My Little Geek is a series of kids books dreamed up, in 2011, by Sarah and Andrew Spear, a New Zealand husband and wife who wanted something more than the typical educational books for children.
The idea came to the couple when their daughter was two and a half years old, on a day when Sarah, a trained primary school teacher, and Andrew, a website designer, realised that the girl was using the word “delicious” to describe her food.
Feeling that, if their daughter could handle a word like “delicious,” she could probably handle a word like “electromagnetism.” At the time, the only books the couple had access to were the usual, run-of-the-mill ABC books where “A is for apple” and “b is for ball.”
As techies themselves, the Spears felt that it was time to take childhood learning up a notch – to offer something for the budding brains, the aspiring innovators, and all the other “little geeks” of the world.
Since publishing their first book, the pair has gone on to write two more books as well as produce a My Little Geek app. We recently caught up with Sarah to find out how she and Andrew marketed My Little Geek, complete with the behind the scenes details of how the couple used Kickstarter to market their first books, as well as their more recent products.
If you’ve considered launching a product through Kickstarter, Sarah and Andrew’s story is a must-hear, as it provides insights on how marketing outside of Kickstarter is required for a successful campaign. Before you press launch, you simply have to hear what Sarah recently shared with Preneur.
This essay will cover Sarah’s take on all the following five concepts:
Marketing Your Kickstarter Campaign Via Blogs
Connecting with Previous Kickstarter Successes
Creating a Video for Your Kickstarter Campaign
Understanding Your Audience
Embracing the “Cheapskate” Approach to Marketing
In an effort to further your quest to double your profits (if you’re a follower of our 7 Levers of Business framework), we’ve tapped into the success of My Little Geek. Here’s how Sarah and Andrew made it all happen, with a few swipe + deploy goodies mixed in.
1. Marketing Your Kickstarter Campaign Via Blogs
One early tactic Sarah and Andrew used to drum up interest in their book was to reach out to bloggers working in the tech niche.
“Blogs are fantastic!” Sarah recently told Preneur. “They are always looking for what’s hot and new products that they can share about. What we brought to the table, was a well illustrated, geeky book for toddlers, and a new iPad App (to follow). We would email, tweet, and sometimes talk on the phone to blog sites. We asked them if they would be interested in receiving a copy of our book. This created anticipation and curiosity about My Little Geek, even before our book arrived. The lovely Kristen Rutherford in her review even mentioned ‘I’m not ashamed to say that I squealed with delight when I flipped through my review copy of this book.‘”
“When Andrew and I started My Little Geek, our contacts in the tech and publishing industry were zero,” Sarah told us. “So, our success is purely from building genuine relationships with tech celebrities and bloggers.”
“We initially ran a competition, to start a buzz about our book. Something like: tell us a geeky word, if we use it in our ABC book, you get a free book. This way, we gained some emails and Twitter followers from people who were likely to order our book. We started with the contacts we had in the design industry, though our Plethora App.”
Sarah was kind enough to share with us the actual email she and Andrew used to enlist interest from bloggers, which you can swipe + deploy with a few simple modifications.
Swipe + Deploy: Here’s what the unaltered email for their competition looked like:
Firstly, thanks again for being part of our Plethora app, it’s awesome to have you on board. I wanted to quickly let you know that we have a book coming out in a few months which we are very excited about.
The book is called My Little Geek and it’s an ABC board-book full of geekizms! To celebrate the upcoming release we’re giving the public a chance to send suggestions for wording and we’ll give a free book to the ones we like the most. The competition is only open for this week because we need to go to press soon! The details are online here: plethora.co/books.
We love what you’re doing and wondered if you or your readers would be interested in entering the competition. If you’re keen, we’d love it if you could tweet out a link or even creating a blog post about it. I have attached a couple of images of the book if that’s helpful.
And also, if you can send me your postal address I would also love to send you a free copy of the book when it’s printed in a few months.
Thanks, your feedback is very welcome.
Director of Plethora
Sarah told us that she and Andrew used various iterations of this email to reach out to literally dozens of tech bloggers.
2. Connecting with Previous Kickstarter Successes
When the couple sat out to publish the second installment in their My Little Geek series, they took the idea to Kickstarter, treating the crowd funding site largely as a split testing tool.
“If you’ve got a product you would like to test before bringing to the market, Kickstarter is the way to go,” Sarah stated.
