Crowdfunding for Writers

“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.

Afterwards

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.



LWC Alison Moore


The Saboteur Award Shortlists are now published. Please vote for the winners at the link: http://sabotagereviews.com/2019/04/15/saboteur-awards-2019-shortlists/. Without votes those shortlisted won’t progress. If you enjoy reviews on this blog, I’ve been shortlisted for Best Reviewer. Voting is open until 12 May 2019.

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#NaPoWriMo 2019

In previous years, I prepared for NaPoWriMo by clearing my review pile, thinking about themes I wanted to explore in new poems and collating a few prompts for that point, usually two-thirds through April, when inspiration seems to stutter. Normally I’d start each day with a blank page or prompt and write until I had something shaped like a draft poem. The next day, I’d cast that aside and start with a new page and new idea. Naturally I would return to the cast aside drafts at a later date to edit, reshape and decide whether this was a poem or a non-starter. Decisions about whether I had something publishable will come even later.

This year, life got in the way and I wasn’t able to take the draft poem a day approach. Instead the target was still to have 30 drafts by the end of the month but there would be non-writing days and days when I’d need to draft more than one poem to hit the target. I began thinking of themes or subjects that could lend themselves to sequences or be revisited from another angle, a different viewpoint, even a different voice. I’m not particularly visual so it surprised me when I wrote a poem in response to a photo taken by a friend and even more surprised when another photo inspired a second poem.

It’s not quite the end of the month, but I’m on target to reach 30 poems. Titles are listed here: NaPoWriMo.

 

 

 


The Saboteur Award Shortlists are now published. Please vote for the winners at the link: http://sabotagereviews.com/2019/04/15/saboteur-awards-2019-shortlists/. Without votes those shortlisted won’t progress. If you enjoy reviews on this blog, I’ve been shortlisted for Best Reviewer.

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How Not to Submit Poems

Actual examples of submissions:

  • Omit the cover letter and just attach poems to a blank email.
  • Include lengthy descriptions of the inspiration for the poems.
  • Using illegible fonts or coloured type on a coloured background where there isn’t enough contrast so the poems are difficult/impossible to read.
  • Printing poems on images
  • Sending images with poems when the magazine does not include artwork
  • Sending images with no clarification as to whether they accompany the poetry submission or are separate, especially if it’s unclear as to image copyright ownership.
  • Send poems as an image file.
  • Send attachments when asked to send poems in the body of an email.
  • Send poems that are too long.
  • Attachments in the wrong format or in a format the editor can’t open.
  • Send a manuscript worth of poems and suggest the editor selects the ones they like.
  • Use the wrong email address or use FB messenger.
  • Addressing an editor who also happens to be a woman as ‘Dear Sir…’
  • Chasing for a response within hours of sending. Some magazines do respond within 24 hours, but they are the exception.
  • Sending simultaneous submissions when requested not to and often enough to suggest this isn’t an occasional mistake.
  • If asked for a writer’s biography either sending a complete CV/resume or one that’s over the requested length.
  • Responding to a rejection to ask why a poem was rejected.
  • Responding to a rejection to say the rejected poem accepted elsewhere.

Why these approaches are wrong:

