— Jenny Neill

Standing Out When Crowdsourcing

This year, I’ve been asked with increasing frequency what I know about using platforms like Kickstarter to fund book projects. Let me start by saying that I’ve not written a book (under my own name) nor have I used crowdsourcing to fund a project (yet). I am, however, a lifelong student of communications and technology with a keen interest in digital publishing.

Standing out when crowdsourcing

Photo courtesy of Haags Uitburo . Some rights reserved.

The artists I know who have been successful with crowdsourcing, and there are a few writers among them, have a knack for finding and cultivating community online. They also—and this is even more important for writers—find an audience. Not only do readers have to be interested in the author’s or journalist’s work, they have to be motivated enough to pay for it too.

What does it take to find such motivated benefactors? Sometimes being controversial works very well for an artist. One need only remember the case of Amanda Palmer, the musician who famously funded a tour through crowdsourcing. She broke records for the amount raised, but that alone wasn’t the root of the uproar she catalyzed. What made this story go viral was that Palmer “crowdsourced” local musicians she had initially had no intention of paying. Except maybe in beer or exposure. Unless she was in New York City, where she paid some musicians in money and beer.* But, I digress.

Palmer’s story, controversy aside, is not the typical scenario I encounter. She already had a cult following, which meant she had a built-in audience for her Kickstarter projects. Some writers considering using this or similar platforms may already have a fan base. But, outside of already published authors with loyal followings, most don’t. In fact, most who ask me about it are looking to get funding and recognition for their first book.

So, what should first-time authors understand about getting crowdsourced funding? Less than half of Kickstarter projects get funded. Take the time to look at what others in your genre are doing. Which projects succeed? Which fail? How can you model yours off of the successes? Read the guidelines, check out Kickstarter School, and review the stats.

If the Kickstarter vibe isn’t right for your project, take a look at alternatives like Indiegogo or Invested.in. A relative newcomer, Pubslush, is for those seeking funding for books only. Even if you decide to try selling your book in a more traditional way, Pubslush’s Preparing for Success is a great primer for first-time authors.

*In case you missed the whole Amanda Palmer controversy as it happened, here are the three posts at the center of the storm:

Just search for “Amanda Palmer Kickstarter” to find many other blog posts and articles on the subject.