The Allure of Special Editions on Kickstarter — and How to Create Your Own

Explore the allure of special editions in Kickstarter's Publishing category. Find out what makes them so special and get a step-by-step guide to crafting your own successful campaign.

The Allure of Special Editions on Kickstarter — and How to Create Your Own

One of the most exciting trends in Kickstarter’s Publishing category right now is the meteoric rise of special editions, particularly in genre fiction categories like science-fiction, fantasy, romance, and romantasy. This makes perfect sense: creating a special edition helps make a book’s outer form as stunning as the words it contains, and using crowdfunding allows authors to secure the necessary funding upfront while rallying the support and input of their most dedicated readers to create a beautiful final package. 

From Cassandra Claire to VE Schwab to Shannon Meyer to Michael Sullivan, authors are using Kickstarter to dress up their books with gorgeous and ambitious features like intricate sprayed edges, shimmery foil stamping, reversible dust jackets, embossed or foil stamped covers, illustrated endpapers, custom slipcases, and so much more. But why do these deluxe versions resonate so profoundly with backers, often leading to record-breaking pledge amounts? And how can you create one without overcommitting to high-end features that could wreck your budget? 

In this article, we’ll delve into the mechanics behind this trend and give any author a roadmap to craft a special edition campaign of their own.

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What Makes Special Editions So, Well, Special

At the heart of every successful Kickstarter campaign is the ability to tap into the desires and expectations of your audience, as well as all the readers out there who just don’t know they’re your fans yet. A special edition, whether of cherished backlist titles or exciting new releases, offers a unique blend of exclusivity and enhanced value that is hard to resist. Here's why they often perform so well:

  1. Backer Mindset: Kickstarter backers are not just ordinary consumers; they are enthusiasts, collectors, and patrons of the arts. Backers are usually not motivated by low prices alone; instead they look for unique products that are not available elsewhere and that offer good value — something that’s not always measured with money. Special edition books are particularly attractive because they are more, well, special as compared to a similar, more basic product that might be sold in retail stores. Because there may not be another opportunity to purchase these special editions in the future, or they may cost more later, it can also lead to FOMO and a strong desire to participate right now, before the chance is lost. 
  2. Stretch Goals and Customization: The introduction of stretch goals into a campaign not only serves as an incentive for higher pledges but also significantly increases a book's appeal. Through customization options unlocked at various funding levels, backers feel like they’re part of the creative and production processes, further deepening their engagement and investment in the project.
  3. The Thrill of Exclusivity: The allure of rareness is tough to overstate. Special editions, often limited in quantity or available for only a restricted time, create a sense of urgency that compels backers to act swiftly, boosting a campaign's momentum.

Crafting Your Special Edition

Creating and funding a special edition book project on Kickstarter requires meticulous planning, budgeting, and execution. Here’s a step-by-step strategy to give your campaign the best chance of success:

  1. Design Element Wishlist: Begin by listing the unique design elements you envision for your special edition. This could range from tailor-made cover art to premium paper quality to unique flourishes. The key is to create a product that is both desirable and distinct. It’s also crucial in this phase to outline your stretch goals for potential backers so that you avoid scrambling and changing their manufacturing plans mid-campaign, which is a risk factor for fulfillment delays and logistic complications.
  2. Collaborate with a Trusted Designer: The design phase is critical. Partnering with a designer who understands your vision — and, ideally, one with experience in manufacturing — can make a significant difference in the final product's appeal. There are many places you can find a designer, whether on marketplaces like Upwork and Reedsy or by seeking out individuals or companies like The INKfluence that specialize in book design work.
  3. Find a Reliable Manufacturer: A successful special edition hinges on three critical factors: deliverability, quality, and security. Working with a trusted manufacturer will directly influence the quality and feasibility of your special edition, ensuring that the final product meets the high standards both you and your backers expect. Select an experienced partner known for their quality craftsmanship and work with them to understand the costs associated with all the elements you want to include in your final product. It’s important to do your research to ensure you find the right company for your needs. Look for businesses that have case studies and testimonials from past clients before committing to working with them.

Make a Meticulous Budget:

While it might not be the most exciting part of the publishing journey, budgeting is absolutely essential for the success of any campaign. This is your chance to thoroughly conceptualize your campaign and every element it entails. Imagining the full range of what your project could be is not just practical—it's a necessary part of the planning process. This exercise will ensure you grasp the full extent of your campaign, encompassing the initial concept, production, shipping, marketing, your personal investment of time, a reserve for unexpected events, administrative expenses, and anything else.

  1. Create Preproduction Samples and Marketing Content: Before launching your campaign, request a preproduction sample of your special edition, with all its bells and whistles, from your manufacturer. Use this sample to produce engaging marketing content, such as videos, gifs, and high-quality images, to showcase your book’s unique features on your Kickstarter page, in your newsletters, and throughout your social content.
  2. Design a Strategic Marketing Plan: A well-thought-out marketing strategy is crucial for building anticipation and excitement around your special edition campaign. Plan your prelaunch, launch, and post-launch activities carefully in order to maintain momentum and engage with your audience throughout the campaign and beyond.
  3. Set Clear Expectations for Delivery: Transparent communication and delivery timelines are essential for maintaining trust with your backers, so once your campaign is over, make sure you post regular updates to keep everyone in the know about your production and shipping processes. It’s a good idea to send updates at least once a month until all your rewards are in your eager readers’ hands.

Special editions represent a powerful strategy for maximizing exposure and funding on Kickstarter. By offering something unique, engaging with your audience through customization, and ensuring the highest quality with trusted partnerships, you can create a campaign that resonates deeply with backers, captures the imagination of the Kickstarter community, and engages your audience in an unforgettable journey. 

Dana Claire, an award-winning young adult author, has been in marketing and direct sales for well over 20 years. Dana, having experienced the author journey herself, touts a unique perspective with her hybrid knowledge of both the literary world and the marketing industry. She is passionate about author education and using her business acumen to help other authors grow their own businesses, especially when it comes to designing and manufacturing special editions. This led her to start The INKfluence, an author-exclusive marketing agency dedicated to empowering authors with the knowledge and expertise needed to thrive in the dynamic world of publishing.