Crowdfunding for writers is a growing trend among novelists. It allows you to sell copies of your new novel long before you complete and publish it. In a way, crowdfunding takes the guesswork out of publishing: you can tell how much demand your novel will have--ahead of time.
It’s also a lot of hard work rather than a get-rich-quick scheme, so if you’re considering it, read through this article first.
What in the World Is Crowdfunding?
When you crowdfund a novel, you ask people to pledge payment long before they receive the final product. You then use this funding to offset your writing and publishing costs.
It’s a simple process: you set a monetary goal (such as $15,000), you tell people what your novel is about and what they’ll get in return for their money, and you start running your campaign. People visit your campaign page and choose how much to pledge. When you reach your goal, the money is released into your account, and it’s up to you to provide the rewards you have promised.
Publishing a book on your own costs money. You have to pay for the ISBN numbers. The printing and binding. The shipping. And in typical self-publishing, you spend all this money possibly without selling many books to cover your own overhead, not to mention the cost of the work you’ve put into the actual writing.
Crowdfunding fixes this problem. Instead of hoping people will like your book when it comes out, you can use the crowdfunding platform to get people excited about your book while you’re working on it. You ask people to pledge funds toward the creation and publication of your project, and in return, you offer various levels (tiers) of rewards.
It’s important to note that most crowdfunding sites won’t let pledges become donations until the minimum fundraising amount is pledged during the campaign. You won’t send out the rewards until this goal is met, either.
Basically, before the minimum amount is met, your project is running on promises and trust.
How to Create Your Own Crowdfunding Campaign
1. Start your project if you haven’t already. You want to be outlining and drafting your book as you get ready to launch your crowdfunding campaign. Your supporters, or backers, will want to see proof that you can deliver on your promised project.
2. Choose a crowdfunding platform. Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Unbound are all popular options for writers, and each one offers slightly different features. Make sure to do your research before committing to one.
3. Once you create an account with a platform, begin building your campaign page. Whatever you do, DO NOT RUSH THIS PROCESS. Many campaigns fail because authors get too excited about the potential to actually earn money from their book--and don’t spend time crafting a compelling campaign. Your campaign page will need:
- A catchy or powerful project title.
- A story (aka a project description) that details your inspiration for the book, the challenges you face in writing it, why you want to share it with the world, and what the world will get out of it.
- An image or video. Take your time creating an image that attracts attention and is relevant to your project. (We’ll talk more about the video aspect of your campaign page in a moment.)
4. On your set launch day, launch your campaign! Over the next two weeks, or a month, or however long you set your campaign to run, you’ll keep working on your book. You’ll also get rewards ready for your backers for when your campaign meets its minimum goal.
5. Speaking of rewards, here’s how they work: you list different pledge amounts along with accompanying rewards. For a novel, you could create reward tiers that look like this:
- $10 pledge = a copy of the published book, in print
- $25 pledge = copy of book + special bookmark
- $50 pledge = copy of book, bookmark, plus 2 signed bookplates
- $100 pledge = copy of book, bookmark, bookplates, + 15-minute phone call with author
- And so forth up to a $1,000-pledge
6. Once you hit your minimum funding goal (even if it’s before your campaign ends), pledges will turn into payments. Most crowdfunding platforms require credit card information from backers--and will charge backers automatically once the fundraising goal is met.
Now you’ll need to start sending out rewards, or at least getting all the materials you’ll need together, so that when your book is published, you can send the rewards easily.
Crowdfunding takes a ton of work. But if you don’t want to rely on the sloth’s pace of traditional publishing, or you like the idea of building a paying fan-base before you even finish writing a book, crowdfunding might be for you.
The steps listed above might sound straightforward enough, but there’s a lot more you need to know to create a great crowdfunding campaign. Read on about avoiding common pitfalls and about creating enough exposure for your campaign to meet its funding goal.
