#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Crowdfunding

If there’s any one thing I’m grateful to the internet for, it’s the rise of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter. And no, I’m not just saying that because my Kickstarter campaign for Moonshadow’s Guardian is 112% funded – I’m saying it because crowdfunding has transformed what it means to be a creative professional.

I first became aware of Kickstarter when Amanda Palmer raised over one million dollars on the platform. I was immediately intrigued, but I was still in the early stages of editing my books and I didn’t have a stable income, so for a while I forgot about the platform.

Kickstarter entered my sphere of awareness again in 2014, when the tech education non-profit I worked for, STEAMLabs, raised $20,000 on Kickstarter to purchase equipment. By then Kickstarter had become something of a phenomenon and raised millions of dollars for creative and business endeavors across many different industries. Working with STEAMLabs, I saw what raising that money looked like from the ground floor, and what crowdfunded money could accomplish.

It should be noted that there are several other crowdfunding sites, including publishing-specific sites like Inkshares, but my experience is exclusively with Kickstarter, so we’ll focus on that.

Making games with Kickstarter

In 2014 I also discovered the plethora of creative projects going live on Kickstarter every day. I quickly became addicted to funding Kickstarter campaigns, and eventually I discovered the campaign for Tiny Frontiers by Gallant Knight Games. I backed the project, interviewed GKG’s founder, and made a friend.

If you believe that luck is success meets preparation, this interview was a stroke of luck. I developed a friendship with Alan, and that grew into the opportunity to work on Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters, Tiny Frontiers: Revision, Tiny Dungeon: Second Edition, and most recently Tiny Wastelands.

Every single one of these games was funded on Kickstarter. Crowdfunding is possibly the most reliable way to make an indie game now, with some of these campaigns seeing enormous success. I’ve had a lot of fun working on these indie games, and learned an enormous amount from watching Gallant Knight Games consistently beat their goals.

Watching publishers on Kickstarter

Last year the publisher for Keeper of the Dawn, The Book Smugglers, raised over $24,000 to expand their publishing endeavors. I had seen small publishers and author groups crowdfund anthologies, but I had never seen any publishing project earn such an enormous amount of money. I was newly inspired, and although I had no delusions of hitting the same level of funding, I gained the confidence to believe that I could crowdfund Moonshadow’s Guardian.

Creating my crowdfunding campaign

Several months ago I buckled down and began working on everything I needed to build a successful campaign. I spent several days researching every science fiction and fantasy book published through Kickstarter, and compiled a list of crowdfunding essentials:

  • A brilliant cover – This is something every book needs, and if you’re crowdfunding, you need to have it before you start the campaign. Despite the old saying, everyone judges a book by its cover. Make sure you’ve got the right one the first time.
  • A strong blurb – Your blurb needs to sell people on your book before they’ll commit to your campaign. Study blurbs in your genre, write your own, and get feedback from a variety of people before you finalize it. You need to hook people right away.
  • A clear set of rewards – Most backers won’t just donate because they like you. They’re interested in the rewards you’re offering. Make sure you’re 100% clear about the rewards in your campaign description and the actual backer sign up area, and that you don’t promise anything you can’t actually provide.
  • A clear budget breakdown – You need this to make sure you’re raising the right amount of money, and to show your backers what their money is going toward.
  • A schedule of guest appearances – Your existing audience will be a significant portion of your backers, but you’ll need to put your campaign in front of some new eyeballs too. I’ve planned at least two guest appearances for every week of my campaign, including taking over several Twitter chats.

All four of these things went through several iterations before I launched my campaign last month. I got feedback from several different people on both the cover and the blurb, and found several kindhearted authors willing to donate copies of their books as rewards. I wrote several guest blog posts, and planned to release a series of excerpts from my worldbuilding notes to build excitement.

And last week, Moonshadow’s Guardian hit 100% funded, with nine days left to go! There are three days left in the campaign, and Moonshadow’s Guardian is now 112% funded. All of my hard work paid off, and now I get to bring Moonshadow’s Guardian out on my ideal schedule, not a schedule based on when I could actually afford it.

Should you crowdfund your book?

Crowdfunding is something you should only consider if you have a strong community willing to rally around your book. I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as I have without the readers who loved Keeper of the Dawn, and I definitely wouldn’t have raised the money so quickly (I’ve actually been sitting at roughly 90% funded since last Friday) without the books other indie authors agreed to donate.

To be honest, even with that community, I still wouldn’t crowdfund your book unless you absolutely have to. If I believed I could fund professional-quality publication of Moonshadow’s Guardian this year on my own, I would be doing it that way. Having a Kickstarter before your release is essentially launching your book twice. It’s a lot of work, even for a modest goal like my $1500. Work I could be putting toward the actual release, or the sequel.

But my resources are limited, so I turned to the crowdfunding community. And I’m grateful to have that option.

Have you ever considered crowdfunding your book? Why/why not?

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About the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

This article is part of the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a blog hop for writers who want to learn from each other and build a community.

25 thoughts on “#AuthorToolboxBlogHop: Crowdfunding

    • dlgunn

      Thanks! I must admit, most of the reason I was confident enough to do it was because my day job is marketing. My selling muscle is a lot stronger than most writers’.

  • Your cover is beautiful, did you make it yourself?
    I’ve considered crowdfunding. It seems like a great idea, if you can get it to work. It’s great to hear how well it worked for you, congratulations 🙂

  • I was totally blown away by this. I never considered crowdfunding a book. But I don’t have the social media presence to pull something like this off. Congrats on reaching your goal. Looking forward to updates on your book’s progress

    • dlgunn

      Glad I could open your eyes to a new funding avenue, even if you never choose to take this route yourself. Just knowing all the options is an amazing feeling!

  • Congrats on your crowdfunding campaign! That’s so exciting. And the tips are extremely helpful for being successful in this. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  • D.R. Shoultz

    Congratulations on exceeding your goal. I learned from your post, but not sure I have the backing to pull something like this off. Best of luck!

    • dlgunn

      You might not have the backing now, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be possible someday. Most of the successful author Kickstarters I’ve seen have been for an author’s second, third, or even later books.

  • Congrats on your success! I’ve heard about many authors using crowdfunding. My worry is that too many authors/writers are now using it and it’s going to be too competitive or people will start ignoring it. I still think the concept is great, and getting help from other authors and your community with prizes, etc, is a wonderful idea. I’m storing this info if I ever need it. Thank you!

    • dlgunn

      Thank you! I personally think authors are actually UNDER utilizing Kickstarter, based on the research I did. And if you already have a fan base of people who are excited enough to pre-order your book, those people will come to your Kickstarter campaign and support it – you don’t necessarily have to be in competition with other Kickstarter campaigns.

      I also had a couple backers who actually came to my campaign from the Tiny Wastelands campaign, which happened to be running at the same time, which just proves that Kickstarters are a lot like regular books – people are willing to buy more of them than any one person can make, so there’s room for all of us.

  • Way to go Dianna! That’s an incredible accomplishment. I’m definitely going to come back to this point. And I’ll add it on Facebook in a couple of weeks. 🙂

    • dlgunn

      It definitely requires a certain level of confidence – you need to believe that you can not only sell books, but sell a whole bunch at once AND before the book is actually published. Luckily confidence in my work is the one thing I’ve never lacked, even when confidence in MYSELF has dwindled.

  • Congratulations on your successful Kickstarting campaign. It is a lot of hard work, and you deserve every cent you received. I have never run a campaign personally, but a friend of mine did. Great advice on ways to launch a successful campaign. I am thrilled it worked for you!

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