“But, before you hit “Launch,” there’s a few things you need to consider. Do I have an audience who can support this? Am I willing to reach out to other successful Kickstarters? Am I willing to pay for a professional video?”
If you’d like to test a product on Kickstarter, Sarah encourages you to take further actions.
“It’s fun getting in touch people who have had success with Kickstarter. Most people are happy to share their success with you.” she told us.
“We emailed people who published books through Kickstarter and also local success stories, to get their advice.”
Swipe + Deploy: Here’s an example of how such an email:
My name is Sarah Spear and my husband and I have written My Little Geek. We self published in Aug 2011 and to date we’ve sold over 2000 books!
We are wanting to use Kickstarter to fund publishing our second and third books, Nerdy Numbers and Sci-Fi Shapes. I have seen you had great success in your campaign. May I please ask where a lot of your backers came from? We have identified people we already have worked with (tech celebrities and tech bloggers), but are interested if there is a market we haven’t thought of yet.
I wish you every success your publishing this year.
Thanks a lot,
Sarah said some respondents reiterated the audience theme and others simply had an inventive product that went viral. Either way, she said that it was great to make connections with others who had followed the same path.
By connecting with Kickstarter successes, the Spears found a sympathetic base of supporters from which to build upon. Additionally, the feedback received in response to this type of email can reveal marketing opportunities that you might not have thought of yet.
3. Creating a Video for Your Kickstarter Campaign
The next step in being ready for Kickstarter involves creating a professional video.
“Creating a video is a huge benefit to your campaign. Not only will you come across more professional, but potential pledgers will have an easier decision to back you,” Sarah continued.
“People are more likely to back someone they know, and not a complete stranger, so the video, which introduces you to your audience, is a vital step.”
Sarah advises, though, that there is a lot involved in creating a video.
“We used 90seconds for our video production. If you’re like me, I thought we’d show up, smile at the camera and ‘Bingo!’ we’d have a brilliant video,” she said.
But first, they needed a script.
“You may want to pay someone to write the copy for you, but you ultimately know your product the best. My Little Geek worked with Biz Dojo (Chamber of Commerce) for our whole Kickstarter Campaign and they read our script and we made their changes,” Sarah told us.
“What helped me was practicing the script beforehand. Not only does it help with sounding natural, but it also maximized our time with the camera. We came away with a variety of locations and angles we could use in the trailer.”
Creating a detailed script makes every stage of producing a video easier than it would be otherwise.
Here’s My Little Geek‘s video script, reproduced in its entirety:
In 2011 came up with a cool idea to make learning more fun for or the kids of techies and
code lovers all around the world. My Little Geek cast aside the apples and animals in
favour of holographic ninjas and time-traveling joysticks. ! !
It was recognised by the biggest geek heroes of our time and sold thousands of copies
from Silicon Valley to Singapore. Even popping up on national TV and in business
Well that was the tutorial, and now it’s time to level up to 80. We’re producing two new
books: Nerdy Numbers and Sci-fi Shapes, plus a genius new iPad app featuring all the
books and a dozen educational mini-games. Your kids will learn all the essentials… like
dodecahedron and the speed of light.! !
[NOTE – For the last sentence have a shot of Andrew and Sarah, one of them
saying the line. At “dodecahedron” Andrew holds up an origami dodecahedron and
at “speed of light” Sarah holds up a torch, flashing it on and off on the origami.
Perhaps cut the music for an intentional awkward pause as we stand still just
flashing the torch for an unnaturally long time!]! !!
Heading: Sarah Spear, Author!
Question: Why did we start?!
Visual: Sarah swinging in slow-mo as heading appears! !
When Caitlin was 2 1/2 she used delicious to describe her food, so we thought why not
teach her electromagnetism. All the ABC books were A for apple, B for ball, we just
thought we could do something more creative, more relevant and more fun. And it’s done
really well but now it’s time to move up to the next level.! !
Heading: Andrew Spear, Author!
Question: What are we doing now?!
Visual: Andrew jumping in puddle with umbrella in slow-mo as heading appears! !
Now we’re working on two new books to cover number and shapes.! !
Nerdy Numbers takes them through 1 to 10 and then adds in some really nerdy numbers
like pi, the speed of light and infinity. Sci-fi Shapes starts with the basics and ends up at
dodecahedron, twin helix and hyperboloid!! !
Each of the books have their own visual theme too to show the kids that numbers and
shapes can be found everywhere.! !
Heading: The App!
Question: What’s the app all about?!
