How To Be Successful On Kickstarter With Paddy Finn

What are the benefits — and the challenges — of crowdfunding on Kickstarter? How can you fund successfully, as well as make a profit with your campaign? Paddy Finn gives his tips.

In the intro, you can find more selling direct resources here; Streaming due for a streamlining [FT]; Authors Guild explores AI licensing deal [Hollywood Reporter]; Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI on Bill Gates’ podcast, Unconfuse Me; AI audio company ElevenLabs in funding deal [TechCrunch]. Plus, follow my book research trip for Spear of Destiny on Instagram @jfpennauthor or Facebook @jfpennauthor.

This podcast is sponsored by Kobo Writing Life, which helps authors self-publish and reach readers in global markets through the Kobo eco-system. You can also subscribe to the Kobo Writing Life podcast for interviews with successful indie authors. 

Paddy Finn is the author of science fiction and fantasy novels, the CEO of Penny Dragon Games and Starcane Press, and is a Kickstarter expert.

You can listen above or on your favorite podcast app or read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and the full transcript is below. 

Show Notes

  • Harnessing the popularity of Dungeons and Dragons on Kickstarter
  • Offering physical objects to accompany your book campaign
  • Why are direct sales and Kickstarter taking off now?
  • The importance of audience ownership
  • Pre-launching your Kickstarter campaign
  • Costing out your campaign to make it profitable
  • Shipping tips, tools, and manufacturing recommendations
  • How to plan a six-figure campaign

You can find Paddy at, and his course at

Transcript of Interview with Paddy Finn

Joanna: Paddy Finn is the author of science fiction and fantasy novels, the CEO of Penny Dragon Games and Starcane Press, and is a Kickstarter expert. So welcome to the show, Paddy.

Paddy: It’s awesome to be here, Jo. Thanks for having me.

Joanna: I’m so excited to talk to you about Kickstarter. But before we get into that−

Tell us a bit more about you, your writing and publishing background, and how the hell you manage your time!

Because you have so many companies doing a lot of products.

Paddy: First of all, I don’t know how I manage my time. It’s a strange one because I started writing fantasy and science fiction novels back in like 2015/2016. Like lots of authors, I’ve been writing ever since I was a kid and could pick up a pen or a pencil.

I started to hear about this self-publishing thing, and I may have started listening to The Creative Penn podcast and a few other podcasts around that time as well. So that kind of gave me some impetus to take this thing seriously. Then I went to a few conferences, and they really encouraged me. Come 2018, I went full time as an indie author and did very well for a few years.

Then I saw another opportunity in a slightly, let’s call it an adjacent market, I guess, where Kickstarter was doing very well for some people who were creating content for Dungeons and Dragons. I’d been playing Dungeons and Dragons for like seven or eight years at that stage.

I figured, hey, I like this thing. It’s writing plus a little bit of game design. It’s similar, but also different, and it’s a new challenge, so let’s give that a try. It exploded as soon as we tried it, really. So that was kind of an indicator that, hey, we should keep doing this thing because it’s working. So we kept doing that thing.

Joanna: So Starcane Press is your publishing house?

Paddy: That’s correct. So Starcane Press is kind of like a combination of star and arcane because we like to work on science fiction and fantasy. To be honest, when we started with the whole Kickstarter thing and the new industry, really, it took us away from novel publishing.

Only in the last kind of 6 – 12 months have we started to circle back to that. It’s been a bit slow going, but 2024 is going to be a year where we will really focus again on novels. So we’re looking forward to that.

Joanna: So for someone like me who, I mean, obviously, I’ve heard of Dungeons and Dragons, but I don’t really understand what kind of products you’re creating. So tell us like, what are the products you have been doing for the games?

What is the thing you’re actually selling with the D&D games?

Paddy: It’s primarily books. Hardcover books, but also PDFs. We’ve been leaning very heavily on digital content, specifically PDFs in the past 6 – 12 months. However, the industry does love a hardcover book. The great thing about those two things is that, generally, they’re a much higher ticket item than a novel.

So a hardcover game book could be anywhere from $40 to $60. If it’s a special edition, or like a premium cover, it could be over $100 per copy. Then your PDFs, they can be anywhere from $5 to $35 to $40, just depending on what’s in there, how big it is, and whatever the content is. But essentially, it’s just a book.

Dungeons and Dragons, when I describe it to people, it’s like writing, only you’re doing it with four or five other people. One person at the table is the narrator, and they control all the minor characters and the antagonist. Then the other people at the table are players, and they control the main characters or the protagonists.

So together, you just sit there, and through your imagination you tell a joint story and create this awesome thing. It’s an experience, and it’s a creative outlet for a lot of people who don’t really get a creative outlet these days. So I think it’s appealing to a lot more people.

Joanna: Yes, and again, I’m just fascinated−before we get into Kickstarter−because this is about products as well, and, as you said, higher ticket items. So are you writing the game for the narrator person to use as an outline for the game?

Paddy: Exactly. So it depends. One of the Kickstarters we launched last year that did very well was like a Celtic setting book, which is just a world building book that says, hey, here is a Celtic-flavored world. Here are a bunch of clowns. We kind of drew on the inspiration of Irish, Scottish, Manx, and it’s got a little bit of Cornwell kind of mythology.

