Self-publishing a book has been an option available for centuries to anyone who had the personal wherewithal or a benefactor to pay for the preparation and production of book products. Here in the 21st century, the Internet and social media have made it possible for creative people to raise funding for their own projects.
A musician friend of mine just released his first solo project, a rock-infused CD funded almost exclusively through Kickstarter. It was months in the making, but worth the wait. Chris was able to work with a great, professional team and build his music from the ground up.
If you haven’t heard of Kickstarter before, it’s an Internet-based program where creative people can pitch potential supporters to raise funds to produce a short- or feature-length film, record music, publish a book, and many other products. Supporters can search and choose project by type, geography, donations, etc. Folks raising funds utilize helpful tools from Kickstarter to network and pitch their friends, family, and colleagues.
I’m hearing more often from authors who are thinking of going the Kickstarter route. Like any funding or marketing program that relies heavily on social networking, there are pros and cons. Here are some of each to consider if you’re thinking of trying this kind of fundraising to publish your own book. If you haven’t been to Kickstarter before, give it a look after you’ve read this article (www.kickstarter.com).
It Takes Planning and Time – As a potential supporter, one of the things I like best about Kickstarter, is that you can immediately see who’s put a lot of thought and time into their project and who hasn’t. The site makes it pretty simple to build your project, but it’s up to you how comprehensive you get with your information and steps. As you work through the process, you’ll either clarify your project and build credibility for it, or reveal just how much you haven’t done your homework. The more professional you are, the better the chance of raising the desired funds. If you can’t articulate your goals, audiences, and plans to launch your book in the marketplace, who will put their money into it? Golden Rule it for yourself. “Would I fund a book with this project description?”
Other People’s Money – Maybe you don’t have the cash or credit to fund your own book, but if you can convince others that your book is worthwhile, you might be able to raise the money. You can remove your risk by raising all of the funds you need.
Don’t underestimate the value of helping others feel good. You’re helping others pay it forward. There is great value in allowing others to help you reach your dreams.
Pre-selling With a New Spin – Pre-selling is tough enough. With Kickstarter you’re basically pre-selling copies of your book (and recognition for the assistance) to your network of friends, family, co-workers, and anyone looking for a way to help. Rewards of book copies are the easiest way to help donors equate the value of their gift. Maybe you’ll present the $25 donor with a personally-inscribed, signed copy. $50 gets the donor the book and thanks on the acknowledgements page. $100 gets them a couple free copies to give to friends. And so on.
Built-in Sales – Pre-selling half of your printed book ahead of the release is a great result to share in your subsequent marketing. Having the book be profitable as soon as it’s arrived: Priceless.
Exclusivity Breeds Support – Offering a limited number of autographed books, personally inscribed copies, or other “heirloom” editions to your supporters, make it easier to build value for these rewards. Awarding the cover artwork to a larger donor ($1000 or more) is someone’s once-in-a-lifetime chance to own your book’s cover art to proudly display like only an important benefactor could.
Instant Referrals – Every supporter who receives a copy of the book might generate additional sales. They will proudly show it to friends, family, or colleagues. If you ask, maybe your supporters will leave a review on your Web site, share links with their Facebook friends, or buy more copies to give as gifts.
Great Marketing Practice – Building your Kickstarter project and going through the steps are the greatest preparation for planning and launching effective marketing efforts after the book is released.
If You Fail, No One Gets Hurt – If you don’t reach your goal, no money is collected. There is nothing to refund. No muss. No fuss.
What You Put In Comes Back to You – If you put in a fair amount of planning and effort, you might be able to fund your publishing project(s). Hard work is rewarded with results and great experience.
No Guarantees – Like any funding opportunity, there are no guarantees. You might have a brilliant idea or feel the amount you’re seeking is small. But you have to put in the work and get people to visit your page/project and entreat them to help you. If you can’t successfully outreach to supporters to bring them to your book project, you might not raise the funds.
It Takes Planning and Time – Some people are too busy to make Kickstarter work for them. They don’t have time to maintain the project once it’s launched. There are several milestones where you’ll need to outreach to supporters with updates and to keep momentum going. If you’re not able to stay on top of the project, you may not meet your goals.
What You Put In Comes Back to You – For some folks, self publishing a book or e-book seems the easiest way to make money or build fame. Some people really believe we are living in the field of publishing dreams. All you have to do is publish and the sales will come rolling in. These are the folks who probably won’t make it through the Kickstarter program. Kickstarter takes a fair amount of work and monitoring to raise the funds you want. If you can’t commit to fundraising any more than you can commit to your book, you’ll reap what you sow: disappointment.
For those authors with an entrepreneurial spirit, Kickstarter can be a great resource to raise funds to self publish books. Kickstarter can help you organize your project, practice marketing techniques, and help you build confidence while you work to publish your creative writings.
NOTE: If you’ve had a Kickstarter experience related to publishing, please share comments with Phil, to possibly be used in an upcoming column.