Many writers have a great idea for a book and the talent to write it, but lack the financial resources to have it professionally published. Professional editing, layout and design, distribution and promotional strategies requires a team of experts, all of whom need to get paid. Crowdfunding to the rescue!
Quick primer: crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe are online services that exist to help people get projects (typically creative or philanthropic) off the ground. Campaign managers solicit contributions from backers in exchange for “perks” when the project is successful in meeting its funding goal.
For the crowdfunding model to work, you need to have something that people will want to buy. In this regard, books can be a challenge to market. Unless you give people a compelling reason to be interested, you’ll find it difficult to get them to open their wallets.
With that in mind, here are five things you can do to increase your project’s chance of success.
Get your messaging straight. Crowdfunding requires selling an idea, and you need sharp copy to transmit that vision to your backers. An amazing tagline can pique interest and carry the weight of explaining what your book is about. A great first step is to look at some successful campaigns and see what they’ve done. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery - and can make good marketing sense, too. Some examples of simple title/tagline combinations that have been successful include:
The Freedom Journal: Accomplish Your #1 Goal in 100 Days
Now Playing - Underrated Movies We Recommend
The Good Fight: David vs Goliath stories, in real life
Draw Like a Boss: The Physical Book ← How’s that for simple??
Get a professionally designed cover. This one might seem strange, especially if you haven’t finished writing your book yet. But despite the old adage, people DO judge books by their covers, so make sure yours is compelling and attractive. Even though the cover will only be a picture on a computer screen, people will naturally imagine holding the final book in their hands - and that gap between the real and the imagined might be just enough to convince them to back your project.
Make a video! This might sound daunting but it needn’t be overly complicated. Many successful videos are filmed using phones or tablets. If you have a tripod, that’s best but there are some amazing software-based stabilization tools that can dramatically improve the professionalism of your video. Some examples for iPhone and iPad are here and here. An Android version is here. Of course, if you can afford to hire someone with advanced video production skills, that will always result in a higher quality finished product.
More important than video quality is content quality. If you want people to be passionate about your project, you need to show them that you are. Be engaging. Be passionate. Be unexpected. But above all, be yourself.
Get feedback. Before you launch your project, make a list of people whose opinion you trust and ask them whether they’d be interested in your project. Find out what might spur them to back your book and what kinds of rewards they would expect. And if your contacts happen to be VIPs who will contribute a large sum to your project, make sure they wait to do it through your fundraising website page. Then, once your project is launched you can use that success in your promotions. “Only 3 days in and (name of book) has already received $598 in funding!” More on this strategy in the next point.
Make a promotion plan. Having a great idea, cover, and video won’t be enough if nobody knows about your project. So, long before you launch your initiative, get your promotion plan together.
Enlist ALL your contacts (including work, clubs, writers group, church, etc.) and ask them to share your emails, Tweets, Facebook, and LinkedIn posts to their networks. Then, once people start supporting your project, make sure you publicize your success. The “me too” effect means people want to be part of something that other people believe is exciting. Buzz is good for biz.
Promotion is not a one time effort, so be prepared to stay engaged. Plan for once-a-week emails, as well as daily Tweets and regular Facebook posts. Whatever communication channels you have, let them know how things are going and don’t stop throughout the life of your campaign. Marketing’s “Rule of Seven” says a customer needs to hear your message seven times before they will buy. Not a bad thing to keep in mind.
Bonus tip: With a good idea and a great promotional strategy, your project has every chance of succeeding. And remember, you can always raise more than 100%, so plan for success. Let backers know how you’ll spend the extra money - beyond fulfilling your stated promises. Perhaps you’ll give a workshop or commission a special edition of the book, or? Be creative and think of great (but realistic) things you can do for your supporters.
Really? Crowdfunding Works?
Yes, it can and it does. One great example of a wildly successful crowdfunded book project is “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls”, which was printed at Friesens. The authors had a great idea, a fabulous message, and aimed at a specific audience. They took the time to create an engaging video and followed it up with a strong messaging campaign. Yes, their goals were ambitious (raise $40,000 for a book?) but their success was off the charts. To date, the campaign has raised well over $1.6 million US. You can read about it here.
Of course not every campaign is so wildly successful (otherwise we’d tell EVERY author to crowdfund!) but there are countless examples of initiatives that do meet their funding goals. Three examples of FriesenPress authors who have enjoyed crowdfunding success are here, here, and here.
Whatever your book is about, you can find success with crowdfunding. And once your project has met its goals and your book has been published, don’t forget to use your crowdfunding page in your promotional activities. It’s a great way to demonstrate that other people think your book is worthwhile and, as the old saying goes, nothing succeeds like success.