9 Things to Consider Before Crowd-Funding a Novel


I wanted to touch on the idea of crowdfunding. The big, magic world where all of your dreams will come true by using the money from others! Are you ready to dream big and shoot for the stars? Well, stop it.

I know. I’m a buzzkill. It’s worth pointing out a few realism factors, though. Dreaming is great–but crowdfunding a project–any project–takes the same skills and platform that any indie author has to use on regular basis. If you’re not successfully harnessing the power of your email list, adverts, and getting friends and family members to believe in you then crowdfunding will do nothing but leave you hollowed out by disappointment.

I’ve stumbled across a few older articles on the ole interwebs talking about this as it relates to authors and wanted to pass on info from them, and from myself who has participated in campaigns as a backer and a launcher.

#1, (and this is the biggest) Is it really worth it? Count the cost and look at it from a business stand point–do you really think someone will donate to your project based on how you are pitching it and what it is? There’s a local guy who wanted to be a comedian and talked about his project (needing tens of thousands of dollars) being the adventure of a lifetime and how he was going to be so big and do recordings and huge shows and he utterly failed to be funny. He probably watched a bunch of Louis CK on TV or a Made for Netflix comic special and got starry eyed. He bragged about his stage acting experience being a play in high school. He’s a 34 year old burger flipper filming a plea for money from a cell phone. People don’t sign onto that kinda thing with their hard earned cash. It’s gotta have a wow factor.

#2, It’s going to take more work to secure your backers than trying to generate sales from an indie book you’ve published. Think about it like pitching your book a convention or festival: you’re going to need good promo materials, a practiced pitch, and a good product (or a realizable dream). If you have that already, you’re probably already making money.

#3 It’s got to be irresistible and stand out. There’s a lot of people using crowd-funding and the market is saturated. Can you still do it? Yes. Is it easy to stand out? No… the larger the crowd, the easier it is to get lost in it.

#4 Don’t forget about transparency! You are asking people for cash. They will want to know how it’s being spent. There’s no such thing as free money and we all want oversight.

#5 Your project will not fund itself! That pesky work thing comes up again. You NEED a platform… and buying an email list on Fiverr isn’t going to cut it. You will need to reach people and connect with them in order to get commitments. Most crowdfunding campaigns never reach their goals… just like most indie books released into the wilds of Amazon never get bought. If you’re not hustling, you’re not earning.

#6 Make it worthwhile to backers. Some backers invest solely on the strength of a project’s concept; others invest for the rewards that are on offer. This is why it’s important to make sure they’re alluring. FACT: You’re going to have to have good swag and prizes in order to interest backers.

#7 Due Diligence is necessary BEFORE you launch. You need a strategy for sales, but also for the financial aspect. Do you need $500 (a very small amount by most comparisons) from your campaign to help launch your new 300 page novel? You will need to keep a few things in mind like shipping, production, adverts, etc. Let’s look at it quick just to give you an idea of how it’s gonna go. It will cost you about $5.00 each to print them and they will probably be a reward for backing at the $15 level or higher (since that’s what the book will retail for). Let’s say you give away an eBook at the $5 level–that’ll cost you about a buck apiece, but there are no shipping factors. Assuming its part of a series (let’s say the third in a trilogy) you can do a larger reward of the whole set for $50. Now for math… target 2x$50 trilogy backers, 20xPaperback purchasers, and 20xEbookers to arrive at 500. those paperbacks will cost you about $3.50 each to ship and the trilogy will cost about $5. Trilogy costs: 15+5=$20 (40 total). Single Paperback: 5+3.50=$8.50 (170 total). EBook: $1 (20 total). That’s $230. But wait. There’s more. The earlier shipping costs were to get the books to your customer… how did you get them? That’s right… you have to pay to ship them twice! Good thing it’ll be a little cheaper to get those bulk single paperbacks to you. About $5 per trilogy plus only $15 to get them all to you in the first place… lucky dog–you’re only down another $25 (totally a $255 investment… we’ll assume you have minimal shipping supplies needed and stole them from your grandmother.) Now we have to figure in the crowd funding fees. 5% is pretty standard, plus credit card fees on top of that (about 8% all-in). That’s another $40 out of the $500 resulting in $205 you take home from that $500 you fought for and needed. To get there, multiply it all by 2.5. You will need x5 Trilogy backers, 50 paperback sponsors, and 50 eBook partners. Also, there is no ad budget built into this!

