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Crowdfunding: How to publish your book by getting other people to pay upfront for it

June 2nd, 2017

Crowdfunding means asking potential readers to pledge money towards your book now, with the expectation that they will receive specific rewards when it is finished. That means you keep control, while your future customers cover your costs of creating the work.

If you haven’t written it yet, crowdfunding also allows you to test the demand for your book before investing a lot of time, energy and money into creating it.

Despite already being a published author via the traditional route, I decided to use crowdfunding to raise money for my latest book idea: a collection of sleep tips for people who struggle to switch off at night. Happily, I managed to raise 120% of my target, and am now spending my evenings packing books to go to all the backers that contributed!

I learned a lot during the process, and these are my top four tips if you want to run a successful crowdfunding campaign:

  1. Build your audience in advance

According to Kickstarter, most creators of projects get about a third of their funding through friends and family, a third through their wider networks (fans of your work and friends of friends) and a third through Kickstarter traffic. That means that uploading your project details is only the first part of the job – you’ll need to promote your campaign heavily.

Start building an audience before you launch your project. Release parts of your work on social media or on your blog, tag it to help interested people find out about you, and build up followers over time. You can then tell this audience about your crowdfunding project when it launches.

Reach out to local media, relevant blogs and social media influencers before you begin funding. Plan PR activities ahead of time, so that everything kicks in during your funding timeframe (which is typically 30 days).

Ask your friends and family to support you immediately after launching your project, in order to gain initial momentum. Once you have started to secure funding, it provides ‘social proof’ to other backers, who feel more inclined to get involved.

  1. Make your crowdfunding page look professional

Put together a professional-looking page with plenty of visuals. Video is almost essential – I did ours myself but have some knowledge of lighting and editing so was able to do a half-decent job. Start with a concise summary – get across what’s in it for your reader within your first sentence.

Include a pledge around the £20 mark, check your postage costs in advance and wherever possible provide digital rewards; the cost, time and effort of fulfilling them is much, much lower. Be creative with the rewards you offer: think beyond just delivering a copy of your book. I offered an ebook, prints of illustrations from the book and credits in the back of my book.

If you’re not familiar with how crowdfunding works go and explore the platforms before launching your own campaign. Back a few projects, watch which ones succeed and look at the competition in your category.

Put yourself in a stranger’s shoes. Would the image you’ve picked draw your eye when seen amongst all the others? Does your short description compel you to click? If someone does click, what will indicate to them that you’re a credible creator? Of the projects that are successfully funded, around 10% of them never deliver the promised rewards. So it’s important to provide some evidence that you will deliver.

  1. Clear your schedule

I had been warned that running a Kickstarter campaign is a full-time job. Nah, I thought, my project is such a good idea people will flood it with pledges as soon as I launch. The reality? Weeks of emailing people about your project, hundreds of back and forth messages with potential backers and constant promotional efforts. Clear as much of your diary as you can so you handle this extra workload without losing your sanity (or your day job!)

If you are a sensitive soul like me, you may also want to shore up your resilience supplies. There are sweet highs every time you get a new backer, long periods of despair when you think you won’t make it, and the virtual punch in the stomach when people who have backed your project suddenly cancel their pledges! It can be an emotional rollercoaster if you let it.

  1. Resist the PR spam

You’ll get hundreds of emails from individuals and companies who promise to get your project funded if you buy their $99 promotion package. As my mum always says, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

These spammers don’t know you or your project like you do, and they are offering to do things that you can do for free. It’s impossible to tell the decent crowdfunding marketing services from the dodgy ones, so think twice before parting with your cash.

It gets really tempting when you’ve had a day without any pledges, but focus your energies on putting your own social media and PR plan into action yourself, or at least get recommendations from others first.

Lastly, there’s so much good, free information on Kickstarter and similar platforms, with other creators of projects sharing what they’ve learned. Read as much as you can before you get started, and you can save yourself the time, cost and heartache of making the same mistakes as they did.

 

Sarah Plater is the Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2017. She has co-authored Foundation Portrait Photography and Mastering Portrait Photography, both published by Ammonite Press, and writes regularly for clients of her business, www.mrandmscreative.com

 

Go To Sleep, Sarah’s latest title, was funded through Kickstarter and is available to buy via

www.gotosleepbook.com

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