One of those things Paul says a lot (about Kickstarter launches, or marketing products, or any project where the goal is the result, not necessarily the method) is:
"Try 100 things. Maybe 2 of those will work. But you never know in advance which two."
The implication is that if you just try 2 or 3 things, try not to be surprised if they don't instantly achieve your desired result.
So I am going to set a goal, one that seems sort of Paul-scale rather than strictly within my personal comfort zone, and try 100 things. This thread is for listing them, and the results.
I struggle with setting goals in terms of money, because it's frankly not that big a motivation for me. Money makes things easier, but the thing that really motivates me is the human factor - filling real needs for people around me, ideally people I'm directly meeting and working with. While this is satisfying, however, it's exhausting to try to make a living at it, particularly when I have to travel thousands of miles to serve most of those people.
So I have two goals: Make a decent living without needing to travel so much, so that I can truly enjoy the times that I do travel.
and second: Bring in enough money that we can seriously get Ernie back out on a boat. This might be building our own boat, or living closer to the coast where it's easier to get out on boats more often, or even just being able to ditch everything and go volunteer on a research trip or tall-ship educational cruise. But I want to be able to leave things in good shape - even hire some help for house-sitting if needed.
$50,000 in one year would let us do a lot, and would renew my faith in the idea that our current business is actually a livelihood, not just a hobby. So let's call that the "bronze" target.
$125,000 would be the silver - putting both Ernie's and my projects ahead of schedule.
$350,000 would be the gold ($50,000 for my land-based goals, and $300,000 making it possible to hire a boat yard; we could potentially be teaching workshops without investing a single gallon of gasoline to get there, within about 5 years' time (while we're still young enough to sling mud) if we had a chunk of change to jump-start the boat project).
And I'm going to give myself full "credit" for things we've already tried, because there is a large "didn't work" category to be filled in.
So here's the first installment: Things we've already tried:
Hands-On Content Delivery:
1) Teach workshops using hosts' contact lists and existing publicity channels (flyers, etc) on a percentage-of-take basis. Sometimes works, sometimes doesn't.
Successes: We met a lot of people, and satisfied most of them - to the point where several clients became repeat hosts (either because they had an educational mission, or a bigger site with multiple buildings to heat, or both). We got a lot of experience with heaters in existing structures that others didn't have at the time. We also got to co-teach at Cob Cottage Co and other places with experienced instructors, since we were a low-risk add-on.
Failures: A number of projects where we put in months of work ahead of time, and then got nothing, or basically gas money, for our trouble. Physical risk and time spent, without tangible compensation. Hosts who just want help with their project may sign up to host a class thinking it's cheaper than hiring labor or consultants, but not be motivated or skilled enough to recruit enough students to make the workshop pay us fairly.
2) Teach workshops on a fee-plus-expenses basis, using our hosts' advertising as before, plus our own mailing list and blog. Less risky, but hosts are now shouldering the financial risk. Works OK for hosts prepared to pay for help; others sometimes cancel with less than 30 days' notice, or we have to negotiate a payment plan that will allow them to continue.
Successes: On this basis, we've been able to negotiate better for what the host actually needs from us, and can afford. We have tiers of fees for different levels of service.
Failures: We are still not comfortable raising our fees enough to cover the actual time investment in this type of hands-on teaching work, and we sometimes have trouble collecting actual expenses after the fact (not just flaky clients, but we ourselves sometimes flake out and forget to bill, or fail to track expenses accurately on road trips)
3) Produce digital and paper plans, and sell them online. This has been pretty good, with the following sub-steps:
4) Sell digital plans through whatever service our friend was using. Not naming names, it sucked.
5) Get Paul to sign up as an affiliate, so he makes something for promoting our stuff. Promotion helps sales.
6) Paul gets annoyed about clunky affiliate program at sucky sales site, does some research, and then berates us until we switch. Free and reliable platform research - definitely helpful.
7) Switch to Scubbly.com. Affiliate program and entire financial structure 10 times better, maybe more - our books are easier to keep and our affiliates get paid on time even if we're incommunicado in outer Mongolia. Godsend.
At some time back in there, we started a website. www.ErnieAndErica.info.
It was originally a hybrid personal/business website, handled a lot of our wedding details for a while, and has gradually become more business oriented but not much.
Successes: People check it, our schedule and sales stuff and some articles go up there.
Failures: We went for the bottom-dollar DIY version, and it badly needs upgrading to something that is nicer for smart-phones and tablets.
Also, our current hosting arrangement does not host ads or click-tracking very well, which makes it hard to participate in some business opportunities.
9) At some time back in there, I started a blog. ernieanderica.blogspot.com
Successes: It's easy to use, and I'm still discovering features that are built in.
Failures: Writing the blog is fine; attracting a big list of readers has not happened yet.
10) Email mailing lists: We started with sending out updates from our personal emails. Got us some attention, but mostly hit spam filters or recipient-limits.
11) We did a free trial of an email newsletter service called Clever Elements, opt-in and doesn't get spam-filtered as much. Works pretty well. Now up to about 1000 readers, over 1/3 of whom seem to open and read our stuff when we send it, which isn't that often.
Successes: We do have a mailing list.
Failures: It's small, and we don't use it enough (a few times a year). And while the opt-in is available for self-addition, we don't update it very easily or very often. These things may be related.
One of the issues with our business communications stuff in general may be that it's all spread out. I have separate logins for the website, the blog, the mailing list, Scubbly, and a couple other logins for payment details and back-end stuff. Then when I correspond with event hosts or customers, that's from a separate email account, not through the ones associated with our website. So we have not yet been able to migrate all our correspondence into the mailing list, as happens automatically with some
__) more integrated (or pushier) site designs.
__) Opportunity: Meat-and-potatoes marketing time could include capturing email lists from events, and sending an invite to opt-into our mailing list.
__) Opportunity: We could try to transition our mailing list members to our blog, so that updates to the blog automatically reached our mailing list.
12) Triage Correspondence Policy:
After several seasons of growing email correspondence, we learned to greet people with a 3-part message, offering options to do business or request our attention on a pro-bono basis. Business could be buying a plan (cheap) or hiring us for a custom project consultation (spendier); pro bono work now to be done in public, primarily on the forums at www.permies.com. This takes some of the self-imposed pressure to be "nice" to people, which can take hours of our time in our busiest season. Likewise, try to limit unpaid phone consultations to under 15 minutes.
When we do have free time, or when there's a particularly worthy project helping folks who are literally in Mongolia or somewhere, we can enjoy being a public resource and leaving a public record where others can benefit.
Successes: It helps me not get sucked into every single request for help.
Failures: I still hand-write the emails explaining it.
