How Romance Author, Penny Reid, 20X Her Funding Goal With the Help of Audiobooks

Discover how romance author Penny Reid surpassed her funding goal by 20X using audiobooks and fan-centric rewards.

How Romance Author, Penny Reid, 20X Her Funding Goal With the Help of Audiobooks

Smart romance author Penny Reid started with a crowdfunding goal of $25,000 to print and distribute hardcover books. By the end of her campaign, she had raised over $500,000!

Penny knew that her readers were interested in hardcover editions based on previous social media and email requests. However, she never imagined that her first Kickstarter campaign would generate such a staggering number. 

Penny clearly did something right. Luckily, she was gracious enough to help other creators by sharing what she learned.

Influenced by a Friendly Bet and a Knitting Club

When Penny Reid was pregnant with her second child, she went deep into various crafts and joined a knitting club with several other women. During one of their knitting gatherings, they started talking about how big pharma has the power to increase the price of adrenaline and epi-pens, the international peace agreement, and the Nigerian oil crisis.

A woman next to Penny asked, "Why aren't women in books and TV portrayed accurately? Women on TV are focused on guys, clothes, and closets."

Penny's Advice From Her All-or-Nothing Crowdfunding Journey

Penny estimated that a short print run would cost her over $100,000 upfront — with no guarantee the books would sell. So, she turned to crowdfunding on Kickstarter. 

Penny's Kickstarter campaign was not only successful but immensely overfunded. She raised over $500,000 on a goal of just $25,000! As Penny reflects on her journey, she came away with valuable insights for anyone else considering a crowdfunding campaign. 

1. Be clear about your goals.

First, Penny suggests that authors create clear, comprehensive goals for their crowdfunding campaigns. In other words, be honest with yourself about why you're crowdfunding. This could be to make money, meet readers' needs, or various other objectives. No matter what your goal is, defining it early on will guide your decisions and implementation. 

Just like people who collect Star Wars paraphernalia, Knitting in the City readers wanted to touch, see, smell, and truly own Penny's books. Having felt the same way about her own interests, Penny recognized that meeting this need should be her campaign's primary goal. 

So, she didn’t just aim to make hardcover and paperback books available through her Kickstarter. Instead, she created a full physical experience around her stories. She designed bookmarks, posters, book sleeves, knitting patterns, bags, vellum overlays, and yarn — all of which were inspired by the themes and characters found in her Knitting in the City series.

2. Understand your audience.

One of Penny's first steps before creating her Kickstarter page was to review other authors' successful campaigns. She knew that her page should have the look and feel that Kickstarter backers typically expect. 

The last thing Penny wanted was to invest time in creating a page that didn't look right, as this could immediately alienate audiences. So, she scoured the site and other creators' strategies to understand backers' motivations and culture. 

Penny also reviewed her past ebook sales to guide her reward levels. She analyzed the average amount spent per reader to determine each reward's dollar value. This helped her create goals and reward levels that felt reasonable for her usual readers and others who wanted to support her work. 

3. Talk to other creators.

One of Penny's highest recommendations is to talk to other creators who have run successful Kickstarter campaigns. In her case, Penny reached out to Jenny Nordbak, the author of To Seduce a Siren and the Key Club series. Penny noticed that Nordbak was running Kickstarters with other authors. So, she reached out for a phone call and found that Nordbak was wonderful to learn from and simply talk to. 

Penny believes that other authors and creators on Kickstarter can benefit tremendously from talking to one another. She suggests asking the following questions:

  1. What was your process before your Kickstarter campaign went live?
  2. What were your expectations?
  3. How much time and effort did you invest?
  4. What marketing strategies did you use?
  5. What went right or wrong, and what would you change?

4. Make your content accessible to a wider audience.

Midway through her Kickstarter campaign, Penny received an increasing number of requests for audiobooks. However, her Knitting in the City series already had an audiobook format available. This made it clear that Penny needed to create a differentiated experience for her campaign's donors. 

To start, Penny spent time brainstorming what her audience would find fun and engaging. She decided to offer bonus scenes, missing content, and annotations at the end of each chapter. These additions would help the crowdfunded audiobooks stand out from the content that was already available. This way, a potential donor who already purchased the audiobook would still be incentivized to contribute. 

“Instead of using AI voice that lacks a soul, crowdfunding is a great way to fund audiobook creation and create an experience that has more substance and life," Penny shared. "Nothing beats using your own voice.”

Audiobooks let Penny reach wider audiences who may not be able to read or who otherwise prefer auditory content formats. Although audiobooks were a late addition, Penny believes they're essential for accessibility, expanding her reach, and creating a rich experience for her fans. 

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5. Open the lines of communication.

“Stay in communication with your backers,” Penny suggests. Kickstarter backers give their votes of confidence with their wallets, which are strong signals about how much they believe in certain creators. Posting regular updates and asking decision-critical questions can help you grow and maintain that trust. 

Transparency is crucial to building strong relationships with your backers. If or when your product is delayed or needs to be adjusted, they’ll be much more likely to keep their support and stay alongside you for the journey.

The Importance of Authenticity and Engagement

Penny Reid's crowdfunding journey is defined by creativity and deep dedication to her readers. By generously sharing her insights, she not only empowers fellow creators but also reinforces the importance of authenticity and engagement in crowdfunding endeavors.

Penny's story serves as an example for aspiring authors and entrepreneurs alike. Her crowdfunding success showcases the potential of careful planning, listening, and staying true to your audience.