We kind of said, well, if you want to run a game like that in that kind of world, here are a bunch of locations and items and monsters, and just lots of different things that you would encounter in those folktales. They’re in this book, and you can lift this book up, and you can now tell a story or run an adventure in this world because you have all the stuff there.

Joanna: That actually sounds really fun. I never did gaming. My brother did gaming, and still games. I often feel a little bit kind of jealous that I missed out on this stuff. I know you can start anytime, and I should probably get into it now.

It’s so interesting hearing about it in terms of the world building because, I mean, that is what we do as fiction authors. We create these worlds and have adventures in it. You also mentioned, I guess as part of the world building−

Do you offer physical items to go with the books?

Cards or little figures? Or are there other things you offer with them?

Paddy: Oh, we do. To be honest with you, it’s not necessary, but I tend to get a little carried away with shiny new things. I guess a lot of authors have Magpie syndrome, and I am foremost among them.

Yes, so we would have the book, and the core offering is the book in PDF form or hardcover. Usually, we’ll also offer like an alt cover of the standard version, which is just a standard book with a different cover on it, essentially. That might be like a limited edition, so it’s a bit more. Then a premium cover, which might be like leather bound, or leatherette.

On top of that, we might do dice, dice trays, dice vaults, miniatures, maps, posters, card decks with monsters or spells or magic items on them. Really, it’s whatever your imagination can come up with and whatever people want to invest in.

So we’ve experimented with a lot of things. We’ve seen other people in the market do certain things that worked well, and we’ve gone, hey, let’s try that. Also, we’ve tried our own things.

Like the Celtic campaign, the Celtic-inspired one that we launched last year that I referenced before, that was the first time−oh no it wasn’t, it was a second time−we tried making a plushie. We made a little leprechaun plushy and a little pooka plushie. A pooka is just like a little gremlin type creature. That was a lot of fun.

It’s amazing when you go to a manufacturer, and you have to learn how to design the drawings for these things and who to work with. It’s similar to doing a novel, in that you work with an artist, you work with different people to help you in different stages of creating your product.

Then you work with a bunch of people, it goes through this process, and then you end up with a leprechaun plushie in your hand, and you’re like, “Wow, how did that happen?”

Joanna: We should say to people, you are Northern Irish, right?

Paddy: I am.

Joanna: You’re allowed to do this. It’s not cultural appropriation.

Paddy: Actually, we were running some ads, and we got in lot of trouble with some of those ads.

Joanna: Yes, I imagine. I’m thinking of all those Irish people who were very annoyed!

Paddy: There were a lot of people that were annoyed. A lot of people who weren’t Irish as well, and they were like, this is racist, et cetera, et cetera. I’m like, I’m Irish. I’m like one of the most Irish people you know. I speak the language, I play the music, I live in the country. Cut me some slack, please!

Joanna: I just wanted to point that out, and also for your accent, if people were wondering. So we’re going circle back to the merchandise because I’m so interested in that.

Just in terms of what is happening in the author ecosystem, because obviously, there’s people like you, Russell Nohelty, and people who’ve been doing Kickstarters for years. Then, I don’t know, maybe it was Brandon Sanderson who started it going really mainstream. But in the indie author community, what have you seen like in the last year?

Why do you think Kickstarter and direct sales is really taking off?

Paddy: I think it’s a combination of things. So I think it’s to do with the industry lifecycle, partially.

So indie publishing, I guess you could say it really had its heyday or its golden age, i the kind of early to mid-teens. I mean, that’s not to say that you can’t be incredibly successful now doing that, because a lot of people are doing exactly just that, but there are a lot more people.

The tools that exist today that make it very accessible, did not exist back then. So there weren’t as many people doing it. So that creates a lot of competition.

Whereas, I don’t encourage that anyone ever shy away from competition because, for me, competition is just an opportunity, it does make it a bit more difficult if you are coming out at like brand new.

Also, I think because the industry has changed in terms of, for example, the big player in the room is Amazon, and they aren’t always the easiest to work with. They demand a lot, in terms of if you want to have access to their audience, they want you to be exclusive on KU or whatever.

I think we’ve seen a lot of people move wide over the years and that’s just increased and increased as —

People want more autonomy and control over their intellectual property, and over their income.

If you do direct sales, then yes, there’s an upfront cost involved, there’s more admin, etc., but you don’t have to pay a royalty to Amazon. You get the royalty. Obviously, there are some sales fees and whatnot, depending on your platform, but there’s a lot more control.

If you’re an indie, I mean, you’re independent. So you have to ask yourself, well, am I independent? Or am I an Amazon publisher? Because those aren’t necessarily the same thing. I make trouble with a lot of indie people for saying that, but, you know.

Joanna: Not on this show!

I’ve always been super wide. I think you’re right about the maturity of the retailer-centric indie author model. That’s the only way I’d rephrase it, that sort of focus on a few retailers is what’s changing. Being an independent author is now a much bigger and more creative prospect.