__) We could set up the main email from our website with an auto-responder giving the generic version of this message. I don't like auto responders and I'm sure our audience doesn't either, but maybe I could make something quirky enough that it could work. Probably would not hurt to try it, anyway.
__) Opportunity: I could put a similar message in the signature on my main email, but respond in person more briefly.
13) Say Yes to Film and Radio policy: We are not camera-shy, and become relatively friendly to people who wanted to take photos or video in our workshops, and we make a habit of checking for participant's permission to share those images. We got a lot of free publicity from Paul's videos, and from other workshop participants, including one or two community cable stations, a couple radio appearances arranged by event hosts, etc.
Success: Nothing wrong with free publicity. We seem to come across OK on camera. We have also been offered percentages, or copies to sell, when a couple of our colleagues put together for-profit video projects.
Failure: We don't always control our image, or in a few cases, the timing of promised video releases and so on. More to the point, without actively putting our own content out there, we are somewhat dependent on the amateur video of others. Making video ourselves seems like an uphill slog at the moment; neither of us has the spark for videography, though we now have some equipment.
__)There are videos of us already made, with friendly videographers, which could be leveraged into Kickstarter candy, online courses, or other marketing ideas.
__) If we can recruit a local videographer or enterprising amateur, we could do more in this space without the travel costs.
__) With a little practice we could produce a few video ourselves; it might be worth putting 60 hours into this for a particular launch.
14) Events: We spent a couple of years going to a few bigger events as "promotion" even if they did not necessarily pay, or if the payment was break-even rather than income: the Village Building Convergence, Permaculture Convergences (INWPC several years), Permaculture Voices II, Natural Building Convergence, and any number of local festivals from school harvest fairs to Earth Day events to Sustainability demo shows.
Success: We met some great people, and made friends and allies who have remained inspiring down the road. Sometimes we met people who later hired us. Sometimes we sold enough books to cover much of our costs.
Mutual inspiration is valuable in itself, and apparently one of our presentations helped motivate a bequest to the host organization, while others have been mentioned by folks who later sign up for workshops or offer collaborative opportunities.
Failures: We lost money on some of these events, but we knew that could happen. More alarmingly, the stress of air travel and PVII may have been a factor in Ernie's leg developing a serious cellulitis infection (it's an old injury but highly vulnerable to aggravation), which has hospitalized him twice this year and put other plans in jeopardy.
15) Making a logo, printing business cards, address labels, and letterhead.
This seems basic, but having a business card to hand people is a definite convenience at events or chance conversations.
The letterhead is kinda dorky and we don't get as much use out of it as I'd prefer.
The address labels are super-useful and I need to order more. Or stop using them for personal mailings
16) Hang out and discuss rockety stuff on Permies.com. In combination with Paul's promotion of us, this has been a very welcoming place for our business, and people do seem to appreciate our advice. Mostly. Many of our former students and some colleagues have joined the forums, too, so we can refer people here for lots of useful information without needing to provide all of it ourselves on demand.
17) Hang out and discuss rockety stuff on Facebook. It is very hard to tell if this has any impact at all, but perhaps we can post a few things.
1 Start a Twitter feed. Matt Powers helped me set one up, back when I thought our Kickstarter for the book was imminent.
Opportunity: Go re-visit the Twitter feed and freshen it up with new content, preparatory to the book's actual launch in June.
19) Swap rockety content with colleagues - for example, I did a set of diagrams for Kiko Denzer's masonry-heater-hat project, and we put a case study in Leslie Jackson and Ianto Evans' third edition rocket mass heaters book.
Success: So far, the field of potential competition still feels mostly like grassroots collaborators, which is nice. Also, we often get perks like a case of books that we can sell at workshops, or free publicity on their websites at handprintpress.com and rocketstoves.com.
20) Collaborate with Paul's visions for rocket innovation. We do sometimes test ideas at home, but Paul has definitely driven things further and faster, particularly by hosting the Pyronauts innovator gatherings in Montana in the fall. Meeting and working with international colleagues has been a huge morale-booster, and I suspect that some of the projects from those workshops will influence the future of this field.
21) Offer different formats besides installation workshops: 3-hour bonfire classes, 1- to 2-hour slide presentations, Skype video conferences for Q&A at others' workshops or for college courses.
22) Work with New Society to publish the rocket mass heater Builder's Guide, coming out in June 2016. This is a more comprehensive version of what we offer in our plans, owner's manual, and AV presentations, and it's the first time in over 10 years that we've worked with a conventional publisher instead of self-publishing.
23) Add to our digital materials inventory, to include lower-priced general info like the Art of Fire, Simple Shelter, and 3 Mini Stoves.
Pricing & promotions:
24) Cooperate with various marketing schemes by Paul, including adjusting prices and affiliate fees, or putting up coupons and 'freebies' to attract more attention to our online store.
25) Two rather frustrating attempts to get on jack spirko's podcast, which were foiled by conflicting medical appointments (in the most recent case, the week that Ernie was hospitalized with cellulitis). I made the mistake of assuming someone with a "survival" theme would be sympathetic to the VA and veterans' issues. Jack was not real interested in working around our schedule conflicts, and declared himself not interested in working with us again on account of the hassle.
26) A "Survival Bundle" promotion by another online marketer that included our stuff and dozens of other authors; minor positive returns.
That's the bulk of our attempts to earn money to date, in the field of rocket-mass-heater-related education and consulting.
Things I have learned about myself and Ernie:
- Ernie wants to travel - but the reality is not comfortable. He is not happy in crowded places, urban areas, or in busy street traffic. The altitude changes of air travel are intensely painful and he needs a day or two to recover from air travel - making train trips with sleeper cars a potentially competitive way to travel if we compare not just fares, but hotel and food costs during the recovery time. Neglecting recovery time can lead to infection. While his disabling injury means that Ernie is basically a volunteer in this whole process, and our hosts know that he is allowed to sit out at any point as needed, it's still way more interesting to me to keep doing this if it works for Ernie, and if it's hurting Ernie then it's hard to imagine that being the right way to do this.
- I am not intrinsically motivated by a lot of the "gamesmanship" of business; if I make a gobbet of money I think "oh good, pie ingredients" and take a day off for baking in my kitchen, rather than thinking "where did that drop come from? is there a honey tree around here somewhere?"
If I can work with other human beings socially, it becomes more interesting to me. So business collaborations are a lot more viable than "lone wolf" entrepreneurship. This might be a reason to try to get this business up to the point where it can support employees, or go into partnership with a related entrepreneur.
Relation-based business tactics:
27) Authority: Having our taxes done by an outside service. We did this a couple times while we lived in Portland, and it was reassuring that they didn't have any surprises for me about how to read the IRS forms, or which ones I needed to use. We're sometimes above the income bracket for free help now, but not so rich that we need to itemize deductions. It might be worth trying this again to see if the pro's can save us some money.
