7 Tips to Successfully Crowdfund Your Next Book
Finding a publisher for your first book is hard. Really hard. There are something like 300,000 books released each year in the US by traditional publishers, but far more are being submitted to those publishers. Only a fraction of query letters and manuscripts will be read, and only a fraction of those will be considered for publication.
Fortunately, you don’t have to rely on an editor at a big publishing house to decide whether your book is worthy of being printed up and displayed on the new release shelf at bookstores.
You can work with hybrid publishers or self-publishing printers like Steuben Press to help you design and print your own books, whether you need 10 copies to share with friends and family, or 10,000 copies to share with the world.
Getting your book published is no longer a hurdle for self-published authors, but paying for it is a whole other problem.
With crowdfunding websites like Publishizer, Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, you can turn to your fans to help pay for the start-up costs of printing and publishing your book, and offer special perks in return for their support.
That represents over $100 million in support from readers all over the globe...and that’s just on one crowdfunding site.
There’s no doubt that crowdfunding is a smart strategy for getting the money to self-publish a book. But those numbers can also be a little daunting. If thousands of authors are flocking to crowdfunding, how can you make your title stand out and reach your funding goals?
From knowing which crowdfunding platform is best for your book’s goals to selling people on your passion, read on for 5 tips on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign for your next book.
1) Choose the Right Platform for Your Goals
There are many different crowdfunding sites out there, and they’re all a bit different. You’ll want to choose the one that best suits your fundraising needs.
Here’s a rundown of some of the top crowdfunding platforms for authors:
- Requires you to reach the full amount of your fundraising goal. If you don’t, you don’t get any money at all.
- This structure can be a good limitation for two reasons:
- First, if you can’t fund the difference of a campaign that doesn’t reach its goal, then you’ll need to raise the entire amount anyway.
- Second, a do-or-die goal incentivizes people to pitch in so they can be a part of making your book become a reality.
- Similar to Kickstarter except that you don’t have to raise the full amount, so either way you get the funds.
- You’ll want to have a plan for raising the difference if you don’t reach your goal, though.
- Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with a bunch of angry supporters who thought they were getting a book that you can’t afford to print.
- This is a more author-focused platform that’s all about books. The process for entry is a bit higher, but it comes with some top-notch perks.
- First, you pitch your book. If the platform is interested in supporting you, Publishizer’s team helps you get your book into shape for crowdfunding before launching your campaign.
- One of the cool things about Publishizer is that if you sell at least 500 copies of your book, they’ll act as your agent and try to get an editor at a traditional publishing house interested in picking up the title.
- Sell 1,000 and you have the opportunity to become an author client of Publishizer, with them working as your full-time literary agent.
- This platform is for self-published authors who are planning to appeal mostly to people they know, like friends and family members, to help them raise the money to print their book.
- Rewards are not necessary, and you don’t have to reach your full goal to access the funds you do raise.
2) Ask for the Right Amount
If you only need $5,000 to get your book printed, why ask for more? You only increase the chance of not reaching your goal. Plus, people might be confused by a funding goal that doesn’t seem to be rooted in your book’s needs.
Figure out how many books you think you can sell and get a quote for printing that many copies. That number is the baseline of your fundraising goal.
Next, outline a detailed budget with a line item for every aspect of the printing process, including hiring a designer, shipping books from the printer to your home, and any other related expenses.
When people see that you have a firm understanding of the needs of the project, they’ll trust you more to get the job done. That means they’ll be more likely to support your campaign.
3) Offer Attractive Rewards
With crowdfunding, people give at a level they’re comfortable with, and in return get something from you.
In the case of crowdfunding a book, the most obvious thing that people would want is a copy of the book! But beyond offering a copy of your book as a reward, consider how you could get more supporters engaged.
You might be sending a copy to every who gives say $25 or more. But some people may not be willing to part with that much money.
Offer smaller rewards at lower giving levels, like $10 for a digital copy of your book, or $1 to $5 to be recognized as a supporter online. Both of those ideas are great because you can sell an infinite amount of them — and they come at no cost to you.
This works the other way, too. You’re sure to have a handful of “fanboys” (even if it’s just your dad) who will want to support you with more than $25.
So include a couple of higher reward levels, like $50 for a signed copy, $100 to be a VIP at your book launch party, and $250-$500 to be personally recognized on the acknowledgements page of your book.
One thing to avoid is going reward-crazy. Limit yourself to about 5 or so reward levels. It makes your page look cleaner and is easier to read and digest.
And stay away from offering random perks, like a mug with your book art on it. A mug has pretty much nothing to do with books. Unless your book is about coffee. Or cups.
4. Sell People on Your Passion
Your fans, friends, and family want to support you, but they’ll be even more likely to if you tell the story of why you’ve written your book, and how much it means to you.
This will also boost the chances that strangers to your work will feel compelled to give to your campaign (and become fans in the process).