That’s, I think, why I’m so attracted to the Kickstarter and direct sales model, is now there’s all these things we can do. Like you said, the tools have expanded it.

It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. You mentioned some costs and admin involved, so let’s just be clear about this. When you’re using the retailers, you do pay a certain amount of money in terms of when you sell a book, they take a percentage, and you might have to pay for ads and all of this.

There are benefits. You don’t have to deal with a lot of customer support and all of that. So what are the main differences?

What do people underestimate if they decide to go the Kickstarter and direct sales route?

Paddy: It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, this one, but you kind of touched on it with the customer support side of things.

So if you’re using a huge retailer, generally you don’t have access to customer data, or your customers at all, really. That’s kind of hidden behind their system. Like you said, a benefit of that is you don’t have to deal with the customers.

The flipside of that is you can’t contact the customers, tell them about this awesome thing you’re working on. It’s very difficult to promote your stuff because you don’t know. If I launch something is Amazon going to share it? How does the Amazon algorithm work? There’s a lot of guesswork involved.

Whereas when it comes to direct sales, or Kickstarter, or anything of that nature, you do have a lot more visibility on your customer base. That’s one of the things I keep telling people about Kickstarter.

I’m not affiliated with Kickstarter, by the way, in any official capacity or anything. They don’t pay me to talk about Kickstarter or anything like that, but the platform has so many things going for it, such as that visibility. To me, that is−

One of the key benefits of Kickstarter is you can contact all of your customers.

Or fans or backers or whatever you want to call them. That audience ownership is extremely important, especially in today’s world.

You know, people think they have a following on YouTube or Amazon or TikTok, whatever it is these days, that that’s their audience, but it’s not their audience. That audience belongs to that platform.

If that platform does that at the change something, your business could change drastically overnight because it could limit your reach or it could do something that negatively impacts your business.

So the great thing about Kickstarter is you have everyone’s email addresses. If you’re sending them stuff or delivering stuff, you have their physical addresses. You may have their contact number.

So if Kickstarter was to change something one day that could maybe impact your business, well, you already have all the information you need to still contact those people. So audience ownership for Kickstarter is a huge plus. I would even say it’s maybe the biggest plus.

That does come with a number of challenges, and that is you have to build that audience yourself. There is a little bit of organic reach on Kickstarter, and there are ways to leverage that, but it might not be the same as bigger platforms.

In terms of like Amazon, if you’ve built up a following on there for the last 5 – 10 years, and then you launch your book, the hope would be that Amazon is going to promote that new book to the people who have purchased your previous books. That still happens, so there’s a benefit to that.

When it comes to Kickstarter, in a lot of ways you’re starting from scratch. I guess nothing worth doing is ever easy.

Joanna: Also, nothing lasts forever.

The maturity of the industry that I started self-publishing in 2008, and then 2009 was really when Kindle really started taking off. I mean, that’s the other thing, we all have to start again.

I feel like I’m starting again on Kickstarter and Shopify and all of this, but that to me is the next 15 years. So I don’t want people to think oh, well, starting again as a bad thing.

Starting again can be a really good thing.

Paddy: It’s like, they talk about survival of the fittest and whatnot, and they say that it wasn’t the survival of the fittest, it was the survival of the most adaptable. That’s the same for us.

If you’re operating in an industry, and there are a lot of changes in that industry, well, if you adopt, you’re going to be okay. That just does mean sometimes starting from scratch, and that’s okay.

Joanna: I like that, the ‘survival of the most adaptable.’ That’s definitely where we want to be. I mean, I’m like, okay, how am I going to look after my career for the next 15 years, and this is the way I see it.

So let’s get into a bit more detail. So you do have a great course, which we’re going to talk about later.

But one of the things that I think is interesting, so people think, oh, Kickstarter, it’s like a magic bullet, I’ll just put up a thing, it’ll work, and it’ll be amazing. A lot of Kickstarter campaigns do fail to fund.

What are the most common mistakes and the things that authors, in particular, get wrong with Kickstarter?

Which means their campaigns don’t fund.

Paddy: The biggest mistake that most people, including authors, and even some very successful people on Kickstarter, they don’t take advantage of something that is readily available to everyone, and that is the pre-launch phase of a Kickstarter campaign.

So anyone who isn’t familiar with it, when you launch a Kickstarter, it goes live and you start promoting it when it launches. You tell a bunch of people to go to your Kickstarter, and you hope they support you.

However, there is a really powerful tool that’s called your pre-launch page, which you can set up three months, six months ahead of time, and kind of start building up a little bit of interest in that campaign in the months before it launches. So you have this chance to kickstart your Kickstarter, if you want to say, or give yourself this boost.

I see a lot of people maybe just doing it for a few days or a week, or just they don’t do it at all. I’m like, you’re missing out on one of the biggest opportunities to promote your campaign. One of the things I say to people is, your second most important day on your Kickstarter campaign is the day you launch, and the most important day is every day before that.

You can’t just launch a Kickstarter and do a bunch of stuff on the first day and expect it to succeed. You have to lay a lot of groundwork in the lead-up to the campaign.

