Once upon a time, the process for getting published worked like this:
- Step One: Write a book
- Step Two: Beg an agent to represent that book
- Step Three: The agent begs a publisher to publish the book
- Step Four: Wait (a long time)
- Step Five: Publish
These days, self-publishing, e-publishing and independent publishing give lots of alternatives to the traditional path. For more authors every year, the DIY model of publishing is superior to the old ways. You get a higher commission. The lag between finishing your book and seeing it in print is shorter. You get more artistic control.
On the other hand, new publishing has one serious disadvantage as compared to the traditional route: no advance. In fact, it usually requires you to put out some of your own money to hire a professional editor, get the cover designed well and other tasks a traditional publisher would have done as part of their process. Luckily for independent types like us, a new(ish) platform has raised up that solves even that small issue:
Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo put the power of an advance, and funding professional production, in the hands of authors. They provide yet another alternative publishing model that works like this:
- Step One: Have an idea for a book you can write, and maybe a rough draft
- Step Two: Run a Kickstarter campaign that covers the cost of production, plus a little for time off to write
- Step Three: Finish the book only if the campaign funds successfully
- Step Four: Use the funds to professionally edit and design the book
- Step Five: Release the book with a partial fan community already in place
Although it requires some new skills for most authors, there’s a fair potential for this approach to be the best of all worlds.
Nonfiction Proof of Concept
It’s already working great for nonfiction writers. Seth Godin raised three times his $40,000 goal for the followup to We Are All Weird. Called The Icarus Deception, it sounds more like a Robert Ludlum novel than a work about modern communications and marketing but he raised $130,000 to write it. That sort of advance is extremely rare in today’s traditional nonfiction.
Other nonfiction writers who have rocked a Kickstarted project include Monte Cook (Numenara Role-Playing Game $517,255), Elexis Dubief (Precious Little Sleep $17,602) and Sharon Wee (Adorable Cakes for All Occasions $26,252). Though the model works best for established authors with a following, even new writers can fund a month’s worth of writing time and basic production with some crowdfunding help.
Fiction on the Rise
As in traditional publishing, fiction is less reliably successful as a crowdfunded effort – especially for brand-new authors without a following besides their parents and spouses – but it can still produce a self-made advance to write the sequel. Successful projects are funding in the $5,000 to $10,000 range…including authors who essentially used Kickstarter to fund their writing of a long series of novels.
Unlike nonfiction success in this realm, fiction crowdfunding is still a developing art instead of an established science. But people are figuring out more every day about how to succeed with the model.
A Work in Progress
April Huneycutt, a client of mine working on a memoir, is in the middle of Kickstarter funding right now. As of this writing, she’s at about $10,000 of the $15,000 she budgeted for time to write, professional production and an initial offset print run. She was able to answer a few questions for Fictional Café.
Can You Tell Us About Your Project?
A Cutt Above is my memoir of ten years in the stripping industry. There are a lot of stripper memoirs out there, but mine tells the story of how I used that funding and those contacts to become a serial entrepreneur. It has plenty of crazy stories, too, but the main theme is taking control of my life by using the tools I had available.
I have a pretty large following on social media, and a fair list of friends and supporters from my other entrepreneurial ventures. Compared to the long wait and lack of control in traditional publishing, it really felt like a no-brainer.
That was a tougher decision. Indiegogo and Kickstarter are the two options for serious crowdfunding. Indiegogo has the advantage that it pays whatever funds are raised whether or not you reach your stated goal. Kickstarter has a larger audience, but doesn’t pay if you don’t make your goal. Since I’m confident we’ll reach what we aim for, I went with the largest audience.
What’s the Biggest Challenge So Far?
It takes even more marketing than I had anticipated – and I had anticipated needing a lot of marketing. If I learned one thing to pass on to my fellow writers, it’s that you need to be able and ready to market the heck out of whatever you do. For a lot of us, that means getting training or professional support.
What was the Biggest Surprise?
I had a surprising number of people object to asking for $15,000 to publish a book. Compared to how much traditional publishers spend, that’s a tiny number…but not everybody knows that. I ended up posting an update detailing exactly where the money is going, which seems to have made people happy. But I was surprised that was necessary at all.
Thanks to April for sharing her experience and insights. She’s happy to answer any questions readers care to leave in the comments, and promises to chat with us for an update once the KS campaign closes.
What do you think of crowdfunding your fiction? Any experiences, opinions or ideas? Tell us about them in the comments below.