#8 Remember that there’s a deadline. Yes, this can help you get people to jump on board because of the sense of urgency–but also the urgency is very real. Can you really produce the numbers needed on the deadline for commitments? Let’s say the above example is a month long effort… If you simply sold that many books on Amazon you’d make $437.85 (T/61.35+P/204.50+E/172) and have probably stressed less and won’t have to do the same backend labor associated with the next point.

#9 There’s back-end work, too. How much time have you set aside for physically packing, addressing, and shipping your books or other swag? Once the campaign is over, it’s still not done. It’s just beginning.

The numbers are even more worrying when I look at them in my imaginary sample above. I’m certainly not eager to jump in and attempt a new crowd sourced campaign. I think I’ll just take my laptop while I work on my next novel while selling plasma–it might be a more lucrative plan.

What I’m interested in learning more about is publishizer.com… they don’t seem to specialize in blind donations towards a cause but rather on pre-sale commitments for books and they are geared towards helping the authors secure publishers because of such committed interest. It’s an interesting concept which I just may attempt to play with. If I do, I’ll certainly let you know how it turns out.


Do you have success or horror stories about trying to crowd fund a book? I’d love to read them in the comments section!


Review: Severance Lost


I found Severance Lost by J. Lloren Quill to be well written and intriguing. It had a bit of a Shannara Chronicles vibe to it and all the tropes expected in that sort of book were present and well done. And I appreciated some of the great descriptors (especially in the nicknames for characters, such as Stonehands) which add some immediate character depth and hint that there is much more to the story even at first glance.

Stonehands (Slate Severance) is on a mission to improve himself, locate whomever killed his parents, and make them pay. He leaves a trail of bodies in his wake doing so in a world full of magic and mystery. The prologue introduces us to an older Slate who regrets some of his dark deeds which brought him to where he is now—a renowned warrior with blood on his hands. The book tells his story of how he started. The epilogue acts as a catalyst propelling him into what must be the remainder of his life up to the prologue and promises more of the Fractal Forsaken Series.

There’s kind of a Batman/Dark Knight Rises theme as Slate tries to unmask the villain… he’s kind of “the hero Gotham needs” instead of the hero Gotham wanted, which works perfectly in a high fantasy world and has many contemporaries (for example Drizzt Do’Urden of the Forgotten Realms series). Quill also gets bonus points for being a fellow MN based author… lots of good fantasy coming out of the tundra.

I understand that book two is recently out. If you’re looking for a new fantasy series to follow with all the typical D&D style elements, I’d feel comfortable recommending this series or the Runes of Issalia series for teens.

You can get the first of the Fractal Forsaken series at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LXSY6JN

State of Writing


I completed the second Kakos Realm book over the holiday week. Rise of the Dragon Impervious just needs a final spit polish. That was pretty well beyond my goal last week, so I’m pretty happy about it. I’ve got a long-term project I need to do an outline for next week, but I don’t plan to commit to much more than that for the following week. I’m just gonna coast a bit.

The Most Useful Tips for Self-Editing Manuscripts


First, let me say this. Do not make the mistake of taking a highly self-edited manuscript to publishing vs a marginally self-edited + a mediocre paid-for editing manuscript. ALWAYS factor a budget (even if a small one) into your publishing scheme and always plan to pay for editing (even if it’s just $100 to a 4th year English Major).

