Have you ever considered crowdfunding to raise the money you need to publish and/or promote a book? I hadn’t, until author Matthew Arkin told me about his success with crowd funding for In the Country of the Blind. Even then, it was only a passing thought. I wasn’t even sure I understood completely what it was. (See below for Matthew’s story)
Crowdfunding, per some schlup who posted on Wiki, is the collection of finance to sustain an initiative from a large pool of backers—the “crowd”—usually made online by means of a web platform. Google defined it as the practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.
When it came time to publish our Houston Writers Guild SciFi Anthology, Tides of Possibility, author of Absolute Tenacity and lead anthology editor and HWG member Kyle Russell suggested we crowdfund. As a nonprofit, we are perpetually lean on cash. Kyle took the lead and ran a campaign that exceeded our funding goal for 100%! He used Kickstarter as our interface to crowd fund. Take a look at the excellent job he did with it, HERE. It’s going to allow to pay each contributing author a small stipend, and to pay for the cover art, various aspects of publication, and for some promotional initiatives to help launch the book. If we are very careful, it may even fund our fall fantasy anthology.
Buoyed by his success, I looked into using Kickstarter to crowdfund for the launch of my upcoming novel, Going for Kona. It was clear that in order to attract backers, a campaign must be well-planned, thorough, sound, and compelling.
Well begun is half done. A favorite phrase of mine, and one of the keys to Kickstarter success. A few months ago, shortly after surpassing my goal in my own campaign, I learned that a very close friend was going to be starting a campaign. I called him to offer any advice I might be able to give based on my experience, but he told me he didn’t need it, that he was working with people who really knew what they were doing. I wanted to say, “No, you’re not, and your campaign is probably going to fail.” No, I am not a seer, but it was clear that they already had one almost insurmountable problem: Lack of network awareness.
A Kickstarter campaign is not a magic bullet to raise money. It is only a social media platform that allows you to collect money for your project. It is not the primary way that you disseminate information about your project and generate excitement amongst your network and, one hopes, the every-expanding circle of networks created by the people who donate because you have captured their interest and enthusiasm. The reason I knew my friend’s campaign was probably going to fail was that he was a close friend. We were connected through many social media platforms. His campaign was starting in three days, and I had not already heard about it. I was not eagerly waiting for it to start so that I could jump on the bandwagon at the beginning. So make sure you get your information out there well ahead of time so that your immediate circle of donors are ready to pull the trigger on launch day. Other donors want to get in on something that is already racing towards success.
Armed with our Tides of Possibility experience and Matthew’s words of wisdom, here’s the game plan I recommend:
1. Entice Backers With Quality:
– Don’t crowdfund until you can show and tell something GOOD. You’re going to need to be able to describe your book and how you are going to finish it, and do so in a way that makes it sound like a good investment to backers, meaning you need a pitch. Don’t know how to pitch? Read from a few experts:
Graphics help, a lot. If you’ve got your cover done, use it. If not, use something resonant of your cover concept. People like purty pictures.
Kickstarter recommends you use that webcam and shoot a personal pitch for your project as well. Video. Yes, video yourself. You can do it.
2. Provide Value to Backers:
This should not be about your getting something for nothing. Instead, think of this as a pre-sale, and give back to your backers all you have to offer:
- Thanks in your book
- Bookmarks and other SWAG
- Signed Paperbacks
- Your Time
Backers should feel like they got their money’s worth, just a little ahead of everyone else.
3. Appeal to Backers’ Values:
Besides the quality of your project and the value you offer in return for their money, backers are often motivated by the intrinsic value of a project. Are you benefitting a nonprofit? Is backing you support of indie arts? Is there something socially valuable you will do with your time and/or money if this project gets funded? Is the project itself intrinsically valuable to the public? These things matter. Get clear about What’s In It For Your Backers, at the gut level.
4. Promote Multi-phased Campaign Message from a Well-Established Social Media Platform:
If you don’t have a robust social media platform, your crowdfunding effort is not likely to be successful, so start on that years before you launch a Kickstarter project. Then, as Matthew points out above, create a gently building buzz for your project in the weeks before you launch it, so that by the time you do, people can’t wait to pre-purchase your book and/or other stuff, and fund your project.
My own Kickstarter campaign for Kona will launch in June, and I will report back on the success of that initiative. In the meantime, tell me about yours–what did you promote to fund, and how did it go? What made it most successful–or vice versa?
Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Grace) and hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart authorpreneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.