2 Friendly authority: Having bookkeepers we know and trust occasionally review our books - Maralena did this for us in Portland, Jocelyn did it more recently. Their positive comments or advice are very useful, and reassuring when I'm trying to do it on my own. Trying to delegate the bookkeeping in our county seems like it would take more time supervising than it would save. An occasional friendly audit or reference for advice seems to do the trick.
29) Making weekly check-in meetings - Ernie hates meetings, and is not up for this. A year or two ago, I found a local friend who saw value in the same idea, and we would meet for tea and bring each other up to date on our progress in our respective endeavors. Sometimes we lapse when I'm gone, or we're too busy, but it's invaluable knowing someone is waiting for a progress report.
30) Picking on friends and family for skilled help: when it comes to taking project pictures or video, sometimes I will do better with a friend behind the camera than with someone who's technically a better photographer. Some of our best rocket pictures come from my stepmother, a Portland friend, and others.
31) Making friends of business colleagues: Workshop hosts, students, and the occasional peer collaborator (like our guest last year, grad student Cesco Trovo, who stayed with us while working on a rocket-themed master's thesis). When there is someone in regular correspondence who cares about our work, we focus on it more.
32) Locating events preferentially where we already have friends and family. This is a nice safety fallback, and keeps me from feeling like I have to choose between business and family obligations. As far as keeping us under a roof on the road, it turns out it's not really necessary, as we have made some marvelous friends in regions where we just dropped in and hoped our hosts would be nice in person. So now we have a longer list of people we really want to see again, if business can take us that direction it's a social win.
Bandwidth and seasonal time management:
33) Increase Internet speed at home. While it may be true that the Herbal game guy got his launch happening from the Library internet, it is seriously prohibitive to drive 40 minutes to an hour down icy roads when I need to review a video, Skype with a colleague, etc. We have invested an extra $20/month and are planning to try this for 3 months; if it gives a significant productivity increase, we will keep it up.
34) Pre-load some Twitter posts and blog posts during quiet times, so they can run on a schedule while I'm in my busy season. Needs more updating, and I need more practice being brief.
35) Set up website & list services to auto-renew so I can't accidentally lose my domain or list.
That's everything we've tried to make the business work. Not all of it strictly promotional, but it all had to get figured out.
From here out, I think I'll hold the list more specifically to marketing-related items.
So if I have not met my goal by the time I hit 100, technically I should continue to 135 or so.
Currently on the table:
__) Read "Launch" by Jeff Walker: this has been on my to-do list that I'm going to divide it into two parts.
36) Obtain a copy of "Launch" (done)
__) Actually read the whole book "Launch" (currently on page 22)
__) Mailing list improvement (page 32): Right now, the opt-in for our mailing list is hard to find. It needs a prominent place on our blog and on our website, where people can enter their email and get on our mailing list for future updates. This may take some technical research. Once it's easy to sign up, follow up with
__) Invite interested people to join that mailing list, contacting existing clients and colleagues.
__)Make a game plan for the book launch that includes pre-Kickstarter, Kickstarter pre-sales, and book promotion events. Lots more items once trying various events and listings and ads.
__) Spend a little money on ads (Google Ads, Facebook) while it's still cold enough that wood heat is a relevant topic. (Before Valentine's). I used to get these "$100 in free ads" cards from Google and save them until they expired. Doing something about it sounds worth a try.
__) Examine existing blog and see what it would take to do Adsense, Amazon, or other affiliate ads on blog posts.
X__) Do a holiday special. Later. Some publishers do half-off for Christmas. Maybe an "Art of Fire" special for Valentine's. The big holiday push is Christmas, so this is something to prepare more distant content, or to use the top favorite from this spring's experiments again in late November of this year.
XXX) Make more content and hope it sells. This is my first impulse always (we could start doing boat plans as well as heaters, for a summer sales...) but as Paul says, without marketing, this is a lot of work to do just to spread out an inadequate income over more months. If I find ways to get our existing stuff selling so well that I get bored in spring watching Ernie work on his dream boat, then would be a time to work more on boat plans or new books or whatever.
However, weighing Paul's advice against my uncle's consulting advice that a busy period is inevitably followed by fallow time... and Chaya's perspective on how she budgets her time for Pantry Paratus ... I think I'll give myself a target of marketing hours and let the creative work be "candy" at the end of the day.
__) Set a goal for marketing in terms of hours per week, with permission to work on the creative stuff in any remaining hours. I'm going to start with 10 hours per week and see how that does.
__) Try a book promo with Chaya at Pantry Paratus - not because it's the most likely way to make big bucks, but because I like her and we might get multiple benefits from "talking shop" in the process.
__) Try a Facebook promo using friends with lots of friends.
I will post more numbered items as I accomplish them.
If you have been successful in marketing roughly similar products into our target range (mid-5 figures to 6-figures or higher), please feel free to suggest additional items. (Please don't number them; I might accidentally take credit for something I haven't done yet.)
If you are nuanced enough in your marketing experience that knowing the nature of our products would help, you can see our online store here: http://www.scubbly.com/store/ernieanderica/ or here: http://www.ErnieAndErica.info/shop. Our book through New Society is not listed there, and instead will be offered for pre-sale through a Kickstarter launch (author sales) and the New Society website.
Updating both listings involves some duplication of effort; might be better to
__) embed or link store from website, instead of duplicating list
__) bring ErnieandErica.com up to date with links to store, mailing list, blog, and .info website for articles.
[Edited with a more accurate misquote of Paul's pet phrase.]
I felt like I was looking into a mirror reading this. My list of failures or washouts with Pantry Paratus marketing is long. If it weren't for longtime friendships (with people like Paul, for instance), there are times when I would have thrown in the proverbial kitchen towel on the whole thing. I totally agree that there is something in the brains of the most successful entrepreneurs that doesn't just go bake cookies with the newfound windfall, but somehow duplicates it successfully. It eludes me, too. I'd rather be baking the cookies. I tend to "give away the store" (wow, am I bad with cliches today) because I love people as a general rule and err on the side of customer service. I say that I "err" because sometimes it was the customer's mistake, sometimes a mail carrier, etc...but the cost of making things right doesn't leave any financial margin for me much of the time.
Just when I thought I couldn't keep limping along (when I spoke to you last), I signed on to teach a webinar that brought us back to a fairly healthy place and, more importantly, rejuvenated my passion. You know, that was the one thing I didn't really hear you factor in. You love what you do. And some of those techniques you mentioned that were not in the financial plus column give you the greatest joy--especially those things that led to your deepest relationships.
