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Aimee Cebulski: ‘Make sure your Kickstarter campaign is clear & complete’

Travel writer and photographer Aimee Cebulski has landed a deal with Wiley to write Kickstarter for Dummies.

Cebulski received a personal education on Kickstarter when she launched a campaign of her own to self-publish her book, The Finding 40 Project. We caught up with Cebulski to pick her brain for tips on how to run a successful crowdfunding project.

Check out the highlights from our interview below…

Q: How did you land the publishing deal for this book?
A: My agent, Margot Hutchison of Waterside, was representing my non-fiction book about women turning 40 around the world called The Finding 40 Project (www.finding40.net). She was shopping around a publishing deal for that book and the offers just were not very good or not there. So I decided to not wait any longer and self publish it using Kickstarter.

Through that process (one unsuccessful attempt, one successful campaign) I learned a ton about Kickstarter. Margot contacted me last year when her contacts at Wiley said they were looking for someone to write Kickstarter For Dummies. She asked me if I’d be interested in being considered; I was familiar with the Dummies series and submitted my bio and samples and we hammered out a contract a few weeks later.

Q: Describe the research process for this book.
A: I worked with the editorial team at Wiley to develop a table of contents that outlined the entire Kickstarter process from beginning to end. Most of the research process came from my own experiences with one unsuccessful and one successful campaign for The Finding 40 Project. I used my notes to develop content for each chapter, as well as interviewing other Kickstarters, reviewing industry news and trend information, delving into major Kickstarter campaigns for case studies and examining each part of the Kickstarter project Dashboard on the web site.

Q: What do you think is the best way to self-edit?
A: I know it’s different for each writer, but for me, I find it best to distance myself from the content. Since Dummies books are designed to have each chapter be fairly self-contained (in that you don’t have to read the entire book from beginning to end to get useful information), I found I wrote some chapters out of order based on things that might be topical (i.e. if there was a Kickstarter campaign running that I wanted to use as a case study, I might have written that chapter out of sequence).

For each chapter, I would put it aside for at least 72 hours and work on at least one other writing project in between, then come back to review and determine if it made sense, make edits as needed, then put it aside for another say or so before a final round of edits. Because the Dummies book need to be as user-friendly as possible for someone with limited knowledge on a subject, I tried to edit each chapter with the mantra of “does this make sense if I didn’t already know what this is?”

Q: Can you please share your top tips on on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign?
A: The number one tip I always share with Kickstarters is make sure your campaign is clear and complete as to what you are asking for! Crowdfunding is a popular concept right now but with so many campaigns competing for attention and some backers discouraged by campaigns that might have failed to deliver their product(s) in a timely manner, it’s critical to make sure you are telling your backers exactly what you are using their pledges for.

Use terms like “paying for a designer to layout my cover” instead of just “production” for example if you are releasing a book. I made that mistake the first time and you want to make sure your backers are confident that you will use their money wisely! In Kickstarter For Dummies, I outline a series of tips for creating a winning campaign video, establishing a realistic budget and promoting your Kickstarter campaign.

Q: Do you have any particular advice for writers who want to use crowdfunding resources like Kickstarter?
A: Kickstarter is great because you can “pre-sell” copies of your finished piece, whether a novel, comic series, compilation of short stories, or whatever. You can set different pledge levels to allow people to pre-order e-books, softcover or hardcover versions of your project, depending on how much they want to spend. However, it’s really important that you price out how much each finished piece will cost you before setting your backer levels. If it is going to cost you $20 each for a four-color, hardback, bound version of your book, don’t set a backer level of $15. You’ll end up spending more on production than you gained in the pre-order, and any publisher will tell you that’s not a financially winning formula!

Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m busy promoting both Kickstarter For Dummies and The Finding 40 Project, and am currently writing a semi-autobiographical account of my own quest to conquer my fear of flying and see the world in a fiction title called Cleared for Departure.

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