Kickstarter: A Great Resource for Authors. Teralyn Rose Pilgrim talks about her experience

Teralyn Rose Pilgrim

How Kickstarter Works is a website where people ask for money to fund a project and offer each backer a reward for their help. It’s for artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, and – in my case – authors. They can raise money for anything, such as videos, albums, art collections, gadgets, board games, and of course, books.

Kickstarter is especially helpful for people who need an impossible sum to get started. Coolest Cooler is a perfect example; they wanted to invent a cooler “for the 21st century,” with a battery-operated blender, Bluetooth speaker, USB charger, LED lid light, and so forth. It costs thousands of dollars to create the mold needed to mass produce it, but once the mold is done, it cost very little to make each individual cooler.

The majority of Kickstarter projects are unsuccessful, either because the creator didn’t represent the project well, people aren’t interested in the project, or the creator didn’t do any advertising outside of Kickstarter. Only 42% of projects reach their goal. If they fall short of their goal, they get nothing. Coolest Cooler, however, asked for $50,000… and raised over $9 million.

Why People Donate

Some of the people who donate to Kickstarter are charitable. It’s exciting for backers to contribute to a project that speaks to them. Mostly, though, Kickstarter is for shoppers. People go on the site to find products they want to buy that can’t be bought anywhere else.

Take Pebble Watches, for instance: a true Cinderella story if ever there was one. Pebble is a customizable watch that works much like a smart phone. They asked for $100,000 – a considerable sum – but so many people wanted the watches they offered as rewards that they earned over 10 million dollars.

kickstartAuthors aren’t likely to earn millions (most only ask for a few thousand), but they can still make a huge profit. One of the highest earning books – To Be or Not to Be: That is the Adventure – raised $580,905.

How Kickstarter Helps Authors

cover, finishedKickstarter is an excellent option for self-publishing. Many writers go on the site having already finished a book, but they need the funds to turn the text into a finished product.

Occasionally, someone will start a campaign for a book they want to publish traditionally but can’t finish without funding. Jedidiah Jenkins started a project called Oregon to Patagonia, which is based on his experiences riding his bicycle across the country. Jenkins planned on publishing traditionally, but he ran out of the money he needed to make such a journey and went to Kickstarter for help. He asked for $8,000. He earned $42,825.

Campaigns are good for a lot more than just raising money. It also gets the word out about your book. Backers expect to be updated on your progress so they know their money is being put to good use. Everyone who contributes to my campaign, even if it’s just $1, will get put on my newsletter, which will tell them when the book comes out and when they can buy it. It’s good for them, and even better for me.

Why I Started My Own Campaign

I’m working on a novel about Marie Laveau, the famous voodoo queen of New Orleans. As any writer of historical fiction can tell you, research can be expensive, and my lack of funds has been holding me back. The donations will pay for trips to New Orleans so I can do interviews, attend ceremonies, visit museums, go on tours, and view archives. It’ll also buy the dozens of research books I need.

Starting my campaign has been a lot of work. I made a video explaining what my project is, I created a book cover to catch people’s eye, and I advertised the campaign in every way I could. It took a while to come up with good rewards, but these are what I settled on:

– A copy of the book once it’s published
– A t-shirt, mug, tote bag, or poster with the book cover on it
– A signed post card
– A voodoo doll, potion, or gris-gris bag blessed by a New Orleans priestess
– One-hour interview with yours truly through Skype
– A short-story, chapter, or query critique
– A tour through New Orleans guided by me

If the campaign is successful, I have a lot more work ahead of me. I have to organize the backers and their rewards, and then comes the ultimate challenge: finishing the book. But I have the feeling it will all be worth it in the end.

About the author: Teralyn Rose Pilgrim is an aspiring author working on VOODOO QUEEN: a novel of Marie Laveau. She is the mother of a one-year-old girl, wife to an engineer, and owner of a red-border collie named Cookie. She blogs at Behind the Red Door:

To view her Kickstarter campaign, go to



In This Section

About our Articles

Our features are original articles from our print magazines (these will say where they were originally published) or original articles commissioned for this site. If you would like to contribute an article for the magazine and/or site, please contact us. While our articles are usually written by members, this is not obligatory. No features are paid for.