Since we last spoke, I've taken a course called "Best Year Ever" and learned a few painful things about myself. One is that in order to move forward with a new year you have to close the old one out, really doing that deeper work of self-reflection that you've done in this post. Good on you. The second is that for me, it isn't a lack of time but of time-management. I spend all of my time putting out fires instead of working more proactively. I've forced myself to go to bed early so that I can start my day at the ungodly hour of 5:30am. It's amazing how much more productive I've been since doing that. It's a great time for me to have quiet time and then to catch up on correspondence...especially not living in EST, which is tough on business.
You know how you say you struggle with financial goal setting? Me too. I have set some financial goals this year but think I might have done it all wrong. I mean, I set the numbers as the goals (as so did you, I gather), but the HOW TO GET THERE---ah, there's the rub. I'm afraid that it isn't as tangible of a goal since the roadmap is still so unclear. I mean, a goal like "I will do pilates twice a week" is one I can meet because the path is within the goal.
I look forward to checking in and seeing how you progress! I'll let you know how I fare, as well. Until then, let's live our passion with determination--and a plan!
This week: still reading "Launch." I am getting the feeling I should be using it like a workbook, at least drafting steps as they are discussed, or I will be reading it again to do anything with it.
3 New society raised the topic of "endorsers". Contacted about 200 people on the general topic of "we have a book coming out, can you suggest anyone who should review or endorse it?" "Want to host events or cross-promotions for it?" "What's your address in case we can send you a review copy?" Updating list of contact info, including several potential endorsers.
- famous or semi-famous authors
- people who do podcasts (like Paul and Matt Powers)
- people who have bookstores (like Kiko and Chaya)
- people whose stuff appears in the book (builders, website owners with good energy-related or masonry-related content, photographers) using the "acknowledgements as sales page" theory. Simultaneously, checking credits and final versions for pretty images for the book and promotions.
39) Using the Launch principle of reciprocity, drafted a guest blog post for Chaya. Starting with free chocolate recipes, then moving into discounted Art of Fire (self-published booklet), prep to announcing rocket mass heater Builder's Guide pre-sales.
40) Mailing list signups: Able to add a "subscribe by email" link to my blog at ernieanderica.blogspot.com.
41) Created more focused mailing lists (currently empty) for RMH builders and for the "Passages Project" (related to boats, seasteading, stewardship and assistance for coastal communities in transition)
__) Having trouble getting Clever Elements mailing-list signup forms to work on either my blog (blogspot.com), or
__) on our website ernieanderica.info which is hosted through Google Sites.
__) considering generating separate mailing lists which are more compatible with these hosts (through Google Groups or something? seems less than popular due to too many choices when signing up)
42) Kickstarter campaign - this is going to be its own whole 100 things sub-list, I think.
- a) started a pre-release page
- b) signed up for their financial processing stuff
- c) wrote script for Kickstarter video
- d) Paul re-wrote a completely different script
- e) filmed some takes for Paul's script,
- f) made some pictures for animation for Paul's script
- g) got 2/3 of the video put together by Bryce, then waited about 14 months to film the last 30 seconds
- h) made some new rewards like the 3 stoves for $3 project instructions
- i) adjusted the deadlines to realistic
- j) started researching print-on-demand, self-publishing, and printing houses
- k) talked to handfuls of vanity press sales people
- L) signed on with actual publisher who knows what they're doing and doesn't charge me money to print my book
- m) worked on book with publisher for a few months
- n) Okanogan County Complex wild fires blocking mail deliveries in August, working as relief on local fire crews for some smaller incidents, phone lines intermittently down; took MS illustration files with us on thumb drive to Seattle to ship to publisher. Went to Morocco.
- o) kept working on book with publisher: copy editing, photo permissions, formatting, EU and Au/NZ rights.
- p) continuing to tell people "we are still going to do a Kickstarter",
- q) working on script for final 30-second pitch
- r) script idea for filming in front of blackened fire landscape; missed opportunity (now covered in snow);
- s) practiced making audio files using better microphone
- t) practiced making video in front of tripod (sucked)
- u) refined script with Ernie, practiced /memorized new script
- v) friend who was going to help me with filming had unexpected death in the family. Helped with memorial for friend's husband, reached out more to own family and friends and beloved colleagues to renew relationships. Probably a good business decision, but mostly for personal reasons because not able to focus on technicalities of business while friends are hurting and grieving.
- w) asked a different friend for help filming, got a couple decent takes.
- x) re-connected with music, bought music permissions for use in video
- y) re-connected with video guy, set tentative timetable for finishing the video editing
- z) re-connected with publisher re: Kickstarter sales of print and digital copies; still need to confirm process for delivering e-books without the publisher feeling they've handed the baby away on the bus.
-aa) trying to get mailing list signup in prominent place (and working) on blog and website. 2 days so far.
-ab) re-set dates for Kickstarter compatible with realistic delivery around publisher's release date
-ac) re-set reward descriptions as needed to reflect publishing contract
These steps are currently in-progress (or stalled)
__) Re-print "Art of Fire" booklet in advance, or immediately following close of Kickstarter
-ad) working on combining Product Launch tips with Kickstarter release schedule (tenative opening date Feb 4th?)
-ae) working on turning emails and previous sales into workable mailing lists, trying to figure out how to use double opt-in feature to avoid spamming people with launch emails.
-af) working on setting up Google click-tracking to track progress of Kickstarter launch
-ag) need to follow through on some previous commitments with potential launch partners
-ah) Paul's video stuff - get VO audio files to Paul ASAP, help bring that project to a clean finish.
-ai) set date for Matt Powers' podcast
-aj) go back to Twitter and pre-load some more stuff for specific dates
-ak) go back to blog and pre-load stuff for specific dates
-aL) write announcement emails, using tips from product launch formula
-am) set and synchronize schedule, send out pre-announcements and release the blog posts etc.
-an) Final decisions on rewards, minimum goal, etc.
-ao) Submit for review.
-ap) Adjust if needed after review. (Will they say "you can't be hosted on Kickstarter if you have a conventional publisher?" If so, we may have to re-configure launch for GoFundMe or PetriDish or somewhere else.)
-aq) Launch; open the shop.
-ar) Try another 30 to 50 things to bring people's attention to the campaign within 30-day window)
-as) answer questions
-at) release updates and stretch goals
-au) Add some more bonus reward offers, responding to the audience comments and requests, that can be produced and delivered in a timely manner. Hold some bonus material in reserve for pleasant surprises after launch ends.
-av) stay in communication with supporters and with other mailing lists
-aw) have a birthday visit with family west of the Cascades in the middle of Week 2- maybe find a way to pretend this is business-related...
-ax) but even if it's not business related, don't neglect family connections or risk burning out on business worries. Involve family. Involve cousins. Involve friends.
-ay) set dates for book-release tour, schedule visits with loved ones en route, announce this route during Kickstarter and mention lower travel costs for event-host level rewards.
