Writing a novel is not an easy task, but the steps for self-publishing can create an even greater challenge. Writers can write. They can’t always be writers and masters of cover design or formatting. Authors seeking to self-publish a professional quality book may be discouraged when their budgets don’t match the costs of self-publishing.
So what do you do?
While this approach may not be for everyone, some authors might find that the answer is crowdfunding.
Kickstarter and Indiegogo are just some of the platforms available for those looking for a site to fund their latest creation. There’s a ton of information surrounding the specifics of crowdfunding for those who aren’t familiar, but this blog post is focused on building a plan for your campaign and what worked for me. You can view my campaign here.
So you want to start a campaign?
I was successful with my Indiegogo publishing campaign last year, and I’ll share my plan with you. Everyone has different strategies and what works for some, may not work for others. The rules mentioned below will apply to most campaigns, and the you can tweak the plan to make it work for you.
RULE ONE: Plan ahead
This sounds like a no-brainer, but not for some people who can get impatient (like me) and want to jump in head first. I didn’t launch my campaign until May 2015, but I started planning in 2014. It was so hard to be patient, but there was a lot of planning involved which led me to my successfully ended campaign.
RULE TWO: Know your audience
In order to effectively market the campaign, you need to understand who is going to be interested in your novel and where to find them. This is probably not too hard because authors should always be considering who their target readers are. Don’t limit yourself to just friends and family on Facebook. You need to think outside the box when it comes to reaching your audience.
RULE THREE: Build your fan base
You want people to know what you’re doing. Start with friends, family and coworkers and compile a list of people you think you can count on to help.
**disclaimer** Only a percentage of that list will activity participate, but you still need to build it. Just don’t get discouraged when you don’t see the number of people you estimated.
The more people you have actively supporting you the better. It’s even better if you have some on your list with big social media connections to help you spread the word. Word of mouth can be huge for advertisement—crowdfunding is no exception.
If you already have a website/blog, FB fan page for your book, Twitter…whatever. You might already have a social media presence of your own. Keep building that. If you don’t have any social media presence, spend time on that long before you attempt to launch a campaign. People aren’t going to take a campaign seriously about “the next hot book” or ya know, whatever, unless they see you putting yourself out there on social media. I won’t give much thought to a campaign promoted by someone with a meager 8 Twitter followers and no blog or other social media presence. Put yourself out on social media and be active. And not spammy! Be engaging. Talk about topics related to your book or discuss books you love. Interact with people who can share interests with you. Find some of those target readers.
RULE FOUR: Research and develop your game plan until you’re sick of it and then research more
Search the vast craziness of the web for minor celebs or other authors who might be willing to help you. Maybe your local newspaper would be interested in covering your latest work. Look for sites related to your project where you could send a press release. (I made a press release, but I really didn’t know what to do with it at the time. I’m successful, yet still continuing to learn how to get better at crowdfunding.)
RULE FIVE: Have rewarding rewards
You need a range of reward/perk tiers for various budgets, and they need to actually feel rewarding. You also need to spend a lot of time debating how much the rewards will cost you. Digital rewards are great because they don’t cost shipping, but they need to have some value. Some people prefer physical rewards, so you’ll want to consider your options for books, shirts, bookmarks and such. Calculate and plan for this. You don’t want to launch your campaign just to realize you messed up and some money comes out of your pocket to finish shipping out the physical items.
RULE SIX: Be reasonable
I left this near the end because you’ll probably try to be pretty reasonable in the beginning, but maybe things got out of hand. Go back and check your project. Check your plan and minimum goal. Is your minimum the actual lowest amount you could receive and still get the job done?
My first campaign failed because I wasn’t nearly as reasonable as I could’ve been. I budgeted for the highest level of editing costs, high priced cover art and so on. Set your budget to the bare minimum you need to complete your project with a satisfying quality and still cover your rewards.
Stretch goals are designed for increasing the quality of the project. So you can plan to add those if you are successful at hitting your initial goal. So you can add in your campaign details that you can get your cover art done for X amount of money, but if you surpass the goal, you’d like to try for a higher quality illustration or artist if a stretch goal of X amount of money is met. You can also use your stretch goals to up your reward tiers or add new ones. Maybe you hit a small stretch goal and want to offer bookmarks for everyone already set to receive a physical reward.
Whew, now that now that my basic rules are covered, let’s get more specific with my plan.
My pitch was a YA supernatural thriller. I knew my books contained fantasy and supernatural elements with a bunch of geeky pop culture references thrown in. I had my bases covered with social media because I had already built up a social media presence—which of course I continued to grow throughout the year. I also built a street team of fellow readers, writers, gamers and friends to help me spread the word.
I had a spiral notebook where I kept a detailed list of ideas, supporters, and of course my constantly edited campaign plan. I planned out my rewards to be mostly digital copies of my novels, but also offered higher tiers for those wanting signed copies of my finished products.
Books make great rewards because not only are you rewarding your contributors, but you get your story into more hands and that’s exactly what you want as an indie author. If you used the money from the campaign to make a great quality book, then you could very well generate some reviews and word of mouth advertisement from those who received your rewards.
Here’s where things get real. Maybe you have more eager friends and family with the extra cash than I had, but the number of family that supported my campaign was pretty damn low, and I have a pretty supportive family. You have to consider that people get busy, forget, or don’t have the cash. We all know times can get tough, but we wouldn’t be crowdfunding if we had all the money ourselves, right? The hard truth is your support from friends and family might be super limited. You’ll need to think outside the box.
For me, I used a different platform for occasional advertisement. I found those geeky gamers who I marked in my initial plan as my target audience. Where? I found them while gaming, duh. I write stories that I would want to read, so naturally I needed to find others like me.
So I logged on to live stream a video game on Twitch (as I had been doing all year) for viewers to chill and chat. We talked about a variety of topics. Our favorite games, comics, books…you name it. I spent a small amount of time talking about my book and when my campaign launched, I added a bot to the chatbox which would display the link to my campaign. My best friend (who also live streamed for a much bigger audience than I did) did the same to help spread the word. Between her channel and mine, we fully funded the campaign in just three days with most of the contributions coming from our regular channel viewers in just one night.
We did it by going outside the normal social media outlets and creating a discussion. I let viewers ask me questions about writing and influences. It was an amazing—possibly magical experience with the appearance of unicorns and double rainbows—and I probably would’ve been far less successful or barely hitting my goal if I had limited myself to the typical social media outlets.
Don’t be afraid of the rejection because some people are going to tell you no. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Work your butt off. Find your people. Be passionate.
And for the love of Joss Whedon, don’t be annoying and spammy with promotional links.
I also strongly suggest learning about press releases and how to write them. I will also make this one of my goals for 2016 and will assist in a campaign I hope to launch later in the year. I’ll also do a blog post on the topic once I’ve learned enough to be helpful, haha.
I hope this information helped and feel free to ask questions in the comments below or tweet me @sedoster. If you’d like to find out more about my Alliance YA series, you can check out my website sedoster.com or find my books on Amazon.