Crowdfunding for Authors: Should You Use Kickstarter to Fund Your Novel?

You’ve probably heard of crowdfunding before, but have you ever thought of crowdfunding your novel?

Crowdfunding is way to get others to directly fund your passion project.

At first, it sounds like a weird idea: Asking strangers to invest in your artistry. But when you really sit with the idea, is it any different than marketing your book to an agent and then asking that agent to market your book to a publishing house? They’re strangers too, and they’re financially investing in your artistry. The only difference is that you’re appealing directly to the public and not to the publishers. Instead of embracing the “how it’s done” model of traditional publishing, you’re a grassroots rebel.

Let’s discuss how to get started with crowdfunding for authors.

Every crowdfunding campaign should have a personal video– here’s what to include in yours.

Why Crowdfunding?

Now that you understand how it works, you may be wondering why it works. What are the benefits of using crowdfunding for your novel?

Let’s discuss two of the most important reasons to consider crowdfunding:

1. Financial Support

No one wants to be a starving artist. But as a writer, you’re often put in the miserable choice between following your passion and paying your utility bills. Unfortunately, and certainly as a new writer, the two choices rarely align. Writing your novel becomes a passion project. You labor away in obscurity, with the hope of one day getting reimbursed for your time, effort, and imaginative storytelling.

However noble your efforts, it won’t matter much to your creditors. You must pay your rent and other utilities now, not after your novel is published.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have extra financial support to help you complete your novel so that you can get to the business of marketing it? Although crowdfunding isn’t meant to sustain your lifestyle indefinitely, it will give you the support that you need to finally get that novel published.

2. Validate Your Book Idea

Another huge benefit to crowdfunding is idea validation. You can use your crowdfunding campaign to test the buying public. If you can sell your novel idea through a crowdfunding campaign, it bodes well for your novel’s viability.

The One Major Drawback of Using Kickstarter

When you think crowdfunding, you probably think “Kickstarter”. Afterall, it’s the most popular crowdfunding platforms out there. Because of its popularity, it’s not a bad idea to start a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. You’ll potentially get a lot of exposure for your campaign.

However, there’s one major drawback to using Kickstarter: If your campaign doesn’t meet its goal, you don’t get any of the money. For example, if your goal is to raise $1000 but you only get $987, you get nothing. Yikes.

Even worse, the odds aren’t in your favor to meet your goal. On Kickstarter, two out of three campaigns fail.

But that’s not all. Your failed Kickstarter campaign will live forever, in infamy, on the Internet. Kickstarter doesn’t delete failed campaign pages. So, let’s say that you go on to write your book, and one day a prospective reader searches for reviews of your book on the Internet. They find your failed Kickstarter campaign, which negatively impacts your book’s credibility. Double yikes.

Not only will have you have to live with the shame of not meeting your goal, you won’t get the money that you actually raised, and your book will forever be associated with a failed crowdfunding campaign.

There’s nothing worse than a failed Kickstarter campaign, so if you go that route, do everything you can to succeed.

Is Kickstarter the Only Crowdfunding Option?

Nope. There are many wonderful alternatives to Kickstarter, such as IndieGoGo, Patreon, CrowdRise, and GoFundMe.

Whichever platform you choose, remember to research them well before you start your campaign. Check out reviews for each platform to know what to expect. You may need to set up an account that has to be approved several days/weeks ahead of time, which may spell bad news if your project is time-sensitive (i.e. hiring an in-demand cover artist). Some platforms require that you back other campaigns before starting your own.

Figure Out How Much You Need

Here’s the hard part. How do you determine how much you should ask for in your crowdfunding campaign?

If you ask for too much, you probably won’t meet your goal. But then again, how much is too much?

The best way to tackle this part is to look at current, similar crowdfunding campaigns. What is the campaign’s monetary goal? What will the author do with that money?

Here are some of the most popular reasons you may need financial assistance:

  • To support your life for the next 6 months as you write the novel
  • To self-publish the novel
  • To promote the novel online in ads
  • To go on a book tour
  • To print the novel
  • To distribute your novel
  • To commission an artist for your cover art
  • To pay for editing services
  • Some combination of the above

Your goal will dictate how much you need. Supporting your lifestyle for half a year may cost $20,000. Affording a 10-city book tour may only cost $5,000.

Decide How Much You Need to Give Your Supporters

What will you give your supporters for their donations? If you’re not sure, here are a few ideas:

  • An ebook – Every supporter should get an eBook
  • A cover art book poster signed by you
  • Signed copies of the physical book
  • Invitation to attend your launch party
  • Special recognition in your book
  • A lunch date with you

Set a Time Frame for Your Campaign

The best campaigns are time sensitive. The crowdfunding platform may impose a specific amount of time, but even if they don’t, it’s highly recommended that you shorten the length of your campaign. It’s better to campaign for two months than for 12 months. Your investors will lose interest. Your campaign won’t feel as urgent and necessary.

Also remember that the bulk of your investors will join at the start of the campaign or in the final moments. There’s usually less growth in the middle section of your campaign. This is another reason to keep it shorter. Social proof can impact your ability to attract others to your campaign. Show steady interest to keep interest steady.

Write Your Passion Story

The foundation of your crowdfunding campaign will be your story. Why should investors fund your book, especially if they’ve never read it before?

You’re going to have to create a compelling story to market your book. It may sound easy, but copywriting is a different skillset than creative writing. You’ll need to find a way to appeal to the reader directly.

To effectively copywrite your crowdfunding campaign, remember these tips:

Be relatable – You’re a human appealing to other humans. Show your personality.
Be honest – Transparency is important when you’re asking people to invest their money, so explain exactly how you’ll use the money.
Edit your work – Typos distract.

Crowdfunding Isn’t Just for Raising Money

Use crowdfunding to raise awareness for your book. Crowdfunding is a great way to market your book and build a list of interested readers before you even publish.

Don’t just focus on the money, but focus on the community-building aspect of it. Think about your funders as potential readers, and it will shift your campaign in the right direction.

Promote Like Crazy

You’re a writer, not a marketer, but guess what? You’ll need to market your book whether you crowdfund or not. The biggest difference is that when you crowdfund, you’ll market before you actually publish your book.

Once you set up a crowdfunding campaign, it’s go time. Reach out to your friends and family and any random acquaintance that you’ve saved in your phone. This includes folks that you haven’t spoken to in years. Leave no contact unreached. Tell them about your novel and direct them to your crowdfunding campaign’s homepage. It may feel awkward at first, but after a few calls, you’ll get over it. The worse that can happen is that they don’t support you.

Keep Your Followers Updated

Because your funders are literally invested in your novel, it’s important that you keep them updated about your progress. Remember to update your investors frequently throughout the campaign on the status of your project. After the campaign is over, continue to share news and exciting updates. Do so frequently. This keeps your investors engaged with your project, and inspires them to share your project with others.

It’s also important to build an ongoing relationship with these investors. Your crowdfunding investors become part of your tribe. They should get special recognition because they were the first to believe in and support your vision as a storyteller.

Additional Posts

Before you go, check out these related resources:

Don’t forget this list of what to include in your crowdfunding campaign video.

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