So it could be six weeks before or three months before. I think three months is a really good lead time. Six weeks, you can still accomplish an awful luck there.

Essentially, all that happens is in a pre-launch page, it’s just an image and a button, and people can come along and follow. Oh, and a title. So they can tell what it is, really.

If they are interested, they follow it. That means on the day of launch, they receive a notification from Kickstarter saying, “Hey, this thing that you followed, it has launched now. Go check it out.” That can be incredibly powerful.

For us, it’s the difference between a five-figure campaign and a six-figure campaign.

Joanna: Which brings me on to a personal question, because I totally get this. I learned from Russell and Monica Leonelle, and they said to do this.

So I’ve done two campaigns as we record this, both of which I had a long pre-launch, both of which funded within a few minutes because all those people, as you said, went and bought immediately. Thank you to all backers listening.

I just tried to set up my new campaign for a novel called Spear of Destiny. I tried to set it up, I clicked the button, and they said we can’t let you put this pre-launch live.

Their email said, “In our review of your previous projects, we found that backers are still awaiting their rewards.”

I was like, what? I mean, because I have fulfilled 99.9% of everything. So I was like, what is the problem here? So what can you tell me? What is the problem?

Paddy: So there are a few issues here. So first of all, if you’ve only run like a few Kickstarters, they are a little more cautious.

Once you’ve run like four or five, it’s a bit more flexible. They can see, hey, you’ve got a solid track record, so we don’t really have a whole lot to worry about here.

The only thing is sometimes it’s just automated. So it may even say that, but it could be that an automation tool went and did it.

Joanna: Oh, no, I went back and forth.

Paddy: Okay, so you’ve gone back a few times to them and they’ve still said that?

Joanna: Yes. Okay, so what I thought was potentially the problem is that I do have some consulting sessions outstanding on my November Kickstarter, but they have a year to take those and there’s only like eight people left out of over a thousand backers. So I thought, well, that seems odd.

Then I was wondering, there’s this box. So when you log in to Kickstarter, you can go to the pages you manage, and there’s a box that says, “I’ve received my stuff.” I was thinking, well, maybe my backers just haven’t clicked that box. Could that be it?

Paddy: I don’t think so because I don’t know anyone who ticks that box!

Joanna: I was like, do we need to tell everyone to tick that box?!

Paddy: Like our backers never tick those boxes. So I think it could be maybe you’re in contact with someone who’s a little overzealous as well. To be honest with you, this is not unusual, by the way. It’s fairly normal.

You know, I say it gets easier when you’ve run a handful of campaigns. I mean, I’ve run over 20, and I still will get someone coming back to me and saying, hey, you know, et cetera, et cetera, same things. It’s some kind of an objection, and it could be that I need to negotiate with them over three or four messages before they eventually go, okay, right, we can see you’ve got most of it done.

Generally speaking, I haven’t had any major trouble if I have fulfilled the core of my offering. So for example, if it was like, here’s a book, and everyone’s going to get a book.

Joanna: The thing I wondered was, I was pretty hardcore with this fulfillment. You know, I finished the book, and I actually ordered the printing of the books before receiving the money so I was able to sign them and send them out. So I was thinking that maybe they just think I was too quick?

Paddy: I think probably, because when I got that book, I was like, whoa, I wasn’t expecting it so soon!

Joanna: And you were a late one, because I couldn’t get your address.

Paddy: I was, but even then I couldn’t believe. So maybe you’ve just like over-delivered. They’re like, this person is joking, this can’t be real!

Joanna: Yes, they must be lying!

Of course, a lot of people get the money and then they spend a year like doing the project or whatever. So I think what I’m planning on doing−and just to encourage people listening, there are people on the other end of the Kickstarter and all of that−I guess what I’m planning to do is just go back in at the end of the month and try again.

Paddy: I think you just need to send them a message as soon as they respond to you and just explain.

Another way to do this is, and I don’t know which way you are planning on fulfilling the consultation, but you could send a coupon or an email and say, “Here is the confirmation that you’re getting this consultation.” Then you just send them an email and say you’ve sent them the coupon or the confirmation email for the consultation, so now that has been fulfilled.

Joanna: Oh, that is a very good tip. So for people who haven’t done one, you have to say whether you’ve shipped things, and so I was like, okay, I get that, but these are unfulfilled. So that’s a great tip. I’m going to do that.

Okay, so coming back into the campaigns themselves, some Kickstarter campaigns do fund, but the author, I’ve heard−I mean, I made a good profit−but some authors end up breaking even or sometimes they’re even out of pocket. I’ve heard of people who’ve actually lost money on campaigns. So how do people cost this out?

How do people make sure a campaign is profitable?

Paddy: It can be a bit of trial and error, especially because this industry, especially from the literature and publishing side of things, is still fairly new. I mean, we have a lot more information now than we did four or five years ago when I started to experiment with it. So it can be a tricky one when it comes to costing.

What you generally do is go through a very basic kind of calculation where you’re like, okay, so what is my average pledge going to be? The way you do that is you take your cheapest pledge and your highest pledge, and you kind of meet somewhere in the middle.