The description of your campaign should include a personal, heartfelt message about what drove you to write this book, your hopes for its potential, and how important it is to see it go out into the world for others to enjoy.
If you really want to get your message across, make your plea into a video. A personal video message selling your passion increases the chances of reaching your funding goal — 50% of Kickstarter campaigns with videos hit their goal, while only 30% of those without reach theirs.
One tip to remember about crowdfunding videos is not to make them too long. Under 3 minutes is ideal.
People don’t have all day, and if you can’t communicate why they should support you in 3 minutes, you probably need to go back to the drawing board.
Photos are another helpful addition to your page. Share images of your book’s design, your writing desk, and more to get people engaged with your campaign.
5. Set a Short Fundraising Deadline
Studies show that shorter crowdfunding campaigns do better. It gives a campaign more urgency, and compels people to give right away.
If they see that your campaign is going to be running for 6 months or a year, they might say, “Oh yeah, I’ll get around to contributing to this at some point…” and then totally forget about you.
It also shows people that you are confident you can reach your goal in a short time. They’ll believe in you if they know you believe in yourself.
So how long should a campaign be? Kickstarter says that 30 days or less results in the highest rate of successful projects. Plus, the shorter your campaign, the sooner you’ll be publishing your book!
6. Promote, Promote, Promote!
Once you’ve launched your campaign, you’ve got to tell the world about it.
We’re not talking about one or two posts on Facebook. You need to enact a thoughtful strategy that lasts throughout the lifetime of the campaign.
Here are a few tips for promoting a crowdfunding campaign:
Send individual messages
- Write personal notes via text, email, social media, or even snail mail to make sure every single one of your friends, family, and superfans know about this campaign the moment you launch it.
- You might even tell them the day before and ask them to support it as soon as it goes live.
- When other people see that you’re already 20% of the way to your goal mere hours after launch, they’ll be more compelled to jump on the bandwagon.
Utilize your email list
- If you don’t have an email list for your fans, it’s time to start one. You can put a signup form on your website or social media profile.
- And every time you’re doing a reading or at an open mic, you can encourage people to sign up on a physical form you pass around.
- Plus, whenever you run into someone who expresses interest in writing or your genre, you can ask them if you can add them to your mailing list.
- Even if your list only has a handful of contacts, it’s one more way to get the word out about your crowdfunding campaign.
Promote it at readings
- Whenever you do readings in public, mention your campaign before and after your reading.
- Have fliers printed up to pass out so people know how to find it online when they get home.
Post regularly online:
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat — these platforms exist to help you connect with others.
- If you don’t have an author profile on social media, it’s time to set one up. Your followers are basically another version of subscribers to an email list.
- Post regularly but strategically about your funding campaign to those social media platforms you and your fans use the most.
- When we say strategically, we mean map out what you’re going to post and when over the course of your campaign.
- There are certain times and days of the week that’ll increase the reach of your posts, so it’s good to plan for when exactly you will post.
- If you don’t have a plan and just excitedly post all of your campaign promotional content in the 48 hours after launch, not only will you exhaust your followers, you’ll also exhaust yourself. And you’ll be left without a single thing left to post for the next 28-odd days. Oops.
Run ads on social media
- We get it — you’re trying to raise money, not spend money. But sometimes you have to spend money to make money.
- For example, if your Facebook page has 1,000 followers, but your posts are only reaching 300 of them, that means there are 700 fans out there who don’t know about your new crowdfunding campaign!
- It’ll only cost a few bucks to boost your posts and get them in front of all your followers’ eyes.
7. Communicate with Your Fans
You should be regularly posting to your campaign page with updates.
These could include:
- Progress updates: “The book cover is done, check it out!”
- Thank you’s: “Wow, we just reached the 50% mark, thank you all so much!”
- Stretch goals: “Hurray, you all have helped me reach my goal, but there are still 24 hours left, so if we can raise another $100 I’ll make a collectible bookmark to go with every copy!”
Regular communication keeps people engaged and more invested in the success of your campaign. If they haven’t given yet, they’ll be more likely too. And if they have, they might feel compelled to share it with friends if you’re down to the wire and still short of your goal.
Be sure to continue to post updates even after you’ve reached your funding goal. Tell your fans how the printing is coming along, posts pictures of the books once they’re done, etc.
This shows your supporters that you’re truly grateful and appreciate their giving. When it’s time for you to print your next book, they’ll be first in line to do it all over again.
Crowdfunding a Success? Time to Publish!
Raising the money to print a book is just one of many steps in the self-publishing journey. You’ve got to design a good cover, figure out how to get it into stores, plan a release party, and more. And that’s all after you’ve done the hardest thing, which is writing the book in the first place.
Finally, you need to go through the process of formatting your book and submitting to a printer, making sure you get every aspect of the process right so your books turn out the way you want them to.
The self-publishing experts at Steuben Press get it — we understand it can feel like a lot of work. It is a lot of work, but we’re here to make it easier.