Kickstart or not? How much *nonfun* effort do I put into my pet project
April 21, 2017 5:05 AM   Subscribe

My pet project is and illustrated cook book for climbers. It's almost finished, but I can't figure out how much effort I should put into the *not fun* process of marketing it. And if it makes sense to start a kickstarter or not? How did you decide how much effort to put into your pet project? Internal debate inside.

I've been drawing recipes occasionally in the past years. And instead of starting a new creatve project, I decided last January that I should finish one first - which meant: publishing my climber cook book. (

So the last months I've been cleaning it all up: the drawings, the recipes, adding measurements in both cups and grams. all of that. And now it's time to think about how to bring it into the world.
I initially thought I should start a kickstarter, for the added promotional options. But then I discovered that mailing the book to the US (the largest possible market) is 6.5 euros
And the book should cost about 15euros itself, if I calculate the printing costs.
(I want to print it on laminated cards, so that it will survive camping trips).
And then there are the costs for kickstarter - so really it'll realistically ends up with a €22.50 or $24 book. And I'm not sure there'd be a market for it.

I'm having a hard time deciding if it's worth the effort.

- I really enjoyed making the drawings, and seeing it become better. and generally excited about the outcome
- I like the idea of the book spreading beyond the 50 climbers in my climbing gym
- I don't really like all the extra work (building a site, getting the paypal figured out), because it is such a time suck, and the work is not much fun..
- I know I won't make any money on it.
- Which is fine, but I don't want to give myself another week of 'work' with little chance of success.
- I'm worried the $24 is too expensive..

How do you (or should I) decide how much effort to put into your (my) pet project?

The alternative is just throwing a launch party at my gym, and selling it to friends&family.
posted by Thisandthat to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Are you ruling out other marketing avenues (like submitting it to bloggers for reviews, sending press releases/review copies to climbing publications, seeing if appropriate venues would sell or carry it for you, etc) entirely? Are you considering any other distribution routes other than only sending from the Netherlands, if there is enough interest? Could you consider budgeting to pay someone to do some promotion for it (and increasing the price a little accordingly), if you hate doing it yourself?

The book looks really high-quality (though I'm not the target market) and you have presented it so well, it seems like you're only short on the promotion part. But, speaking as someone else in Europe, shipping costs are a familiar reality I just accept when it's something relating to my nichey interests, and I wouldn't let it put you off reaching a worldwide audience - I'm sure you're used to this too.
posted by carbide at 5:17 AM on April 21

Doing this as a break-even venture is admirable, but if you see an audience for this and the non-fun aspects are discouraging you, maybe you should reconsider thinking of this as a non-profit venture.

If US$24 is not prohibitive, will $25 or $26 also be reasonable? Will there be a market for additional cookbooks in the future, or revised/expanded editions of this one? Even if the only thing that happens is a republication of exactly the same content, having money in the bank to do that with can make it easier to psyche yourself up to work with the printers and shippers.
posted by ardgedee at 5:25 AM on April 21

As someone who experiences a bit of the shipping drama/expense getting things from the U.S. into Canada, I agree with carbide that people in your niche might be used to this sort of thing. It's not a mass market product, so it follows that it wouldn't have a mass market price.

As for your question of how to decide: I'd take the path of least regret. The book looks great. Are you going to wish you had a wider audience for it? Will you wish you could have seen how it did in a broader market? I get the hassle involved, but I think your logic falls apart slightly with the "little chance of success" line because you don't know that. I think it could be rewarding to find an audience. And, yes, dealing with shipping and whatnot can be a slog — but if you're doing that it means people are interested in your book!
posted by veggieboy at 5:31 AM on April 21

Have you looked into on-demand self-publishing services? You could probably even use multiple companies to keep shipping costs down (For example Peecho is in the Netherlands, Lulu is in the United States) I've never self-published a book myself so I have no idea about cost/quality of the various services out there, but it seems like it would be the lowest effort path to being able to offer a physical book for sale without all of the exhausting non-fun overhead of a crowd-funding campaign.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 5:41 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

Thanks for your thoughts!

@Funeral March: I did look at self publishing. (And publishing and shipping from different places, - but the format is a bit tricky.
For some reason I decided that it should be a set of cards so you can take some of them on a trip. (They also have rounded corners, and a punched hole through which a cord to hold them together) Which makes it hard to publish it elsewhere.

