05 Jan

Should You Kickstart Your Kickstarter Project with Paid Ads Service?

Rating a service provider like Kickstart My Ads (KMA) isn’t as black and white as I wish. On the one hand, if we spend hundreds of dollars on their services, we want to see “bottom line” results: Kickstarter pledges! On the other hand, if they drive traffic to our project pages, should we hold them accountable if said traffic ultimately doesn’t fund it? This is a question that each of us has to answer for ourselves, since they guarantee traffic, not pledges.

About the Services

I worked with KMA once before, and the results fell short. However, the folks there were kind enough to provide a second chance, so I attempted to fund a children’s book, The Stranger Safety Squad. (It’s worth noting that KMA has more success with big projects and larger goals, often in categories like tech, design, and fashion.)

The service level I used was their best and most expensive: “Drive Supporters,” currently a one-time fee of $450. Since I wanted to gauge them and their worth, I did almost no promoting of the project. They did ask me to generate $100 in pledges at the start, since visitors are reluctant to contribute to a project sitting at zero. Aside from that, I only mentioned The Stranger Safety Squad a couple of times on social media.

Rocky Beginnings

There was a red flag at the start. The advertisement sent for my approval was somewhat poorly written and included an obvious typo. I fixed it for them, and away we went.

For whatever reason, my project got almost no traction for the first two and a half weeks. With just over 10 days to go, I stood at $140 in pledges out of $1,200 needed. But that’s when things got interesting. Kickstart My Ads must have found its groove because I started getting two, three and four pledges per day—a dramatic improvement!

Falling Short

Unfortunately, when all was said and done, we fell short. I stood at 21 backers and $655, just over 50% of my goal. However, according to the final Facebook report sent to me, my advertisements reached (were seen by) 20,892 people, which resulted in 340 post engagements (likes, comments, shares, and clicks).

Bottom Line

Nick of KMA had this to say: “While our service is not a magic wand, if there is a campaign that is appealing to its target market, then we can make the support pour in, if the market is available on Facebook. The amount of support varies by campaign and by a target market’s availability on Facebook, but if those two factors are in our favor, then we are confident we can get a positive ROI for our clients virtually every time.”

As for me, I’ll probably skip the paid promotional services next time. But if you have a project that’s irresistible to your target market, maybe you’ll have better luck. Maybe.

DISCLAIMER: The services discussed in this post were provided free of charge in exchange for a fair and honest review.

02 Dec

A “Super” Christmas Surprise: Free eBook!

Santa Claus: Super Spy: The Case of the Delaware Dinosaur is almost out of stock (with less than 10 copies remaining for online orders). So instead of leaving young readers disappointed this holiday season, I’ve decided to give it away as a free ebook!

Santa Claus: Super Spy: The Case of the Delaware Dinosaur

A dinosaur is loose in the state of Delaware, and it is not just any dinosaur. It is the meanest one of all, the Tyrannosaurus rex. Santa Claus must stop the terrible beast, so he calls his two best Super Spy agents, Paul and Emily. Are they brave enough to catch the monster? Or will they become the next meal for the T. rex?

Download your copy by the end of the month, and enjoy my second ever attempt at self-publishing (way back in 2006) with my warmest regards.

Merry Christmas!

03 Nov

Storytelling Tip: Keep It Simple

I’ve written around 35 books, and a large part of my success has come from “hand-selling” (a direct sale between creator and customer). I have interacted with readers at special events, book signings, and, of course, comic book conventions. I’ve seen which of my books are irresistible and which are ignored. The big lesson I’ve learned is this:

The simpler the concept, the more likely the book will succeed.

Got it? Good! Let’s compare two picture books, both written by the same fabulously talented author. (Ahem, that’s me.) Book A was self-published on a small budget, poorly titled, slightly overpriced, with a cover that didn’t print quite right. Book B was illustrated by an Emmy-winning animator and was worked on by a team of publishing professionals, who helped to create the perfect cover, the perfect title, and a price that’s just right. Guess which one sells better for me.

Joe Lee and the Boo

Book A!

Why? Because when I describe it, I can say, “Joe Lee and the Boo is about a boy who uses the positive power of imagination to overcome his fear of monsters.” It’s a simple, uncomplicated concept.

Book B, on the other hand, takes some explaining.

Nature Squad: Bluebird Finds a Home

“Well, you see, the book is called Nature Squad: Bluebird Finds a Home. It’s about a team of talking animals. Together, they deal with environmental and conservation issues. In this story, they meet a bluebird that can’t find a place to live. Why? Because too many dead trees have been chopped down. The story is about how the Nature Squad helps the bluebird.”

Whoa! Try saying that without taking a breath.