Then you go, okay, so if I get X number of backers, and they pledge an average of whatever that is, let’s say it’s $10, and I want to make whatever, then you can do that calculation. Then you can go, okay, well, I know then that I’m going to get roughly a ballpark figure of this number. Then you need to make sure that you break down your fulfillment and that it fits within that number, essentially.

One of the things I try to communicate to people is that only breaking even, or even your campaign costing a little money, you should kind of expect those things, especially with your first campaign, and maybe even your second one. Your third one is probably when things are going to kick off or click.

When have you done one of anything and it’s been profitable, right? Like the first novel you launched−if you’d launched it at the right time, and things were pretty good back in the heyday of Amazon, then that could have done pretty well−but generally speaking, when you launch your first novel, you need a few novels.

That’s because, number one, you’re not very good at writing if you’ve only written one novel. Or you can be very good, but you can do a whole lot better because you need practice. Then once you’ve written a bunch of novels, they sell better because they’re better written, and you have a lot more wisdom and experience.

It’s very similar with Kickstarter. You know —

The first one you launch, you’re going to learn a lot of stuff.

So there’s a lot of value in what you learn, it’s not just what did you get in terms of your funding.

Also, which something people overlook, is you got a couple of backers on there. Well, not a couple, but hopefully more than a couple, but you’ve got a bunch of backers. That’s, again, the audience, something a lot of people overlook.

For me, that is the primary benefit of Kickstarter is you’re building another audience. Some of that audience will follow you on to the next Kickstarter, and the next one, and the next one. So it just keeps building.

My approach is your first Kickstarter, if you’ve not run one before, you should look at that as an opportunity to learn.

Make sure it’s very small, it’s digital only, it’s short, maybe five to ten days, and you can fulfill it very quickly.

And the only reason you’re running that Kickstarter is to learn and to get your name out there a little bit and just grow comfortable with the platform and the environment.

Then the next one, you can build on that. You can increase your expectations and act accordingly. I don’t know if that’s helpful at all.

Joanna: I think that’s helpful. I think I obviously went overboard because I do have quite a decent sized audience already. For my Pilgrimage campaign, I did only have a target of something like, it might have even been 2000 pounds or something because I really didn’t know what would happen with that book. It was really a test, and I learned a lot.

Like you said, I buy a lot on Kickstarter, short story sort of collection eBooks. So a lot of my campaign pledges are like $5. That’s a lot of what I fund on Kickstarter. These are people who put up short story anthologies, maybe they make a couple of $100 or $1,000, or like you said, it’s small, digital, easy to fulfill.

Then I guess on the physical items−

The big thing for me was costing out the international shipping.

I mean, that can really kill you, right?

Paddy: Yes, shipping is a really tricky one. So what I would recommend with shipping is to try to use something like BackerKit, so that you collect shipping after the Kickstarter campaign and do not collect that as part of the campaign.

Now, there are pros and cons to both of those things. It can be tricky.

So one of the biggest problems you can run into with shipping is that you charge X number of dollars for a, let’s say, hardcover book to be shipped from the US to the UK, or vice versa. Then something like COVID happens, and shipping goes through the roof, and you were only going to ship these things six months after your campaign launched.

Now, you’re okay because you shipped your stuff right after your campaign finished. That was like, wow, okay. But most of the time, these things take time.

Sometimes there can be delays and things in life happen, and sometimes you can take a bit longer to fulfill your campaign. That’s okay, as long as you’re open and you communicate with your backers.

This happened to us, actually. So our first campaign, I think it funded at about $4,000, and it cost us $5,000 to fulfill. That was fine, we designed it that way. We created a $2,000 cushion because we knew, hey, we’re going to learn a lot of stuff here, we’re going to build an audience, and then a month later, we’re going to do a much bigger Kickstarter.

That one did a lot better, and it did six figures. We had that trouble where we did it on BackerKit, but we also did it a little too soon. It was like, let’s collect shipping now and get everything together so we know exactly how many we’re going to produce and ship.

Then there were a bunch of delays because there were shortages in paper stock and cardboard, and we were struggling to find a printer. Then we went like six months overdue, and time just kept going on. We kept getting turned down and pushed back by different printers.

They were like, “Yes, we have paper stock now,” and then a month later, they’re like, “Oh, we can’t run your thing all of a sudden because we don’t have that paper stock.”

Then by the time the shipping came around, it’s like, oh, my goodness, shipping is like three times more expensive than it was when we charged for it.

However, BackerKit does allow you to separate the shipping from the Kickstarter campaign, which can be very helpful in that case, because you don’t know what’s going to happen.

When you’re starting out it might be like, wow, that seems like a lot to ask for people to back a Kickstarter and to pay for shipping separately. However, that’s the culture. That’s what a lot of people expect in that environment.

People have been doing this for years if they’ve been backing campaigns, so they’re used to it. So it might be a little bit unconventional, but that’s just how people do it on Kickstarter.

Joanna: Yes, I’ve done two campaigns and I didn’t use BackerKit, partly because I was a bit scared of it, in a way. I was like, it’s going to take me a lot to learn how to use one system, the Kickstarter system, so do I have to learn how to use BackerKit as well?

