Crowdfunding: A Creative Way to Fund Your Book

This article was contributed by Polly Letofsky.

Money and booksOne of the greatest revolutions in the past few years of this self-publishing boom is the advent of crowdfunding.

Here’s the hard truth—up until just a few years ago big publishing companies had full control over the content that got out into the world by saying yes or no to writers and their works. They also had full control over the presses and all the distribution channels. The revolution of publishing means that as writers we can now get any content we want into the world, with full access to printers and distributors. And the last hurdle is now being tackled—financing.

Crowdfunding is the concept of an individual reaching a financial goal by receiving and leveraging small contributions from many parties. For a writer, it’s a great new way to fund your book without going into credit card debt or asking your parents for the capital.

Crowdfunding has been around in some shape or form since God was a boy, but the inception of modern day crowdfunding came in 1997 when a British rock band funded their reunion tour through donations from fans. Shortly thereafter, more crowdfunding plat- forms began to emerge, and the crowdfunding industry has grown consistently each year.

When the economy took a plunge in late 2008, banks stopped handing out loans, Small Business Association loans were few, and other finance options became significantly downsized. That’s when crowdfunding emerged as a major funding source and has sky- rocketed from a $530 million industry in 2009 to upwards of 5 billion in 2014.

There are a number of benefits to crowdfunding outside just raising the capital to publish your book. One of those benefits is that this is a great way to essentially pre-sell your book. Another benefit is to create a buzz. But please don’t think for a minute that it’s going to be easy. This is a campaign, and like any campaign you need to create a plan, implement, and follow up, follow up, follow up.

While most people do these campaigns by themselves, there have recently been companies popping up that will create the campaigns for you. But even with their help, it’s nothing you can entirely hand off to someone else. A crowdfunding campaign is about connecting with your people: friends, family, neighbors, and colleagues. Very few crowd- funding campaigns actually go viral and make a connection with people outside their circle. In fact, 20% of campaigns don’t earn anything. So hiring a company will only guide you, but it is still up to you to make your campaign successful.

To drive home that point, most campaigns are made up of 98% of people in your circle. In other words, only 2% of people that donate are people you don’t know. They might be friends of friends who bond with your project, or a pledger may have found you simply trolling through the crowdfunding site.

There are four main types of crowdfunding: donation, rewards, equity, and debt. Raising capital for book publishing is reward crowdfunding. That is to say, people give money in exchange for a promised reward.

The three main platforms for reward crowdfunding are Kickstarter.com, Indigogo.com and Pubslush.com.

Kickstarter is the most well-known platform and concentrates on more art-related projects: art, music, film, dance, books, etc. With Kickstarter your campaign has to be creating something: a book, a CD, a dance video, etc. You can’t raise funds for marketing because marketing is not creating something. You should also know that Kickstarter has a selection process with a whopping 40% of projects being turned down.

With an Indiegogo campaign you can raise capital for anything: arts, business, even a non-profit. Pubslush is a niche community dedicated to the literary world by allowing only literacy-based projects. They also offer terrific campaign support from their free Basic Support Package to the Platinum Prep for $250. A benefit to using Pubslush or Indigogo is that they do allow campaign funds to go toward marketing, PR, registration, and other elements of a project that aren’t creating something.

Crowdfunding platforms offer two types of campaigns: fixed or flexible. Kickstarter only offers “fixed” campaigns, which means that you set an amount that you want to raise and if you don’t raise that amount you don’t get to collect anything that has been pledged. In exchange for that, though, you pay a lesser percentage fee than with “flexible” campaigns.

A “flexible” campaign means you set your desired goal and you get whatever has been pledged, whether you’ve met that goal or not. If you raise your intended amount, you pay only a 4% service fee—if you don’t raise the intended amount you pay 9%—so, you can see the incentive to campaign heavily to reach your goals. (NOTE: Obviously these numbers are subject to change, so always check before you dive into a campaign.)

