CIPA Author Spotlight:

Barbara Ziek Crowdfunds Her Way to Publishing Success 

By Leslie Miller

Bio Photo Barb

In anticipation of CIPA’s January meeting on Crowdfunding, we’re casting our author spotlight on Barbara Ziek, author of Zadie and Plain Vanilla, the Rainbow Alpaca. Barbara used a Kickstarter Campaign to crowdfund the money to publish this book, to great success. Let’s find out how she did it . . .

LM: Barb, why did you turn to crowdfunding to finance the printing of your first book?

BZ: My husband and I have an alpaca ranch outside of Colorado Springs. A friend and I had written and illustrated a children’s book about alpacas. Our major hurdle was financing the printing. One night, I was poking around the internet to learn more about book publishing. I clicked on a link to something called Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site. I’d never heard of Kickstarter or crowdfunding, and frankly, their claim of a risk-free method of funding creative projects sounded too good to be true. But after reading further, I decided it was worth a try.

One month later, we had the $6,000 necessary to print our book!

Take a look at Barb’s Kickstarter Page here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zadieandplainvanilla/be-a-paca-backer-were-launching-zadie-and-her-rain?ref=live

LM: For those who have no idea what we are talking about, can you give us the short version of crowdfunding? What is it?

BZ: Crowdfunding helps entrepreneurs connect directly with people who are interested in their project and willing to support them financially via a pledge. Word about the project spreads through the project originator’s social network – Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter – and through people who use Kickstarter in search of intriguing projects to back. With the click of a mouse, people who like your Kickstarter project make a pledge and become Backers. Your Backers support your project by pledging money in return for Rewards. Rewards are services or products created by each Kickstarter project’s originator.

LM: How do you create a Kickstarter campaign?

BZ: Kickstarter guides you through the process. You have to set your financial goal and deadline – they recommend thirty days. State the amount you need and exactly what you’ll use the funds for. In our case, we needed to pay for editorial and book designer services, printing, and shipping the books to us. (We didn’t figure in the amount to ship the books to our backers either, and we should have.) Your Backers’ credit cards will be charged at the end of your campaign – only if it is successful.

LM: How do you get anyone to pay attention to your crowdfunding efforts?

BZ: Your Kickstarter page is the heart of your campaign, containing all the info about your project for the public to see. Along with all the details about your book, you also have to explain the pledge levels and Rewards your Backers will receive at the end of the successful campaign. Kickstarter recommends you shoot a short video and post it on your Kickstarter page so people can actually meet you and hear you explain your project.

LM: Can you explain Rewards?

BZ: Rewards are a critical component of your campaign. They address the “what’s in it for me?” factor that’s important in getting people to pledge. When creating your Rewards, ask yourself, “Who are my Backers and why would they be interested in my project?” For our book, we focused on four target markets:

  1. Parents and grandparents with kids who would enjoy the story and the felting project in the book.
  2. Alpaca farms with farm stores, who could sell the book with their own alpaca fibers.
  3. Schools and homeschoolers who could tie the book to their curriculum and might enjoy an alpaca visit
  4. Fiber people – felters, knitters, spinners, etc., who’d like to encourage a love of fiber arts in children they know.

We targeted these groups with specific Rewards. For instance, to parents and grandparents, we offered the book and the necessary supplies to do the felting project for $25, shipping included.

LM: I’ve heard that social media is a big part of a crowdfunding campaign. How does it tie in?

BZ: Once your project is approved by Kickstarter, you use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to notify all your friends, relatives, and professional acquaintances. Encourage them to spread the word to all their contacts as well. You need to set up a business page on Facebook and link it to your Kickstarter page. Your Facebook page should be up and running the minute your project goes live on Kickstarter.

LM: How important is it to have your social media in place before you start the campaign?

BZ: The more active you are on social media, the better. But on my personal Facebook page, I had only around 90 friends. The FB business page for the book itself started from nothing. I kept trying to add people over that month, trying to get Alpaca people to the page.

LM: In hindsight, what might you have done differently?

BZ: I think I would have changed the Reward structure, so that we got to keep more of the money. And I didn’t use Pinterest, but that’s a good choice if you have an interesting cover or photos in your book. It could have also been great for us, considering how photogenic alpacas are.

LM: Any other tips?

BZ: I’ve got loads of tips . . .

  1. The Kickstarter site is filled with great information about what others have done. Read through it before creating your campaign.
  2. Once your successful campaign is completed, you are responsible for sending the Rewards to your Backers. Be sure to include shipping time and shipping costs in your campaign plan. I spent three weeks packaging and shipping 242 books! (Consider the cost of international shipping as well, because Kickstarter is a worldwide site.)
  3. Create a website for your book and announce it on your Kickstarter page and on your project’s Facebook page. Have it ready to go as soon as your Kickstarter campaign ends.
  4. Be sure to take fees into consideration as your create your Rewards: Kickstarter takes 5% and Amazon charges 3%-5% fee for processing the credit cards used by your Backers.

LM: Barb, aside from publishing your book with no debt, what were some of the other benefits of crowdfunding?

BZ: We made many new friends and business connections. The 242 books we sold through our month long Kickstarter campaign wound up in the hands of Backers in 28 states, Canada and Switzerland – within three weeks of the book’s publication!

  • We have repeat wholesale customers, including an alpaca rancher in Maine who has reordered multiple copies of the book numerous times.
  • Backers from all over are now interested in our next book.
  • People are ordering books from our website after seeing a Backer’s copy.
  • We get fan mail from kids who love the book!

It was hard work – but it paid off for us in a big way.

*****

We hope to see you at our January 2014 meeting on Crowdfunding. Barb Ziek will be on hand to lead a round table and lend us all the benefit of her experience!

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