10 Hard-Earned Lessons on Crowdfunding Your Novel

I interviewed 8 writers who have collectively crowdfunded ~6000 fiction novels worldwide. These are their lessons.

Photograph, compliments of Pexels.

The interviews, each about 5 minutes long, are all available on the YouTube channel: Coming Clean on Crowdfunding. For your reading pleasure I’ve distilled the series into ten key lessons.

1. Your writer community is your greatest asset.

Writers who partner with the same crowd-driven publisher as you aren’t your competitors. They’re your peers. And they’re your most sympathetic cheerleaders. Writers who raise one another up forge friendships that last, and they succeed together.

2. Belief in your product is your best crowdfunding strategy.

Why should a friend, much less a complete stranger, believe in what you’ve created when you don’t? You’ve got to be your biggest cheerleader.

Amanda Orneck, author of Deus Hex Machina, discloses why it’s so important be your biggest cheerleader here.

3. If you don’t ask for help, you’re only harming yourself.

People want you to be successful. You need people’s help to be successful. Think of all the people who might consider supporting you, and then ask them to. Talk about what you’re doing every chance you get. Be open about how people can help you.

Evan Graham, author of Tantalus Depths, talks about just how tenacious you have to be when asking people for help here.

4. Crowdfunding your book is about relationship building.

Each pre-order represents a person you’ve formed a special bond with. Be gentle with your special bonds. Relationships are easily injured.

Alastair Luft, author of The Battle Within, shares insight into building meaningful relationships in the context of crowdfunding here.

(One of the unexpected positives these authors cited was how stale relationships were freshened as a by-product of this process. Be comforted in knowing that your self-serving need gives you a very valid reason to re-connect. Note: If you don’t like having relationships with people, or resent being a social animal in the general sense, crowdfunding may not be the best strategy for you.)

5. Technology helps, but YOU make your campaign a success.

The most common online tools these crowdfunding authors use are Facebook, Twitter, Email, and YouTube. Google Plus, LinkedIn, and Instagram barely hit their radar.

Facebook takes the cake as the most effective tool for authors who are crowdfunding. That said, it’s not enough to post your hopes and dreams to your timeline (and then cross your fingers that people like and share). You have to go full-blown stalker on your friends list, and reach out to people who belong to circles and groups that are long deprecated. Remember that person who poked you in grade nine that you never poked back? Now’s your time shine. Poke them back, and then ask them to consider buying a book. That’s the bottom of your proverbial Facebook network barrel, and that’s where you’ve got to go. Note: Facebook ads produced very poor results in all cases where these authors, including myself, tried them.

Twitter can be helpful for raising awareness and building brand, but it doesn’t move the needle.

(Note: Signing up for Reddit with the sole purpose of getting pre-orders for an ongoing campaign is ill-advised. Shameless self-promoters beware.)

6. Your pre-orderers are your investors & they deserve transparency.

Providing transparent and effective updates to your supporters demonstrates that you respect their generous act of stepping up to help you achieve success. Update thoughtfully and update well. (This doesn’t mean Update Frequently. Do you like being over-spammed? Your readers don’t either.)

7. Be creative about growing your reach.

If you’re creative enough to write a book, you’re creative enough to crowd-fund creatively.

In a very creative example, Rick Heinz, author of The Seventh Age: Dawn, discloses how he plied his trade as a story-teller in four hour chunks to get pre-orders here.

8. Strategize BEFORE you start.

It’s shockingly easy to kick off a crowdfunding campaign. Many authors, like myself, find themselves neck deep in a campaign before realizing they forgot the bit about learning how to swim.

Amanda Orneck has put together a fantastic resource on the topic.

Ferd Crôtte, author of Mission 51, talks about the importance of planning your writing and funding campaign, here.

9. If you jump in without a plan, you can still succeed.

The ups and downs are higher and lower than if you were to plan in advance of your campaign (and be prepared to embrace new levels of emotional discomfort), but it’s entirely possible to succeed.

Listen and watch Janna Grace, author of The Talkers are Talking, share how she jumped in without a plan and still succeeded here.

10. Crowd-driven publication isn’t an industry shortcut.

Nor is it an easier alternative to traditional publishing. It’s a new model that has its own difficulties and perks, bloated time frames and creative dramas. It’s not right for all authors, but it’s pitch perfect for some. The best way to learn is to try, and the best way to succeed is to refuse to accept failure.

Jane-Holly Meissner, author of Fae Child, who has achieved her funding target since sitting down with me (huzzah!), discloses her thoughts about perseverance here.

Jason Pomerance, author of Women Like Us, in a final interview.

Jason was one of the first authors I spoke with about participating in Coming Clean on Crowdfunding. After numerous failed attempts to make our technologies play nice, he offered to share his experience the good old fashioned way: in writing.

For the last instalment of this mini-series, learn how Jason married his keen interest in animal rights with his professional pursuits in order to further both causes, and why he turned away from traditional publishing and opted to work with a crowd-driven publisher instead.