Crowdfunding for Writers: What You Need To Succeed
If You Fail to Prepare, Prepare to Fail
Make sure you do as much preparation as possible BEFORE the launch date of your campaign. If you just launch with no prior marketing and hope for the best, you'll be throwing your campaign into the void.
According to one author who ran a successful crowdfunding campaign for his debut novel, 80% of campaign work happens before launch day. That’s a powerful statistic!
Prepare a Great Campaign Page and Video
Make sure your campaign page looks professional and that your video is, at the very least, watchable (and preferably short). The video could simply recap the synopsis of the project and detail the reward breakdowns. Or it could be a well-edited trailer that reaches people on a more visual, emotional level.
Also include your book’s preview and any other completed material, as you want to load the page with as much information as possible. This will give backers confidence that you're well on your way to finishing the book and that they're not risking their money by backing you.
To easily show backers what they get in exchange for supporting you, use a simple design website like Canva to help you present your pledge rewards in an enticing way.
Reach Out to Relevant Websites and Podcasts
A great way to get exposure is to contact relevant websites and podcasts to enquire if they are interested in spotlighting your campaign.
For all my campaigns thus far, I’ve worked up a one-page press release detailing the broad strokes of the project (in my case, usually a comic book). I then sent it, along with a preview of the comic, to countless comic book websites that welcome crowdfunding campaigns.
I didn’t get responses from all of them. But those that did respond either did an interview with me or worked the press release into a post on their website.
Reach out to as many relevant websites and podcasts as possible. It helps to personalize each email, as editors get crowdfunding emails all the time.
Establishing these relationships with websites and podcasts can also help you with future campaigns.
A note about timing the podcast interviews and website posts strategically:
Ideally, you’ll want some of them to come out on the very day your campaign launches--and have the rest peppered throughout the duration of your campaign.
Engage with Social Media Platforms Early and Often
About a month (or longer) before your campaign launches, post previews of your book on social media and create hashtags for your campaign so people can easily find it in a search. You will need a decent-sized following on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
If you don’t already use social media, you’ll want to start as soon as possible. If you find the idea of maintaining several social media accounts overwhelming, choose one platform to invest your time and energy in.
Ask your friends and followers to generate excitement about your campaign throughout its run-time.
Just remember, in crowdfunding for writers there’s a fine line between informing people about your campaign and spamming them with posts about it. Taking the time to bolster your posts with personal anecdotes about your writing or drawing process, your strategies for overcoming writer’s block, and additional behind-the-scenes information can help keep your followers genuinely interested in you and your work.
Facebook Groups Are Hotbeds of Potential Readers
Join as many relevant Facebook groups as possible before you launch and market the book. If you've written a crime book, for example, join lots of crime/mystery groups, as this is where it’s easiest to find potential readers.
Always make sure that the group allows promotional posting. Some allow it on one or two specific days of the week, while others don’t allow it at all. And if you do receive love from Facebook groups, make sure to pay it back by reading and sharing your fellow writers’ campaigns. You’re all in this writing thing together!
Day-One Backers Are Vital
Stress to your audience (and friends and family) that if they're going to back your project, doing it on day one of the campaign is crucial. Campaigns that get off to strong starts on Kickstarter end up with better positioning on the site subsequently, so more people will see the campaign.
If your first day’s numbers are especially high, then Kickstarter might give you a ‘Project We Love’ badge, which ensures top-notch placement on the site.
Share That Link Everywhere!
Share, share, share that link on all the platforms you can think of!
Campaign activity tends to peak in the first week, drag in the middle, and pick back up during the final days. Try not to let your enthusiasm drop during the lull, and endeavor to keep the campaign active in people’s thoughts.
Build a Mailing List for Future Campaigns
When the campaign is over and your backers have their book, be sure to get their email address and form a MailChimp email list. If you maintain a connection with people who have already supported you, you’re more likely to enjoy their support throughout your career as an indie author.
Crowdfunding might be intimidating, but it can also be invaluable when used correctly. It takes a lot of hard work, but trust me: the benefits are worth the effort.