  • It may seem obvious to the submitter that the poems attached to a blank email are a poetry submission, but to an editor it’s discourteous and potentially spam. Your email only need say “Please find attached my poems [a list of titles is helpful] for consideration for publication in [magazine name]”.
  • Editors don’t have time to read about what inspired your poems. Instead of wasting their time, save this for a future blog article or response to an interview.
  • Editors need to be able to read your poems so a standard black font on white background is fine. Coloured type or paper or a distinctive font is just distraction and if they render your poems illegible, they’ll be rejected unread. Don’t stand out for the wrong reasons.
  • Similarly using an image as a background makes the poem difficult to read and easy to reject.
  • If a magazine doesn’t include artwork, why are you sending images? If you’re unsure, read the magazine or assume poems only.
  • If you send images, include a note to explain who owns the copyright. Artists and photographers own the copyright on their images just as you own copyright of your poems so if you don’t clarify copyright ownership, an editor will assume the images are not for use.
  • Avoid insisting your image accompanies your poem. Your poem should be able to stand alone and an editor may not be able to find enough space to publish both.
  • Don’t send text (a poem) as an image file only. If you have a concrete poem, send both a text copy and an image copy so the editor can see your intention and can decide whether to treat your poem as text or image. If you’re following normal poem layout conventions, send text so the editor can copy and paste and doesn’t have to retype your poem to use it.
  • If an editor asks for poems to be in the body of an email, any attachments are likely to be deleted unread.
  • Likewise attachments in the wrong format may be deleted because the editor can’t open them.
  • Conventional print magazines like poems of 40 lines because generally they fit on one side of a page, which is how the standard 40 line limit came about. Online magazines may not be tied to the 40 line limit but may still impose a line limit so that 180 line epics don’t appear alongside a haiku. If an editor’s set a limit, they are not going to make an exception no matter how exceptional you believe your poem to be.
  • An editor gets more poems in a week then they can publish in a year so sending a manuscript worth of poems and asking an editor to select one or two is arrogance. Read the guidelines, read the magazine and do the selection for the editor.
  • Editors request submitters use a specific email address so they can be certain that emails to that address are for the magazine only. This may be because they allocate specific times to work on the magazine or so they can separate personal from business emails. Using an editor’s personal address instead of the magazine’s address causes administrative headaches, makes you look like a queue-jumper and invites rejection. Using FB messenger, twitter or similar channels to try and get an editor’s attention won’t get a positive reaction.
  • Most magazines have a website/facebook page/twitter account/publish their editor’s name in the magazine. It’s not difficult to find an editor’s name. If you’re not sure ‘Dear Editor’ is better than ‘Dear Sir’.
  • No matter how tempting it is to chase a response, don’t because the easiest response is a rejection and time taken to respond to queries takes time that is better spend reading submissions. Give it six months and query if you must.
  • Avoid simultaneous submissions: generally editors don’t like them and it makes your admin and record keeping easier.
  • Check the guidelines on whether magazines want a writer’s biography or not and note the word limit. Editors don’t have time to whittle down your CV/resumé and it’s easier to exclude it.
  • Most of the time rejections aren’t about the quality of a poem, but about pressures of space and the fact your cat poem was the 15th one to land on the editor’s desk this month and, much as editor loves cat poems, 15 is too many. The editor may have rejected your cat poem because she accepted them on a first come first served basis and yours was the last, because she loves tortoiseshells and yours was about a tabby, because in this particular issue she decided not to include any cat poems, because she thought the poem was OK but the last stanza needed a final edit or because she hated your poem. She doesn’t have time to tell you and may be wary of telling you in case you start a lengthy correspondence about her rejection of your cat poem. Accept an editor has the right to say no as well as yes and send your cat poem elsewhere.
  • Don’t tell the editor when your cat poem is accepted elsewhere: that the editor of elsewhere accepted it is not a reflection on the original editor’s competence. Sometimes editors do reject poems they like. Sometimes elsewhere is just a better fit.

 

Writing characters who aren’t good

Guest Post by Amanda Steel

I’m not sure whether it’s a new trend, or something I failed to notice before. In the past year, I’ve read numerous books where the characters (both main and supporting) are not typically good people; either bad or just extremely flawed in some way.

I co-host a book review podcast, and I struggled to review some of these. The Creative Writing MA I am halfway through made me realise this doesn’t automatically make them bad books. However. In one (I won’t name the specific books I didn’t like) the character whinged the whole way through. To be fair, he was in the middle of a zombie outbreak, and I would whinge a bit too. Do people want to read a book where the character complains and feels sorry for himself though?

Another book I read was about a character who lost his memory. The person who he discovered he was, turned out to be a cheat and a creep. He was a much better person without his memory. The other characters were no better. This left me with nobody to root for. I couldn’t bring myself to care what happened to any of them. I knew then, something was missing from the main character. Even as a bad guy, he needed something to make the reader want to carry on reading.

After that, I read a book where the main character was someone I was able to feel for (in part) as she continued to make a series of bad choices – digging herself deeper and deeper into trouble. She was more than a little self-absorbed, which was off putting, but she suffered for the things she had done before getting her happy-for-now ending.

These books all helped me to learn what doesn’t work in a bad or not typically good character. Self-obsession is off putting, unless the character has somehow transformed by the end of the book. She/he doesn’t have to become a saint and can still be a little selfish, but character growth is important.

Using a range of characters with little or no redeeming qualities can be hard to get away with too. I’m not saying it can’t be done in a successful way, but the authors of the books mentioned above haven’t achieved it. Having someone good, or much further down the scale of bad is likely to be helpful in keeping readers, otherwise adding charm or an endearing trait to the character could also help.

