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The Value of Crowdfunding (Hint: It’s More Than Just the Money)

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PUBLISHED JULY/AUGUST 2019

by Kathy Strahs, Founder, Burnt Cheese Press —


Kathy Strahs

I chose to run a Kickstarter campaign to launch my first title as an author publisher. Here’s what I learned.

I chose to run a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to launch The 8×8 Cookbook, my first title as an author publisher, primarily as a means to raise money. As it turned out, the campaign was instrumental in tackling other vital challenges I faced.

It allowed me to demonstrate that there was an audience that was willing to support my book as well as my ability to reach them. It was a great way to rally that support to spread the word about my book beyond my own networks. And, of course, the money was a tremendous help.


Crowdfunding in a Nutshell

crowdfunding

Kathy Strahs used Kickstarter to raise money to publish The 8×8 Cookbook

Rather than raise a lot of money from a single source, such as with a loan, with crowdfunding, you generate a smaller amount of money from many sources-your “crowd.” Online platforms such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and others make it easy for creators to set up campaigns-typically for a defined timeframe, like 30 days-to garner financial support for their projects. The money doesn’t have to be repaid, nor do the supporters obtain a stake in the endeavor. Instead, they collect “rewards” in exchange for their pledges. For example, in my Kickstarter campaign for The 8×8 Cookbook, backers who pledged $25 received a copy of the finished book.


Proof of Concept

What if I went to all the effort-and expense-of producing this cookbook and no one (or very few someones) wanted to buy it? My nagging fears of a total dud subsided on Oct. 30, 2015, when my crowdfunding campaign successfully concluded, with 404 backers pledging a total of $21,388. That was 404 individuals who had never held an actual copy of the book in their hands (of course, I did my best to provide enough mockups of layouts and sample recipes to give a good sense of what the book would entail) yet still contributed their hard-earned money toward seeing it come to fruition. That was huge, to me.

The leap of faith those 404 people-many of whom I didn’t know personally-took on me and my project reassured me that my concept of a cookbook of recipes for the 8×8 baking dish was a viable one. Moreover, when it came time for me to pitch my book to retailers, libraries, and, eventually, a full-service distributor, my successful Kickstarter also helped to prove to them that this first-time publisher had a title worth considering.


Getting the Word Out

Another cool thing that happened as people backed my Kickstarter campaign: They told other people about it. A high percentage of my backers shared links to the project page on Facebook and Twitter and emailed their family and friends who liked to cook. Not only did they want to see me succeed, but they also had a little skin in the game. On Kickstarter, it’s all or nothing-a campaign has to hit its funding target within the designated timeframe or it’s not funded at all. So as people pledged their support to the project, many turned around and became “evangelists,” if you will, and helped drum up further support. This network effect allowed me to reach beyond my personal contacts, which was key to my success.

Word of mouth didn’t end with the Kickstarter. Since the vast majority of my backers selected copies of the finished book as a campaign reward, I was able to mail out more than 700 books ahead of my official publication date. I encouraged people to share photos of the book cover and the dishes they cooked from the book on Instagram and to post reviews online. Quite a few did. They were “in it” with me at this point, and they were excited to receive their books and tell their friends about it.


The Money

Without question, the money itself was most definitely a benefit-and a relief. By the time I launched my Kickstarter, I had already invested around $15,000 into design, editing, and other production costs, so I was glad to be able to recoup that money. Plus, I had some to apply toward the cost of printing (which I was days from incurring). Arguably, I could have opted to launch the campaign much earlier in the publishing process, before I incurred those costs. That would probably have been a preferable (and certainly less risky) approach. But since I wanted the book out in time for the holidays, I needed to get things underway sooner.

For sure, crowdfunding isn’t for everyone. It takes a lot of time-and, yes, also some money-to prepare and execute a campaign. I began developing my campaign several months before it launched and spent several thousand dollars in video creation and reward shipping costs. But if you can make the time and shoulder the expense of a crowdfunding campaign, the benefits of proving your market demand, rallying a crowd of support for your project, and raising the funds necessary to publish your book are highly worthwhile.


Kathy Strahs is the founder of Burnt Cheese Press and author of The 8×8 Cookbook. She is also the secretary for the IBPA Board of Directors and a member of the IBPA Executive Committee. Follow her food and lifestyle blog Sunny Days, Good Food.


For more more suggestions on crowdfunding sites that work great for independent publishers read the IBPA Independent article, The Relevance of Crowdfunding Within the Publishing Industry.

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