Should Authors Like You Be Using Crowdfunding

Is Crowdfunding for Authors a Good Idea?

If it works for peanut butter and potato salad, does that mean it will work for writers and books? Crowdfunding is all the rage at the moment. You can’t open your email or sign in to Facebook without getting a (rather pushy) request from some far-distant acquaintance asking for contributions to a passion project or crazy scheme.  But is crowdfunding for authors a good idea?

Well, why not put follow the crowd? Maybe you’ve got a manuscript you’d like to publish or a collection of poetry that needs a final push to bring all the rhymes together. It’s good, isn’t it? If you place the project on Kickstarter or Indiegogo, people will surely contribute. And you can just sit back and watch the contributions roll in.

Kickstarterindiegogo

Er, not quite. We’re getting ahead of ourselves. Maybe crowdfunding for authors is not the best option.

What is Crowdfunding for Authors?

It’s a straightforward idea: you have a project, you post it on a crowdfunding platform, create perks and benefits, and people contribute. The last few years have seen many new platforms cropping up, including sites like Pubslush and Authr catering specifically to writers. Check out this list. As you can imagine, these sites are packed with projects, and it’s hard to get yours to stand out.

PubslushAuthr

Is Crowdfunding for Authors a Good Thing?

Yes and no. Crowdfunding does offer another way around the traditional publishing route: you can use the crowd to fund the publication of your book and use the platform to begin building an audience. As the author, you can offer perks like signed copies, advanced ebooks, exclusive reading events, and other interesting benefits. In doing so, you can reach potential new readers and create excitement for when the book is published. And you might benefit from the carry-over marketing work of your backers, who enjoy being involved and helping to spread the word.

Doesn’t that sound great? So collaborative and creative and successful. Well, if you want to get to that point, be prepared to work. Making your campaign a success has much more to do with promotion, marketing, and networking than with the artistic merit of your project. If you’re looking to crowdfund, think of it as a full-time marketing job: for several weeks prior to the launch, during the campaign, and several weeks after.

What’s the Money for?

Here are some of the possible ways writers might use crowdfunding resources:

  • Finance the writing of an unwritten book. This will be difficult, unless you’re already famous. And if it takes two to three years to write a really good book, the amount you need to raise will have reflect that time taken. There’s also nothing tangible for backers: only the promise of an unpublished manuscript.
  • Finance the publication of a finished book. Again, a tough bet unless you are already published. But there’s a lot to be gained from trying to raise money for editing, proofreading, layout, and design, especially if you succeed.
  • Finance certain parts of the publishing process. Focus on raising money for one aspect, such as a dynamite cover design or even the development of an author website.
  • Finance a tour or promotional event. This is useful for already published books and building an audience. Perks can include signed books and tickets to events. It can also have a trigger effect, expanding the scope and range of the tour.
  • Finance a cross-media project. Work together with another art form to separate the project from the crowd and benefit from cross-media promotions.

Who Contributes to Crowdfunding for Authors?

For every peanut-butter bonanza with backers from all over the world, there are thousands of projects that waste away with few or no backers. The truth is that crowdfunding relies heavily on the people in the close circle of the crowdfunder. It is actually very difficult to get strangers to support your project, whether you’re famous or not. It’s also difficult to get your project to stand out from the crowd. And asking friends and family for money may result in some awkward situations.

Tips for a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign

  • Don’t enter a crowdfunding campaign lightly. Start early, be patient, and make the time to give the project the required amount of effort.
  • Be prepared, be organised, and be committed.
  • Make a budget and choose a wise amount to raise.
  • Be willing to spend some money to create a good, professional campaign.
  • Choose the right crowdfunding platform for your project. Do some research first.
  • Don’t be shy about marketing and networking. Crowdfunding is all about marketing, online and offline.

Tell me your opinion: Do you think crowdfunding for authors is a good idea? Why or why not?

Should Authors Like You Be Using Crowdfunding?

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About Cam Jefferys

An award-winning author in his own right, Cam Jefferys also runs Rippple Books, a small publisher that works with authors who offer unusual perspectives and who challenge the established structures. Rippple was recently profiled as an indie groundbreaking publisher. In August, Rippple Books completed a campaign on Indiegogo, raising $15,000 for the publication of The Book of Names by Royce Leville and the production of the short film Mikelis by Marc Bethke, based on a Leville story. This was the campaign page.

