Independently published authors face two major hurdles to success: financing and book promotion. Professional quality publishing packages for print books can cost thousands of dollars, and without a marketing plan, your book is still likely to become just another title floating through cyberspace on the endless tides of Amazon.com. Crowd funding provides authors with the means to both raise capital to underwrite the costs of publishing, and at the same time, build an audience by raising awareness for their book projects.
What is Crowd Funding?
Crowd funding is a way for groups of people to sponsor projects and products that they feel strongly about. In exchange for their pledges of financial support, crowd funding investors are offered “Perks.” A perk is any product, service, or benefit that the supporter will receive in exchange for the money they pledge.
If you stop to think about it, non-profit organizations, including local churches, have always been subsidized by the donations of people who feel strongly about their mission. The same basic principle operates in crowd funding, except that the donors receive tangible perks in exchange for the money they invest in a project.
Kickstarter and Indigogo
Two of the most widely known crowd funding platforms are Kickstarter (www.kickstarter.com) and Indiegogo (www.indigogo.com). These platforms have slightly different emphases. Kickstarter focuses on raising money for creative projects. Indiegogo has a broader focus, and is therefore less exclusive about what kinds of projects they will take on.
If you are a fiction writer, and you have no plans to crowd fund anything other than fiction, Kickstarter may be right for you. If you plan on crowd funding any non-fiction projects, Indiegogo may be the better choice.
With both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, setting up a campaign is free. However, these sites obviously have to make money to stay in business. They do that by taking a percentage of the money raised through the crowd funding campaigns hosted on their websites (this can be anywhere from 4-10%). It costs nothing to set up a campaign, but once the money comes in, the host site will collect their share of the donations. Learn more about the specific costs associated with Kickstarter and Indiegogo by visiting their websites.
Fixed Funding vs. Flexible Funding
Another significant difference between these two major crowdfunding platforms is that Kickstarter only allows for fixed funding campaigns, while Indiegogo also allows for flexible funding campaigns. A fixed funding campaign is an all or nothing proposition. Your supporters pledge money toward your project, but if you do not meet your goal, you don’t receive any of that money. Your supporters pay nothing, and you get nothing. End of story.
With a flexible funding campaign, you receive all the money pledged toward your project, whether or not you meet your funding goal. However, for campaigns that fall short of their funding targets, Indigogo charges higher fees.
The main advantage of a fixed funding campaign is the motivation it gives your supporters. If they want your book and they understand that it won’t be published unless you get enough pledges to reach your goal, they will feel a greater sense of urgency about getting their friends to support the project, too. This may be a little easier if you are writing non-fiction, because people may be quite passionate about your topic, even if they have not yet read your book. It’s somewhat more difficult to inspire the same kind of passion in fans who haven’t yet read your fiction.
Resources for Learning More
I learned about crowd funding for authors when I attended an evening session presented by Thomas Umstadt Jr. from Author Media at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference last spring. He explained the basics of how to use crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to finance independent publishing projects.
Since then, Author Media has produced “The Ultimate Crowd Funding Course for Authors” http://www.authormedia.com/products/ultimate-crowdfunding-course-authors/. In this course, Thomas Umstadt Jr. and author Mary Demuth discuss all the phases of a crowd funding campaign, drawing heavily on the lessons they learned through Mary’s highly successful campaign for her book, Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse. Mary raised about two hundred and fifty percent of her original $10,000 goal and pre-sold approximately seven hundred copies of her book in the course of her crowd funding campaign. I highly recommend this very helpful and comprehensive resource. After listening to it, I felt very well prepared to design a crowd funding campaign of my own.
My own experience
Right now, I am working to set up a crowd funding campaign for Welcome, Earthborn Brother, my science fiction novel for young readers. I’m planning to launch this campaign on Indiegogo by the end of March. I made the decision to do this for two principle reasons:
- To raise money— Writing is my day job. Publishing independently puts all the costs of book production on the author’s shoulders. I simply don’t have the money for all those essential up-front expenses, like professional editing, layout, and cover design. I can’t afford to spend so much getting Welcome, Earthborn Brother published that I have to sell thousands of copies just to recoup my initial investment.
- To promote my book—I see crowd funding as a great marketing tool. Unlike independent film makers or visual artists, authors have it pretty easy when it comes to figuring out what perks to offer our supporters. We can offer them copies of our books! In exchange for different donation levels, I plan to offer copies of my ebook, my print book, and autographed copies of my book. Because nearly everyone who invests in the crowd funding campaign will receive the novel in exchange for their support, I will be enlarging my reader base automatically. I’m hoping people will get so excited about Welcome, Earthborn Brother that they will spread the word to their own friends and social networks, encouraging them to invest in this campaign, too. I think it’s a fantastic promotional strategy.
I decided to use Indiegogo for two main reasons:
- The first reason is that I also write non-fiction. If I should decide down the road to crowd fund a non-fiction book, I know that Kickstarter is not open to projects of that kind. In some ways, this campaign will be an opportunity for me to learn the ropes of crowd funding through Indiegogo so that if I need to create a bigger campaign in the future, I will understand how it all works.
- The second reason is that Indiegogo allows for both fixed funding and flexible funding campaigns. Since this will be my first experience with crowd funding a book, I’m not completely certain what to expect. That’s why I wanted the option of creating a flexible funding campaign.
I’m quite excited to see how all of this will work out. I’m planning to run this campaign throughout April, 2015. To follow progress of this venture as it unfolds, check back here in the coming weeks.