The Trouble with Crowd-funding

The Trouble with Crowd-fundingCrowd-funding is fine; the trouble with crowd-funding is finding the crowd…

Platforms such as Kickstarter and GoFundMe turned crowd-funding into a viable business model for all kinds of ventures over the last decade. So what about books?


Defined simply:

Crowdfunding harnesses the power of social networks and the Internet to give people the means to raise funds.

Crowd-funding can work spectacularly well if you can make a bid:

  • based on a great core idea,
  • framed with imagination and enthusiasm,
  • with a great marketing pitch,
  • with compelling product(s) at the end of it,
  • to a realistic, credible and workable deadline,
  • which engages investors with a value proposition they receive at the end of the project.

Note how business and marketing savvy you need to be make one of these fly.

You can literally pitch to crowd-fund anything from a specialist bit of mountaineering kit to a community centre; from table-top miniatures to a book.

Who do we know in the publishing sector crowd-funding miniatures and books?

Earlier in the year, ‘Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter Project Broke the Bookish Internet.’

Sanderson unveiled a set of secret lock-down novels that he intends to self-publish, outside of his trad-publishing contract. His Kickstarter project broke every record. The total capital raised? Just shy of $42m. Yes, million.

As the dust settles, we can appreciate just how he did it:

  • trust in an existing brand – Sanderson himself
  • a peerless (if cheesy) multi-media campaign
  • credibility – just look at his back catalogue
  • an existing fan community lining up for more of his work
  • a production company of long-time collaborators and employees.

Eyes on the Crowd

Authors around the world are looking to crowd-funding as a viable route to self-publishing their work outside the trad-publishing industry. The key difference is receiving the pledge money up front rather than royalties from sales at the back end.

The key questions for publishing remain: what will it cost in writing time, services such as editors and cover art, print and distribution?

Against this, how much in pledges should you ask for? Will it cover costs? What if it doesn’t? Can you meet the project deadline?

And most basic of all, can you find a large enough crowd to fund it?

Is crowd-funding for books viable?

For a new author with no back catalogue and no ‘name’ recognition, probably not.

If you’re a social media star, marketing genius, celebrity or have a real show-stopper, unique book idea, maybe. It turns out there are no guarantees.

Existing authors with a poorly-performing back catalogue probably won’t make it until they fix whatever’s wrong there first. Crowd-funding won’t make up for basic product faults, the same for books as any other sector.

However, an author with solid name recognition, consistent sales by other channels, and a reasonable following in social media might make the breakthrough with a little effort.

Am I going there? Watch this space.

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