Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Few Tips on Crowdsource Funding

Posted by: Shawna Reppert

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 trad musicians.) 

The first 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?

Indiegogo 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.

Both 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.)

Be creative 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 note cards. 

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.

The next 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.

You will 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.

Artists have 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 instrument.

For the 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.

Next, you 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.
Good luck!

 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

1 comment:

  1. Having only one reward per donation level is something I would not have thought about. Great article!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...