Publishers have been raising funds from the reading community for centuries, dating back at least to the seventeenth century, when a subscription model was used to produce works of literature such as the first illustrated edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost. In the last decade, crowdfunding has gone digital, and become a major source of funding for creative projects. Even more than raising money, crowdfunding can be an incredible way to connect with a community that will love a book, even before that book is made.
Here are a few ways authors and publishers can use crowdfunding to achieve their goals:
Tell Your Story
In addition to telling your story in words such as the jacket copy, author bio, and excerpts, you can use multimedia elements such as photos, videos, even GIFS. Your crowdfunding page should give you the space to create context around a project and get potential readers and backers excited about it.
Test an Idea
In Kickstarter’s case, projects are “all or nothing” which means that if you don’t hit the goal you set, your project does not fund, and nobody’s credit card is charged. That means that you can use it to see if there’s a big enough audience for something you want to do—such as a beautiful hardcover edition or a box set. If there isn’t, you can spend your time and resources on a project that appeals more to readers. Fun fact: Kickstarter publishing projects with at least 25 backers reach or exceed their funding goal 80% of the time.
Try Something New
Writers and publishers can use crowdfunding to do something a little unusual that will resonate with their community, such as funding an event, a tour, a box set, or an unusual collaboration. Amy Goldwasser and Peter Arkle ran a campaign to host a black cat-themed launch party for their book, All Black Cats Are Not Alike, at The Strand Book Store, which featured black cat cookies, costumes, and even adoptable black kittens.
Build a Community
A crowdfunding campaign is a great way to connect with your fans, and turn fans into friends. You can provide updates to build awareness of what you’re doing, share cool behind-the-scenes peeks at the project, introduce your collaborators, and more. You can provide unique rewards to create a special experience that your supporters will never forget, such as including their name in the book, or doing custom illustrations of something that means something to them.
Connect with a New Audience
Over 1.5 million people from countries all over the world have backed at least one publishing project on Kickstarter, which makes crowdfunding a great way to gain visibility for your work. In addition, that all-or-nothing funding model encourages members of your community and supporters of your authors to share the project with friends and on social media to make sure you reach your goal. Your supporters become your advocates and you are able to hone in on your true audience.
Understand Your Audience
It can often be challenging for publishers to know who is buying their books and how those readers are finding them. Kickstarter has a robust creator dashboard that provides information about how backers are finding your project. You can also use custom referral tags to gain even more insight into that question, but regardless of what platform you use, you need to make sure it gives you a good understanding of who your supporters are.
Create Something Magnificent
The reading community loves to find something unique, original, groundbreaking, or beautiful and support it to see it take shape in the real world. Numerous publishers have created exquisite books and special editions via crowdfunding that might not have been possible otherwise. And even better, with crowdfunding, publishers find out how many people are ACTUALLY willing to pony up for an expensive book so that they can make educated decisions before printing.
I’ve seen the power of crowdfunding firsthand with two books I’ve funded on Kickstarter, where I also work as the Director of Publishing. I’ve helped hundreds of publishers and authors run successful projects, and I really believe in the power of crowdfunding to help literary folks build excitement around their work. I hope this has sparked some ideas about how you can use crowdfunding to raise money and engage readers for your next literary project.