While I was in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, I received quite a few questions from authors about how I went about it, and would crowdfunding be a good idea for them.
First, let me tell you about my project and how it came about.
I wrote Not Marked last spring after I wrote a post about sexual abuse for Deeper Story. I shopped the book to publishers, but they passed on it. Yet the message of the book burned inside me. I knew how much heartache lived in this world, where people hurt in silence. Sexual abuse isn’t exactly dinner table conversation, and the shame associated with it makes people keep it silent.
So last spring I decided to publish it myself and do it right. The problem? I didn’t have the funds to hire an editor, pay for formatting, or fund an initial print run. I address why I’m not going with Print on Demand on this post. My friend Thomas Umstattd here at Author Media had recently run a successful Kickstarter campaign for MyBookTable, and he offered to help me navigate the world of crowdfunding.
I paid for a book cover. I paid for a video for the campaign. I pitched the project to Kickstarter and was turned down. (They don’t do self help books). We regrouped and put the project up on Indiegogo, and fully funded after a week. Currently we’re hoping to reach some stretch goals.
Should I Crowdfund my book? 7 Questions to Help Authors Know for Sure
Crowdfunding is not for everyone. So here are 7 questions you need to ask yourself before you begin crowdfunding your staggering work of genius.
1. Do I have an existing, engaged tribe of followers?
I know I would not have funded my project early had I not already developed a strong following of sweet, determined “fans.” If no one knows you (except friends and family) as a writer, it will be hard to gather enough people and momentum to fund your project.
You need a crowd to crowdfund. Not to say it won’t happen–if your project is compelling, the idea may capture folks. But it’s just a lot harder if you don’t have a tribe (email distribution list, Twitter followers, Google + presence, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, website, blog, etc).
2. Do I have a month of time I can dedicate to this?
I read a terrific ebook by John Saddington that aptly warned me the crowdfunding project would overtake my month. He was absolutely right. You pretty much have to put your other projects on the back burner in order to answer questions, write blog posts, ask folks for help, tweet and facebook about the campaign, strategize on difficult days, etc. Crowdfunding is not for the faint of heart.
3. Is my book about me or about them?
If it’s your pet project that you’ve wanted to do, but publishers didn’t want to publish it, it’s important you evaluate whether this is about you or if it’s about being generous and helping people. Your book should bring a clear benefit to your reader or a group of folks. For me, the people who have experienced sexual abuse (and their spouses) will find healing and perspective from sexual abuse. It’s a clear benefit, and a clear audience.
4. Can you tell a compelling story?
A successful campaign tells a story of a problem and a solution and a conflict or obstacle in the middle. You can’t be shy. You must state your story in simple language. In my video, I tell my story of being sexually abused at age five. I don’t stay there, or wallow in the story. I redirect that story and ask my audience if they’ve had that experience. A compelling story must transfer from the storyteller to the reader/listener/watcher. They have to be able to see themselves in the story.
5. How do I feel about promotion?
This was HARD for me. I don’t want to become a Me Monster about my book or my campaign. But to fund it, I had to advocate for it–quite frequently. You have to feel so passionately about your book that you’re willing to over-promote it. I have definitely been outside my comfort zone in this.
6. Do I know someone who can mentor me through the process?
Truly, truly I would not be funded had I not had Thomas Umstattd mentor me through the crowdfunding journey. I recently spoke with crowdfunding expert Jason Nast about this. He shepherds authors through the process as well. There’s a lot of nuance and strategy to executing a terrific campaign. I would have made 1000 mistakes had I not had help.
7. Are you comfortable delivering a product in a specified period of time?
When you crowdfund, you promise a delivery date. Since others have entrusted you with their money, you must be a disciplined artist and business person to actually over-deliver on your promise. That’s why I wrote the book first. As soon as the project funded, I polished up the manuscript and sent it to my editor. I would not recommend that you pitch a book that has yet to be written.
I hope those questions help you as you make a decision about crowdfunding your book. I’m grateful, so grateful that I’ve experienced success in this area. It’s been a huge encouragement in my career as well as a validation of the years I’ve spent building a tribe.
Learn How to Crowdfund Your Book
Thomas Umstattd and I recently crowdfunded a course on how to crowdfund your book. We talk in this course about how to build your crowd, how to craft your page and a lot more.
What questions do you have about crowdfunding?