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!

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