Crowdfunding. Think raising money by asking people to pledge to financially support your creative project or business start up. It’s a global industry and almost exclusively done online. Google crowdfunding and you will have a host of websites like Kickstarter or Crowdcube pop up. The rest is then up to you.
I knew nothing about Crowdfunding when I decided to write and illustrate my first children’s book. Ignorance can often be bliss so I did some brief research on successfully crowdfunded children’s books then decided that I would go with Kickstarter as my project platform as a result. It was literally as quick as that. Then the work really began.
I’m going to briefly share my campaign with you so you can have an idea of how it worked. Bear in mind I am UK based, have a good personal social media network (this is very important) and had a strong vision of what I wanted to do, and how I would do it, from the outset.
What’s the catch?
With Kickstarter the catch is you set the amount you wish to raise, and if you reach this then you get your funding. If you don’t then you don’t receive a penny.There is a 10% fee on the amount you wish to raise so build this into your project. You also set your timescale for the length of the project to run. When it’s over it’s over!
What’s in it for supporters?
People who pledge you money are referred to as backers. They are giving you money to make your project happen. With Kickstarter you don’t give anybody a share in your business or have any financial commitment to them. But, you are expected to offer ‘rewards’ to backers. This is how you incentivise people to back you over and above them loving your project and wanting to see it happen!
In my case as an author I offered different rewards depending on how much people pledged. This ranged from thank you’s in my book to signed copies and merchandise I created such as greetings cards.
What’s the cost?
It’s free to set up an account online with Kickstarter. However, all the most successful campaigns do have films to share their story, often photography and details of the project. This means you will need to invest time in preparing a business plan and must consider whether you feel that having a film is important.
For me a film was a great way to share my story in four minutes so I invested £7.99 in a phone mic, borrowed a tripod and used the free movie making software on my computer which I learnt to use. I filmed and edited my own movie which took around 80 hours! This might sound a lot but compared to £2,000 upwards to buy in this service I was happy to invest my time. My background is also photography and digital design so I had some creative skills. This really helped. To give it a professional edge I bought some music but there are lots of free music sites where you can download royalty free songs.
raising money, easy peasy or arg?!
Network. Network. Network. Mistakenly I assumed that once my campaign was live I would get people from all over the globe loving my project and wanting to see it happen. Oops. My personal network across social media and website presence just wasn’t strong enough and I had no budget for marketing. I did have a couple of people pledge who I didn’t know, but to be honest 98% of people were known to me.
I kept people updated on what I was doing, why I was doing it and what the outcome would be through facebook, twitter and Instagram. This in itself meant my networks expanded in followers, even though these people weren’t pledging, but this would really help me if and when I launched my book.
The success rate for crowdfunding books is 30%. This means 70% of campaigns fail to raise the money. Like I said earlier, if you don’t raise your target by the end of the project timeline then you get nothing. It’s important to weigh this up when deciding if crowdfunding is for you.
Successfully raising the money from people who wanted to share in my vision was a fantastic vote of confidence in me as a new author. Of course I completely underestimated the amount of time and effort it would require to plan, run and complete the campaign. Then I had to actually finish the book and fulfil my backer rewards! None of this was income generating so you must be ready to invest a lot of your time for free to make your project happen.
I did meet all my deadlines and created my first book which I now sell through my website, Amazon, my local Waterstones and at local events and shows. A key pledge was donating a copy to primary schools across the Isle of Wight which I have done, plus undertaking schools visits and expanding my merchandise range. I am now working on my next book.
I had no idea that crowdfunding was merely the first step in being an independent author. Completing, publishing, launching and selling my book would be an even more challenging experience, but that’s another blog.
If you would like to look at my crowdfunding campaign click HERE.
If you have any questions about my campaign and crowdfunding then I will try to answer them on my facebook page Marianne Su Yin just post HERE.