So could you talk a bit more about it and when it’s useful? I guess we’ve talked about the shipping side, but−

Why else would someone use BackerKit?

Because, of course, it costs more. They take another percentage, don’t they?

Paddy: They do, but it’s kind of more than covered by the convenience that it creates. It processes a lot of the stuff in the back end for you.

Essentially, so BackerKit started out as a pledge manager, which is just a way to help you fulfill your Kickstarter campaign or whatever campaign, you can be using a different platform.

So if you run a Kickstarter−it used to be that for whatever reason, Kickstarter didn’t build this in the beginning−all you could do on Kickstarter was launch your product on there, people could come back you, and they send you the funds at the end of the campaign. So then you could fulfill your promises to your backers.

They had no way of dealing with email addresses, and if you wanted to get shipping information you had to send out a survey individually to people, and it was just like a really big headache admin-wise.

So BackerKit came along and they’re like, hey, we can create a plugin type of application which can do all that for you. So all you need to do is hit a button, it’ll import all your backers, it’ll send out all the stuff, and it’ll automate everything. Now there is a learning curve, of course, but it does take a lot of the pain out of it.

Now Kickstarter have since brought about their own pledge management thing. But BackerKit has engrained itself so much in the culture, it took Kickstarter so long to get there, that BackerKit is the go-to pledge manager at the minute.

So the pledge manager is great because it allows your backers to go and look at their pledge. What did I get? Do I have to pay shipping? Can I add stuff on to the pledge, because back then I didn’t want to get this thing, but now I see I do want this thing, so can I add it on?

The pledge manager also allows you to cross-sell, and you can increase your total funding by 20% to 30% using the pledge manager.

So that’s outside of collecting shipping. It does shipping, but it also does cross-selling.

Now, BackerKit also has something called BackerKit launch, which is like a crowdfunding-specific mailing system. It is extremely powerful because their deliverability is really high. That’s like maybe our number one converting tool when it comes to promoting our Kickstarter campaigns.

Then they have something called BackerKit marketing. BackerKit marketing is where they run Facebook ads for you, but you need to have so many campaigns under your belt. You can show that, hey, when you launch a Kickstarter, you can guarantee it’s going to make X number of dollars and that you can cover that ad spend. That can be very effective.

They now have BackerKit crowdfunding, which is just an alternative to Kickstarter. So BackerKit knows what they’re doing, is what I’m trying to say here. They have some very powerful tools. There is a learning curve, but like anything, it’s worth learning those tools because they can take your Kickstarter campaign to a whole different level.

Joanna: Okay, you’ve convinced me. I was just like, oh, I just can’t deal with another thing.

Plus, because I had finished my book and got the weight, and I costed out the shipping kind of exactly, and I knew I would ship them, I was able to do that. But I can see the benefit of waiting on shipping.

So I did want to return to that merchandise, because at the beginning you were talking about maps and posters and miniatures and cards and a plushie. So are there any recommended services that you have? Or−

Any recommendations for merchandise/ physical products?

Paddy: It depends on what you want to do.

So if it’s going to be books, you have to first figure out am I going to do print on demand, right. So if you’re only going to do a few dozen books, maybe even a few hundred, print on demand might be a viable option.

Once you start getting higher numbers, you’re kind of looking at maybe an offset print run. Maybe first a digital print run, but then an offset print run where it’s going through a printing press at a manufacturer’s warehouse somewhere. It becomes an economy of scale once you get to like a thousand copies of anything.

The same goes with manufacturing. So when it comes to manufacturing things like that, there are a lot of services where you can do it.

If you’re doing merch like mugs, or t-shirts, hoodies, pencils, pens, stationery, that kind of thing, there are lots of services online that you can do that. They’ll actually create those on demand as well, so it cuts out a lot of the admin and the shipping on your site.

When it comes to things that are very custom, like dice, or maps, or plushies, you kind of do have to shop around for manufacturers yourself.

So we’ve worked with different people in Lithuania, some people in Canada, some people in China, Taiwan. To be honest with you, we’ve had really good experiences all over the place. So I can’t really recommend anywhere in particular, because it just depends what you want to do.

We try to manufacture as much as we can in one place, because then it can all be shipped out together.

So for example, if we are going to do a big print run of 3000 books, hard copies in China, well, then it makes sense to also do our dice there if we can, and our plushies if we can, because then it’s all going to be shipped together to the same warehouse in the United States. Then our fulfillment partner will take care of it, and they’ll send a bunch to the UK.

Whereas if you have three or four manufacturers doing different things around the world, then you have to coordinate it all going to the same place. That can get a bit messy.

So that would be my tip if you’re going to manufacture things. If you’re doing it yourself, it is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work and you don’t want to overwhelm yourself by having so many moving parts moving all at once.

So number one, try and keep it all as close together as you can, but also build up towards it. Don’t decide, hey, I’m going do like 10 different products all of a sudden. Like you don’t want to do 10 new products all in one campaign. Trust me, I’ve done it, and it was not a good idea.

Maybe start with one or two new things. Then on your next campaign, add another one or two new things. Then eventually, you’ll have this catalog. Don’t do it all at one time.

