Kickstarter Pedal Powered: Marketing by Bike

After journeying around the world with her two young sons, Rebekah Tyler plunged into the world of self-publishing with a successful Kickstarter campaign for her memoir, Full Tilt. She popularized herself while traveling around northern New Zealand by bike, with a cart advertising her book trailing behind her. For those who are unfamiliar with New Zealand’s landscape, it is not flat, and dragging a trailer around must have taken immense energy and enthusiasm. I saw her adorable bicycle setup locked up outside Wordstock, and even had a chance to meet with her at her booth.
What made you decide on a Kickstarter and self-publishing? Did you consider traditional publishing?
I decided to write my book after returning to New Zealand following my eight-month adventure around the world. I was feeling depressed that I had come back to the same routine I wanted to escape from.
After sending my manuscript to about one hundred agents in New York and London, and receiving one hundred rejection letters, I knew I had to take things into my own hands. Living on the small island of New Zealand, I felt miles away from the action. Kickstarter gave me the opportunity for global exposure. During my Kickstarter campaign in New Zealand, I towed a promotional cart behind my bike and hit the streets of Auckland and Wellington. I achieved my $10,000 goal in the first two weeks, and raised $13,400 by the end of my thirty-three day campaign.
How was your self-publishing experience?
My self-publishing experience has been an emotional roller coaster! I wanted my book to be as professional as possible, so I hired a professional editor, typesetter, and cover designer, but I still felt that I was not being made aware of the choices that were available to me until it was too late. Changes were being made, but at my cost. I feel there is a need for self-publishing companies to clearly explain the in’s and out’s of the printing and publishing process.
Because my book is about traveling the world with a two year-old and a ten year-old as a single mom, I would like to get on the The Ellen Show for her Mothers’ Day episode. Perhaps I could give all of the pregnant moms a copy of my book, and have a golden ticket inside one with a free airplane ticket to New Zealand. I did try sending Ellen a gift box full of wonderful New Zealand souvenirs (including two pairs of possum fur nipple warmers) one for Ellen, and one for Portia, but then discovered they were both huge animal rights activists. Oops!
Why did you decide to market in the US and Portland in particular?
I had huge support from strangers on the West Coast. One supporter was a fellow author named Shasta Kearns. She suggested I attend Wordstock. I picked up the phone and was lucky enough to speak to the director, Katie Merritt. She said, “If you can get on a plane, we will have you!”
I found that trying to promote my book and sell it on the streets of Portland was tough, much tougher than back home. So I thought my days marketing my book on the cycle might be coming to an end. Everyone was busy and did not want to be disturbed. The manager of Powell’s was going to move on from me, but instead let me stay in the entrance way giving away free copies of my book. A girl’s gotta try!
After a not so great day trying to sell books at Wordstock, I decided to go to a local Piazza Italia restaurant in the Pearl to eat pasta and get a little drunk on red wine. I had shipped 600 books from Minnesota, but only sold about 50 during my time in Portland. I was now having to ship 550 back. I was feeling pretty despondent. Shortly after arriving at the restaurant, a group of five women walked in and I said to my partner, “Hey those are the type of ladies who would love my book!” Twenty minutes later I managed to get the manager of the restaurant to drive me back to my hotel, pick up a box of books, and drive me back to the restaurant where I spent the next hour handing out copies of Full Tilt for free to all the customers. I might not have made any money, but I sure had fun.