Hey, everyone, I hope you’re having a great 2017 so far. In this post of the crowdfunding series, I’ll be talking about setting your crowdfunding project’s timeline. When I say timeline, I mean setting your expected month of delivery for your rewards. There are several things that need to be considered when setting your expected month of delivery, and you want to be able to under promise and over deliver for your backers. Exceeding your supporters’ expectations will make them more likely to support you again going forward. I made a time-costing error with the lead time of delivery from Createspace, my chosen publisher for Absolute Knowledge (best cost to quality ratio, and best support tools for authors in my opinion). So it’s always good to under promise and over deliver. With my costly error, I lost my ability to over deliver, but it didn’t affect my promised delivery of rewards.
One error I had–one that I had to correct, was the unexpected lead time of ordering author copies from Createspace. The delivery time for proof copies of my work was roughly five days, so I automatically assumed it would be the same lead time for ordering author copies once I had approved them. Wrong. After placing my order for 65 books on December 26th, I was given an estimated delivery date of January 17th, 2017. I alerted my backers about the delay and placed my order for the print copies of the prequel novella, Paragon.EXE, three days later. Fortunately, my copies of the main novel arrived early (Friday the 6th), but I’m still waiting on the copies of the prequel to be able to ship them out to backers. Initially, I wasn’t going to print the prequel, but with lower than expected production costs, I had room to bump up the rewards for all of my backers, even the backers that just pledged at the digital level (They’re getting a free copy of my upcoming prequel novella, Exiles of Ascension.)
Setting your crowdfunding project’s timeline
There isn’t an exact science to projecting how long it’s going to take you to complete your project. Ideally, you should have as much done as possible without going too far into debt (crowdfunding is all about minimizing personal risk after all), to minimize the time it will take to deliver rewards to customers. As a general rule of thumb, the longer it’s going to take to deliver rewards to backers, the less likely people will be to back your project. Set your project timeline with not enough time, and you risk either significantly stressing yourself out, delivering rewards much later than expected and upsetting backers, or pushing out a shoddy product that was rushed. It’s always better to put out a quality product rather than rush a crappy one out, but try to still deliver your rewards to backers as soon as possible.
Fortunately, print on demand services like Lulu, Createspace, and others offer a relatively quick turnaround time, especially if you’ll be printing in the United States. Also, if you can transition to a retail launch easily (I’ll talk more about this in a future post) then you’ll thank yourself later.
How long is too long to wait?
For books, I’d say an ideal crowdfunding project’s timeline is four months or less, with a noticeable backer drop-off (of customers you personally don’t know at and beyond the six-month mark.) Of course, people want to get their rewards earlier, but they’d rather receive a quality work product than a shoddy one that was rushed out. If you don’t think you’ll meet your timeline, then explain the situation to backers and try to come up with additional rewards or a bonus for them that you can create without significantly increasing your costs. For me, that was including a print copy of my prequel novella, and a free digital copy of my upcoming novella. Whatever it is, people like bonuses and understand that things come up.
In conclusion, try to set your crowdfunding project’s timeline at four months or less, and offer additional bonuses to the backers that have supported you if your project gets delayed beyond the original timeline you set. To under promise and over deliver, try to add an additional month to your estimate. Trust me, you might need it, and if you have it, it can be a lifeline in getting your rewards to customers on time and keeping them happy.
In the next post, I’ll cover campaign marketing and how to attract backers to support you, especially as a first-time creator.
P.S. You can now pick up a retail copy of my cyberpunk novel, Absolute Knowledge on Amazon! It’s free with Kindle Unlimited. Check it out and help support my regular blog posts and writing efforts.