Can Crowd Funding Help Authors Get a Book Project Off the Ground?By Lynn Serafinn on February 13th, 2013
Crowd funding can often seem to be the solution to financing a book project. But statistics show 90% of all crowd funding campaigns fail. When is the right and wrong time for an author to embark on a crowd funding venture?
Years ago, in the golden days of Hollywood, the story of actress Lana Turner was an urban legend. As the story goes, she got her big break in the film industry by “getting discovered” at age 16, when she was sipping a soda at a drug store. Stories like this, while undoubtedly antiquated in today’s world, have long been the mythology of artists. When I was in the music industry, there was scarcely a musician who didn’t dream of “getting signed” by a big label. We only need to look at shows like The X-Factor to see that the dream of “getting discovered” and being skyrocketed to instant fame is still very much a driving force in the artistic community.
Many authors today continue to have a similar myth playing at the back of their minds. They still dream of landing that big publishing deal, with that big juicy advance. But times have changed. Technology has changed the landscape. Just as the era of home studios and digital downloads “democratised” the music industry, enabling virtually anyone to make an album, the era of digital publishing and print-on-demand has enabled anyone to publish a book. Because of this glut of artists on the market, traditional publishers have more competition. Therefore they’re getting pickier. They don’t want to take risks. If they’re going to shell out their money on an author, it has to be a sure thing. These days, publishers expect authors to be good at marketing and promoting their own books. Let’s face it: while publishing deals do still exist, the “glory days” where the author is developed by a publisher are mostly a thing of the past.
But here’s the Catch-22 situation: authors are “artists”. And artists are notorious for being “starving artists”, meaning they’re not always the best money earners. So how can an author get started in the industry without a little help?
One thing many artists have considered is crowd funding, which has evolved with the dawn of Web 2.0. Crowd funding is where you reach out to the public (over the Internet) for funds for your project. It’s rapidly becoming a serious part of business growth for artists (especially filmmakers, recording artists and authors) as well as social enterprises and non-profits. In other words, it has appeal mainly for what I would call “right brain ventures” as opposed to hard-core businesses.
Some authors have used it to great success. Seth Godin’s 2012 crowd funding campaign for his book The Icarus Deception is probably the most famous example. He aimed to raise $40,000 in an “all or nothing” campaign on Kickstarter. He ended up raising $287,342 instead—more than 7 times his target. This is stuff that urban legends are made of.
BUT (and here’s the big but), statistics show that that 90% of all crowd funding campaigns FAIL. I’ve watched several of these failed campaigns happen before my eyes. And if you listen to what Seth Godin has to say in his video on his Kickstarter page, you can get an idea of why this happens:
“Maybe this hybrid method, maybe this open door where drip, drip, drip over the years you build a tribe. And then you go to the tribe and do what Kickstarter is great at, which is not building the tribe but leveraging the tribe. And then, and only then can you say, ‘OK, here’s this object. Let’s go…'”
And therein lies the key: Crowd funding campaigns are NOT for the beginner.
I know, you might think there’s a great irony in the fact that the new author needs help with funding more than those who are already established. But think about it from the funder’s perspective: If you are a complete unknown, how is your book going to sell? Would you give away your money to a book project for an author that has not yet developed a loyal audience?
While you don’t have to be famous like Seth Godin to run a crowd funding campaign, you DO need to be well connected. I have two current clients who will be running crowd funding campaigns to finance their book projects in 2013. One (whom I won’t announce yet) is a first-time author, but I’m sure she will succeed. Why? Because she’s been building a massive tribe for the past 5 years and the topic of her book is spot-on target for their interests. She’s also a well-known expert on the topic of the book, and a notably successful businesswoman.
The other client is a woman named Erica Tucci. Let me tell you about Erica and why I think her project will also be a success.
In 2011, Erica suffered a profound stroke that stopped her life dead in its tracks. Now as she recovers, she’s writing a book called Radiant Survivor: How to Shine and Thrive through Recovery from Stroke, Cancer, Abuse, Addiction and Other Life-Altering Experiences. She’s nearly done with the first draft. In the book she shares not only her own journey, but stories from several others who have faced their own tragedies and have survived and thrived in spite of the odds. She also offers practical healing advice on how those devastated by illness can find an awakening to an entirely new life. And finally, Erica is also committing a percentage of the proceeds to a stroke rehabilitation centre that she attributes to saving her life. Altogether, the project promises to help and inspire many people.
Still in recovery and not fully able to work or earn money, Erica is planning a crowd funding campaign to subsidize the launch of the book. In truth, it’s really her only option to cover all the expenses entailed in getting her book out: hiring an editor/proofreader, book cover design, interior layout, eBook formatting, printing and, of course, the costs of marketing and launching the book (which our Spirit Authors team is doing for her).
Erica got a lot of ideas about what to do (and what not to do) in “Tip 138” of my book Tweep-e-licious, where I talk about using Twitter to propel a crowd funding campaign. In the book, I discuss in detail the top 5 mistakes most people make (not just authors) when they try to run a crowd funding campaign. Here’s a video of Erica talking about what she picked up from that tip:
If you’re reading this in your Inbox and cannot see the video, you can view it on YouTube HERE.
Erica hasn’t officially launched her crowd funding campaign yet, because she’s taking time to do her due diligence, much as Seth Godin infers above. She’s taking time to build her tribe and create her marketing materials—not for the book, but for the crowd funding campaign itself. I think this preparation, along with the compelling nature of the project itself, will lead to her success in this campaign. If you want to watch Erica’s progress, or help her with this campaign, I whole-heartedly encourage you to connect with her via Twitter at @EricaTucciMuse or on her Facebook page Radiant Survivor
Twitter can be a great component in building your tribe and, when the time is right, running a crowd funding campaign. Tweep-e-licious: 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Marketing Their Business Ethically can help you with both. I hope you’ll check it out at http://tweep-e-licious.com. When you buy the book, you’ll get a link to a free Twitter resource pack with a 90-minute Twitter audio class and links to over 100 useful Twitter resources to help get you on your way.
I also invite you to subscribe to my Tweep-e-licious playlist on YouTube, to see what other Twitter marketing tips readers have shared (drop me a line if you’d like to make a video too!): http://bit.ly/TweepVideos
~ Lynn Serafinn
13 February 2013
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketer, social media expert, radio host, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She was recently named one of the Top 100 marketing authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was selected as a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. Her eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. In her work as a promotional manager she has produced a long list of bestselling mind-body-spirit authors. Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, a budding social enterprise whose aim is to help grow a new generation of passionate entrepreneurs who want to serve both people and planet through innovative, ethical, independent enterprise.