Crowdfunding for Books: Would You Do It?

It’s Tuesday, oh yes it is, and I hope you all have had a very good week so far. My apologies for not getting back to the comments on my post last week – I was struck down by what we on this side of the ocean call ‘lurgy’.

In my travels through social media over the past little while, I’ve run across the concept of authors using crowdfunding to raise money to publish their books. Crowdfunding, according to Wikipedia,  ’describes the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the Internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.’

As its popularity has increased, so too has the number of websites devoted to helping creatives crowdsource. One of the most popular is Kickstarter, which describes itself as ‘a funding platform for creative projects. Everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology . . . Since our launch on April 28, 2009, over $350 million has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people, funding more than 30,000 creative projects.’

Many indie authors have successfully used this method to publish their novels — GalleyCat features a new Kickstarter project every week, and Jason Boog recently wrote a column on how to successfully crowdsource. Still, I have to admit that something about this method makes me feel rather . . . uncomfortable. I agree it’s a valid way to raise much-needed funds and that no-one is twisting any arms for people to donate, but something in me would feel beholden to create a project I know the donors would enjoy, and I wonder if the pressure would impede my creativity.

And what if the donors didn’t like the end product? Would they demand their money back again?

It will be interesting to see how this new reader-driven model will evolve, and if authors will eventually come to resent having to answer to their donors the same way traditionally published authors often resent being controlled by publishers.

Have you tried crowdfunding? Would you? What do you think of this model?

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  1. Angela Brown says:

    I haven’t tried crowdfunding myself, though I can see why it would be helpful. Self-publishing can get expensive, especially when contracting out various steps of the process. But I think, for me, I’d prefer to keep the funding of my projects inhouse. The one great thing about self-publishing is the ability to roll with a product and timetable that you, the publisher, deem is good for you. Once others get into the picture, things could change a bit.

    • Talli Roland says:

      I couldn’t agree more. I love have the ‘power’ with me! Of course I take readers into account, but I wouldn’t like to have to answer to them financially.

  2. Most self-published books sell between 100 and copies. Unless I was kickstarting a project by an author with a known track record and an audience, I’d be pretty reluctant to invest unless I viewed it as a ‘charitable donation’ of sorts for a friend, and then my investment would be modest ($25).

    In other words … I’d be making the -same- business decision the Big-6 publishing houses make.

  3. LM Preston says:

    I’ve had a handful of author friends fund the publishing of their novels, booktrailers and projects this way. It’s considered as sort of a way to drum up pre-orders for the book while funding it. I don’t see a problem with it. I have even supported a few projects.

  4. D.J.Kirkby says:

    I have donated to crowd funding projects but haven’t considered using this method myself. I worry about the same things you do though it would be nice to have funding for a novel!

  5. I wouldn’t do it for a book (which doesn’t cost me that much since I do formatting and cover art myself), but I have considered doing it to raise funds for having a professional produce audiobook versions of my books.

    I have donated to two different indiegogo campaigns (similar to kickstarter), both from authors whose work I enjoyed. For the most recent one, in return I’m getting both a signed print version as well as an ebook copy, so my $25 contribution feels like it has some value to me as well as to the author. I can’t remember the perks offered by the first one I took part in, but I remember feeling good about both what I received and about helping an author trying to produce their art.

    • Talli Roland says:

      India. that’s interesting – thanks for sharing that, and what you received as a benefit of funding. I suppose if the perks about equal the value of the contribution, I’d feel more comfortable with it.

  6. This isn’t something I could imagine doing. I have a hard enough time asking people to vote for me for different things, no way I’d feel comfortable asking for money.

  7. Helen Kara says:

    I’ve been thinking about using crowdfunding as a way to raise funds to support the writing of my next non-fiction academic book, so it’s interesting to read your thoughts on the subject. My books are traditionally published, but my publisher is a not-for-profit, and I write in my own time, so fundraising seems legit. I’ve worked as a fundraiser, so I have no shame whatsoever about asking people for money. At least, I wouldn’t work as a chugger, but an online ask is so easy to ignore – I should know; I do it all the time! I’ve done a bit of research into how the whole crowdfunding thing works, and I haven’t yet decided to go ahead, but I definitely haven’t ruled it out either. I like the idea of offering an e-book in return, so if I can get my publisher on board with that, I may well give it a try.

  8. Debbie Koehler says:

    I think the whole idea is a hoot; folks use it for all kinds of ventures and projects.

    My son used Kickstarter to attempt to fund a CD project (he’s a musician). He didn’t have any luck with it, but that’s where I learned about the concept. It’s not as weird as it sounds, provided you’re clear on what it is and why you’re doing it. I think it works especially well for someone just starting out.

    I have considered using it to fund a print version of the first volume of my fantasy trilogy when I’m ready to publish. (I’m waiting to finish the second volume before I go ahead.) I have people in my life who would enjoy supporting my effort to get Amoran published in some shape or form (among them, my dozen+ beta readers). I would feel no obligation at all to change or tailor my book to potential “donors.” As far as the “perks” you offer (think donor gifts), you can enumerate levels of funding, and offer those “perks” accordingly. To entice people, I might put up the first three chapters, list my “perks,” and then let people decide. The worst that would happen is I wouldn’t reach my funding goal and therefore, not get any money. Best case scenario, I get my book published at a time when I have only just now found a job after months and months of unemployment.