The most recent book I read where the character wasn’t good, or at least she didn’t do good things, showed me how this can work. Jane Doe is written by Victoria Helen Stone. The book is about a sociopath who wants revenge, even if that revenge might be murder. She’s prepared to kill if she has to. The character is more complex than just being a potential killer though. She wants revenge for a friend, which at least shows she is capable of caring for another person, even if that leads to actions which many people wouldn’t consider. She’s loyal, determined and funny, even though she doesn’t mean to be humorous. There is a raw charm in her personality. The other characters are not sociopaths, but the author has portrayed them as more twisted and deserving of punishment than Jane. So, Jane was the one I was rooting for and I genuinely wanted to keep reading, as I hoped things would work out for her no matter what she chose to do in the end.

Reading these books has shown me as a writer how to (or how not to) write flawed characters who can hook the reader. This is why writers should also be readers. We can learn from so much from books, even bad ones. That’s why Stephen King says that if you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.

Amanda Steel is a multi-genre author, sometimes writing under the pen name Aleesha Black. She is the co-host of “Reading in Bed” with her partner, Andy. For more information about Amanda, visit her website. www.amandasteelwriter.com

#ShareYourRejections

I’m not going to share mine. Rejections are boring. I don’t think it’s helpful to hear that a published poet got so many rejections for her first book but kept going because:

  • Success isn’t just about persistence and tenacity
  • The try again and keep going message can give false hope
  • It implies rejections stop when you reach a certain level of success

Persistence and Tenacity

  • Some editors simply don’t like your poems. It’s possible to appreciate the craft and technical skills in a poem but not actually like it. Don’t give up at the first rejection, but if a magazine invariably rejects your work, move on and find an editor that likes your work.
  • Sometimes poets send out their poems too early which is why it’s worth finding a beta reader, workshop or writers’ group so you can get feedback on your work before you send it out to editors.
  • Editors don’t have time to give feedback on poems. It’s frustrating not knowing why you’ve been rejected but it’s more likely to be that your poems weren’t the right fit or too similar to work already accepted or the editor gets more poems in a week than she can publish in a year.
  • Do your research: find magazines that you like reading and that publish poems by poets you like and try them first. Check you’re not sending your traditional sonnets to a magazine that prefers prose poems. Continually sending prose poems to a magazine that only publishes villanelles wastes your time and irritates the magazine editor.
  • Don’t compare your failures with others’ successes. You don’t know how many times that poem was rejected before it was accepted. You don’t know how many rejections they got that week they posted about an acceptance on social media.
  • There are more poets than places to get published.

The False Hope of Try Again and Keep Going

  • It’s worth trying again if you’ve only had one rejection from a magazine and if you’ve done your research and think your poems are a good fit for the magazine.
  • It’s not worth trying again if there’s a mismatch between your poetry style and the magazine’s poetry style. Don’t get trapped into thinking you’re not a poet if you’ve not been published by The New Yorker or Poetry Review.
  • When you get a rejection, always re-read the poems that have been rejected. A fresh look might help you notice the awkward phrase in the second stanza or that the last line isn’t necessary. Edit and submit to another magazine.
  • If an editor doesn’t like your poems, they aren’t going to change their mind on the twentieth submission. Try another magazine.
  • If you’re getting good feedback when you perform your work but get rejected by magazines, chances are your performance is bringing something to your poems that’s absent on the page. Consider how to represent the missing element or consider recording your performances instead.
  • One rejection of a poem doesn’t imply there’s anything wrong with the poem. Multiple rejections of the same poem imply that it might be unfinished. Consider an edit or seek feedback before trying again.
  • Are you really a prose writer who wants to be a poet? Someone with amusia will never be a successful singer no matter how much they want to be, how many times they try, how frequently they change vocal style in the hope that their failure at opera will turn to success in pop, their failure at pop will turn to success in punk, how many hours of practice they do, how adept they get at using auto tune on their vocals or if they stalk the record label owner. However, there’s nothing to stop them becoming a successful drummer. You don’t have to stop writing poems just because your stories are more successful, but, when it comes to getting published, focus on where your talent actually lies.

Rejections Don’t Stop

Most of the magazines that accepted my poems in my first years of trying to get published no longer exist. The publishing landscape is forever changing: existing magazines change editors or fold and new magazines start. Being a published writer means being alert and open to new opportunities and that means potential rejection. Rejection can be minimised by doing your research, only submitting to markets where you know your work’s a good fit and knowing that you’re sending off the best versions of your poems, but it can’t be entirely eliminated.

To Publish or Not to Publish?

In a recent conversation on EAVA FM, I was asked for tips for aspiring writers:

  • Read, you can’t be a writer unless you read.
  • Guard your writing time – you may need to negotiate with family members or partners but if you don’t give your writing time priority, it won’t be important to them either.
  • It’s writing that makes you a writer, not being published.