-az) send out messages as Kickstarter concludes, last call (week 3, day 29, day 30am, day 30pm)
"B" and "C" sub-lists reserved for 52 things we try as we think of them during the Kickstarter.
-da) send thank-you emails and calls
-db) deliver digital rewards in batches through Scubbly
-dc) send reminder emails about the New Society release date for the book, the tour, and how/when to expect e-books
-dd) set up shipping and labeling team work-party locally.
-de) let NS know by March total number of additional print copies needed; pay author rate per schedule.
-df) receive books from printer, invoke labeling team
-dg) ship books, or if very close to tour date, separate into ship and hand-deliver boxes for tour regions
-df) make sure tour schedule has plenty of rest stops for Ernie
-dg) bring video & audio equipment, possibly guest photographer, and emissions-sniffing equipment; Ernie's "new coastline" video tour.
-dh) set up emissions testing with 3rd-party tester if stretch goal reached; coordinate with tour hosts
-di) rehearse author speaking topics,
-dj) get PV2 power point presentation re-formatted on actual proprietary Power Point computer so it doesn't mess up its fonts at crunch time
-dk) set up transport for tour in least-harm-to-Ernie mode (train, sleeper-van, or similar).
-dl) make arrangements for Radar (dog) and homestead
-dm) make arrangements for R&R, possible fishing or boat dates for Ernie to unwind from crowds.
__) Offer affiliate arrangements for selling the book, e-book, and promoting the Kickstarter.... we are working on roughly 25% margin with publisher costs and online service fees, so it won't be a lot but we can work some deals.
__) Find some experienced or professional help for managing technical web-design aspects.
__) Find some experienced friends to help us evaluate offers of professional help " " " " " ". (I am just intrinsically uncomfortable with cold-calls from overseas web-design "makeover" people.)
__) Start working on video blog, or video-enhanced online course material. find professional help.
__) Recruit help just to fulfill these above steps.
43) Contacted Wes @ Santa Barbara Permaculture again about tour dates.
44) Set up weekly check-in with local friend for moral support on big task list, organizing brainstorms.
45) Connect with distant family & friends about a) book tour stops and b) endorsements, so that work of promotion is motivated by intrinsic connections and relationships. (When I feel like professional work is taking me away from friends and family, motivation stalls; going toward them, the reverse.)
- a) Mom, sister & cousin in Portland area
- b) Dad, Tyler, & other friends in Seattle area
- c) Ernie's mom, Lorna & Carl, Bryce, and Barbara's friends in Vancouver-Chehalis-Olympia area.
- d) MEN fair in Albany - connect with uncle, brother, side trip to see Coquille & Bandon folks.
- e) Betty S & Jon Y in Bay area, aunts, uncles, cousins
- f) possible cousin & Matt's homeschooling group in Grass Valley area
- g) possible revisit to Tahoe/Reno friends
- h) sister in Tucson, new friends among NM colleagues
- i) Deanne and Suzanna V-Q in Michigan
- j) cousins in Wisconsin
- k) Pennsylvania MEN: Chris in Ohio, possible outreach to see Ontario and upstate NY friends
- l) PEI cousins?
- m) Boston/Amherst mentors & friends, Connecticut great-aunt & uncle
International? Probably by proxy, but reaching out to colleagues and former students in Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Israel; possible visit to UK with friends & family if opportunity arises.
__) Look for small opportunities to make this promotion be about creative collaborations in future:
__) possible coastal-changes video clips
__) possible video lessons with kids, kids' how-to projects or basic skill-building videos for masonry, fire, water, other building-block topics.
__) possible book collaborations,
__) continue identifying & keeping in touch with "crew" - people to recruit as we are able to grow business or launch & staff a disaster-relief boat.
Those alphabets, particularly the not-yet-done stuff, got intimidating.
I may need to fall back on my 3 things per day rule: do 3 things each day.
So for today (and yesterday) I can add:
46) Actually finished reading "Launch;" started an outline showing which points to use in drafting our own pre-sales launch for the book.
47) Had a good conversation with the publisher's publicist, and divvied up a short list to approach for book endorsements.
47b) Emailed them, and downloaded the galley proofs. c) got some positive responses, and will be sending those out to the potential endorsers who responded.
(Also on the galley proofs - reviewed them, sent comments, still working on final picture selection and uploading for the color insert.)
4 Figured out how to get a sort of mailing list signup onto the blog (really just an RSS feed for the blog, but better than nothing)
and onto the website (really just a link to the post on the blog which is the only place where the little signup-form HTML script from my newsletter host is working so far).
Updated the link to the archived post, and checked that the form still works.
__) Could REALLY use someone code-savvy who wants to make a widget for Clever Elements newsletter signups that works on Google Sites or blogger (blogspot.com) hosted pages.
49) Showed some people around the Okanogan in person, and mentioned the book, showed off the cover mock-up.
This seems like an ultra-dumb way to market things, if you had to drive around for a couple hours to sell every book you'd be paying yourself like negative dollars.... but it's not about selling one book.
We've had personal friends or chance connections turn out to be surprisingly powerful leverage if they happen to have the right ear at the right time.
So I guess I will just count this once - the individual connection approach to sharing your current projects.
There are a bazillion examples, like taking a few minutes to discuss clay with some nice folks on a research station in Idaho, or asking the youngest audience member to help us with the slide show, where it turned out to be just the beginning of a long and fruitful conversation spanning multiple organizations and family members.
This was supposed to be a weekend, so let's pretend I took a day or two off as I've been trying to do, and those 3 or 4 things were my being over-quota for Friday.
50) Tried another 2 times to get my newsletter to talk to my blog and website. Chatted with CE support. They suggested writing my own Google Gadget. Less than helpful at my current programming skill and time crunch.
But I did manage to use my very basic old-school HTML to get the Blog link to the signup working. Website signup not visible (I think it's because Google Sites does not allow HTML unless it's a tested and approved gadget.)
__) Need to test blog RSS feed to make sure that people can get on that list and stay on it; if so, signing up for the blog updates is like a mailing list that builds itself.
51) Hereby issuing a bounty for anyone with successful experience writing Google Gadgets: $100 to combine the Clever Elements mailing list and Google Sites successfully, so I can do an easy mailing-list form for people to enter their emails on my website. $50 for the first person to point me toward an existing one that I somehow missed.
52) Got our first endorsement back for the book; sending out info on affiliate links and a Kickstarter-coming-soon heads-up for promotional partners.
53) Posted our own affiliate link to the book's pre-sales page at the publishers in the Kickstarter and on blog.
54) Chocolate side note: Pantry Paratus has our truffle recipe up for $1, and is offering chocolate and cooking tools as prizes for a truffle-making-picture contest.