Comments

  1. I often wondered how authors used crowdfunded money. I like the idea of crowdfunding money for a book tour, especially if you are an author with a book or two under your belt who have fans wanting to see/hear/speak to you. Book tour expenses are now author responsibilities, so this seems like a win-win. Almost as if your fan base is throwing you a party!

    • That’s right, Janelle. Also good for a book that has a regional take. Say, a book about Texas, or set in Texas, and raising money to do a substantial tour of Texas. Rather than just big cities, you could bring the tour to smaller towns as well.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Cam!

  3. Amalia Zeichnerin says:

    Crowdfunding can be an option, but as Cam pointed out, it means a lot of promotional work. A friend of mine had a crowdfunding campaign for a theatre/audio drama event and he said it was like a full-time job for several weeks.

    On the other hand if you want to publish a book by yourself (without agents /publishers) there is more than one option nowadays to do so with very little risk and with very low (self-)publishing costs, especially when you think about E-Books.

  4. I have to admit I don’t *get* crowdfunding. I don’t understand the attitude that suggests it’s okay to solicit money from others — even total strangers — to pay for something I want. Granted, it might be an offshoot of my upbringing … there were never advances on my allowance as a child, or borrowing from parents as an adult. It just wasn’t done. It would have been thought of as being financially irresponsible, like maxing out a credit card.

    So no, regardless of why I might need money, as an aspiring author I could never resort to crowdfunding. 🙂

    • I’ve heard this “old school” way of thinking several times. Think of it as pre-sales. It’s not asking for handouts.

      • On the contrary, when someone approaches strangers asking for free money, a handout is exactly what it is. It’s not pre-sales unless one plans to return equal value to everyone that provided funding, and in any crowdfunding situations I’m aware of, that certainly doesn’t happen.

        I could possibly see it as a potential investment, but once again, that’s based on the assumption there will be dividends.

  5. Huh. Maybe I’m part of the minority then, but my Kickstarter, for an unpublished book, was a tremendous success, and I actually didn’t even get a lot of support from my circle of friends, but complete strangers. I tripled my goal (It was a semi meager $500) and have a great following of people now who are already interested in my second book.
    The way I saw it, it’s like an internet preorder of the book, and a lot of people actually fund that sort of thing. Your presentation obviously needs to be nice and intriguing–it’s like an extensive pitch to the internet–but that’s no different from other presentations.
    You do need to plan in advance, though, and a video increases views by a lot. I actually made a book trailer which was a huge success, though it did take a good amount of work.
    But especially for aspiring, low-budget writers like me, I think it’s a good thing even just to try. You can’t lose anything if you don’t make the goal, and you might still get some followers from it.
    That’s my take on Kickstarter, at least. 🙂

    • This sounds intersting, thinking to the fundrising as a pre-order.
      I find the idea of crowdfundrising intriguing, but I always wonder why people should be intersted in something I want to do to the point to give me some of their money, unless that’s an humanitarian thing. Your take might be the anwser 🙂

      • Yeah. 🙂 What you do is you offer special exclusive rewards for people to “back” or support your project. If it’s in process, you tell them when you’ll send out the rewards. (I HAVE noticed that when the expected finish date is several years out, people aren’t as willing to back it.) For example, you have a reward that says anyone who pays $25 gets a copy of the book, a bookmark, and a personalized thank you letter. Higher rewards can get even more interesting, like letting people have a minor character named after them or a personal acknowledgement in the book. I think the thing that makes it successful is it makes people feel special to get these rewards, as well as your book or other finished product, which are often exclusive to the Kickstarter campaign only. I’m definitely going to start planning and preparing for my second one as soon as I have a solid enough story plot to start writing up a pitch and such. 🙂

  6. I had a look around Pubplush, it looks like a good idea if you can get the people to fund your project. To get any funding I would agree that you would have to do a hell of a lot of marketing to direct interested readers to your project. Personally I think those energies could be spent elsewhere marketing your Novel.

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