Do you have a fantastic book idea just waiting to be written, but you’re lacking the funds for publishing, marketing, and distributing? While you want to pursue your passion project – bills need to be paid, and groceries need to be bought. And the idea of being a starving artist isn’t that appealing. If your finances are holding you back, there are alternatives to consider before giving up on your project.
You’ve probably heard of crowdfunding before, but perhaps you’re unsure of what it means and whether or not it’s the right path for you. It can be an excellent way for self-publishing authors to get their book out into the world. In this article, we’re going to guide you through how crowdfunding works, how to have a successful campaign, and which platforms to use.
This guide on crowdfunding for authors covers:
- What is crowdfunding for authors?
- Who is crowdfunding for?
- How long does crowdfunding take?
- How to give yourself the best chance of crowdfunding success
- Common pitfalls of crowdfunding
- Best crowdfunding sites for authors
What is crowdfunding for authors?
Crowdfunding is a method of raising money for a project through family, friends, and other individuals willing to invest in your work. As an author, you’ll sometimes need financial help to complete your book project since many expenses are involved. And that’s where a crowdfunding campaign comes in.
Crowdfunding means that you're running a campaign to find people who are willing to pay for your book ahead of time. After choosing a platform for your crowdfunding project, you set a target amount of money you want to raise and a price for the package you're offering. Essentially, it means that your readers are pre-paying for your book, giving you the financial support to finish your project.
As long as you reach your target amount, you’ll receive that money to cover necessary costs, such as:
- Living expenses while you’re working on your book(s)
- Self-publishing costs
- Book distribution costs
- Editing services
- Book tour expenses
- Book cover design
For a successful campaign, you usually need to offer something more than just your book to the people funding your project. For example, many authors choose to provide a signed copy, a signed poster, tickets to a launch party, or something else that would be valuable for your customers. The goal for your crowdfunding should be that the money you’re receiving can cover the platform costs as well as other costs. That way, you won’t need to take money out of your pocket.
Validating your book idea
More than just raising money, a crowdfunding campaign can be a perfect way to gauge how readers will receive your book once it hits the shelves. Say you can get a big group of people prepaying; then chances are you’ve got a book that people want to read. They believe in your idea enough to pay for it ahead of time.
Marketing your book
From day one, you’ll need to share and promote your project through social media, author newsletters, and other book marketing tactics. And although marketing may not be the primary purpose of crowdfunding, it’s still a great way to hit two birds with one stone.
Who is crowdfunding for?
You may wonder if crowdfunding works regardless of what type of book you’re writing. The answer is that, to varying degrees, it works with any genre. Looking at past campaigns, it seems like business, fantasy, and sci-fi are some of the more popular genres on crowdfunding platforms.
That’s not to say you can’t be successful with a completely different type of book. A campaign’s success has more to do with the creator than in what specific genre they write. Crowdfunding is for anyone passionate about their project and willing to put in the hard yards when it comes to promotion and marketing.
How long does crowdfunding take?
The typical timeframe for a crowdfunding campaign is around two to three months. You’ll need to allow for one to two months of planning and setup (once your book is written) and one month of running your campaign.
In general, you can expect around 100-200 hours of work from initial planning to the finished campaign. Remember that the more time you spend on planning and executing, the more likely you will reach your goal and have a successful campaign.
How to give yourself the best chance of crowdfunding success
The downside of crowdfunding (with some platforms, not all of them) is that you don’t get any of the money if you fail to reach your target goal. You will then have to put your book publishing plans aside and inform your investors that the project is canceled.
So, with that in mind, you’ll want to set yourself up for success when you start your crowdfunding campaign. Here are a few pointers that will help you do well:
Start early and plan ahead
Having a solid plan and giving yourself enough time is crucial for a successful campaign. Think about where you can reach your target audience, what your timeframe for the campaign should be, and how you can sell your idea most compellingly.
Figure out how much money you need
It can be tricky to work out how much you need to raise. Ask for too much, and you may not reach your target. But if your amount is too low, it might not cover the necessary costs. You need to consider both of these aspects when you’re setting a target for your campaign.
Work out all the costs (cover design, marketing, printing, distributing, etc.) and decide on a realistic amount. Also, look at similar campaigns to see what their funding target is and what they’re offering in return to make sure you’re correlating.
Start growing your audience
If you’ve never published a book before (and you don’t have a large audience), you need to spend some time setting up an author platform and building a follower base to promote to. That can mean growing your social media followers, getting more readers to your blog or getting more podcast listeners. Because what happens if nobody is familiar with you or your book before your launch? Chances are it’ll be challenging to get enough traction for a successful campaign.
Grab your audience’s attention
The first 24 hours of a campaign are often the most crucial, so you’ll need to grab the attention of your potential readers early. You can do that by following these steps:
- Setting up a quality author website to refer people to.
- Setting up social media accounts.
- Creating a video to convey your pitch.
- Writing a clear and compelling synopsis.
Write your passion story
The story behind why you’re doing this is the foundation of your crowdfunding campaign. So it pays to spend time perfecting it. By creating a compelling story, you’ll hook your audience and make them want to support you. When crafting your story, keep these tips in mind:
- Be authentic and relatable. People want to feel like they’re reading a story from a friend, someone they can relate to and understand. Put all your personality into it and write from your heart, as cheesy as it sounds.
- Be honest. Make sure people know what you’re using their money for. If someone’s planning on investing in your project, they’ll want to see where the money is going.
- Edit your story. A crucial step is to give your text a few rounds of edits to make sure it’s flawless. If possible, let someone else read it as well.
Focus on building a community
Crowdfunding is about more than raising money. Think about how you can use this campaign to build a community. Anyone helping to fund your project is a potential reader, and you’ll want to nurture those relationships. That includes giving updates on your progress, sharing exciting news, and giving them special recognition. By keeping them invested in your project, they’re also more likely to share it with others.
Stay on top of your campaign
Once your campaign launches, make sure you stay on top of it. You’ll need to keep your social media active, respond to questions and comments and keep a close eye on how things progress. Your audience wants to see you engaged and invested in the project. Besides, if you go MIA on your launch day, you might miss out on some great opportunities.
Common pitfalls of crowdfunding your book
When you plan to build a crowdfunding campaign, it’s good to be aware of some common issues and setbacks. That way, you can learn how to avoid them or decide whether a campaign is worth the risk of failure.
- On most platforms, failing to reach your funding goals means you receive nothing, even if you're only a few dollars short of your goal.
- There’s a high failure rate for authors, mostly due to a lack of planning and promotion. According to a market report, between 69 and 89 percent of projects fail to reach their funding target.
- Crowdfunding is time-consuming and more complicated than many realize before starting.
- For authors who don’t have an existing base of followers, getting traction can be very difficult.
- Crowdfunding platforms aren’t free. Most of them will take 30% of the revenue generated from your book sales. Although the fees come out of the money you’ve raised, some authors miss factoring this into their calculations. Only breaking even can be disappointing when you’ve so much time and effort into your project.
Best crowdfunding sites for authors
If you’ve gone through the pros and cons of crowdfunding and decided to give it a shot, it’s time to find the platform of your choice. Make sure to do your research before you commit to anyone. You’ll want to check for fees, what type of crowdfunding they do, and their rules and regulations.
Some can take weeks before your account is approved, which can cause problems if your project is time-sensitive. Other platforms may require you to back a campaign before you can launch one for yourself. So whichever one you choose, research them well before you start your campaign.
Here are seven of the best crowdfunding sites for authors:
Ready to get started? Grab your copy of “Published” that you can read anywhere and start your book today!