Joanna: It’s so interesting. We talked earlier about the difference between the retailer-centric model and this kind of direct sales model.

It really is like —

We thought we were running a business before, but we weren’t running a business, we were just authors using all these retailers. Now, this feels like the proper business.

We are now trying to build our own Amazon, basically.

Our own little Amazon in our little corner of the world that we want people to buy from. So if authors are like, I don’t want to run an author business, then do not do this, basically.

Paddy: Yes, exactly. The thing is, when you put it that way, it sounds like it’s more difficult, and that’s because it is.

The thing is, if something is more difficult, that means most people aren’t going to do it.

So if you are a person who does do it, well, that’s going to put you in a very advantageous position. So for anyone who’s maybe thinking, oh, that sounds like a lot of work, it’s like yes, it is, but once you do that work, it really pays off. It’s worth doing.

Joanna: Yes, and obviously, I am very pro-AI. I love a lot of the AI stuff. I am also aware that there will be a tsunami of AI-created stuff on easy platforms. But —

There’s no way an AI bot is going to do a Kickstarter campaign with a plushie!

Paddy: Exactly.

Joanna: Or even a beautiful book with gold foil, like I just did. So I think, as you say, it’s the difficulty in getting to market.

It’s so funny, I remember coming into the Kindle world back in 2009. The people who were coming out of traditional publishing who’d got hundreds of books back, they jumped on and became the first Kindle millionaires, really, because they have this big backlist.

They took advantage of new technology to kind of get ahead of the pack. I almost feel like, even though Kickstarter is not new, I feel like for authors, it really is pretty new.

Paddy: It is. I’ve said this before, like Kickstarter for authors is kind of like where Amazon for authors was back 10 years ago. There’s a lot of opportunity.

It’s still an infant in terms of its maturity and its development as an industry.

We’ve seen a few big players come along and bolster that market a little bit. Well, a lot, like Brandon Sanderson, as you mentioned earlier.

We’re going to see more of that in the future. As that grows, the opportunities are going to grow with it. If you’re here now and you can take advantage of those opportunities, awesome. If you come along in 10 years’ time, it’s going to be like, well, it’s not as “easy” as it was back then, inverted commas.

Joanna: Yes, easy and hard. It’s so funny people are like, oh, it was much easier to be big on Kindle in 2009. I’m like, do you realize there was nothing? We had to hand code our mobis back then!

Paddy: There was no Vellum to format everything for you.

Joanna: There was nothing. There were no ad systems. There was hardly any customers because people were like, “I would never read an eBook.”

Paddy: I know. It’s funny how things go. People think it was easy, but it was just different. It was a different kind of hard.

Joanna: Yes, and that’s where we are now with Kickstarter, obviously.

So I did want to ask you before we finish up just one last question. At 20Books Vegas, I was on a panel with you, which was amazing, but then you did a solo session on how to do a six-figure or seven-figure Kickstarter campaign. So what are the hallmarks of those bigger campaigns? We’ve said people should start small and digital only, but−

How do we plan a six-figure (or bigger) campaign?

Paddy: It is a matter of starting small and getting bigger gradually.

But also, that is assuming you don’t have a huge audience you can bring to the table right away. You know, if you’re Brandon Sanderson and you tell people you want to do something, you can bet they’re all going be there.

If you’re not Brandon Sanderson, it’s going to take you a bit longer. You need to learn the platform and build your audience over time.

One of the most powerful tools for doing that, or even for getting a little bit ahead of people−I don’t want to say as a shortcut or fast-tracking thing, because there isn’t really any such thing−but as a way to gain an advantage, you can really leverage the pre-launch campaign or the pre-launch portion of your Kickstarter campaign. So start three months out and start promoting it.

I mean, you asked earlier, what are one of the challenges that authors have? And why are they breaking even, or maybe losing some money on their campaigns?

One of the things is, as an author, you kind of approach Kickstarter as a store, like where you’re going to sell a book. That’s not what people go to Kickstarter for in terms of the backers and the people who want to pledge to a Kickstarter campaign.

Yes, they want the reward. That is an expectation. However —

People don’t go there to buy something. They go there to be part of something that is bigger than themselves.

They come to buy into something that gives them some meaning, or to live vicariously through you as an author because they want to write a book, but they probably never will get a chance to do that.

So your approach for people is not just, “Hey, buy my book.” It’s, “Hey, come on this journey with me. Let’s do this together. I’m creating this book, but really, we’re doing it together. We’re all in this. You’re pledging this campaign, and it’s allowing me to do this thing. You’re part of this thing.”

So rather than just doing the hard sale where it’s like, “Hey, come get a book. You’re pledging this amount, and we’ll send it to you whenever.”

It’s like, “Well, this is a new thing. Have you ever wanted to write a book, and you just can’t get around to it? Or you don’t know when you’ll get around to it? Or maybe you never will just because you’re so busy all the time? Well, then let’s make one together.”

It could be fantasy, it could be whatever genre that person is interested in. When you frame things like that people are just so much more engaged. So it can be a bit of an adjustment when you’re coming from one industry to the other, but I think that once you make that adjustment that can make things a lot easier.

