I was recently invited to speak about my author journey. The invitation was extended by a local writers group that I’m a member of, the Ventura County Writers Club. More than the content generation and the writing process, my fellow members were more interested in Kickstarter, crowd-funding or fundraising method I used with much success in order to self-publish my book.
Crowd-funding is a relatively novel way of fundraising. Through the use of an online platform like Kickstarter, project creators or fundraisers use email blasts or social media to reach out to friends and supporters in order to fund their endeavors. I did some research before launching my campaign on Kickstarter, and almost got discouraged by the 56% failure rate and the approximately one in four book projects that get funded. But then I thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if my project becomes part of the 44% or mine is the lucky one in four? So there.
Most of the writers in the room went one of two ways: traditional publishing or self-publishing. None had ever raised money through crowd-funding. So the questions after my 15-minute spiel were mostly money-centered, as to be expected. One member wanted to know why I decided to use crowd-funding and if I would ever consider traditional publishing for my next book (definitely). One asked how I figured out how much money I needed (research and guesswork) and if I used it all up (yes).
As I sold and signed books after my talk, someone suggested that I write an expanded piece on the pros, cons, ups and downs of Kickstarter and crowd-funding in general. It applies not just to books but creative projects in general, which Kickstarter is known for. As you delve into the world of crowd-funding, you will notice that most of them have niches: kids’ projects, medical bills, athletic events, humanitarian trips, all types of catastrophes and emergencies, name it. You can literally raise funds for anything and everything.
Going back to Kickstarter and self-publishing, here’s what I know now:
Social media is king
A large and strong following on social media will tremendously help any crowd-funding campaign. Mine is average at best (1,000+ friends followers across three social media channels but they were solid, responsive and involved. They supported my campaign, shared my plea, asked questions and the local ones attended my book launches. It pays to develop your social media following before a campaign.
Crowd-funding is intense
During the 40 days that my campaign was live on Kickstarter, I lived and breathed Kickstarter. I talked about it constantly with friends, family and strangers. I emailed, posted on social media and sent private messages constantly. I followed up and answered every question. My other projects and the rest of my life took the backseat during those 40 days. I’ve heard that other creative folks who also used Kickstarter have hired virtual assistants and teams of people just to help with some grunt work.Didn’t I say it’s intense?
You are accountable to everyone
Forget about being accountable to yourself or to your co-creator (or co-author, in my case). You are accountable to everyone who invested in your project, large or small investors (backers, in Kickstarter-speak) alike. They will demand answers and ask you about delays and delivery dates. You owe it to all of them to ensure your project comes to fruition.
You need to keep the momentum going
Your work does not stop with the completion of your project. You’ll have incentives or the final work to be delivered to your investors. If it’s a book like ours, there will be book launches, book signings, talks and participation at local events. Your head will continue spinning as you try to come up with creative ways to keep the momentum going. That’s how my blog came about. Or how about a sequel or a new book perhaps?