Don’t get me wrong; both are very good books (if I do say so, myself). My point is that paying customers tend to gravitate toward the simpler concept.

For instance, a super-powered alien who fights the forces of evil, that’s easy to understand. But a kid who gets a different super power every time he listens to his magic headphones… and he can’t choose his super power… and he only gets one super power per day… well, that’s just too darn complicated.

If you can explain your concept in just a few words, you’re off to a great start. If you need a paragraph to get your point across, you might want to simplify it.

24 Oct

Kickstarter Campaign to Test Promotional Services

Update 10/30/2014: The project has been renamed The Stranger Safety Squad, and it’s live on Kickstarter. Check it out!


In 2012, I sat down with an author friend of mine (and co-owner of Lake 7 Creative, LLC), Blake Hoena. I had the beginning of an idea, but I needed help fine-tuning it. I’ve always loved interactive Choose Your Path books, but I wanted to develop a simpler way to utilize the format—one that didn’t require a reader to jump around in the book. Basically, I wanted a Choose Your Path format for picture books and for early reader chapter books.

Blake and I sat down at a local cafe and started throwing ideas back and forth. What we ultimately came up with was such an obvious solution that I can’t believe it took us that long to figure it out. It was new (at least, new to us; I don’t know if it had been done before) and brilliant. It looked like this:

Sample spread from Campfire Crisis

Our new Choice format fit my criteria. It was interactive; it was age-appropriate (no choice led to death); and it was easy to use. Basically, the reader made a choice and followed the arrow to the corresponding paragraph. The right choice kept the story going. The wrong choice redirected readers to the right choice.

We were excited about the format, and since I was already busy with other projects, Blake became the first to give it a go. He wrote a book called Campfire Crisis.

Campfire Crisis

He realized the same thing I did about our new format: It provided a perfect opportunity to educate, as well as entertain. Campfire Crisis was very much a book about camping safety tips.

My educational ideas for the format were a little less marketable but more “public service announcement.” I wanted to do an interactive book about bullying and one about avoiding kidnapper tricks. Both ideas have been floating around in my mind for well over a year.

At last, a potential opportunity has presented itself! To make a long story short, a Kickstarter promotional agency has offered to run a free campaign for me in exchange for an honest review of their services. It doesn’t seem right to cash in on this opportunity with a blatantly commercial new idea. Instead, I’m going to see if I can kickstart one of my PSAs.

Kidnappers, Beware!

The project is called Kidnappers, Beware! I’m going to see if the promo company’s services can raise $1,200. That would be enough to pay for illustrations and to pay the expenses associated with a successful campaign.

Kidnappers, Beware! will launch next week on Kickstarter.com and will run for about a month.

23 Oct

Official Release: Toilet Tales

This week marks the official release of TOILET TALES, a hilarious new “gross-out” book by Ryan Jacobson and Chantel Wiskur, which features true stories of bathroom humor!

Toilet Tales

People poop in their pants. It happens. No biggie, right? Wrong! Some bathroom accidents occur at the worst possible moments – on a first date, at the start of a new job, while stuck in traffic – and their stories ascend to the level of Toilet Tales. This book collects 28 of the funniest, most humiliating true accounts that anyone was ever brave enough to confess. Toilet Tales makes a hilarious conversation-starter and a perfect bathroom read.

Toilet Tales is available at bookstores and gift shops. Print and ebook editions can be found via online booksellers. You can also purchase an autographed copy here.

02 Oct

Yes, You Can Afford to Publish Your Book

You finished writing your family memoirs, a mystery, or perhaps even a romance novel. You heard that self-publishing is the way to go, but you’re not sure how to do it. Author Ryan Jacobson can help. Jacobson now offers professional publishing services specifically for authors on a tight budget.

Ryan Jacobson

Jacobson, an author of nearly 40 books, has been self-publishing for more than 10 years. He has begun this new endeavor with a desire to help writers achieve their dreams—and avoid getting ripped off.

“There are companies charging the cost of a car to publish books,” said Jacobson. “I’ve met writers who’ve taken out big loans to get the kinds of services that should only be a few hundred dollars at most.”

Prices for Jacobson’s services start at zero. He offers free publishing advice via his website, GetchuBooks.com, and he encourages people to email their questions. Jacobson also provides services such as cover design, book layout, editing, and ebook creation for small fees.

“My first goal is always to help, which is why I’m happy to answer questions,” said the author. “For those who need more hands-on assistance, we try to keep the cost under $1,000, depending on the author’s needs.”

Jacobson’s services come with plenty of credentials. Not only does he self-publish, Jacobson also co-owns a traditional publishing company (Lake 7 Creative, LLC), and he works for a successful regional publisher and book distributor (Adventure Publications, Inc.).