Show Me the Money

Following on from Wot I Lurned at LBF, this week’s post is on crowdfunding.

In a very vague way I have considered going down the crowdfunding route as a way to raise money for some PR support (more on that another time). So on the basis of vague interest and wanting to know more, I attended a crowdfunding seminar at London Book Fair.

What I discovered is that crowdfunding has more benefits than just getting investors. In fact, if done properly, there is a good case for arguing that the money is just a side benefit. Never mind raising money for PR – a crowdfunding project IS PR!

How it works is that you set up a fundraising page on one of the crowdfunding sites. Actually, it’s much like a JustGiving campaign except for a creative project. So instead of offering to run a marathon (as if!) you offer investors something connected to the project itself.

The first thing, is to decide how much you need/want to raise. Then you decide on incentives or rewards to offer any potential investors. These are calibrated to the value of any donation, e.g. if you give £10 then you get a signed bookmark, for £20 you get a teatowel (?!), if you give £50 you get a limited edition hardback copy of the book. All investors could be offered a thank you in the back of the published book. Some people offer dinner with the author (presumably this works best if you are ‘known’. I usually pay people to have dinner with me). Ben Galley, a speaker at the seminar and ALLI crowdfunding advisor, ran a Kickstarter campaign to raise £4,000 to publish a graphic novel. He used draft illustrations amongst his rewards, as well as the incentive of being ‘drawn into’ the graphic novel as one of the characters. The trick is to make the reward appealing enough that people you don’t know will want to part with cash … although the BIGGEST trick isn’t the rewards but setting up a page that is an effective platform for your project and inspiring enough to generate the investors you need.

Probably the best way to figure out how to create a good page would be to check out other successful campaigns and apply a serious dose of imagination and originality … because you haven’t already done enough of that during the simple process of writing a book! Most crowdfunding sites encourage/require you to create a pitch film – so creating a campaign really takes the self-publishing learning curve to a whole new level. Alternatively, there are people willing to help create campaigns for a fee on sites like Fiverr.

Here’s an example of a successful campaign: Bob’s World Cat Cafe Fund

So broadly, that’s the nuts and bolts. To find out more it’s best to investigate the various platforms. The most commonly used sites are indiegogo, Kickstarter and gofundme. Lately, specialist book publishing sites have been set up, the biggest being Pubslush and Unbound. Watch out for terms though – Kickstarter run on the basis that if you don’t reach your set target then you don’t get funded at all, i.e. the donors aren’t asked to part with cash and you get zero for all your hard work.

According to both Ben Galley and Miranda Fleming, the other panelist at the seminar and indiegogo UK head honcho, around 30% of donations should come from people within direct reach, i.e. friends and family. And before launching, it’s important to line up those friends and family to donate as soon as you go live because potential investors are less likely to donate unless they see that other people are already “in”. Money attracts money, as the saying goes.

If 30% of donations are coming from friends and family that leaves 70% that has to come from “outside” investors. So not only does your page have to work hard but you also need to reach out through social media and in any other way possible. Some of that will happen through the site itself (hopefully) but a lot is down to you. And this is where the magic lies … because every investor you get – or even approach – is another potential contact/reader. Someone for your (hopefully growing) database that you can keep abreast of latest releases, future funding campaigns, requests for reviews, etc. That sounds somewhat mercenary but according to Ben Galley’s experience there is a lot of dialogue that happens between author and investor … so you do actually build a connection, therefore a network. And it’s global. In the words of the seminar Chair: “these days network is wealth”.

In a nutshell, crowdfunding has a dual advantage: getting funded and building a fan base. It’s nothing less than a form of digital marketing. Cool, huh?

Except nothing comes for free – and crowdfunding does involve a huge amount of work. Campaigns usually run for around four weeks with the first week being the most important and the most intense. Ben Galley spoke about spending literally 12 hours a day in front of the computer for most of that period … as well as the run up.

Although the benefits are clear, for now at (very) least, I’m not rushing off to set up a campaign. So don’t worry, friends and family, you are all safe! But I have come away with the impression that if I had to use social networking as a way to seriously promote my work, this would undoubtedly be the way to go. It’s clear (gimme money), targeted (you must like books otherwise you wouldn’t be on this page!) and mutually beneficial (because there are people out there who enjoy supporting creativity) … maybe something to consider ahead of the launch of book 2? (?!?)

Thanks for reading!