I’ve run a
few moderately successful crowdsource funding campaigns. I don’t claim to be an
expert, but I’ve sat at the feet of a few experts and soaked up their wisdom,
plus picked up a few things from trial-and-error. Recently (well, kind-of
recently, I procrastinate) a fellow author and a musician friend asked for
tips, Since I was stuck for a blog topic, here we go. Free advice, guaranteed
to be worth at least what you paid
for it. Though my experience is primarily with fundraising to cover costs
associated with publishing quality indie novels, the principles apply to most
creative endeavors. (In fact, some of the tips I got early on were from Irish
thing you need to decide is what platform to use. Kickstarter used to be the
big boy on the block, to the point where Kickstarter started being used as a
generic term for crowdsource funding. It remains a viable choice, although the
trend seems to be moving away, sort of like the migration from My Space to Facebook.
They had a security leak a few years back that compromised some donors’
information, which left me a bit wary.
The biggest downside to Kickstarter,
though, is its all-or-nothing model. You set a goal, and if you don’t reach
that goal, you get none of the monies
pledged. Some people like this model, thinking it shows that you are more
serious about needing the money and feeling that people are more likely to give
if they think that the book/CD/film project will never be released if the
creator doesn’t get whatever sum they decree is essential. To me, it feels like
a weird combination of playing chicken and a hostage situation. If you are like
most creative people, you are determined to find a way somehow, even if it
means selling blood, busking on street corners, or working yourself into an
early grave with a second job. Wouldn’t you rather get a little help than no
help at all?
was the next crowdsource funding site to go big, and one of my musician friends
said he’d had much more success on that site, so I used them for my second
project. The biggest advantage to Indiegogo, in my opinion, if the flexible
funding option. You can still play chicken if you want with an all-or-nothing
goal, or you can set your campaign up so that you will get the funds pledged
whether or not you make your goal. An artist friend of mine living in another
country also said Indiegogo is much easier to use than Kickstarter if you are
not based in the US.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo are intended to raise funds for a particular project
to produce something tangible (a book, a CD, a computer game, etc.) You are
expected to offer tangible ‘rewards’ at different donor levels. I used e-copies
of short fiction at the lower levels, through e-copies of the future novel and
on to physical copies of the novel. At the highest levels, a donor would get a
physical copy of the novel plus a mention in the acknowledgements. You can
limit the availability of a certain reward; for example, you could say that
only 25 people could claim a place in the acknowledgements, and only one, for
an even higher donation, could claim the dedication. If you are lucky, friends
and associates in the creative world may donate a reward. For example, my
editor offered a manuscript evaluation to be offered as a reward on my last
campaign. (This worked out to everyone’s advantage since the person who claimed
it went on to do a series with her and is doing fabulously well with it.)
in your rewards. I have seen musicians offer lessons and private house concerts
(to be scheduled on mutual convenience, naturally.) Or an artist trying to
raise funds for a print run might offer the print on t-shirts, sweatshirts and
You want to
be certain to offer rewards for a wide range of donor levels. One of the
biggest pleasant surprises I had in the world of crowdfunding is the number of
complete strangers who may have never heard of you or your work who see your
campaign and are willing to kick in five bucks for an e-copy of whatever you’ve
got plus the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from helping make art happen.
Depending on their budget, they may not have the ten dollars or feel
comfortable giving it to a stranger. On the other hand, you never know when you
might find a rich patron with money to burn who decides a private concert is
the best way to celebrate a beloved’s birthday.
One bit of
advice I got early on was not to offer a choice of rewards for one donation
level. If, for example, you offer a choice of a t-shirt with your book cover or
a framed print at the $25 donation level, some of your would-be supporters may
spend so much time waffling between the two choices that they never get around
to donating before the campaign is over.
thing to decide is how much to ask for. My approach is to make an honest
assessment of what I absolutely need to cover expenses in order to bring my
product to the market. Since my editor has a set per-book fee as does the
company that does my formatting, that’s easy enough for me to calculate. I also
state where any overage would go—in my case, to promotional costs to help the
book reach a larger potential audience.There are, however, many approaches to goal-setting. Some people set a
pie-in-the-sky figure believing that will encourage people to donate more.
Others feel if they set a smaller, more do-able figure they will look less
greedy or more realistic. Honestly, I think it all comes down to guesswork.
need a graphic image for your campaign. Yes, both Kickstarter and Indiegogo
will let you put up your campaign without one. Don’t. Remember that the
internet is a very visual medium and you are competing for attention (and
money). In terms of catching the eye, a picture is, quite literally, worth a
thousand words. Also, you want to convince people that you are serious about
the project and should be taken seriously.
it easy when it comes to a campaign image, since you can create your own. You
will want to create your own to
showcase your talents. Writers and musicians have it tougher. Your book or CD
cover is the obvious choice, but if one of the expenses you need to cover is
funds to pay a cover artist, it becomes a frustrating Catch-22. Musicians may
have a nice gig photo (bonus points if it was taken at a well-regarded venue).
Or you may already have in your PR kit a studio portrait of you with your
first book in the Ravensblood series,
I cobbled together a cover using an image purchased from s stock-image site. It
was. . . serviceable. But it got the series launched, at least, though I hope
to redo the cover someday soon. For the second book, a very generous reader
donated funds toward the cover. Since then, I have an amazing graphics artist
who has been donating covers. Yes, I know how fortunate that makes me, and I’m
aware that not everyone is so lucky. But just keep in mind that odd, unexpected
things happen. Get creative and think laterally.
will need a video. Yes, you do. I tried launching the first campaign without one,
and it lagged until I took the advice of a fellow author and put up a video.
Now, that first video wasn’t fancy. I’m camera-shy so I got one of my long-time
booster/beta readers to make the appeal over photos she had taken of places
that appeared in the book. (That particular series is urban fantasy set in an
alternate-universe Pacific Northwest.) Later videos were fancier, again thanks
to volunteer labor, in this case a pair of dear friends who are talented
musicians, one of who also knows how to edit audio and video. You can check one
of the videos out here.
In the video
department, musicians have the advantage, since you can just put a voice-over
plea on top of one of your tunes. For artists and authors, if you don’t have
generous volunteers there are companies that will make you a trailer for a
price. Or, if you have confidence in your own charisma, you can just look into
the camera lens and talk to your potential donors directly. However you get
your video made, remember less is more. You don’t want to go much more than two
minutes, or people will get bored and click to something else.
This is just
a brief overview of some tips I have picked up along the way. Both Kickstarter
and Indiegogo have extensive advice sections, as well as walking you
step-by-step through the process of setting up your campaign and you will want
to take advantage of those free resources.
Shawna Reppert is an award-winning author of fantasy and steampunk and an Amazon best-seller. You can find her works on Amazon. To find out more, go to www.Shawna-Reppert.com