Steph & Jenn here. Tao asked us to write up some business posts that focus on using Kickstarter.

Both Steph and I have survived two successful Kickstarter campaigns – System Finale audiobook that launched in May 2022 and the System Apocalypse Anthology Volume 2 that launched in December 2022. We both started working for Tao after the System Apocalypse Graphic Novel campaign that launched August 2021.

My post today will be focused on setting up a Kickstarter campaign, outlining the story, and what’s needed to be ready to launch. It’s a bit lengthy but there’s a lot of work that goes into the backend of setting up a Kickstarter. 

Steph’s post next week will focus on Marketing Your Kickstarter.

We might have one more post afterwards that will be a Best Practices or more of a mix of what has worked for us and what resources we’ve used.

Note that anything in this post is from my experience, take that with a grain of salt.

I’ll be referring to two Kickstarters in this post – the System Finale audiobook KS (SA12 KS) and the System Apocalypse Anthology (Antho KS).

Recommendations of what to have before even starting the draft on Kickstarter:

  • Story Structure/Outline
    • Everything about the project/campaign (the outline will cover pretty much everything)
      • What is about
      • Why are you doing it on KS
      • Highlight the Rewards
      • List the Stretch Goals
      • Meet the Author/Narrator/Illustrator/ or whomever is doing the project – People want to read about who they are backing. They don’t want someone behind the curtain.
      • Timeline
      • Risks & Challenges will be listed in a separate section, not necessary to include it in the story area.

We use Google Docs for our outline.


  • Easy to share with team members and they can access and edit quickly.
  • Easily copy/paste into Kickstarter. If anything happens to the campaign, you don’t lose all your work.
  • Use it as reference for future campaigns. Create a template from it.
  • Can link the pricing spreadsheet, graphics, templates, resources, etc.


This is an example of what our outlines have consisted of. 

Basics (All the basic information from the first page on Kickstarter)

  • Name, subtitle, genre, location, campaign banner, video, small blurb/tag line of the campaign, launch date, campaign duration.

Story draft

  • When I set up the Google Doc, I tend to put everything in order as it will be on the KS page. Makes it easier when copy/pasting from the doc to Kickstarter.

Tier Names & Prices (Rewards/Benefits)

  • Reward name, description, price, link to the pricing spreadsheet, etc.

Add-ons list (Not necessary but always a plus for more money)

  • These are items that aren’t included in the rewards but someone might want to add them on such as bookmarks, stickers, paperback/hardcover books from a different series (we’ve run System Apocalypse themed KS so A Thousand Li or Adventures on Brad books get offered as an add-on option).

Stretch Goals (Not necessary but always helpful to encourage backers to promote/share the KS to others to drum up more funds)

  • We decided to not list all the goals and to reveal them we hit the one prior, I was able to set everything up in the Google doc and copy over when we needed to update the information as the campaign was live and ongoing.

Timeline information

  • Backers want to know when they will get their benefits/rewards delivered.
  • How will they get their rewards:
    • All digital rewards? Are you fulfilling immediately after the campaign? Or do you have to finish edits or proofing? What application will you be using to deliver your product?
    • Shipped a physical item? When are you ordering the books? How long can they expect the shipping to take?
    • Artwork/Illustrations – is it already completed? Is it in progress? Or do you need to hit a stretch goal amount before you have it done? What will the timeline be on that?

Risks & Challenges

  • Highlight EVERYTHING that can and could go wrong.
    • Example – For our audiobook stretch goal we still listed in the risks that we hope for 6-8 months after KS has ended to deliver on the Audiobook but with having multiple narrators plus their busy schedule we could go beyond our 6-8 month estimate.
  • Don’t be pessimistic but you also need to make sure you’re honest with your backers. People understand that stuff happens. What they don’t like is you saying there aren’t any risks or challenges and then everything hits the proverbial fan.
    • If you’re doing a print book – Print shortage, shipping timeframes, if these are signed books – need to estimate in delivery to your location and then shipping to backers.
    • Audiobook – narrator schedule, some are booked for months or years now, narrator gets sick – nothing you can do about that than just wait it out, or narrator backs out and has to start back at square one.
    • Illustrations – similar to narrators, schedule, sickness, ghosting, not delivering.

Funding Goal & Pricing of Backer Rewards

Creating and estimating our funding goal for the SA Antho was on me. Tao did most of the budget/goal planning for SA12, so I’ll be using examples from the Antho KS here.

Funding Goal

Be reasonable with your funding goal. It’s nice to strive and aim for loftier heights but don’t want to make it an unattainable goal.

