“Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” (Five Leaves, 2015) was successfully funded by a crowdfunding campaign which raised printing and distribution costs so expenses were covered before the book went to print and profits from sales went directly to the three charities involved.
However, more recently, I’ve seen less successful approaches and as crowdfunding has grown in popularity, it’s harder to draw attention and funds to individual projects. Generally, most funded book projects are those in the fantasy, science fiction or non-fiction genres. Literary and historical fiction genres have a harder time raising sufficient funds.
Before launching into crowdfunding, consider the following:
Is your book ready?
- For “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge”, we had the co-editors and publisher lined up before launching the campaign. We ran the crowdfunder alongside putting out calls for submissions. Both poets and funders knew the publisher was on board and trusted the co-editors would produce the book. We also had a clear publication date which we used for both the crowdfunder and call for submissions so both poets and funders knew the book would be ready.
- If you’re an established author with a good audience base, it may be sufficient to have an outline and a publication date because your readership knows you will deliver.
- If you’re a relatively unknown author, better to have the book written and in final editing stages plus a publication date before launching. If you can, have some advanced readers who can provide blurbs for your book for use in your publicity.
How much do you need to raise?
- Consider all your costs: printing, distribution, cover design, typesetting, editing, advertising, visuals for your crowdfunding campaign (at least a cover image and video) review copies, etc.
- How much of a cut does the crowdfunding platform take? In order to keep it free to set up a campaign, the platforms usually take an administration fee per pledge and may have different charges based on how people pay. For some platforms having a handful of people pay larger amounts will cost less than having a large number of people pledging smaller amounts (for “Over Land, Over Sea: poems for those seeking refuge” I budgeted on 100 people pledging £5 each rather than 5 people pledging £100 each; this way I knew the maximum cut a platform would take).
- How much time will you have to run your campaign? Some sites set limits, others may give you longer but you have to keep the momentum going.
- What rewards are you offering? Are you just asking people to pay upfront for a copy of your book or are you offering other rewards to encourage people to donate more?
- Why you want funds is not why people will fund your project. Stop and think about what’s in it for your funders, not why you want people to donate.
How will you attract funding?
- You need to have connections in place before you launch your crowdfunder so that you can publicise your campaign on day 1. Your connections could be your social media contacts and your mailing list but can also IRL connections: people you know will share links to your project and create a buzz around it.
- Check data protection and marketing legislation – in the UK, the Charity Commission is a good place to get an understanding of who you can and can’t contact.
- Don’t rely on a press release. Unless your project has a story, it isn’t news and some outlets may consider it too close to advertising.
- Consider creating a blog where you can post articles related to your project to build a readership before launching your crowdfunder so you can post the occasional call to action reminder amongst your blog articles.
- Think about guest posts on relevant blogs, but remember your pitch for guest posts should be about how your article relates to the blog, not all about your efforts to fundraise.
- It will not be enough to set up your project and email all your contacts on day 1, your crowdfund will need regular updates to keep interest up and pledges coming in.
- Most activity on crowdfunding projects is at the beginning and just before the very end. In between, activity drops off so you need to have a plan to keep publicising your campaign.
- Don’t skimp on preparation. If you’re relatively unknown and your contacts are friends and family, you need to create a campaign that demonstrates you can write to a professional standard and deliver a book your backers will like and promote.
- Don’t forget that people are not obliged to back your campaign and those who don’t, don’t owe you an explanation either.
Points to Consider
- If crowdfunding for an anthology, avoid the temptation to ask people submitting work to contribute funds. It looks as if you’re asking people to pay to be published and you may deter good writers who don’t have spare cash. Ensure correspondence about fundraising is kept separate from correspondence about the publication. Don’t be tempted to ask writers whose work you are accepting to pledge funds and definitely don’t ask rejected writers to contribute.
- Take care when approaching people who don’t know you in real life. Your over-enthusiastic approach may work fine with friends but come across as over-bearing to a stranger.
- Don’t take contact details from a website and contact that person, even if you think you’ve found a way to do it that circumvents direct marketing rules, it will backfire. I was recently contacted by someone who did this and thought I’d back his fundraising for a charity local to him but over 170 miles from me in an email all about why he was fundraising but not one word about why I should back his efforts and even had the audacity to respond when I told him never to contact me again, in breach of data protection law.
- Social media doesn’t just work for you, it can also work against you. If people who have pledged money see comments that portray you as unprofessional, they may withdraw their pledges.
Remember to thank your backers, deliver their rewards and ask if you can keep them informed, particularly if some of your backers aren’t already on your contact list. You can then ask them to write reviews or mention your project online to continue to generate interest.
Don’t forget to launch and publicise your book to new readers as well as your funders.
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