55) Posting my affiliate link in an update on my college's Class Notes page. Taking longer than I expected.
__) Need to complete the cost calculator for Kickstarter and confirm reward prices will work (tight margin due to various costs, including paying the publisher for both print and e-books, so I need to get the math done and make sure I have some margin for the unexpected, or for the expected reciprocity with supporters).
__) Need to finalize and send 2 things this week: photos for color insert to publisher, comments on Paul's videos, as both of these may affect success of Kickstarter in various ways.
Observation: The "Launch" book described the principle of reciprocity: give people something of value, and they are more inclined to support you back.
I am finding this also works in reverse: if I spend a few hours tinkering around with ways to promote or market my own projects, it feels like I am asking people to give me value or buy me stuff. Especially if I am calling in favors or asking for help - which is the most interesting way to get past a stuck point, but requires banked favors or a keen sense of what other people find intersting.
After I've been doing this kind of "selfish" work for a while, I end up needing a "break" where I go help other people, like offering advice on these forums, or answering emails that request something from me, or baking something for the family.
It's possible that "pure" marketers are able to ditch that sense of obligation, and just take advantage of other people's sense of reciprocity while being parsimonious and strategic in their offered value.
I am hoping that the more generous form of reciprocity can be part of my long-term strategy for succeeding through making the world work better, not just exploiting it. Because it seems very hard and uncomfortable for me to just ask, ask, ask, and stay on topic, without giving and responding to other people's needs and wants.
Intellectually, it seems like the work that I'm trying to do and promote does have vital usefulness for humankind and the planet. But emotionally/socially, asking to get paid for it feels like I'm incurring a debt, and that trips my little reciprocity index to go find ways to build up credit elsewhere.
Or maybe email is just full of requests and a well-known distraction from focused tasks.
Anyway, it's interesting, and sort of self-evident in hindsight, to realize that the "reciprocity" trigger works both ways.
56) I've set up appointments with 3 friends (1 sister, 2 local friends) to call me this week and check in/hold me accountable on progress.
57) Ernie has been active on Facebook, and I think partly as a result, we've gotten some interesting things coming back this week, like a translation offer and some wooden handcrafts this week.
5 Contacted 3 people about event scheduling for book promotions; was contacted by 3 others regarding workshop scheduling for this year.
**) Not actually marketing - tried to save time and order a calendar online; pages were all messed up. I still need a 2016 calendar. Hard to schedule things without one.
59) Drafted pre-launch messages per formula.
Noticed that it helps to think of specific audiences when writing this kind of letter. It's not generic - I will probably do a tweak for several sub-sets of the mailing list:
- folks who have written to questions@ErnieAndErica.info, ever, to ask us about stuff. These are prospects. Same would go for folks who have PM'd me on Permies.com, or follow the Rocket Stoves forum, but those are not my own lists to use.
- folks who have purchased things, ever, from our online store at www.scubbly.com/store/ErnieAndErica. These are existing customers with a demonstrated interest in our work. They are also potential testimonials and advocates - I liked Tony Deis' advice to treat your mailing list not as potential sales, but as supporters/allies who know your work and can help you reach new customers. This is a lot nicer relationship and not so fatiguing for the list members.
- folks who follow our blog - this covers a lot of different things, so I will assume that they are interested in our projects but also like hearing about us at a personal level - homesteading, learning curves, big-picture musings, etc. International audience.
- folks who are on our original mailing list - originally it was Ernie's contact list, now it is morphing by opt-in and opt-out into a general mailing list for mostly business stuff, so I will consider them 50% personally interested in us, 60% interested in natural building including rocket stoves, maybe 30% boats, 20% wondering why they are on this list. I have cleaned up bounces and the list numbers have stabilized and started growing, but I am still leery of whether they think we're spamming them.
60) - new list through Clever Elements - I opened a fresh list for rocket-mass-heaters interest only. I put up one link on a back page of our blog, which is the only place it appears publicly as far as I know. Already, 3 people have signed up onto this list somehow. Weird and cool. Maybe there are more people reading the blog than I guessed.
__) At some point in future, I would like to find out if Clever Elements can let me load a whole bunch of emails to a new list, and then send an explanatory letter and opt-in form. So I short-cut the initial opt-in, and use the double-opt-in feature for a single-opt-in by invitation.
61) Strengthened the links to our blog from our website - (ernieanderica.blogspot.com) - now appears near the top of both the main page, and the Contacts page.
__) As time allows, I could copy and paste the sidebar with the updated contacts onto other pages, like the older articles on our website that may be updated on future blog posts.
__) As time allows, I could link to our website from the blog, to use the website articles as general/introductory info for folks trying to follow new updates.
__) Need to make sure Google Analytics is talking to Kickstarter.
__) Would help to do the same for the blog. I am curious if we get more traffic already than I thought.
__) Need to get first pre-launch message out - will start with blog post.
__)Currently on my way to have tea with an accountability check-in friend, and get some pictures from her for the KS eye candy.
50) B - Mailing list signup, continued: posted a question on the Google Chrome ad for Clever Elements, publicly asking about Gadgets for mailing list signup on Google-hosted platforms.
62) Tried to post a note on the Alumni web page for my college - not clear if note went through. Re-sent note to alumni email address with affiliate link to publisher's page for the book.
63) Had tea with accountability friend, did jigsaw puzzle instead of work. (She's been widowed for 1 month, seemed like an OK time not to push things). I still think the meeting motivated me to get a lot done in the afternoon.
64) email conversation with Chaya, the photo contest is not getting as much response as some of her previous ones. Not sure if Valentines is just not that kind of a holiday. Posted a note here on Permies in the "cooking" forum, and suggested it for the Daily-ish email.
65) There is a post on our blog, too, mentioning Chaya's valentine chocolate stuff and the same chocolates as a bonus on the Art of Fire digital download this month.
Have not seen nearly as much response as from Paul's little spurt of FB and Permies ads for our earthen oven plans. - they are still #2 on the Scubbly most popular download list, right after Paul's podcast. FB advertising may be worth doing for the Kickstarter.
66) Started the pre-launch with a post about fire on our blog, reminder to comment or join mailing list. Need to feed that post to the other 3 mailing lists today if possible.
67) On my way to go over the budget with a friend who likes organizing things. Considering recruiting her for some kind of share or compensated support.
6 Per Chaya's comment about "it's hard to sell digital books because people want to flip through them" -
Made clips of sample pages for Kickstarter + upcoming future article, with publisher permission (4 emails so far, plans to discuss clips with magazine editor next week).
69) This item represents email turnover of several previous or upcoming items:
- back and forth with magazine editor re: article options
- back and forth with video editor re: finalizing credits, format, etc. for Kickstarter video. Could be shorter, but even better, could be DONE.