    I guess it all boils down to what you’re comfortable with, and what your goals and resources are. Personally, whether I wind up doing it or not, I love the idea of this grassroots approach to funding!

  9. SK Holmesley says:

    Over the years, I’ve “donated” to a few projects to help the creator. Generally, special circumstances where I appreciated work they had done in the past and was, along with other fans, helping out.

    I was, and still am, a fan of David Weber’s Honor Harrington series. A number of years back when he had a bad year (a death in his family, broken arm, other issues), and was having trouble finishing his current book, I bought one of his hard bound books (typically, I bought paperback), then picked up a number of his eBooks published on (shutting down shop at this point if not already shut down), even though I had already bought and read the paperback version. A number of other fans signed up for Baen’s read it in draft initiative, which also gave a front up donation to the author. I don’t know if it helped, but he survived that year and got the next book written eventually.

    Similarly, when Cliff Johnson a number of years back (around 20 years ago) needed help, a plethora of his fans “pre-ordered” the second game in his The Fool games. I had enjoyed the first game so much, I sent a donation. In any case I wasn’t too concerned about whether he finished the second game or not (wanted him to, but not too concerned), but wanted to send support to someone whose efforts had brought me so much fun just to say thank you for what he had already done. I recently saw a notice that the 2nd game in that series was finished and will certainly buy it (theoretically, I’ve already paid for it, but I’m still a fan and want to make sure that he has something to show for his efforts).

    Both those cases, however, and other similar over the years were to thank someone whose efforts I had already enjoyed. I don’t really look for projects to invest in, but am very likely to jump in for someone whose work I’ve enjoyed if I incidentally find out they need help.

  10. Seeley James says:

    I raised $9,000 on Kickstarter. Would I do it again… if/when I can change a few things.

    There is no difference between asking people to buy your book and asking people to back your Kickstarter. In each case, you are offering entertainment for $. With Kickstarter, you’re asking for it in advance of publication. In other words, you’re allowing pre-orders — Just like James Patterson.

    When you do a Kickstarter project, you offer “rewards” for different levels of backing. You control the value you assign to a reward level. The smart thing to do is offer something realistic for the amount of money. A hardcover often sells for $25-30, so offering a hardcover to backers of $25 is the same as hand-selling a book.

    Think of it as a community loan. You owe it to your backers to produce a result. They have no recourse and no money-back avenue. This is known by all parties up front. There have been ugly reviews for my favorite book & Kickstarter project: The Girl Who Would Be King. But they sound like whiny complaints from whackos. SO, no downside.

    I had the cash reserves and didn’t need the money. I did it in the hopes of getting the word out about the imminent release. It didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. But it wasn’t a failure either.

    The downsides lie in your “reach” or the ability to pull in enough backers to accomplish your goals. I had barely enough reach to accomplish mine. I would not do it again until/unless I had ten times the email list.

    If you have a list of 5,000 emails, and a great project, use Kickstarter to sell exclusive copies to your fan base. They love it. The aforementioned “The Girl Who Would Be King” offered a limited edition hardcover, signed and numbered for $50. I snapped that up on the premise alone and loved the book when it came out. To preserve the limited edition, I read the ebook and sealed the hardcover for the future. (Great book, btw).

    I’ve also been terribly disappointed in a few projects. One was an arrogant SOB of a software programmer who “decided he would write a book”. Because he had a huge Social Media base, he ran a successful project. But he is currently six months behind schedule, the early chapters SUCK, there is no end in sight and his Twitter following is shrinking daily. Predicting this outcome, I backed his project just to keep tabs on him. Another promising project was a kid writing his grandparent’s immigration story. Unfortunately, his house was leveled by hurricane Sandy and his project is delayed.

    There are good, bad, and meh projects. But it’s up to you to provide value to your backers.

    Peace, Seeley

  11. deniz says:

    It’s a bit weird, because you’d be raising money to print a book, and would presumably then offer a copy to those who’d donated.
    So why not simply self-publish, and print on demand as you get orders?
    I’ve donated to a few projects, but the only book related ones were to sponsor translations.
    My first ever donation, and still the best one, was Amanda Palmer’s Theatre is Evil release; she’d already recorded the album, but needed money to help mix and master it and create the best packaging and tour possible. I got an awesome deluxe double CD and a bunch of stickers, and mine was the lowest donation possible. There were so many other neat things on offer for higher donaters, up to a private concert by her at your house!
    The Acts of Whimsy fundraiser for Jay Lake is on right now – and the ‘acts’ are open to everyone, not just donaters!

  12. D.D. Scott says:

    I’ve been watching this “experiment” too, Talli! And it’s not just in the publishing industry, as you’ve said.

    In fact, how many of you here in The States have seen the new car add on TV where you’re basically crowdfunding your car?! For example, your dad could buy the engine for you for your birthday, grandma could fund the wheels for Christmas and so forth until your car is paid for and ready to pick up! I’m not kidding! I can’t remember which car company it is and what they’ve called it, but they’re now crowdfunding too.

    I can see it being highly effective for these large ticket items and say in the Indie Film world or music business, but I’m not sure it’s good for projects like producing Ebooks that are usually made well for $1,000 or less. I don’t know though, if you don’t have the grand to put into it? Why not try it?

    Great topic! :-)