I read an excellent blog post this week by Tara Rodden Robinson. In “Why I Stopped Building My Platform,” Tara talked about the soul-crushing, mind-numbing work of building an author platform. About the hours and hours she was spending on her blog and on social media sites, only to realize in the end that the way to make peace with platform building was to stop doing it.
Although many aspiring authors who read that post probably breathed a huge sigh of relief because they had permission to stop doing the things they hated to do anyway, it just reinforced one belief for me:
The writing always comes first.
But without an author platform, where is the audience?
Sometimes, especially in the case of a memoir or work of fiction, you can’t promote your book until it’s out. And when that happens, your readers will help you build the buzz.
There are a few ways to get your book into the hands of readers. There is traditional publishing. And though it does not involve any cash outlay on the author’s part, the downside is that it takes longer—sometime years—to make it into the marketplace.
Self-publishing is quicker, but, as Guy Kawasaki so clearly describes in his book, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (by the way, this is an excellent guide to self-publishing) getting a quality product means investing some bucks upfront.
In researching methods for financing a self-published book, I ran across some interesting models that are built on the concept of crowdfunding. If you are unfamiliar with it, crowdfunding is a way for people to get their projects, especially ones of a creative nature, up and running by collecting relatively small amounts of money from a large number of investors.
Often, these investors are given “rewards,” which may include things like naming a character in your book after them, or even being an extra and/or getting cast credit if you are producing a movie or video project.
If you have a book you want to get out into the world, are passionate enough about your project, and are willing to invest the time to get other people excited, too, crowdfunding just might be for you.
Kickstarter: The broader model of crowdfunding
Kickstarter is a site where creative projects have been funded in everything from films, games and music to art design and technology. On any given day, there are thousands of projects for would-be backers to choose from. Together, creators and backers make projects happen.
Is Kickstarter a good place for authors who are looking for people to fund the costs of publishing their book?
Maybe, maybe not. With 50,000 projects and counting, the competition is fierce. And being that creative projects with strong visual elements (Videos, films, games, etc.) have more of an advantage, books can get lost in the shuffle.
Some people have been complaining recently that celebrities like Zach Braff, the former Scrubs star, who swooped in and garnered more than $3 million to fund his new independent film, have ruined the chances for the little guy.
But Kickstarter’s analytics tell a different story: Braff’s project brought tens of thousands of new people to the site and 63% of them had never backed a project before. More importantly, thousands of them have gone on to support other projects.
One example: Four of my daughter’s fellow Smith College Performing Arts Department students launched a Kickstarter campaign for a little gem of a ‘popumentary’ called BadPuss, which resulted in funding of $28,000 to produce a film dubbed as ‘an all-girl Spinal Tap.’
However, the major drawback of Kickstarter is this:
If you do not meet your funding goal, you must return all money raised.
Pubslush: The author-centric model of crowdfunding
Pubslush operates on the same crowdfunding model except that it attracts only people who want to fund authors’ book ideas. It’s a smaller site for now (they currently have 14 book projects listed), so the competition isn’t as stiff. Also, their fees are still the lowest around: just 4% plus the third-party processing fees.
And one other major advantage over Kickstarter:
Pubslush allows authors to keep the funds they raise, even if they don’t reach their goal.
The other secret, with Kickstarter, Pubslush and every other crowdfunding model, is to be absolutely passionate about your project. If you have a cause that burns inside you, with a fire that cannot be extinguished, an idea that just has to be born, a book that needs to find its way into readers’ hands, and you have the time, skills and patience to launch a comprehensive campaign, you will likely see results.
So there you have it. If you have been wondering how to keep up the social media pace and still get that book in the hands of reader, crowdsourcing might be an option for you.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on or experience with crowdfunding.
But before that, a quick note about a special offer BobWP, Mr. WordPress, is running. If you or someone you know is thinking about launching a blog—or starting a second one— this self-paced Build Your Blog Online Class will walk you through the steps, with Bob’s expert advice and support throughout the course. And if you register by this Thursday, June 6th, you’ll get a full $100 off the regular price.
So what do you think of the crowdfunding concept?
Would you consider using it to fund a creative project of your own?
If you have donated to a crowdfunding project, we’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.