– Example: Campaign with a goal of $5,000 and only offering a $5 ebook reward for a new series or the next book in a series. You’d have to have 1,000 backers to reach that goal.

– Better option: Doing a $500 goal and with the same benefit of the $5 ebook. That would require 100 backers. 100 is a lot easier to hit than 1,000.

Factors that I used to estimate the funding goal:

  • What were some of our goals, whether overall or possible stretch goals.
    • We wanted to pay additional money to the anthology authors – this ended up being our #1, 2, & 4 stretch goals.
      • That required me to figure out how much would be paid out to the authors and account for Kickstarter taking their 10% cut.
      • That gave me our overall funding goal amount ($800) and three of our stretch goals: 1 – $1,600, 2 – $2,400, and 4 – $7,000. The fourth was done $1,000 over the third goal since we had added a merch option with it, also $7k looked better than $6,800.
      • We ended up having 3 different stretch goals where authors would get an additional .01/word bonus if we hit it.
    • We wanted to create an audiobook – this became our #3 stretch goal right in the middle of our 5 stretch goals.
      • Estimates should be based on industry standard rates and not lowballed. For narration this is a must. Standard rate is about $250/pfh and add in editing, proofing, mastering for an additional total of $100/pfh.
      • So I used $350/pfh and estimated about 8-10 hours for recording for 60-70k words.
  • We discussed and had a few ideas of other fun things – merch, stickers, postcards, bookmarks, shirts. We decided it wasn’t worth it or not what we wanted to offer as a stretch piece. We settled on offering chibi stickers that we already had created so we just had to account for printing expenses – those were added to goal #4.
  • We wanted to do a last blow-it-out-of-the-park stretch goal of artwork. We went with a good solid number but also allotted us $3,000 over the previous goal which would be a reasonable amount for some very nice illustrations/artwork. What makes it over the top? Well it’s a $10,000 stretch goal on an $800 funding goal campaign.

Pricing of Backer Rewards

I’ve used Google Sheets/Excel to create up our pricing outlines. I did this for both Kickstarters and will continue to use it for future ones. This is very important in making sure your funding goal is aligned with your budget.

Biggest thing to remember – Kickstarter will do the backer reward pricing in your currency. If you’re in the states, then your pricing is USD$, if Canadian then you might need to convert from USD$ to CAD$. So a $5 ebook in USD is rounded to $7 in CAD.

Kickstarter will auto-convert for backers based on their location. As I’m in the US, Kickstarter will auto-convert Tao’s Kickstarter page to US currency for me to view as a backer, but when setting up everything on the backend I had to make sure my currency estimates were all in Canadian dollars.

Our spreadsheet is set-up with the following column headers

  • Item (digital & physical items)
  • MSRP (does not include shipping)
  • Kickstarter benefit price (usually rounded up)
  • Cost to Us
  • Cost on the Starlit Website (or Amazon)
  • Shipping costs
  • Notes
    • Is this a limited item? Is it a stretch goal item? If it’s a bundle what’s included.

We also have our backer rewards listed below. So if we’re doing both an ebook and signed book, I’ll have them listed above separately with the MSRP and all that info. Then below as a combined option.

– Example: E-book, signed copy both paperback & hardcover options. Spreadsheet would have each listed separately as – e-book $5, signed PB $18, signed HC $28 and then below under the reward options: e-book $5,  e-book & signed PB $25, e-book & signed HC $35.

When determining backer rewards benefits, there are many options even with a select few items. The previous examples had 3 items, but I got 6 reward options from them. Get creative with packaging but also make sure they are logical.

Don’t want to bundle everything together such as an e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover. As a backer I don’t want everything. I want what will be practical to me.

Many readers with physical books stick to either everything in paperback or hardcover, so for them to switch it needs to be appealing enough such as a limited edition hardcover only edition.

Lastly, it’s okay to have one or two extreme pull-out-all-the-stops backer rewards.

We did that.

We also launched knowing that it might not be a reward that anyone chooses, and that’s okay.

Our extreme backer reward – it’s a full signed set of the entire System Apocalypse series including the spin off series – the total amount of books is 19 signed books either paperback or hardcover. It’s a hefty reward. We also have had backers both times for it. Win-win.

We did have one on the SA12 KS that was EVERY physical copy of Tao’s written works (System Apocalypse, A Thousand Li, Adventures on Brad, Hidden Wishes). We did it for $1,000, no one choose that option but it would have awesome if we did. I didn’t include in the Anthology KS but I might throw it back up on a future campaign here and there, in case we get that one crazy person who has way too much adult money.


Minimum amount of graphics required by Kickstarter – a banner.