Writing is the process through which ideas, characters, themes, issues, plots emerge from your thoughts and/or dreams in a way that enables you to write them down or type them. The process then extends to editing and polishing until you have a poem or story. It may be that you leave the new piece aside and come back to it at a later date so you can look at it with fresh eyes or you take it to a workshop or writers’ group or get a beta reader to look over it for constructive criticism to improve it further.

No piece of writing is wasted, even if it ends up binned or deleted, it’s all practice. Understanding how a story failed makes you better able to tackle a fresh story. Trying and failing to write a villanelle will give you a better understanding and appreciation of the form and there’s no reason to try and rewrite the failed villanelle in a different form or take one of the stanzas and start a new poem based on the extract.

Whether you show your writing to others is entirely up to you. If you want the external validation of publication, consider whether you are seeking that validation to confirm you are a writer or whether you want to share and communicate your work with others. If it’s all about you, it’s unlikely to appeal to readers. If it’s about sharing, publication is one of the routes to a readership. If others are pressurising you to get published, what are their motives? Do they need you to be published to call you a writer or do they think your writing should be shared with others? It is about you or your work?

Should you publish?

  • If it’s a shiny badge stating ‘writer’ that you’re after, make your own. The validation feels great, but publication is about reaching out to readers, not primarily to make you feel good
  • If you want to share and communicate to readers, you need a form of publication to make that happen
  • If you’re under pressure to publish, don’t. It has to be something you want, not something you do to please others.
  • Are you prepared to promote your publications on social media and market your publications? If you can’t engage with the process, it’s not worth doing and publishers, especially poetry publishers, need engaged writers.
  • Are you ready to accept that once out in the public domain, you have very little control over how readers react to your work? There will be critics and detractors as well as readers. Readers will filter your work through their lenses and may misunderstand your intentions or add baggage that you didn’t consider.
  • How will you handle reviews? Don’t read them is easier said than done. Reading, doing your research and approaching the right reviewers for your work takes time, but you won’t have control over what reviewers say.

Routes to Publication

  • Magazines and publishers – the obvious route but not the only one.
  • Competitions – many poetry competitions publish winning and short listed entries in an anthology or on a website
  • Blogs – some bloggers will publish poems but check the standard of poems (would you be happy for your work to be in the company of poems already posted?) and check guest post guidelines. You could create your own blog but be prepared to spend time promoting it. Also be aware that poems uploaded to a blog will be considered published and that will limit your options for getting blogged poems published elsewhere.
  • Performance – read at open mic slots or organise your own readings
  • Recordings – free software, e.g. Audacity, make it easy to record and upload readings of your poems. If your strength is in performance, burning a collection of recordings to a CD can be an alternative to book publication or a complement to a printed collection.

Why Woman’s Weekly contract changes matter even to poets

I’m a poet so news of the Woman’s Weekly contract changes for short stories was slow to come to the surface. It’s a useful illustration of why all writers (including poets) need to care about their rights and be cautious about what terms are in the contracts they sign.

Woman’s Weekly parent group has recently rebranded as TI Media and part of the rebrand seems to be changes to the short story contracts.

Generally if you sell a poem or short story to a magazine, it is on the understanding that you sell either first publication or one-time publication rights so the magazine can publish the poem or story. You are not selling any other rights and retain copyright so that you can publish your story or poem elsewhere, include it in a collection, have it translated or have your work adapted for another medium (e.g. film or an app). Regardless whether you were paid in cash or by complimentary copy for the sale to the magazine, you can still make money on your poem or story elsewhere.

If a magazine asks for any other rights, double check you understand what you’re being asked to sign. You should not be giving a magazine the right to republish your story without permission or payment, adapt your story for other media without permission or payment to you, translate it into another language or sell foreign rights without payment to you, make your story into a film or app without permission or payment to you or leave you unable to publish your poem or story elsewhere unless you obtain permission from the magazine or award themselves the right to republish your poem or story without crediting you (moral rights). They didn’t write your piece, you did, therefore you should benefit from selling the rights to use your poem or story.

This is what TI Media are asking from short story writers. Moreover, not only are they asking for more rights, they have reduced the amount they pay writers. So writers are being asked to give up more for less.

Why should poets, or at least those who don’t also write short stories, care? It shows writers should be protective of their rights and not succumb to a perceived power imbalance between writer and publisher. It shows that writers desperate to get into print should pause and think through the consequences. It is not worth losing your story to see your name in Woman’s Weekly.