Can't Afford to Self-Publish Your Book? Try Crowdfunding
Tips for a Successful Campaign
Wondering how to fund the publishing of your book?
Dun-dun-dun-duuuun! Crowdfunding to the rescue! Crowdfunding for books can be an effective (and fun) way to finance self-publishing. Here are some popular crowdfunding sites and what makes them unique:
Kickstarter: One time campaign with an “all-or-nothing” funding model. If you don’t hit your goal, you don’t get ANY of the money.
Patreon: Ongoing funding for ongoing projects. People pledge a certain amount per month, episode, or chapter.
IndieGoGo: Similar to Kickstarter, but you can choose between fixed (all-or-nothing) or flexible (keep donations regardless of hitting your goal) funding.
GoFundMe: Can be used for personal or creative fundraisers. Flexible funding. No time limit.
In this article, we’ll focus on Kickstarter, since it’s the most commonly used platform for crowdfunding books, but many points can apply to other platforms, too.
If You Fail to Plan, You Plan to Fail
A crowdfunding campaign is a huge undertaking, and you’ll need a detailed plan to pull it off. For funding to start, your project should be at an appropriate spot in the process. If you think you’re going to have time to run a campaign and finish the last half of your book in the same month, think again.
Your campaign will live or die by the quality of your marketing. How are you going to present yourself and your project in a way that will make people want to donate? What about social media? Are you going to use email? Facebook? Twitter? (You should do all three, and then some.)
How are you going to write your campaign copy? When are you going to start different pushes of your campaign? Are you going to have special deals for people who donate early? Who’s your target audience? I recommend starting with friends and family, then moving to acquaintances, and then finally to the general public.
The majority of your backers won’t be strangers—they’ll be people already connected to you somehow. Talk the project up in advance to major funders, ask for their input, and let them know you’re counting on their support.
Plan your budget. Make a list of all possible expenses, then add another 20 percent for unpredicted costs, and another 10 percent for Kickstarter’s processing fees. You will also need to pay taxes on your funds, so keep track of your expenses for deductions.
Reward Your Backers
What kind of swag will your backers get? If you’re using Kickstarter to fund a book, a physical copy will be among the expected rewards. But physical rewards are expensive, not only to make, but also to ship.
You could consider options that don’t go outside the confines of your existing project (e.g., backers can get the chance to name a character, get their name in the book, or vote on the cover design). Rewards are about making your patrons feel special, even if it’s just minor stuff.
You may want to forgo physical rewards altogether. For example, you could try a Kickstarter where your goal is ebook publishing, and the reward can be a free download for each of your backers.
If you choose to go with physical rewards (which isn’t necessarily discouraged), be sure to take all expenses into account (e.g., printing costs, shipping, fees, and taxes). Or try offering fewer rewards. It makes it cheaper for you and simpler for them (and you).
Communication with your backers will be an important part of your campaign. You need to be in contact with them before, during, and after your campaign. Share little updates, not just the big news.
Remember, it’s not about funding your project as much as it is about making your backers feel involved. Continuing these relationships may even encourage people to donate multiple times in one campaign.
If you want something in life, you have to ask for it, donations included. If you’re uncomfortable asking for money, that’s okay. Be upfront about it. But you still need to ask. Here’s where having a detailed plan can help give you confidence. Tell your backers exactly what their money will be used for, and be ready to answer a lot of questions.
Show your gratitude, not just by giving people rewards, but by actually interacting with them. If someone Tweets about how they just backed your project, thank them and Retweet them. At the end of your campaign, make a thank-you video. Don’t forget to send physical thank-you letters to anybody who’s not online much.
Keep in contact with your donors once the campaign ends, too. Let them know where you’re at with sending out rewards, or share other news. They want to know that their contributions made a difference. If your backers feel invested in your project, they’re more likely to help you achieve your funding goals, both now and in future campaigns.
Promote, Promote, Promote!
Your best tool for promotion is your Kickstarter video. This video should only be a couple minutes long, tops. Use your video to tell your story and the story behind your project. Be specific about what you’ve done so far and what you’ll do when your project is funded, including your expected timeline. The video itself doesn’t have to be professional quality, but do the best you can. Most of all, let your personality and excitement about your project come through.
Insider tip: You also might want to briefly explain how Kickstarter works for people who aren’t familiar with it.
Once your campaign is live, it’s time to implement the marketing strategy you’ve planned. Don’t forget to send support letters/emails to people who may want to donate, but don’t get online often.
The most important strategy at this stage is to never stop promoting. Seriously. Not even for a day. You better not have vacations or major holidays going on during your campaign, or you will miss out on money.
Keep in touch with your backers. You can’t over-communicate. Let them know where your funding is, which stretch goals (if any) have been unlocked, and how many days are left to donate. Don’t be afraid to ask them to donate again or to share your project on social media. Make sure they know you’re counting on them to get the word out.
Make It Urgent
A ticking clock can be a powerful motivator. It means something is hanging in the balance. If you tell people to donate “whenever they feel like it,” when are they going to feel like it?
The average Kickstarter campaign is 30 days for good reason: It gives you enough time to gain some momentum, but still gives you a deadline to work towards. Running longer than 30 days puts you at the risk of burnout. (You won’t have much of a social life for that month, anyway. Plan accordingly.)
Your funding goal should be achievable in those 30 days, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Create some motivating stretch goals in case you hit your original goal early (e.g., “If we reach X amount, there will be a bonus chapter from an alternate character’s POV”).
If you’re getting down to the wire, don’t be afraid to pass that urgency on to your funders. Ask them to post your campaign on social media. Facebook chat your friends and acquaintances to ask if they could pop over and donate a few dollars. (I’ve actually donated to a campaign just because a classmate did this).
Don’t be afraid to ask people to donate a second time. If they believe in your project, they’ll want to help.
Believe in Your Project
You’re obviously passionate about your book, otherwise you wouldn’t have made it this far. Show people that excitement. Share it with people until it’s something they’re excited about, too. Tell people your story. Make them root for you.
Plan ahead. Set challenging, yet attainable goals. Show your gratitude, and interact with your funders. Make this their accomplishment, too.
And hey, even if you don’t fund your project, don’t get discouraged. Plenty of authors have failed one Kickstarter but succeeded with another one down the road. Learn from the experience, and do it better next time. Be proud of what you have accomplished, and never stop doing what you love.
Rachel Hansen is a Brand Engagement Coordinator who spends her free time writing comics, exploring the Twin Cities, and cuddling her feisty calico.