That’s it.

Everything else you do is optional.

Do more graphics help? Usually. 

Between the two Kickstarters – SA12 and Antho, we had different amounts of graphics. We exceeded our funding goals on both campaigns.

  • For SA12 KS we had a banner and one mock-up graphic within the Story.
  • For Antho KS we had a banner, an intro video, header graphics (About the book, about the authors, timeline, etc), author headshots, mock-up graphics, and stretch goals graphics too.

Graphics don’t have to be over the top, professional level. You can create simple yet good quality graphics using free services such as Canva*. Don’t need the entire Adobe Creative Suite to produce a quality banner or graphic. We also have used DIYBookCovers (free) and  MockupShots (paid) for the product graphics of the print or ebook renders.

*Note: I have a Canva Pro account but the free version works too. Perks of the pro account are easy to resize graphics, more options for effects, text, photos/artwork, and templates. Steph has a free Canva account which she made the video with.

**Also an additional benefit of using Canva in general was that we were able to create template links and again anyone with a Canva account could access the graphics and adjust as needed. Steph and I both created graphics and were able to easily share them with each other without needing to use something like Adobe Photoshop or other intense editing programs. We just dropped the template links and example graphics into a Google Doc for us to access.

My recommendation on graphics – have something within the Story. It helps break up the wall of text, keeps the reader engaged (people like pictures/graphics), and helps highlight and catch the eye.

Some graphics you can do within the Kickstarter story:

  • Header graphics – Timeline, About the product, about the author, etc – Highly recommended they are easy and highlight sections easily.
    • Just like in a book, you have chapters to break up the scenes, you have a header graphic to break up sections.
  • Sample/Mock-up – audiobook, ebook, print book, merch.
    • For the ebook & print book graphics – we used both of the links above for this.
  • We’ve all seen those Kickstarters with gifs in the story, you can but I don’t think it’s necessary for a book/author focused KS. We haven’t used any yet, heck maybe I will now just because of this thought. 

Videos are nice but not necessary. We didn’t have one for SA12 and we still hit the goal, should we have had one – probably, we were selling an audiobook, having a sample of the audiobook would have been great instead of the static graphics we used.

  • Steph made the video for Antho KS, it’s amazing right? She used Canva, it’s easy and very user friendly, just make sure you use copyright free music.
  • If you aren’t tech savvy, Fiverr has many listings for video creators which specialize in Kickstarter videos or other forms (TikTok, Facebook, Instagram). We considered it but Steph took a stab herself before we paid for someone.
    • Drawbacks is the time to put together a script, graphics, audio clips to send to someone might take longer than the video itself.
    • Fiverr can also be hit or miss with finding quality work.
  • Other options would be a video of you talking about the project – we’ve seen the ones from Brandon Sanderson and Will Wight that they recorded and used on their campaigns
    • Also like Will’s, you can upload or edit the video at any point during the Kickstarter. Will uploaded his video after the initial launch and used it to push even more of his campaign.

We were also able to re-use some of our graphics for marketing purposes, Steph created another resized version of the KS video for Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok. Kickstarter also has a branding kit you can download and add it to graphics to help with marketing graphics.

Final thoughts

Have a reasonable funding goal.

  • Better to have a lower funding goal and exceed it, than to have a high funding goal and not get funded.
  • Have a spreadsheet for pricing including shipping information.

Document EVERYTHING outside of Kickstarter.

  • Use google docs, dropbox, or something to have a copy of your story structure, pricing, etc. Because once you launch your KS you’ll be locked out of editing things plus once the campaign concludes you won’t be able to access backend information such as shipping costs on rewards.
  • Use an extension to screenshot your campaign for your records.
    • Awesome Screenshot extension will do a full pdf screenshot of your campaign page without separating it out into multiple pages.

Be clear with your campaign. Too many options or variations will make things become muddled with your backers.

  • SA12 was focused on audiobook listeners but still offered physical book options.
  • Anthology was focused on a new book (e-book and physical copies) with the possibilities of audio.

Have a reasonable timeline for delivery.

  • Everything doesn’t have to be delivered instantly after the campaign ends. It’s okay to take a week or two to get the backer surveys out, gather information, and move forward with fulfillment.
  • Don’t have to deliver everything at once, it can be done in groupings.

Don’t go overboard with graphics.

  • A simple banner, some graphics for the story, and maybe a video. No need to spend hours designing or hiring someone to just make KS graphics.

Like the business blog post? Want to support me writing more of them? Want to read ahead (2 weeks) of others? Become a Patron and choose the $2-tier to be able to read the business posts only and ask questions about the business side of writing.