@carbide: I learned that if I want to sell it at gyms, climbing- or bookstores, they require a 30% cut of the price. In which case it becomes a losing venture for me... But I like your suggestion of promoting at bloggers and magazines. Perhaps I should write a press-release. and better pics.
But then - that time!

@ardgee: I chose the format so that it can be expanded indeed - but not sure if that'll happen for reasons of balancing time with income.. But perhaps I should get an intern to promote it, and come up with different venues..!

@veggieboy, I like the suggestion of the "path of least regret".. I guess I'm just worried that I'll be putting energy into trying to promote it and then not actually selling any - which will be more of a downer than not putting in the effort and not selling...
posted by Thisandthat at 6:11 AM on April 21

Have you thought about putting in on Amazon? (Can you make it an ebook? I'm not sure if it translates here). Either way I'd make it available on Amazon, get a bunch of your climbing friends to write (honest!) reviews of the book on the Amazon platform, and see if it gets any traction. Of course they will take their cut and it may never be a money making thing (side hustles /projects take a lot of work to become profitable) but you never know.

I'd recommend not bothering with the website, etc unless you want to spend some time with SEO and link building. Just putting it out there on the web does not mean they will come without some effort and even luck on your part. There's a whole metric crapload of info on the web on how to make money from a side project, a lot of it spammy but some is genuine, but the short summary of the whole process is it takes work and effort. If that doesn't interest you, you may need to just do the fun parts and accept you may not make money off it and it was the experience of the whole process that was the goal. Which you seem to have gotten, which is awesome - good for you for actually getting it written! That alone is a huge accomplishment (I say this with at least a half dozen unfinished projects around me...)
posted by cgg at 6:31 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]

These look very similar to recipe subscription boxes from the 70s and 80s. They were sold by women's magazines and food companies and you subscribed to them, and got a base set and a box or binder, and then every month you got X new recipe cards for a set price.

I don't know how quickly you can develop new recipes or how many recipes you have now, but a subscription model might be worth considering if you want to create ongoing revenue, particularly if there's some number of recipe cards you can ship at a substantially cheaper price. In Canada, shipping things as a letter is relatively reasonably priced and as soon as something edges over 50g and becomes a package, the prices quintuple, even if it's only a tiny bit over; if postage is similar where you are you might find significant advantage in having a small number of cards ship together.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:28 AM on April 21

I have no advice for what you specifically can do, but I can say that if you set some goals it can be much easier to see what kind of effort you should put in.

Do you want to make your money back by a certain date? Then you will probably need to spend a good amount of time figuring out your business plan as you are now.

Do you want to make a name for yourself and gain some recognition in your broader community, and you're ok with taking some losses for that? Then I would not worry so much about cost and instead focus on PR. Get featured on blogs and in gyms and take the loss and bask in the glory! This could yield other opportunities in the future.

Do you want to start a lifestyle brand and make bank off of it? Find a business partner.

What does success look like to you? Assuming someone else was doing all the work and funds to get there are unlimited. Now you know what you want. And can start scheming for ways to get there. :)
posted by pazazygeek at 9:21 AM on April 21 [2 favorites]

My friends that dealt with international fulfillment of Kickstarted items found dealing with all the packaging and shipping of the individual objects to be a pain to the point the project lost its joy. So you might want to factor outsourcing that to someone, which of course, will add cost.

As an alternative to your current plans, you might find a print on demand place that can do tearable pages and let readers laminate it if they chose.
posted by Candleman at 11:44 AM on April 21

$25 is considered the sweet spot for Kickstarter items, especially books. Not sure offhand what that is in euros, or if there's a different number for Europe.

When you set up your campaign you can specify that some countries have higher mailing costs, and Kickstarter will make people in those places cover that in their pledge.

Running the campaign will become your life for a month. It kind of sucks. I've done it three times and I'm glad I probably won't need to do it again for a year or three while I sit around drawing comics instead of printing them.
posted by egypturnash at 9:39 PM on April 21

Thanks for all the suggestions!
I'm gonna define success & brew on the decisions a bit longer.

And at least I've been reminded of the 80/20 rule and the '50% of your budget/time should be reserved for marketing'-rule again...

(Ps my mom said she'd do the shipping for me, so I got that outsourced ;))
posted by Thisandthat at 5:19 AM on April 23

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