- back and forth with Vimeo and Kickstarter to try to get final video to load. Previous versions loaded fine but that was a year ago. Now trying a smaller version I cut down in OpenShot; does not give me the exact format that Kickstarter wants (640x480). But found a 4:3 option with the right file extension.
- back and forth with endorsement requests and grateful follow-up
- back and forth with printer about getting a copy of galley proofs printed up to send to not-on-email endorser, and looking up international shipping using galley proofs as stand-in for weight.
70) Got Kickstarter budget worked out.
The rewards items, after Kickstarter's cut, publisher's cut, and other costs (shipping, paying for copyrights/video work, etc) come out to give me a margin between 11% and 63%.
That's my 'take' for each item, before fixed costs. Throwing some random numbers of pledges into each reward, a minimum goal of $12,500 leaves me with not quite $3,000, before shipping.
Waiting on actual shipping costs/weight; I intend to bill for shipping on the physical rewards, be as accurate and conservative as I can in the initial estimates, and hopefully we can get that down further with business/bulk mailing.
Seems like not a lot of margin to offer deals to other folks to promote it - and the stretch goal targets are going to look huge compared with the actual money available for those stretch goals.
I'm considering whether we could run this again in the fall, with higher wood-heat interest, and with the publisher now selling at retail instead of a 20% off pre-sales price, as a second attempt to fund the research-related stretch goals. Or maybe we look into other options like GoFundMe or PetriDish that are more oriented toward research/development rather than widget production. Physical books are kind of expensive widgets; the publishers have really worked the margins down until people expect to get a lot of book for not a lot of money.
--)Discussed Facebook boosting with friend. Not actually done yet - does it count?
71) Forgot to mention: a while back, when I was still thinking the book would be self-published, we released a low-cost download of a "draft sample chapter" from our upcoming book. So people who care enough to spend $2.99 on a fill-in-the-blanks owner manual for rocket mass heaters, know there is a more complete book coming out.
Low-cost items mentioning higher-cost items for further reading seems like a useful way to upsell without being pushy about it.
72) It turns out that selling through an affiliate link to the publisher's website is about as good (or better) margin than selling the book through Kickstarter. So I'm going to put that affiliate link all over the Kickstarter and our own sales page. Hopefully, the Kickstarter will do that thing where a lot of people get the higher-priced bundles, or even the lower-end "gestures of support" which have digital rewards, and are a higher margin than the book itself.
73) Calculated the retail value for the digital downloads we are listing on Kickstarter, listed those values (it's like $42 by the time you've pledged $10, so that should take the sting out of the "lower discount" on the book).
74) Working the "Launch" formula - uploaded my existing customers to a new mailing list just for rocket mass heater stuff, and started sending little bits of fire-science info (with links to longer versions on our blog). Launch date should be Monday. If you want to help with the pre-launch buzz, please post comments on the blog at ErnieAndErica.blogspot.com, or use the blog to sign up for one of our mailing lists. (there is a general one, which may include other appropriate tech or permaculture stuff, and then a specific Rocket Mass Heaters mailing list that's just about fire and earthen masonry stuff.)
75) Tried posting a .gif animation on our blog, and on Facebook.
Doesn't look like Facebook supports .gif animations - at least it is not playing on my computer - so it's a weird broken picture pointing toward our blog. Not going to work too hard on making other animations, if that's how it goes. May need to do a video version - mp4 or something? I liked the .gif because it is a tiny file, 100 kb, easy to load in the back woods.
Anybody know a good venue for sharing .gif files? it's kinda cool, and there is some fun "Ernie's Adventure" stuff I'd also like to animate.
Launch day for the Kickstarter. I have already forgotten half of what I did today. Here are some highlights:
76) Learned to post a blog post to Facebook. duh.
77) Filled out our organizational Facebook page in several ways, most notably pictures.
__) boost some Facebook posts - started to do this, but the ad setup and billing stuff froze a few times, will try again tomorrow.
7 Matt Powers rocks. We had two lovely long talks Thursday, one as a podcast and one as a follow-up about personal life and Kickstarter trepidation. He had the podcast up by Friday afternoon, super-fast turn around, and perfect timing for us to launch by close of work on Friday.
79) Paul Wheaton rocks. He gave me a call today despite still being in too much pain to do email, offered generous free support for some of the online delivery platforms I was hoping I could afford, and a handful of highly cogent tips about how to get the Kickstarter boosted to the next level.
80) Barbara Greene rocks. She has been holding my hand through this whole thing, and also let me share her hard-won scenes of personal desolation as evocative fodder for catching attention.
81) Ernie rocks. When I remember to tell him I need help, he will do his best despite completely unfamiliar territory. When I tuck into the computer for hours at a time until my tail-bone falls asleep, and snarl at interruptions, he goes into "life support" mode and just keeps the food, shelter, warmth, and affection coming in steady doses.
82) Follow-up with key connections to support international audience better. Maddy Harland got back to me about publishing in EU/Australia/NZ, and I am asking some respected European colleagues to be on watch for a request to review a custom supplement for the overseas edition.
Oddly, all of the connections above (possible exception of Facebook) feel stronger to me because they blend professional competence with human sacrifice. That's not quite the right word. But we drove ourselves to exhaustion going to PV2 last year (Ernie's leg infections started around then, after extreme swelling at that event); but that's where we met Matt Powers and his delightful son James, and Maddy and Tim Harland, and we ended up making a solid connection not because we were perfect and polished but because we had something in common in taking on the aweful responsibility of caregiving for family - in situations that are beyond our control, whether we realize it at the time or not. Paul has always been a source of staunch support and good advice, but somehow it means more when it's coming at the worst time he's been through in recent years - and if anything, what he's giving us gets more concentrated and valuable because there's no time to beat around the bush.
83) Is there a way to justify getting adequate sleep as "marketing?" Maybe I need to do that, just so that I don't look like death warmed over when I need to take pictures for something. I tried to talk Ernie into taking a picture of me falling into the computer screen with the piles of neglected housework, chewed-up dog training aides, and unwashed dishes, but he discreetly declined. Probably the better part of valor.
84) when you don't have enough time to do everything, you get things done faster. Maybe if I take on enough, I will become concise.
Kickstarter promotion efforts, day T-29.
85) Pounced on Paul's offer to do a banner ad - not that the graphics are impressive yet, but it is worth being cute but crappy here, hopefully New Society will have some graphics help for it too.
86) A couple of supporters kindly posted our Kickstarter up on a thread before I even got to it. Thanks! http://www.permies.com/t/54505/rocket-stoves/book-Rocket-Mass-Heater-Builder#449874 I think that means that we have been doing something right, either by contributing here so people want to support us in return, or by some other part of the Kickstarter buzz-magic.
I went ahead and added some pictures, so it's now a media-rich thread, as Paul suggested.
