By now, most self-published authors have heard about crowdfunding— the technique of collecting small financial donations from large groups of fans to finance a planned project—and many of them are wondering about the best way to make this model work for them.
And they have a lot of options. The typical model is consistent across most crowdfunding websites: an individual artist or entrepreneur pitches their project on creating a webpage with a description of what they will create (usually accompanied by a short video), a funding goal, and a specified time period in which they will be accepting donations. The creator can use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms (as well, of course, as their personal website) to direct users to their project page and—hopefully–they raise the money to meet their goal. You can choose an “all or nothing” style campaign, where you only receive your donation money when and if you reach your goal, or a “keep it all” campaign, where your donation money is available as soon as a donor sends it.
Although would-be users of Kickstarter, the largest crowdfunding site, must live in the US or UK to accept donations through the service, there are now TONS of crowdfunding platforms available to international authors with international audiences, including IndieGoGo and RocketHub.
So you have a great idea for your next book, and want to use a crowdfunding platform to fund your research, marketing, supplies, or time spent. How do you get the most out of your campaign? There are a lot of factors to consider when designing your campaign to succeed, but there is no one right funding goal, one right video pitch, or one right way to do it. The most important part of planning your campaign is tailor-fitting it to your needs.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Make your page personal. Your fans aren’t just supporting the book they want to read—they’re hiring you to write it. The more you let your writing style, sense of humor, interests, and influences show, the more your potential backers will have to go on.
2. Represent your project in an exciting and personal way—this probably means making a video. If you don’t have a $7,000 camera or a film degree, don’t panic. Bear in mind that your video doesn’t need to be—in fact shouldn’t be—extremely long: think TV ad or at longest movie trailer. If you know someone with a great video camera or a professional editing software program, by all means ask them for help (and be sure to offer to credit them on your page or in your video). But if you don’t, remember, the most important thing is that your audience can hear you, see you, and understand why your project is so fantastic. Have some preliminary sketches of the main character in your children’s novel? Include them. Have a wonderful love story to tell? Let your readers know why it’s so beautiful. Spend some time watching others’ pitch videos, and make some decisions about which techniques will work for you and which won’t. Remember, you’re a writer—you already have a huge advantage–so use it and create a concise, authentic message to your potential donors. Also a soundtrack (legally obtained and used) doesn’t hurt.
3. Set a reasonable funding target, and specify good reasons for it. Your campaign is likely to get more attention if you reach your goal—not to mention the fact that if you choose an “all or nothing” funding model, reaching your goal will be the only way to get your donations! So figure out what you’ll need, and stick to that number—you can always create a new campaign for your next book.
You should also tell your audience what the money’s for. Explain what your donors’ hard-earned cash will be covering—a fact-finding expedition, a professional cover design, a truck of Red Bulls for the all-nighters you’ll be pulling? No need to go into the brand of coffee you’ll be buying, but an accurate description will make your audience more interested in backing your project.
4. Make your thank you gifts worth donating for. (Alternatively called “perks” or “goods,” these are incentives you send to donors in exchange for support.) For having some faith early on, give your audience a little extra love. Writing a book about Canadian military history? Make your grand prize a guided tour of an important military site with the author. Writing a graphic novel about vampires? Offer donors a desktop wallpaper download or framed poster. Writing a book of comedic poetry? Offer to write a limerick on your donor’s Facebook wall. You get the idea. The author of this children’s book offered to read his top donor a bedtime story.
5. Don’t stop looking for your audience. Obviously you’re going to be reaching out through facebook, twitter, and your author site, but it pays to put some thought into where else you can find your audience. What sites do they visit, what bloggers do they follow, and how are you going to be able to get their attention? If you have a mailing list, send out a friendly email notification to your readers directing them to your crowdfund page.
6. Be aware of your legal commitments and follow-through on what you promised to deliver to your donors. They deserve it.