Does getting others to financially support your book and not having to pay the money back sound like something that attracts you? It’s OPM … Other People’s Money.
Crowdfunding is an alternative way to bring in money for your book project. It could be for the print run; the layout and design; a marketing or publicity campaign; research that requires travel—in a nutshell, just about anything. It’s free money to you, with a few strings attached (as in making sure rewards get out to donors in time and that you do what you say you are going to do).
And, although, it’s a money gift—declare it as taxable income. The expenses that authors incur in creating a book should more than offset the income so don’t get hung up on this. The good news is that you don’t have to pay it back and you have money to go forth and multiply your words.
Recent stats show that when it comes to the publishing and writing categories, just fewer than 30 percent succeed. You want to be in the minority. The happy minority. To be there, it takes well-thought-out planning for both you and your book strategy.
One of the critical elements to understand is that crowdfunding is not a solo venture. To be successful, you need a crowd. The bigger, the better. That crowd could come from just your personal contacts; it could come from total strangers that connect with you via social media; it could be a combo.
The secret to any crowdfunding book campaign is non-complicated: a good idea and hard work. That’s it. Really.
Crowdfunding websites offer a hassle-free way to find, vet, and support individuals, companies, causes and organizations, and contribute or invest directly without a middleman.
It’s more personal and impactful—giving you direct access to information and opportunities that were once the exclusive domain of people “in the know.” Today, many thousands of authors have funded their entire book project using OPM … other people’s money.
Before YOU take on a crowdfunding project or campaign, answer these four critical questions:
Is my project worth it?
In other words, who cares about your book, your idea, your project besides you?
Look in the mirror, be honest.
- If you need money for a memoir—is your life, your story compelling enough to attract people to it?
- Is your story, your how-to/solution new with a twist?
- Does it have a WOW or OMG to it?
- Is it interesting?
If you can’t honestly say yes, yes, yes and yes, the odds are that you are going to struggle with getting funding. If people—your family and friends included—can’t get excited, do you expect perfect strangers to?
Is my book concept compelling?
You have your hat in hand … you are asking for money. Okay, what’s going to “seduce” the donor? What’s the aha … what’s the benefit for the completed book to the reader … what will the donor get in return—yes, feeling good in supporting you … but is there anything else (great rewards count here as well)?
People will want to know how you will use their money; what they will get in return; and yes, that you are a good steward in moving the project forward. The video that you make must include this. And you must make a video to include with your project—ideally, less than two minutes in length.
Do I think that my Crowdfunding project will fund itself?
If you do, you are in deep doo-doo.
Think again. If you do, you set yourself up for instant failure. In 2014, the big crowdfunding gorilla, Kickstarter, reported statistics that the overall success rate of all its crowdfunding projects was roughly 50 percent. In the publishing category, 7,050 were started and 2,064 achieved or exceeded the original goal amount desired. In dollars, the successful book projects amounted to just shy of 23 million dollars and a 29 percent success rate.
Don’t be disillusioned—just because Kickstarter is where massive traffic is doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where you should be with your book project. Big crowds don’t mean that you or your book will attract them—in fact, you could get lost in the masses.
And don’t ever get caught up in the denial, and I mean denial, that a few Tweets and Facebook postings will do all you need to do to get people to check out your project. You want to amplify what you are doing. By the time you are finished, there will be many hundreds of postings scattered among your main social media platforms. Ideally, you will also have friends post on their feeds for you as well.
You have a campaign to run—and it needs your full attention pushing through each of the days. There are a series of “timelines” that you should be thinking of even months ahead of your GO date.
Your marketing (yes, that is exactly what you are doing) needs to be far-reaching, ongoing and, gulp, effective for you to succeed. Think of any crowdfunding effort as part of your “pre-launching” of your book. You are getting the word out.
Are my rewards appropriate and alluring … or are they mundane and boring?
Boring is not what you want here. Skip the $1 entry. A thank you and/or post card with the book cover goes for $5 or $10. After that, let your creative juices flow.
First, have at least seven in the mix. Many backers support you solely on what your book is about, while others look for goodies—those rewards that come to them, depending on how much they commit to. Creativity counts and those rewards should relate to the level of financial commitment.
As an ace author/photographer, when Ashlee Bratton offered a full photo shoot at a beautiful bed and breakfast site that included two nights lodging—of course this wasn’t for a $50 commitment, it went for $1,500 … and she had takers and over-funded her book project. Her book had nothing to do with photography, unless you counted some of the cool photos within—it was about creating the life you want now. Life Before the Lottery, the 30 x 30 List was based on her personal “get these things done before I hit 30.” She did 29 of them, holding back on #30 when the real estate market collapsed in 2008. It’s back on her “Next” list.
Among your rewards may be eBooks, autographed printed books, may be book club chats, private workshops, teas (romance authors do well with this). Explore what others are doing … and then ask yourself, Do any of these work for my book project? or What can I offer to my supporters with a twist?
Fiction authors can have fun with offering primo space in the book with name a character after you. Villains and naughty people can gather more money. Don’t be shy in asking for $500 or a $1000. I’m working with an author who will be tying her book into a movie she is producing. A walk-on will go for $5,000. These kind of slots call to the ego.
Another client just finished his game funding that goes with a book for the YA crowd. I jumped in and pledged an amount for the reward that would have a character’s image after me. Now, I didn’t want to be a character in the game, but I have an 11-year-old grandson who will think this is very cool when I drop it in for his birthday present next month.
You want to make sure you have “back-up” rewards … ones that you can sub in quickly if there are no takers and don’t seem to be attracting them; or ones that you will use as a bonus or a stretch offer. Bonus rewards go back to people who have already given … as in please donate more … I’m almost there. Stretch rewards are used for a push over the top. You are at funding goal. Now, here’s what can happen if more money comes in.
With the bonus and stretch scenarios, you want to create a video quickly to add to your crowdfunding landing page; announce it any and everywhere via social media; re-contact everyone in your email lists; and definitely go back to everyone who has already contributed (done through the crowdfunding platform you select).
Crowdfunding campaigns can be exciting and exhausting. The enthusiasm you have as you set yours up; the anticipation of getting global acceptance, preferably instantly; the ups and downs as the month progresses as you check in multiple times throughout the day. Then there are the restarts (sometimes) that need to be done to re-goose the effort.
In the end, there isn’t a client I’ve had who hasn’t come away with a “Wish I had done it this way … Next time, I will …” Starting with these four questions before you dive into a crowdfunding event—and it is an event—that will consume your time and energy for a brief but intense period of time will clarify the Who, What and Why. The How and When is another blog.
If you would like a free pdf of critical Crowdfunding Timelines from my latest book, The CrowdFunding Guide for Authors & Writers, you can get it on my website, TheBookShepherd.com. Here’s to your success!
Judith Briles is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. She is an advocate for authors and writers and is known as The Book Shepherd. Delivering practical authoring and publishing information and guidance, she has authored 31 books, won multiple book awards and co-founded Mile High Press. Judith is the Chief Visionary Officer of AuthorU.org.
You can learn more about Judith here.