Young Adult Writers Program at

30 thoughts on “Marketing/self publishing with Harry Steinman”

    1. HI Kira, Thanks for saying so. I’m a firm believer that if you want to self-publish, if you have a Damned Good Book, that you can make a Kickstarter project work. Any way I can help you, just holler.


      1. Thanks Harry 🙂 I don’t think I’ll ever be brave enough to publish anything, but I’m fascinated by the whole process!!


  1. Kickstarter definitely sounds like a lot of work, but worth it. I do have one slightly off-topic question. How do you send eBooks? I’ve been told that there is a gift method through Amazon, but I can’t figure out how to do that.


    1. Hi Charles, Good question! It’s easy. First, find out what format the recipient wants. There’s MOBI for Kindle readers, and EPUB for every other eBook reader. When you have your book converted to eBook format, just keep the two versions handy. When somebody wants one, just email it to ’em.

      At least, that’s what I did.


    1. Hi Saunved,

      You’re right: it’s a lotta work.

      You know what? If I were wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, I wouild still do a Kickstarter project for the next novel. That’s because the work that goes into writing your pitch and your updates, thinking up and describing rewards and inviting people to consider your project–all that is excellent training and practice for marketing your book and honing your persuasive writing skills.

      WIthout those things, you end up with a book that gets distributed to a few friends and family, and read only by some of those folks.

      You have an interesting story going on your site and you have talent. Keep at it!


  2. Again Harry; Nice post. I actually contributed to a Kickstarter project for a WP book promotion add-in. Great concept. (I wish I had a book ready to go but at least the project got fully funded and when I’m ready it will be there.) Thanks again Ionia for hosting


  3. Hi John,
    Backing KS projects is fun, and great for impulse purchases. I’ve supported a few and really like the final product in about half of ’em.

    WHere are you in your writing/publishing process?


  4. Excellent post as always. Every time I read your posts I learn something new, which I guess is really the point. I hadn’t thought of Kickstarter for use on literary projects, but it does make sense. Thank you for sharing your wealth of knowledge with those of us that are new to the publishing / self-publishing world like me.


    1. Thanks Dom. Say, for a good time, browse the projects on KS. You’ll find some really cool stuff. I usually find a project or two to back, and more often than not, the rewards are very worthwhile.

      You’ll also get a very good feel for good promotional copy and crappy coppy. Cheers!


  5. Another great entry in the series. I had Kickstarter up on my browser the other day but was so sidetracked by other things, I never had the chance to look at it properly. Still not sure if self-publishing is the route I’ll take, but this kind of information is invaluable, regardless.


  6. Ionia, thanks for hosting Harry’s excellent posts!

    Harry, thank you for this highly informative post. It’s definitely an eye-opener for those of us still in writing mode. I’ve stored this and others of yours in Evernote for future reference.


  7. Hi Harry, Congratulations on your success. After a wise and fruitful investment in beautiful visual design for the print edition, how did you arrive at the decision to cut costs on the ebook conversion?


    1. Hi Bryce, Great question! Not so much that I cut costs on conversion, as much as I found a competent service that was moderately-priced ($150). I’m glad I spent the money on cover and interior design as most of that translated very well into eBook format, but I wish I’d gone with POD for print rather than footing the bill (almost $1900) to print 500 copies. I don’t yet have the skills to prompte both formats!

      Hope you’ll pick up a copy and tell me what you think of “Little Deadly Things.” Folks either love the ink spent building an understanding of the characters and enjoy the action, or hate the character development. Not enough explosions, I guess.


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