Visual: The iPad spinning on it’s edge in slow-mo as heading appears! !
The app will have the two new books as well as the original My Little Geek alphabet book,
but we are also including a dozen educational mini-games.! !
Like many of your kids, our kids have been playing on iPads since they were born. We’ve
watched what apps they like the most, and our games are based on the apps they kept
going back to. They cover four different aspects of early childhood learning: reflexes,
memory, creativity and fine motor skills.! !
As you read the books and play the games you level up, from Number Noob to Letter
Legend, giving kids a reason to come back and test their skills again.! !
Heading: We Need Your Help!
Question: How can people help?!
Visual: ! !
We need your help to get this off the ground, and there are some cool ways you can be
involved. We’ve got individual books and the autographed trilogy, great for your own kids
or an amazing gift for your mate at Google. You can stock the school or local library.! !
But the really exciting part is that you can be in a book! How about putting your child’s
favorite toy on the 42 page, or the family pet on the twin helix page? Your best friend will
totally freak out when they see their fave blankie on a rocket heading for an alternate
So check out the pledges and see what suits you, any support you can give would be
amazing. ! !
Make your day and your child’s more geeky and fun, when giving them a 10x boost in our
tech centred world!! !!!
[NOTE – Somewhere in the above we need to have a clip of our illustrator Edit talking
about how she draws illustrations to appeal to kids. We would like to feature her for some
variety and the illustrations are a big part of the appeal so featuring her is important. She’ll
be filming herself for this, she’s done that for other authors and she does it really well, I
have given her some very rough direction but would rather see what she says naturally
than have her read my words verbatim. We’ll see what she comes back with and edit it in
As you can tell from the above example, you need not be a Hollywood scriptwriter to create a winning Kickstarter marketing video. You simply need to convey your idea and offer up enough details to get a professional result.
4. Understanding Your Audience
To do this, Sarah told us that she and her husband used Shane Tilley’s Give, Give Take email marketing strategy from the Small Business Big Marketing podcast. You may recognise this idea from Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.
“We interpreted this strategy like this,” said Sarah. “Firstly, email our contacts about what we’re up to with pics of the video shoot (Give); next, email our contacts a preview of our trailer (Give); and finally email about our launch, including the opportunity to share and/or pledge (Take). This worked really well for us and helped us to gain traction.”
5. Embracing the “Cheapskate” Approach to Marketing
When we asked Sarah if she and Andrew were leveraging any paid advertising as part of their marketing strategy, she said that they generally favour a “cheapskate” approach.
“No, we don’t do paid stuff,” she told us.
“We did pay for the video, and we paid to go to an industry expo, but it wasn’t worth our while in the end.”
The couple did produce a press release, which proved a cheap way to get the word out about My Little Geek.
“We wanted to make it easy for them to share about us, so we set up a media page. Journalists could go to the website, find the press release and hi-res images for their article. Andrew put a cherry on the top by offering to provide specialised quotes, if they wished,” Sarah said.
Once the campaign gained traction, Sarah followed up with the media outlets who were yet to publish our story.
“This worked really well. Once we had reached our target, we set up a new press-release with a new angle of donating books to schools via a pledge add-on. This was a great way of giving back and making the most of our coverage before the campaign finished,” she added.
The simple act of following up – which costs nothing more than a little time – were the last step in marketing My Little Geek on Kickstarter.
Are you ready to being marketing with Kickstarter?
Sarah and Andrew made a Kickstarter success story all their own with My Little Geek. In the end, those early customers from Kickstarter set the stage for everyting that’s happened in the Spears’ business since then – and those supporters contributions still resonate with Sarah.
“I’m a big fan of appreciation. We sent out a thank you email to everyone and anyone who had taken the time to help our big dream come into existence,” concluded Sarah.
About Sarah Spear: Sarah is a stay-at-home Mum of two gorgeous girls, Caitlin (6) and Sophie (4). Sarah is married to tech genius Andrew Spear. She is a self-publisher of techie children’s books, the My Little Geek series and a podcaster, The Parentalist for parents who love business and love their families and recently a Marathon runner. She has been published in Her Business Magazine with advice on self publishing, also featured on several podcasts including Networking for Business Women, as well as on National TV for their first book and app. She has run the accounts and a part of the strategic direction of their businesses for 9 1/2 years. Although she concedes she is imperfect, she does have moments of genius and is convinced her children know they’re loved on a daily basis.