Joanna: Yes. It’s funny, though. I mean my first Kickstarter campaign that I backed was Seth Godin’s massive doorstop of a book over a decade ago. So I’ve been backing for over a decade, and yet I didn’t even think it would be right for me until last year, 2023. So it’s really interesting how I just didn’t think I could do that, even though I was writing and publishing books that whole time.

It is interesting how it is a very different platform. So I guess what I’m saying to people is —

If you haven’t even backed anything on Kickstarter, then you need to go do that. You can’t just run a Kickstarter without backing things. You have to understand the platform.

Paddy: Yes, and there’s no better way to do that than to back one or a few. Then you’re like, oh, yes, so this is what it looks like. That’s what that button does. This is what a pledge is. That’s what a survey is.

The language on Kickstarter is very specific to crowdfunding as well.

There are a lot of terms and you’re like, why is it called reward? Why isn’t that a product? Why is it funding and not sales or money?

Joanna: It’s a story, not a sales page.

Paddy: When you think about it, after you’ve done it a few times, you start to realize, oh, yes, there’s a reason behind these words. These words actually matter because it sets expectations for the people who are pledging.

Also for you as a creator, the fund thing, for example. It isn’t like, hey, people have come and paid for those product, and now this funding is the income, and now I can go do whatever with the funding. It’s like, no, the funding is there fulfill that promise and to create that product. That’s why it’s not called sales. It’s called a pledge. So yes, it’s an interesting one.

Joanna: Yes, so exciting. As you say, this is another platform. This is a different mindset. There’s a lot of business involved.

Thankfully, you have a course. So I’ve only been through a little bit of it so far. So tell people, including me−

What can we expect in your Kickstarter course, and where can they find it?

Paddy: Oh, yes. You can find it on If you type Kickstarter University into Facebook, it will also bring you to the Facebook group.

It’s a private group, but anyone can access it, and we post material on there and tips and tricks. Essentially, it is designed to take you from one Kickstarter to having several Kickstarters under your belt so that you can then confidently go off and do whatever it is you want to do with crowdfunding.

The way I look at it is the price you pay for the course, you should be able to make that back within the first year of taking the course. I’m confident that if you do the course and what we say in the course, that it is going to do that for you.

It’s not just for authors, it’s for any kind of creative or online entrepreneur. So it can be you want to create comic books, shoot films, maybe it is you’re an author and you want to do novels, or you want to experiment with transmedia and try a tabletop role playing game in Dungeons and Dragons, or an automation, or who knows.

There have been people on Kickstarter who have funded potato salad. Like, literally, just potato salad. Now, Kickstarter has since changed the rules, and you can’t do that anymore. But it just shows that you can really just experiment with things and try new things.

The course is designed to take all the guesswork out of it. You know, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve made a lot of mistakes, done a lot of trial and error over the last several years. So it’s kind of like designed to take the sting out of it from that point of view. So here are my mistakes, don’t do those, but what you should do is this thing.

There are a bunch of step-by-step guides which take you through your first Kickstarter. So you kind of talked about this on our panel in 20Books Vegas, Jo, and I felt this way myself, when I launched my first Kickstarter, I was terrified.

Even just hitting the Submit for Approval button, not the Launch button, like this is way before the launch button. I was just submitting it for approval, and I was so afraid to hit that button, that I hired a consultant to come along and pretty much hit it for me.

Then when it happened, I was like, oh, what was I afraid of? That was silly. I was afraid, but I think that’s just a legitimate thing for people. It’s something unknown, it’s new, and people are going to be afraid of it. So I want to try and take that fear out of the equation for people as well. That’s what the course is all about.

Joanna: Well, we only met at 20Books Vegas, and I really love your kind of gentle approach. That’s how I feel your tone is, it’s quite gentle and supportive. I don’t know if that’s your goal, but that’s how it feels to me.

Paddy: I’m glad you feel that way. I don’t know if I do that intentionally or whatnot.

Joanna: I think that’s just you. So when I met you and you were talking, I was like, aw. I’d literally emailed you and said, “Oh, you backed my campaign, I didn’t know who you were.” And then we met and I was like, oh, okay, I really want to learn from you. So that’s why I’m in your course, and I’m really looking forward to doing it.

You’ve really helped me today, even just with your answers. So just so people know, I’m not an affiliate of your course, I am an enthusiastic fan.

I hope people do that. As you say, if they launch a Kickstarter using the help, they will be able to make the money back anyway. So just also−

Tell people where they can find your books and anything else you do online.

Paddy: is the central place to get me, and that links to several different things.

Or if you want to see the novels that I’ve published, one of my pen names is Killian C. Carter. I publish science fiction under that pen name. I haven’t done so in a while, but I’m circling back to that. So you can find that on Amazon and take a look at some of the material I put up on there if you’re so inclined.

Joanna: Brilliant. Well, thanks so much for your time, Paddy. That was great.

Paddy: Thanks very much, Jo. Have a good one.

The post How To Be Successful On Kickstarter With Paddy Finn first appeared on The Creative Penn.

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Author: Joanna Penn

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  • January 28, 2024