Jason Pomerance, author of Women Like Us

Who are you, and what is your story about?

My name is Jason Pomerance, and my book WOMEN LIKE US is like FAULT OF OUR STARS meets THE DESCENDENTS with a little TERMS OF ENDEARMENT.

Why did you choose to crowdfund and not pursue a more traditional path?

I’ll give you the short version! I chose to crowdfund because I was at the stage with the book where it was, Do a search for another agent to represent it, or, Take control myself and leap in with this new platform for publishing and give it a try. I decided give it a try!

Awesome. And what’s been your biggest mistake to date on this crowdfunding path?

My biggest mistake was being a little over eager to get people to buy or pre-order the book. Haha! One person even said to me at some point, “I get it. I’m going to do it.” But you know when you first get started, I kind of expected that the minute you put out the email or link to see something. Instead you’re like, “Why haven’t they ordered yet? Its been 2 hrs!”

So I think you have to be patient and let people, you know, go at their own pace. I think that was the biggest mistake I made. Being too impatient.

And so when you say too impatient, too much too fast, what specifically did that look like? Email? Instant message? Facebook?

It was mostly email or through Facebook. Facebook posts, or private messages to people. I made giant lists of people! But I think I reached out any way I could. It didn’t matter. Facebook, email, or Twitter. I did it.

Did you have any issues ramping up to the point where you were comfortable reaching out to folks? Was that natural for you, or did you have to convince yourself?

No! It definitely wasn’t natural. Anyone who’s ever crowdfunded before will tell you that it’s the hardest thing they’ve ever done. People are busy. They don’t pay attention. And you’re selling something they’re not going to get in their hands the next day, either. It’s tough convincing people that it’s going to be a great book. It’s even harder just getting their attention in the first place.

Crowdfunding campaigns are very very difficult on you. And you just have to tough it out.

If you could give one piece of advice to people who are looking to do this, what would it be?

Somebody gave me a good piece of advice and I’ll pass it along. I had hit a wall. How was I going to hit 250? Somebody on Inkshares said to me, “You have to look beyond your friends and family and somehow expand your search beyond that.” Unless you have a really big family and a ton of really generous friends, it’s not going to happen just from family and friends.

So we have 2 Beagles, one of whom was rescued through the Beagle Freedom Project which takes Beagles from labs where they’ve been tested on. They have group on Facebook. They’re people who have adopted and fostered Beagles, and they’re a really close knit group. I donate 10% of royalties to Beagle Freedom Project. I used my own interest as a way to talk to people.

I was surprised, a lot of people stepped up to buy my book! They were completely out of my circle — I know them through the Facebook group — but I think everybody needs to think about outside groups. You’ve got to go beyond your circle somehow.

I also tried running contests and giveaways. Everyone who does them knows that some of them work, some of them don’t. Everyone needs to figure out what works for them. But they did generate pre-orders for me!

What would you say you loved most about this experience? You seem so happy!

I’m happy because it worked!

I did love doing some of the contests and the cheesy YouTube videos. It was kind of fun! But the process that I really loved was when it was in production. And the editing. We don’t get a big developmental edit with Quill, but the copy edit was extremely thorough. I really loved that whole part of it. Design decisions. That was really cool.

Would you recommend this process to anybody?

I would, with the caveat that you have to know what you’re getting into because it’s really hard! You really need to believe in your book. More than anything. If you go in and you don’t believe in what you’re selling, and don’t 100% think it’s the best book in the world, you’re going to have trouble. You have to have that blind faith in your book. It’s going to be tough and if you don’t have that. Without that faith, you’re just going to have a tougher time.

Final tips?

Buy a book!

Haha, tell me why should I buy a book!

It makes you laugh. It makes you cry. I’ve had a number of people say they were in tears at the end. If you have a family that drives you crazy you will love this book.

Jason Pomerance was born in New York City, grew up in Westchester County, and graduated from Middlebury College. He lives in Los Angeles with his partner and their beagles. He has written film and television projects for numerous studios and production companies, including Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, FremantleMedia, and Gold Circle Films. Women Like Us is his first novel. He’s currently working on a second novel, while also crowd-funding a new book on Inkshares. It’s about a beagle! You can read more about here: https://www.inkshares.com/books/love-derric-my-journey-from-laboratory-experiment-to-freagle-who

You can buy Jason’s book and find him on the internet in these places: Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Inkshares.

I embarked on this project when I prematurely kicked off my own crowdfunding campaign with Inkshares. After launching it I realized I had no idea what I was getting into. So, belatedly, I went searching for resources, and found there to be few resources that would have effectively prepared me for the emotional and mental hardship that I’d signed up for. Coming Clean on Crowdfunding is for other authors who find themselves in a similar situation to my own, and for authors who are thinking of partnering with a crowd-driven publisher.