The thing you are really looking for is a more objective perspective. In talking to editors at various conferences and conventions one thing they talk about is “distance from the story.” Nobody knows your story like you do–I’ve often discovered that what editors say is true about a story: you read what you meant to write, especially if you wrote it recently. Often editors and veteran writers talk about “putting a manuscript in a drawer” until they are ready to come back to it. If you’ve edited, critiqued, or beta read for fellow authors you may understand what I’m talking about… it’s easier to spot flaws when the text is new to you or when you are unfamiliar with it. Cold detachment is the best way to have that objectivity, so here are five techniques to make your self-edits better.

Take some time to get distance from the manuscript. The longer the better, in essence–although you still want to be somewhat familiar with the story. You just don’t want your mind filling in the blanks between the words with pieces that might not actually exist. You also want some of the plot points to be relatively knew to your mind (surprise yourself with the plot twists your previous self wrote, if possible.) You are too close to the story to begin editing write away upon completion. Like a good stew you’ve got to let it simmer on the back-burner for a bit.

Use a different font. Anything to make it less familiar to your brain is going to help you spot errors and inconsistencies. I’d recommend Courier New or another monospaced font. When every letter of the word shifts to the same width it can change the structure of the text and make your mind have to process the “sight words” rather than just fill-in-the-blanks.

Read the text aloud. I use this one a lot. It really does help me spot errors, especially in line editing. Although it’s not a perfect method, it never fails to help me discover spots where I thought I wrote something but omitted words wholesale.

Work from a printed copy. Sometimes holding it, seeing it, and feeling the text can add a new dimension. It also can help to give you some scratch paper to jot notes in the margins, highlight, etc. Personally, I prefer to do this and often load a Work In Progress into my Createspace account and print WIP versions of a novel for my beta readers and then encourage them to write on the pages, highlight, and cross out words so that I can make a stronger version at my next pass.

Read the paragraphs backwards to forwards. Hop to the end of a chapter and work backwards paragraph by paragraph. This helps isolate the text and disrupts the story continuity enough to help you locate errors and make corrections, but not so much that the editing can’t done.

I hope these tips help! Follow, share, and comment!

State of Writing


Pretty helter-skelter week over here. I did a small festival and sold a few books. I did manage to edit two chapters (and only have a few left to go). Lots of other stuff going on. Had to put my dog down–physically burned up from harvesting Christmas trees. Winter darkness has got me ready to burrow into my hole and write another novel. I did get some query letters off for a new, unpublished book and I checked in on my sales figures for November–pretty encouraging results and lots of new readers from interaction on my Facebook ad post.

Onwards and upwards.

Blog Tour: The Cedric Series


Cedric the Demonic Knight

The Cedric Series Book 1

by Valerie Willis

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy Romance

cedric-the-demonic-knightLord Cedric du Romulus may be a powerful knight, but he’s no human nor does he like masquerading as one. He is a mixed blood demon made by Sorceress Morrighan in her quest to create an army of powerful underlings. Seeking out ever-stronger enemies, he devours them for their power; nothing is safe from his fangs whether they are beasts, demons, or magic wielders. When he finds himself staring at Morrighan’s castle, will he be able to follow through with his life’s ambition and leave behind his lover and wife, Lady Angeline who herself is an heir to a legacy of unknown magic.

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22699451-cedric-the-demonic-knight

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Cedric-Demonic-Knight-Book-ebook/dp/B00FN2YFL0/ref=la_B00FQMV8SU_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474833396&sr=1-1

Romasanta: Father of Werewolves

The Cedric Series Book 2

by Valerie Willis

Genre: Paranormal Fantasy Romance

romasantacoverkindleRomasanta finds himself a cursed man and struggles with his internal demon, literally. All his troubles start with a stone and after that he will be losing everything he’s ever loved. Faced with clinging on to what little humanity he has, he will lose it many times before reaching the end of his journey. His life’s tale will take you through time to see how every lore, every moment in history tied in with wolves all come back to him. They call him the Ancient One, others simply refer to him as the Father of Werewolves, but we know him by his name, Romasanta. Many battles will be fought before he gets closer to his goals, but will he be ready to finish what was asked of him at the very beginning of his horrible fate. Will he be able to return the Eye of Gaea and free the love of his life from the laurel tree in the Black Forest?

Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25318344-romasanta

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Romasanta-Father-Werewolves-Cedric-Book-ebook/dp/B00UCEK31U/ref=la_B00FQMV8SU_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474833396&sr=1-3

Coming Soon….

The Oracle

The Cedric Series Book 3

By Valerie Willis

With Angeline back in Cedric’s arms and the Eye of Gaea in Romasanta’s grip, the next step in their journey begins. Knowing they will be facing the mother of dragons, Delphyne, at the top of Mt. Parnassus, they assemble a group to traverse the barrier which dissolves any technology and renders gunpowder useless. The question weighing on their minds is if two werewolves, the incubus King, and a demonized sorceress is enough to fight their way to see the Oracle?

About the Author

Valerie Willis, a sixth generation Floridian, launched her first book, Cedric the Demonic Knight, at the start of 2014 on Amazon.com. Since then, she has launched the second book to The Cedric Series, Romasanta: Father of Werewolves (2015), with several installments to come in this high rated Fantasy Romance Series. She pulls in a melting pot of mythology, folklores, history and more into her work with a remarkable amount of foreshadowing that makes reading her books a second time exciting. Also she recently published Rebirth the first book in her Teen Urban Fantasy, the Tattooed Angels Trilogy. Currently on the table to be completed is book two for the Tattooed Angels Trilogy, Judgment and book three in The Cedric Series, The Oracle.











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How to Do a Book Review


This is a pretty subjective topic, but it is important. Reviews are so important to an author that they can literally stand in the way of a potential bestseller/world altering book ever being discovered and being a success (especially in the early stages.)

The way most people leave a review is usually based on an internal metric that readers, authors, reviewers don’t really understand. It’s either very feelings based else it comes off a very harsh rubric (did it have any stray typos, maybe a minor format error somewhere or I didn’t quite like a minor plot thing? …sounds like a 2 or 3 star rating to me! [sarc.]) I’ve looked at some reviewers who have NEVER given a 5 star review and say “I’ll leave one when I find the perfect book.” That’s garbage. Those people shouldn’t leave reviews, honestly. Their metric is wrong and those 4s should be 5s and so on. The review system is not meant to punish authors for minor rough spots in their story—it is meant to encourage creativity and buy-in from fellow readers.

Just recently I answered a random call for help from a nice gal from Calcutta whose international driving license had lapsed on a technicality. She’d been stateside for a few years but only been driving for a few months. Because of MN’s odd law she was forced to get a new license and take the driving test. We chatted about a few things (I’d only met her once before, but I am all for paying it forward) including the driving exam. In that exam the tester starts you with a perfect score and every time you don’t score a perfect on some task you lose points until you fail and they end the test or time elapses and you get a score. That may work for things like driving tests, college term papers, and some other grading systems, but not an amazon/B&N/booksellers review. We do not look for ways to fail an author—we want others to succeed!

I strive for polite reviews which help other writers sell books rather than choosing to leave critiques over form and craft. The rate/review sections of reseller pages are not the proper place to talk about things like author’s use of grammar, etc. Reviews should talk mostly of what you liked or struggled with in the context of the story. A person has to have a fundamental hate of an author to drop a 1 or 2 star review of a book (which you can see on the 1 star reviews atheists have left on my books after discovering my day job is youth work through a religious organization). People ought to remember that an amazon/B&N page, etc. is essentially a storefront. I wouldn’t approve of painting graffiti on someone’s brick and mortar store and I don’t think it appropriate for online one either. I look for every reason to leave 5 stars rather than look for reasons to chip away at a high review for a failure to achieve perfection (because so few books realistically hit universal perfection but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still perfect in their own way.)

