Interview #40: The Secrets of Crowdfunding Success with Kickstarter Publishing Director Margot Atwell
This week on the show we have Margot Atwell, Publisher of Gutpunch Press, writer of The Insider’s Guide to Book Publishing Success, and publishing director at Kickstarter. Here is her bio straight from www.emdashandco.com.
Margot Atwell is a publishing professional with over a decade of experience. She is currently a Publishing Community Manager at Kickstarter.com.
Previously, Margot was Publisher at Beaufort Books, an independent publisher of fiction and non-fiction. Under her leadership, Beaufort published four national bestsellers, including Hide!!! by Jeff Foxworthy, If I Did It by the Goldman Family, and a new edition of I'm Dancing As Fast as I Can by Barbara Gordon, along with many award-winning books.
Margot is a freelance writer, editor, and book reviewer. Her writing has been published in The Huffington Post, Moviefone.com, Publishers Weekly, fiveonfive magazine, and Derbylife.com.
Her first book, The Insider’s Guide to Book Publishing Success, was published in February 2013. Her second book, Derby Life: Stories, Advice & Wisdom from the Roller Derby World is forthcoming from Gutpunch Press.
I knew of Margot before we met earlier this year, I just didn’t know it. Before I launched my publishing company, Wannabe Press, I read her book. When we first started talking, I knew the name sounded familiar but I couldn’t place it. When she agreed to be on the show I did my research, saw the cover, and IMMEDIATELY connected the name with a very formative book from my past.
We started our conversation talking about her past and publishing as a whole. One of the things I quickly found out about Margot is that she is publishing through and through. Even before Kickstarter, she was a publisher and author. Since then, she has launched two successful book campaigns focused on her love of Roller Derby. Check them out here and here.
The conversation quickly turned to Kickstarter, as these things must. As much as I would have loved to talk about publishing books for hours, the purpose of having her on was to answer your pressing questions about Kickstarter…well really my pressing questions about Kickstarter.
The first one was one that’s been gnawing at me for years, since even before I got on the platform: how do you get to be staff pick? I’ve done five projects so far and only one has been a staff pick, since renamed Projects We Love.
While I wish I got a hard data answer, the truth is more subjective. While anybody can look through projects and flag something they like, it’s really the curation team that has the final say. One thing she told me is that tweeting at the Kickstarter people and sending them gifts DOES NOT HELP.
What does help is doing something cool and original, making sure your page is clear and concise. Make sure it tells a story and does something original. They specifically look for books that are told from a different perspective and featuring diverse characters. The end goal is that it’s unique and original. It can’t be something they’ve seen before.
If you look at the comic book team or publishing team at Kickstarter, one thing you will see is that they have very diverse tastes. They are almost all creators themselves (if fact Kickstarter encourages their team to run Kickstarters for their projects), and their tastes are diverse. Margot told me that they like to get a wide range of projects, from the $50,000 banger to the tiny $500 one.
Another thing she told me was that there is no limit. If 50% of projects are deserving, then they will all get picked. I always thought there was a limit, so it was nice to see there isn’t.
There were a couple of fantastic developments that I had only tangentially heard about when it came to Kickstarter previously, and Margot explained them in a way that got me incredibly excited. The first is custom referral tags. One of the main issues with Kickstarter for years has been that it’s impossible to track where your pledges come from. Even though you can use Google ads, you couldn’t do anything with Facebook because Kickstarter does not have a place where you can input the pixel required to track sales.
Now, Kickstarter allows you to create custom referrals tags, so you can track everything in one place and see exactly how much money each ad returned. I personally would prefer to just have a Facebook pixel on the site, but this is very nice when you are using something like Top Webcomics or Project Wonderful.
The second is Kickstarter Live. Kickstarter Live is basically Facebook Live, but for Kickstarter. In fact, Margot told me that they have Facebook integration so you can pull your Facebook audience into your Kickstarter feed. I’m so excited for this and I can’t wait to try it out. If you want to find out more, head on over to live.kickstarter.com/explore.
One thing people complain about is that Kickstarter doesn’t work like it used to even a couple years ago. There are fewer people on any given project, and people feel deluged with constant project updates. While Margot wouldn’t cop to this, she did say that there are many more fantastic projects today by sheer volume than ever before. Additionally, there are many more people using Kickstarter to find projects as well. There are 12 million backers on Kickstarter, and 3.5 million of them are repeat backers.
Margot said this is where you should focus your energy. 60% of all money raised is raised through repeat backers. It’s critical for you to find these backers because they are your best chance for success.
The last point she made before answering some listener questions was that Kickstarter is a community. That’s what they are trying to build and that’s what they are most proud of creating at the end of the day. Even though it’s overused, the word community really matters to them. Kickstarter works hard to build custom experiences for backers and works to get people to find new projects to back.
We talked about much more during our conversation, but I’m not going to spoil it all here. There was so much gold and I felt this was a more in depth conversation than most people get when researching Kickstarter. I’ve never seen or heard a Kickstarter community manager or director interviewed on a podcast before, so this was quite a thrill for me. I hope you get as much out of it as I did and that there is enough meat to pull a whole lot away for your own project.
Here are some of the links Margot mentioned in her wrapup.
Kickstarter Creator Handbook
Kickstarter on Medium
Kickstarter Basics on Youtube
If you liked this episode, head on over to twitter and say tell Margot herself @MargotAtwell. Don’t forget to find us on iTunes as well by clicking here to rate, review, and subscribe to the podcast today so you don’t miss any of our awesome episodes. If you are looking to launch your own Kickstarter, head on over to my Kickstarter Toolkit to find everything I've ever said about launching a Kickstarter. Find it by clicking here.