87) Cross-supported with another Kickstarter campaign, the Food Forest playing cards, looks like not just a game but a cool garden-planning simulation tool. someone suggested doing a quick article for PRI - good idea.
Also saw a fascinating but very badly laid out campaign for a book about the indigenous history of Portland OR - supported it, passed on some of the advice I've been given. Reassuring that, while I may not quite be in Paul's league for promotional reach, I have done my homework a lot better than some folks with a good idea.
8 Frittered a lot of time on Facebook - not just replying to comments, but renewing my sense of the social context. I love FB humor. I wonder if it's effective to promote the KS with humor? Will try some of the time-consuming animations.
__) Maybe I should cross-post the KS video to YouTube.
89) Used the KickBooster instructions to make sure my Google Analytics tracker is in the right place on my campaign. This initial stuff won't have been tracked properly, but from today onward I should be able to get some good data.
__) Fretted over Kickbooster numbers and my tight margins (I pay the publisher for each copy of the book and eBook). But I pay them less per copy if I make several hundred or a thousand sales, so let's try to do that.
KickBooster (takes 13%, gives promoters 10% for traffic they send to your campaign).
I have margins under 20% for some of my stuff. Can I do this? Is it still worth doing it?
The problem with real-life story problems is you NEVER have all the numbers. Is 7% of a larger number (X) worth more than 22% of a smaller number (Y)?
You don't know X or Y in advance - and in fact, only one of them will ever be real. You don't get to know both; you have to choose, and THEN you get to find out either X or Y.
This is, as Paul reminded me, one of those points in our marketing conversations where we are on familiar ground. Paul does tons of research and his recommendations about Internet marketing are almost always solid.
"We know this one already. Trust me, and do it, and thank me later."
__) My Kickstarter costs are roughly:
Fees: 8% plus .05 or .20 per participant
Booster/affiliate sales: 13% for those sales
Cost of book or eBook: $12.98 per eBook, $19.97 per paperback book
Cost of digital rewards: Labor only for smaller files; $35 per month for my mailing list service; $0.40 plus $0.02 per 100 MB for each recipient of larger file bundles.
This all takes a spreadsheet to evaluate properly. And I have to grit my teeth and eliminate self-referential data. Circular logic is not tolerated by computer spreadsheets, no matter how good it sounds in Internet articles.
I am pretty sure my conservative estimates are making this look scarier than it is.
However, I'm also aware that doing something new often involves unforseen costs. The conservative estimates create some slack, which can be used to pay unforseen costs.
So do I
__) Go improve my spreadsheet to the point where it accurately reflects my current knowledge of reality?
I can't know the actual costs until I know things like the actual weight of the book (we printed and weighed the galley proofs, for estimating purposes. On untrimmed paper with comb binding, they were oversized by an inch or so, and therefore took a larger box. Package weight 2 lbs 10 oz., or 1.2 kilos).
And I can't change the reward values at this point. So it would only be worth doing if I plan on doing future Kickstarters, and want to compare my estimates with my final result in a rigorous way.
Just the highlights that I did today, responding to some of Paul's suggestions on the Kickstarter:
92) I changed my signature here on Permies, but forgot how to include a link.
Project short link: http://kck.st/229WnXq __) see about putting actual links in signature, I know some people can do it.
93) Attached is a silly GIF banner 125x125, no intrinsic link... but it can be used with the short link above.
94) I responded to all messages on the Kickstarter, added some FAQs to the bottom, tweaked the intro again ever so slightly to encourage first-time visitors, and posted a couple of updates with cute animations and thank-yous, including the Kickbooster.
__) I have a silly idea for a 3-day push called "I challenge you to a draw" where I create another animation for every $1K that we gain. Could be fun as things slow down. Or could be a self-indulgent time-waster. Maybe I will propose it and see if I get any responses.
__) I will make a long list of other things I can think of to do.
new website full of ideas:
- "virtual assistant" - I can hire someone for starting as low as $399 to out-source delegatable tasks.
I would like to hire someone anyway, but I'd be more comfortable doing it with someone who i know.
(If you are looking for a little moonlighting work, and are serious about following through on step-by-step tasks, by all means PM me very soon!)
Find 10 Kickstarter projects similar to yours, and for each, do the following.
Right-click and save-to-desktop 2-3 images.
Drag and drop each image file from your desktop into the Google Images search bar.
Review blogs listed on the results page to see which might be relevant to your project.
Fill out the following fields in the attached “Media List” spreadsheet: Publication, URL, first and last name of the writer, and links to relevant posts by that writer.
You now have dozens of blogs that have a high probability of relevance, all neatly organized in a spreadsheet. Your VA can find more sites like the ones in your media list by searching SimilarSites.com.
This list of 'getting stuff done' is very inspiring! While I have no business experience, I do have some tips dealing with the HTML/website stuff. My go-to method when working with computers is to cheat! This forum has a pretty nice setup for posting replies, and you can take advantage of it to make links. For instance, you can click the 'Post Reply' button to open up the forum text editor and click the URL button along the top. It lets you enter a web page URL and then enter text to create a link. It also shows the code method used between the buttons on top and the text box, but this generally isn't practical for many people. Trying to learn a new language when you don't use it very frequently is an exercise in futility. Making use of a tool like a forum text editor can save a bunch of time. You can simply copy the code that the editor creates and paste it other places, such as your signature or your website.
I believe you can do the same thing to make pictures that are links. I will try and go through the steps and make a link out of your .gif posted above. The Img button allows you to enter the URL of an image. Punch in the URL and it should add the img tags around it. Now you can cut the info and use the URL button. Punch in the URL you want to link to (such as your blog) in the first window, and then paste in the img info you previously cut into the second window as the description. I find it easier to remember a few steps of doing something I am familiar with (such as using a forum) as opposed to trying to remember a new language. Here are the results of me using your .gif image to link to your blog using these steps:
Adding links to your website and blog in the signature of different forums you use should make it easier for people to find out more about what you are doing, and what you have for sale. Adding clickable pictures to the top and bottom of all of the pages of your web site and blog will make it easier for people to be redirected to the home page, similar to how many forums, blogs, and commercial websites work. Adding links to your other site(s), shop, and current kickstarters can make it much easier for people to navigate to all of the items and information you have to offer.
I tried learning a tiny bit of html about a decade ago, and the person running one site said he learned by copying other code he ran across on the internet. If you keep copies of things you do in plain text files (such as Notepad on Windows) then you can copy it again later down the road when you need it. If you aren't doing a lot of complicated methods then simply using any forum editor can usually yield the results you are looking for. Once you get things the way you want it, you can use this as a template for the whole site to make it more uniform and easy to navigate. Hopefully some of this is helpful to you. Good luck with the kickstarter!