For me, 5 stars are deserved if there is something a person would enjoy about a book (and I understand that’s subjective)… I realize that reviews and ratings are a sales tool. Even if I didn’t particularly care for content, if it’s well done and would please a target market, it deserves 5 stars. You may disagree with my opinion, but remember that review boards are not academic institutions—they’re forums to rate enjoyability. Seriously…50 Shades of Gray was awful, as were many other highly acclaimed and best-selling stories. We consume things we enjoy, not things that are perfect in craft. There’s a reason millions of people ingest fast-food garbage food instead of scientifically crafted protein cubes and nutrition wafers. We are consumers and we go after what we like and enjoy rather than what is perfect.

Really the only reason I can think to leave 1 or 2 star reviews is if the product was grossly misrepresented (maybe a book supposedly about what is wrong with our politics and capitol hill and billed as political expose which begins with great observations and facts over three chapters before veering off to talk about how the reason for all problems is an infiltration by lizard people in disguise. That book is totally fine as long as the reader is not tricked and the content description was honest).

I’d back up my opinion here by leaving a link to all my book reviews. If you want an author to keep working at his or her craft and keep shooting for the stars, then leave them 5 stars. Helping writers succeed assures you that they will keep striving for higher levels of craft (and maybe someday hit that mark of perfection.)

Free Book until Tomorrow

Last time I did a free giveaway on my nonfiction book it hit #1 in the two categories it was listed in–I’ve done that again and would love to share it with you, too! As a sidenote, if you get it on Kindle (even if it was free) you can get the Audible version for less than $2 and listen on a commute.

Get the free book, audio, or paperback here:

Feedback from readers:
“Every pastor and church leader needs to read this book”

“Schmitz interlaces Biblical Biblical scholarship, hard-hitting statistics, and gut-wrenching anecdotes seamlessly to create a can’t-put-it-down feeling.”

“I think it would be nearly impossible to read this book and not have a changed heart toward the functioning of our church bodies.”

State of Writing

I stall #amediting on the second fantasy novel–I hit the previous weeks goals last week in lieu of not making them then, so I completed final edits on two chapters instead of just the one. Dunno how I managed that since I had such a crazy week (took a bunch of teens to a youth camp all weekend and was pretty fried by the end of it and didn’t really start my week till Wed, even)… I guess I found little pockets of time to work on a paragraph here and there. The little things add up. I guess writing is kinda like life in that regard.

I’m eager to finish Rise of the Dragon Impervious and get to the next piece. (Second draft of Fear in a Land Without Shadows and then a rewrite/expansion of a paranormal YA that needs some attention and I feel like taking the indie-route with this spring.) I think I’m mainly so eager to finish because it was originally written alongside Grinden Proselyte and as one larger body of work so when I finished GP it felt like I was done. I’m going to shoot for another chapter this week, cross my fingers, and hope it might double again like last week.

Free Book Giveaway Weekend


Free for 5 days on Kindle! Just click to download/add to cart–today through Wednesday. Please encourage your friends to download and pass it on. If our recent elections remind us of anything, it’s how painful division and fracturing of groups can be–especially when it involves opinions about leadership!

Feedback from readers:
“Every pastor and church leader needs to read this book”

“Schmitz interlaces Biblical Biblical scholarship, hard-hitting statistics, and gut-wrenching anecdotes seamlessly to create a can’t-put-it-down feeling.”

“I think it would be nearly impossible to read this book and not have a changed heart toward the functioning of our church bodies.”

(Also, it looks like there’s a paperback sale on it for Prime members who sill save about 10%–that’s Amazon’s doing since it just came out on paperbook via their competition over at Ingram).


Data, research, and stories about American pastoral decline.
Nine of ten ministers know three or more peers who’ve been forced out of pastoral positions; a third of all pastors serve congregations who either fired the previous minister or actively forced their resignation; and at any given time, 75% of pastors in America want to quit. American church decline has reached epidemic proportions and in the last century, church influence has waned nearly 60%. Pastoral attrition is either an indicator of that problem or a central part of it. Why Your Pastor Left is full of detailed statistics and identifies the top ten “Ministry Killers” that cause pastoral stress and eventual “burnout.”