There are new approaches to book publishing popping up all the time, and some have real promise or an intriguing business model for authors. Once such is Inkshares, where your social media prowess and ability to drive a crowdfunding campaign can lead to a publishing contract. Here’s one author’s experience at successfully navigating this process, one that you might be able to use, too.
With crowdfunding becoming increasingly popular it’s no surprise that people are using it more and more to launch their creative projects.
While some crowdfunding platforms allow you to set your own goals, raising funds to offset editing, cover design, and other self-publishing costs, others have standard goals—acting as a traditional publishing house if you meet them.
This is an appealing option for authors who may be disillusioned by the traditional publishing industry—searching for agents and sending out query letters, but who still desire the benefits having a traditional publisher affords.
I used the website Inkshares, which offers a contract to authors who secure 750 pre-orders, and met the goal in 60 days! Crowdfunding as a way to secure a publishing contract is certainly not for everyone, though.
Read on and try to answer my seven questions to find out if it’s a good choice for you.
1. Do you know a lot of people?
The first question to consider when deciding whether to crowdfund your book is: How many people do I know? If you will need 750 preorders, but you have 300 Facebook friends and 50 Twitter followers, crowdfunding is probably not the choice for you.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking you will find hundreds of strangers to order your book. The reality is that most of your first supporters will come from your immediate network.
When I was crowdfunding Rock of Ages, I reached out to virtually everyone I knew—on my 1500 person Facebook Friends list, all my other social networks, and in person—my son’s preschool staff, my former college professors, and even the reception staff at my children’s dentists’ office.
What didn’t work
Talking to strangers wasn’t as successful, even in person. I asked people I met at parties, at coffee shops, and at libraries to buy my book and though it was good practice for perfecting my elevator pitch, only a few of them actually ordered.
2. Are you part of a community?
People want to feel like they are a part of something when they support a crowdfunding project. If you are a part of a community of any kind, you can leverage that connection to reach your goal.
I reached out to people from the small town where I grew up, from my college, and from my graduate university. The few strangers I reached out to who did order, I found through alumni groups on LinkedIn and through friends of friends in my hometown.
What didn’t work
Reaching out to the larger communities I’m a part of was less successful. The town I moved to in Southern California was less interested in my novel because there are so many people there doing so many things. Smaller communities were the best places to focus.
3. Are you comfortable with social media?
It would be incredibly difficult to run a successful crowdfunding campaign without social media. Whether you are most active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, focus your efforts on the platform where you have the most, and most genuine, connections.
If you’re new to social media, or don’t use it at all, crowdfunding may not be the path to pursue.
I started my campaign with a live Facebook video where I shared openly about my dream and my book. I also posted a video to my page on Inkshares. (Check it out if you’d like some inspiration!)
I posted regular status updates about the funding process, shared graphics with reviews of my sample chapters, and tagged every person who ordered with a personal and public thank you message.
I shared my order goal for each day and tagged people asking them to help me reach those goals.
What didn’t work
I ran my campaign almost entirely on Facebook. Though I tweeted and shared Instagram photos as well, I got only a few orders from these platforms.
This had little to do with the platforms themselves and everything to do with where I spent most of my time online prior to my campaign.
4. Do you have a little bit of money?
You can’t take on a crowdfunding campaign without a little cash to spend on promoting the campaign.
I spent about $200 on my campaign, total, and most of it paid off in preorders. This money went to charity matching, giveaways, and printing copies of my cover to send to my biggest supporters.
On four occasions, I ran match days for charities I picked, donating $1 of my own money for every order that came in that day. Other days I ran giveaways, giving every person who ordered that day an entry.
What didn’t work
Be sure if you do charity match days to speak to the organizations you give to before you choose them.
Twice I picked organizations because they work on issues touched on in my book, only to find out it was against their policies to share my campaign.
Part of donation matching is enticing your audience to support causes they feel good about it, but part of it is the extra publicity that comes from the organization sharing your efforts on their own channels as well.
5. Do you have a little bit of time?
Unlike other authors who say they spent 1-2 hours a day on their campaigns, I spent closer to 4-5 hours or more for each of the 60 days it took to get my preorders.
Close to every spare minute I had, I was on my phone or laptop and the minutes I wasn’t, I was planning.
It was totally preoccupying. If you don’t have the time to commit to what is essentially another job for the duration of the effort, it is likely not the best time to launch a crowdfunding campaign.
Other successful promotions required time and energy.
One day I took song requests from everyone who ordered and posted videos of myself playing them on the ukulele.
Another day, I wrote short fiction pieces for anyone who ordered three or more copies.
As I’ll discuss in the next point, the core of my campaign was directly messaging everyone I knew. I also spent a lot of time reading articles about the psychology of crowdfunding so that I could word my social media posts accordingly.
What didn’t work
There was actually very little that didn’t work time-wise. There was a direct correlation between the effort I put in and the success of my campaign each day.
The days I spent more time working to promote it were the days I got the most orders, and vice-versa.
6. Are you comfortable asking people to support you?
This is by far the most important point. If you want people to order your book, you will have to ask them. You can’t beat around the bush, or say things like, “I really hope you will check it out if you get around to it.” You have to say, “Will you pre-order my book?” If you aren’t comfortable asking so directly, you’ll have to get comfortable with it very quickly to run a successful campaign.
I directly messaged every person on my friends list, regardless of how long it had been since I had spoken to them. I emailed all of my former coworkers and employers, found former classmates on LinkedIn, and sent messages to my former professors.
If I wasn’t sure if a person would remember me, I messaged them anyway.
If they didn’t respond, or if they said they would order and then didn’t, I messaged them again a few days later to check in.
It feels incredibly uncomfortable at first, but if this is truly your dream, and you truly believe you’ve created something of value for the world, then try to see it as a service to yourself and to others to push through that discomfort.
There are so many people selling so many things without shame. You’ve written a book—a huge accomplishment as well as something that adds value to people’s lives. Don’t forget that.
What didn’t work
Posting statuses or having friends just post the link to my book got me very few orders.
People need to be asked directly and individually, and when they are very likely to say yes.
7. Do you have a finished manuscript?
Since funding Rock of Ages, I’ve gained perspective on the work that goes into producing a book after it is obtained by the publisher.
It took several months to hear back from the developmental editor, several letters back and forth to agree on a revised outline, and I’m now just beginning on the first rewrite based on those suggestions. The people who ordered my book will have to wait a year or more from entering their credit card info to actually having a book in their hands.
If I didn’t have a finished manuscript to submit immediately after reaching my funding goal, it would be even longer. If you’re still writing your book, focus on finishing it first.
I completed my book before starting my crowdfunding campaign, and was actually on its fourth draft.
This allowed me to talk confidently about my story throughout the campaign, do virtual readings that were tailored to different audiences, and share sample chapters as a teaser.
What didn’t work
Even if you have a completed manuscript, don’t be too attached to it, and don’t make specific promises about what it contains.
As I mentioned above, my editor suggested lots of changes, some of which take out parts I used to get people excited about my book. I’ve had several conversations since explaining why the changes will actually be good for the story.
Crowdfunding can be an amazing opportunity to bring your book to life. Be sure, though, before jumping in, that you have the time, energy, financial resources, and social connections to run a successful campaign.
If you do, the rewards are more than worth the effort it takes.
Becca Spence Dobias ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for her novel, Rock of Ages, obtaining 750 preorders in 60 days. Her novel is currently the #1 best seller in literary fiction at Inkshares.com. Find her at Becca Spence Dobias.