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Crowdfunding Your Book? Authors Tell Us How It's Done Successfully

crowdfunding

When crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo first came on the scene, folks were still skeptical about the idea of investing large sums of money in strangers in exchange for bumper stickers and T-shirts. Now, crowdfunding has gained popularity as a positive way to raise money, or help others raise money, for a variety of creative pet projects. Along a parallel route, self-publishing has also grown from a dubious trajectory to a viable means of independent invention. A growing population of writers have discovered the great potential in soliciting the masses to help them make their dreams of publication come true.

But not every crowdfunding campaign is successful. A lot of time and energy goes into creating and promoting a campaign and even then, there is no guarantee that an author will reach the minimum goal necessary to make their project viable. Foreword Reviews interviewed three authors who were able to fruitfully fund their book projects in hopes of learning their secrets to success.

Dear Bill Bryson: Footnotes from a Small Island by Ben Aitken

Ben Atiken
Ben Aitken

Ben Aitken from Portsmouth, UK successfully raised £8,020 (approximately $12,300) with 263 backers on Kickstarter, reaching far beyond his initial financial target. To mark the twentieth anniversary of Bill Bryson’s book Notes from a Small Island, Aitken retraced Bryson’s journey as precisely as possible before finishing outside of Bryson’s house on Christmas Eve. Interested in giving an updated version of the book, he began writing about his experience. Aside from free copies of the books that many authors offer, Aitken’s rewards to backers included coming to your house and reading to you in the bath and a campervan named Roger. Ultimately, Aitken’s unique humor and creativity was the main draw for this interesting campaign.

Why did you choose to use crowdfunding as a means of publishing your book?

Because agents and publishers told me there was no market for travel literature unless you are Bill Bryson or on the television often. I disagreed.

What advice would you give to authors who would like to try crowdfunding?

Don’t do it because you think it’s the easier, less painstaking option. Don’t do it because you don’t want to write all those cover letters and send all those sample chapters to all those agents and publishers and then have to wait months and months for any sort of response. Send those letters and chapters when you’ve written a quarter of the book. If by the time you have nearly finished the book you’ve had no luck, then turn to crowdfunding. You will be better placed to run a successful campaign. People are more likely to back something almost finished then something still at the ideas stage, particularly if you are a debutant writer with no existing fan base.

What would you say were the easiest and most difficult aspects of crowdfunding your book?

The easy part is creating a pithy, engaging video and some pithy, engaging text to outline the project. That is two or three days work. The hard part is getting people to give a shit. Most people are these days operating under the illusion they have no time and no money. You have to be cunning. It is simply not enough that your book is good and you are good person. Find a really ugly cat and photograph it as if it were reading your book. People love cat pictures. The book and your campaign are there by subterfuge.

Would you do it again?

Yes. Because 75 percent of my backers were unknown to me, which gives me confidence there is a readership out there.

Paradise Lust by Jocelyn Kates

Jocelyn Kates
Jocelyn Kates

Author Jocelyn Kates of Brooklyn successfully raised $2,582 by thirty-six people in one month for her romance novel, Paradise Lust, stretching beyond her initial goal of $2,000 on Indiegogo. Paradise Lust promises to improve upon the romance genre with a complete lack of “heaving bosoms” and an added sense of humor for the intelligent reader. Not just a writer but a yoga instructor, Kates offered awards named after different yoga poses. Crow Pose included a personal yoga class and Headstand included her editorial services. Kates added a strong dose of personality to her campaign, while reaching out to a niche market.

Why did you choose to use crowdfunding as a means of publishing your book?

Paradise Lust
I ultimately decided to self-publish because I thought it would allow me to be quick, flexible, and beholden to nobody. The downsides of self-publishing are 1) you don’t have a publicity machine behind you; 2) you don’t have an advance to put toward the book. So, I decided I would reach out to [friends] to help fund the various financial demands of creating and marketing a book. Plus, creating the Indiegogo campaign page was actually a very useful tool for helping me define the project and get clear about what I would use the money for.

What advice would you give to authors who would like to try crowdfunding?

A great piece of advice I got was to do a “soft launch.” That is, before I shared my campaign on social media or anywhere else, I reached out to a small group of close friends and family and asked for them to contribute within the first seventy-two hours, if they could. This meant that by the time I shared my campaign more largely, it already had some traction, which is key for getting more contributions. Also, come up with cool perks, cast your net wide in terms of reaching out to people, be grateful, and don’t get discouraged!

What would you say are the easiest and most difficult aspects of crowdfunding your book?

The easiest for me was coming up with perks that people would want. It was a really fun exercise, and made me happy to think about being able to deliver on them when the time came. The hardest by far was/is publicizing it through social media and emails. It’s really difficult to strike a balance between being persuasive and sounding entitled/pushy/braggy.

Would you do it again?

I would probably not crowdfund another book, but only because I think I’ve already relied enough on the generosity of others. My hope is that after this project, I’ll have a big enough following and enough know-how and experience to be able to publish future books without crowdfunded support, whether on my own or with a publisher.

Floral Frolic: a Foxy Fairy Tale by Amanda Coronado and Cari Corene

Floral Frolic
Amanda Coronado and Cari Corene of Baltimore have raised $22,565 from 528 backers, several thousand dollars above their original goal on Kickstarter. With a strong desire to inspire creativity in children, Coronado and Corene created Floral Frolic, an illustrated young readers’ book about two foxes who competitively pick flowers. Their whimsical campaign offers original artwork, as well as a plethora of rewards for the child-at-heart, including a scarf, an angry cat plush toy, a wooden necklace, lanyard, and sticker sheets. It’s obvious that they put an enormous amount of work into their campaign, assuring investors that they will put an equal amount of enthusiasm into their product.

Why did you choose to use crowdfunding as a means of publishing your book?

We wanted to create a book with beautiful print quality, foil printing, thick paper, and even the possibility of being hard bound. Floral Frolic is something you might find normally produced through a publisher, except we don’t have the funding of a publisher. Kickstarter is full of great enthusiastic people who we knew might be interested in helping bring our book to life! We definitely need people to realize our project needs funding right now, and we think Kickstarter is the best platform for that urgent funding need.

What advice would you give to authors who would like to try crowdfunding?

Only people who are quite passionate and ready to invest a LOT of time will create a Kickstarter that will succeed beyond expectation. For a strong project, we recommend having unique rewards beyond just the book to complement your project, something that book lovers and casual Kickstarter funders can both enjoy.

What would you say were the easiest and most difficult aspects of crowdfunding your book?

I don’t think there is any part of a Kickstarter that is easy. It all takes a lot of work: in putting the campaign together and in promoting. Promoting is probably the hardest part; it’s difficult to find the sweet spot of getting your project out there and being too spammy with your advertising. On one hand, if you update too frequently, people drop their pledges. But then if you post no updates and don’t post much on social media, many people will not notice a project at all. What many people seem to need is repeated reminders that the project is being funded right now, here are the goals it has reached and has yet to come to, please support the project so that it can be as good as possible!

Would you do it again?

Of course! It might be a while before another project, but we both love what crowdfunding has helped us to achieve!


Johanna DeBiase
Johanna DeBiase is a freelance journalist, novelist, yoga instructor, vintage boutique owner, world traveler, and mom based in Taos, New Mexico, or on her website. Follow her on Twitter @JohannaDeBiase.

Johanna DeBiase

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