Before experimenting with Kickstarter, I’d heard of crowdfunding. Had even contributed to a few campaigns — an opera my friend put on, a gorgeous photography book, and some nifty product campaigns. I would’ve happily contributed to the ground-breaking campaign for Cards Against Humanity if I had known about it.
I liked the idea and have always felt awe for those brave enough to ask for community support for a yet-to-be project. In my mind, however, there was no relationship between publishing and crowdfunding. I didn’t know of any authors using the platform and had never contemplated the idea.
Then, I was invited into a mentorship program run by Prolific Works (formerly Instafreebie). They wanted to guide authors to this platform and I wanted to learn. Participating was a no brainer. It fit snuggly into my worldview of constant learning and growth. Even if I didn’t fully understand what would happen, or even believe it would work, I was going to accept the tutelage.
Over the course of six weeks, I was guided, step-by-step, in the process of putting together a campaign. A small group of participants and I were given clear guidelines (some suggestive, some required) which included:
· Writing compelling content
· Creating engaging graphics
· Planning for promotion
What stood out most for me was the necessity for being incredibly systematic, not unlike the launch plans I create for my novels. Well before launching the campaign, I had to know whom I would ask to donate, what I would say, and what they would offer. This was a difficult exercise, but useful in that it forced me to look at my community in a very granular way.
My seventh novel, and the start of a new series in a slightly different genre, was the focus of this campaign. It is a steamy romantic suspense with supernatural elements. I know this type of genre-blending is difficult to market and I was excited to gauge interest with this campaign.
Rewards included early access to the book, exclusive access to a bonus prequel, copies of my backlist books, and even opportunities to be included in the series as characters.
The campaign was run over thirty days, with a minimal amount of promotion before launch.
My campaign funded in four days.
Part of this was due to my reaching out to my ‘big spenders’ early. Part of this was due to the constraints of the mentorship program, which required that campaigns be $500 maximum.
This ended up being an issue because I found it uncomfortable to keep asking for funding well after my ‘target’ had been reached. Perhaps the organizers of the group did not want students to be disappointed by not funding their campaigns, but as an author with a large community and some experience selling books, I wish they would have accepted my claims that a much larger number would have been more appropriate for me.
My campaign ended over 400% funded.
I was delighted with this outcome, and also mildly frustrated. I think I could have done more if I had started with a larger goal. I definitely suffered through a mid-campaign slump, trying to figure out how I could keep the momentum going, how I could justify asking for more.
I’m not sure I ever recovered fully. It kept me more tentative in my promotions and less fired up about consistently promoting.
I was almost completely wrong about where the funding would come from.
Many close friends and family went conspicuously absent. I had included them in my initial budgeting as definites, and still find myself confused by their non-participation. It led me, for a time, to believe that people were more willing to back the project, rather than the project creator. This was incorrect because…
Several of my biggest donors had minimal interest in the books being created.
I expected that from close friends and family, but actually received it from people less embedded in my life. These are the donations that brought me to tears several times over the month. Support where I least expected it. Peers who generously shared the project and donated. Readers who didn’t have the financial means to donate, but told all their friends. The folks who clicked ‘donate’ within minutes of hearing about the campaign.
I was floored by the depth and breadth of this reaction. I still am.
Programmed learning works for me.
The Prolific Works course was imperfect. The platform was incredibly glitchy and the administration was inconsistent. However, the content was well-organized and provided me with a means to master something new without getting overwhelmed. I especially appreciated the professional level of engagement. There was no allowance for not completing assignments or half-assing them.
Turns out, I needed this. Otherwise, this program might have taken up residence on my hard drive along with the dozens of other how-to courses I’ve not given ample attention.
From my limited experience, I believe that successful crowdfunding has much more to do with marketing and promotional muscle than community size or previous publishing success. I watched a few newbie authors crush it, and a few pros fizzle. I still haven’t wrapped my head around why this would be, but I hope to.
Admittedly, someone with an established publishing track record, and an audience hungry for their work, will have to reach less broadly to get attention. But the ask is the same. Getting people to do something when the reward won’t immediately be in their hands is a skill I’d love to master. This endeavor gave me an immersive, up-close experience of what that looks like.
I now understand how Kickstarter can provide a viable means for authors to fund the large outlay required in order to publish a high quality book. It’s not clear to me whether there will be a significant movement toward crowdfunding for authors, but I’d happily participate in a campaign that catches my attention.
Pascale Kavanagh combines the unlikely pursuits of spiritual counseling, creativity coaching, and authoring steamy romance novels into a beautifully messy life. Ultimately, all her work is about strengthening resilience, transforming suffering, and keeping life sexy.That includes her six published novels and slew of stories and articles.
Her past includes stints as an MIT-trained engineer, biotech executive, professional dancer, yoga teacher and business owner, and entrepreneur.
These days, her favorite titles are author, guide, and hot mama.