Is Crowdfunding Right for You? 5 Questions

Photo by boinink / Flickr
Photo by boinink / Flickr

Today’s guest post is by Justine Schofield, the communications coordinator for Pubslush, a crowdfunding publishing platform.

You’ve probably heard of crowdfunding by now. Crowdfunding is a means for artists, entrepreneurs, and businesses to raise funds and mitigate the financial risk of their creative projects or business ventures. You generate financial backing from people who believe in your project: your family, friends, community, and audience. (A few noteworthy services for crowdfunding: Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Pubslush, where I work.)

Crowdfunding can be a feasible option for writers looking to self-publish. Not only can a successful campaign lessen your financial burden, but it can also help you gauge the audience for their book. However, before diving head first into a crowdfunding campaign, you should be able to answer the following questions.

1. Do you have a pre-existing network that will support your book?

What many people don’t realize is that unless you’re Zach Braff or Amanda Palmer, who both conducted enormously successful campaigns, most of your supporters will be from your personal and professional network. Of course, every crowdfunding campaign hopes to attract people from outside of their network who simply love the idea behind the project, but this can’t be counted on. If you don’t have a strong network or author platform prior to the start of your campaign, it will be difficult to be successful.

2. Are you willing to ask people for financial backing?

There’s absolutely no shame in crowdfunding. You are seeking financial backing in exchange for a reward and the promise of producing a product the supporter believes in. With this model, consumers are the gatekeepers of what products are produced, giving them a new kind of purchase power. However, many people simply don’t feel comfortable asking other people for money, which is exactly what you have to do in crowdfunding: ask.

3. Does your book have a niche audience?

Many books have a niche. For example, Janna Leyde wrote a memoir, He Never Liked Cake, about dealing with her father’s traumatic brain injury (TBI) after he was involved in a serious car accident when she was 14. She was able to reach out to TBI groups and associations for support and successfully raised over $15,000 to publish her book. If your book has a niche audience, which many do, conduct research about what organizations and influential people you can reach out to for support and media coverage. Specifically targeting your out-of-network outreach will lessen the scope of your marketing and yield more positive results.

4. Do you have a marketing plan?

Devising a marketing plan, before launching a campaign, is essential for success. Many people who attempt to crowdfund think they can wing it, or do very little advance planning. Sounds nice, but this is unrealistic and will ultimately be detrimental to the success of a campaign. Campaigns are time sensitive (most last 30-60 days), so it’s important to develop a week-by-week marketing plan and create weekly outreach goals prior to the launch of your campaign. Having a target outreach audience for each week (i.e. friends and family, professional network, audience, niche organizations and bloggers, etc.) will help guide your campaign and keep you from getting overwhelmed. Also, try and tell at least one new person about your campaign every day to keep the momentum up.

5. Are you willing to put in the time and effort?

Even if you’ve developed a comprehensive marketing plan there’s still the challenge of carrying it out. Crowdfunding is not easy. It’s a time commitment that requires a lot of hard work and dedication. You should reach out to people on a personal level (yes, sorry, this means no mass e-mails), and toward the end of your campaign you should follow up with the people who haven’t yet responded to you.

Yes, you will be tired of talking about your campaign by its completion, but continuous commitment and marketing is necessary. If you’re a writer hoping to crowdfund, but can’t answer “yes” to most or all of these questions, then maybe now isn’t the right time for you to begin a campaign.

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