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Crowdfunding Campaigns

December 2013

by Justine Schofield

Many publishers and self-publishers know by now that crowdfunding lets you raise money to launch a book, gauge the audience for it, and minimize the financial risks of the publishing process. But, given many crowdfunding platforms to choose among, it can be hard to decide which platform is right for you.

Here’s a quick look at the three top crowdfunding options (including our company, Pubslush) that authors could use to raise funds.

Indiegogo

Funding Type: All or nothing or flexible funding.

Platform fee: If you choose all or nothing, 4 percent of what you have earned goes to the platform as a fee. If you choose flex funding, you pay 4 percent of what you raise if you reach your goal. If you don’t make your goal, the platform takes 9 percent of what you raise.

Accessibility: Public, global.

Types of projects: Open to any project.

Launch date: 2007.

Kickstarter

Funding type: All or nothing.

Platform fee: 5 percent of what you have earned goes to the platform as a fee.

Accessibility: Public, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada.

Types of projects: Open to any project.

Launch date: 2009.

Pubslush

Funding type: Flexible funding.

Platform Fee: 4 percent of what you have earned goes to the platform as a fee.

Accessibility: Public, global.

Types of projects: Books only.

Launch date: 2012.

Sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo have more brand recognition and more traffic, but more traffic doesn’t necessarily mean more support for a particular project, especially a publishing project. Books are often overshadowed on these larger platforms by projects that are more innovative and visual. One advantage of a niche platform that accepts only book projects is more visibility, and Pubslush also decided to offer author education, marketing tools, and specialized campaign support.

Obviously, it makes sense to research each platform and determine which will be best for meeting your needs.

Goals

Once you decide on a platform, you will have to decide on your funding goal. Because Pubslush and Indiegogo offer flex-funding, you will get whatever money you raise there (minus the site’s fee) even if you don’t meet your goal, On Kickstarter, if you don’t reach the goal, none of your supporters’ credit cards get charged and all the money is lost.

Setting a funding goal means considering many factors. Are you planning to produce an offset run of print-on-paper copies? Will you be offering e-books as well or instead? What will the costs of editing, copyediting, and design be? How about marketing costs before publication, including the costs of sending advance reader copies? And how about marketing costs around and after pub date?

Answering these and related questions will help you determine how much money you want to raise, but you should also consider the way contributors may perceive your goal. If you set it too high, people may see it—and you—as unrealistic. If you set it too low, they may assume their contributions aren’t actually necessary. It is important to price out your exact costs to determine an accurate goal. Do your research about publishing a book and make sure you take all aspects into consideration before setting a crowdfunding goal.

Donations and Rewards

Setting support levels and deciding what rewards to offer with them are the next steps in building a crowdfunding campaign. Support levels can range from $1 to $10,000-plus that partner with rewards. A supporter receives a good and/or service at each level as a reward for their contribution to a campaign. These rewards often range from the final product (such as a copy of a book) for a donation of $25 to a meet-and-greet dinner with the author for $200.

Campaigns that offer unusual and creative rewards and a variety of support levels are most likely to be successful. With donation options starting at $1–$5 and getting up to $1,000 or more, a campaign can attract many types of supporters.

Generally, we recommend offering 5, 6, or 7 support levels, and often an e-book copy is a perfect reward for a donation at the lowest level.

Higher support levels in the $100 range can offer many different kinds of rewards. Along with print copies, popular choices include an invitation to the book’s launch party, a chance to meet with the author, and the right to name a character in an upcoming book.

Rewards that cost you little or nothing will help you make the most of funds, as long as they are appealing to potential contributors. As you work on determining support levels, remember that you will have to factor in all shipping costs.

Attracting Donors

A lot of other work is required before a campaign goes live. You will need to have a solid platform; you will need to know your book’s audience; and you will need to have a well-thought-out marketing plan. Crowdfunding campaigns have strict timelines—usually between 30 and 60 days—so it’s important to hit the ground running on Day 1.

As you prepare for your campaign, think about five sets of people to target as potential donors.

1. Your close circle of family and friends. Make them the first people you ask to support you. Their responses can provide an instant boost to build on. No one wants to support a campaign that has raised $0, so it’s important to post an encouraging number as soon as possible.

2. Your personal and professional networks. It’s important to reach out to them next, with a personal message, letter, or phone call.

3. Your extended community. Sometimes being successful is all about momentum. If you make it a point to tell at least one new person a day about your campaign and ask them to spread the word, that can create a buzz around your project.

4. The people in the market(s) for the book. If you don’t already know what they read, what social media they use, where they gather, and where they shop, find out now and then use the information to communicate with them about your crowdfunding campaign.

5. Bloggers and other Internet influencers. Since bloggers who serve your book’s market can have a lot of influence on the people in it, seek them out and ask them to spread the word about you, your book, and your campaign.

Setting weekly outreach goals for the duration of a campaign can help you manage your marketing efforts more effectively. Be sure to personalize what you send; talk about your book and why you are crowdfunding, and ask for support.

Asking is key, and you will have to do it over and over again. But there is no shame in asking for support for your project. Remember that crowdfunding allows people to support a dream, a project, or a person they truly believe in, and to get a tangible reward along with feeling a part of the discovery process.


Justine Schofield, the development director at Pubslush, tweets at @pubslush. Specializing in social media and public relations, she has worked with growing companies to develop their online presence, and her work has been featured on many online publications. To learn more: Justine@pubslush.com.

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