The bad news is that 60% of campaigns don’t reach their intended amount. The great news is that publishing campaigns have a 30% higher rate of success than other campaigns. Here are other tips, hints, and stats we know:

  • Campaigns with a video are 60% more likely to get funded. It’s your main sales tool, so make it compelling. You want to explain succinctly what the money will be used for, but not in a “salesy,” infomercial way.
  • Your video should be under two minutes.
  • While most platforms allow up to a 60-day campaign, those from 30-34 days are the most successful.
  • Be conservative with your goal. A common misconception is that people will stop giving if you’ve hit you’re goal. It’s not true. People like to be part of something exciting.
  • If you hit 30% of your goal in the first two weeks, your chances of success is 85%.

 

 

So make the hard push at the beginning and follow through.

  • 10% of those you reach out to will give to the campaign.
  • Your pledgers should hear from you every couple of days throughout the campaign. You do this to keep them interested, up to date, and to create the buzz.
  • Regarding timing, summer is a tough time to do the project, with so many people vacationing at that time of year. Fall and early spring are preferable. Never host a campaign over a holiday season.

 

 

REWARDS

The rewards in your campaign are what your pledgers receive from you in return for a stated amount. It’s best to have between five and seven rewards that might vary from a $5 reward for a public thank you on your website up to a $1,500 reward for naming a character, town, or street after them in your book. You want the larger rewards to be unique and experiential. For example, for a $500 reward you could offer lunch with the author. If it’s a memoir, you could offer lunch with a number of people who are mentioned in the book.

Other good ideas for rewards could be an author appearance at their book club, a speaking engagement, an ad on your website or at the end of the book. To gather ideas for rewards, it’s a great idea to troll through some of the campaigns with books and genres similar to your own and see what has been successful. If anything, it will get your creative juices flowing.

Best practices for rewards are:

  • Offer five to seven rewards
  • $25 is the most popular reward
  • $25 should be the least amount donated to receive a reward of your book
  • $100 is where you’ll make the most money
  • Make two of your rewards experiential. People like something unique. The zanier the better.
  • When you’re creating your rewards don’t forget the cost of postage, packing, service fees, payment fees, etc.

 

 

In summary, a crowdfunding campaign is a brilliant new way to finance your book project. But please don’t take it lightly; it’s a full-time commitment if you are going to be successful. Good luck. And congratulations for stepping into the world of publishing at the most exciting time in history.

Perfectionists Rarely Publish or Promote Their Books

Bag over HeadThere may be a point where you stall in the publishing or marketing process of your book. Deep down inside, you want to give birth to your book, but the fear of exposing yourself in such a public way terrifies you.

You may become overwhelmed with the fear of judgment and criticism. You may feel naked and vulnerable. These are normal feelings for both the first time author and even for seasoned authors with each new book creation.

You may suddenly doubt yourself and wonder if your book is good enough or if you are good enough. You may begin to think your book is not perfect enough and begin to feel it needs more editing or a rewrite.

Then if your book is done, you may feel book shame. You or a reader may have found a mistake. You may go into hiding and hope no one finds your books or sees you.

Let me reassure you that most every book I have read has contained an error of some sort and I have had to correct one or more in every book I have published. (Professional editing helps, but things still slip through the cracks!)

My first book was not very good and my first public talk about it was embarrassing. I also got a bad review, which felt humiliating. As a result, I stopped writing and speaking for 5 years! I hid and pretended writing and speaking didn’t matter to me.

I finally got brave and dared to write again. And then again and again. I gave talks that were not perfect, and I sometimes watched people yawn or doze off. But I also had people tell me that they got something out of my book or talk, and that gave me the courage to keep going.

I began to realize that I had a deep passion to write and that I loved it so much that I would continue to write even imperfectly. My books and articles do not resonate with everyone, and I am okay with that. I have decided to share my story, my wisdom, my experiences and myself. By bravely sharing publicly and being visible, I have the potential to make a difference to even one reader and a whole lot more.

So my advice is to go for it! This life is not a dress rehearsal. Write and then promote and market your book. I don’t want you to have any regrets! Play big in the game of life! As Maya Angelou says, “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.”

View Lisa Shultz’s books!

Book Contests

As your book approaches launch or soon afterwards, you may want to consider entering it into a few book contests. Usually these contests are for the year your book is published, so you should check deadlines and be aware of them.

There are pros and cons of entering contests. If your book does well and wins an award, you can add this accomplishment to your marketing efforts. If you attend the awards ceremony, you can add pictures of you receiving the award to your website and post on social media giving you increased exposure, credibility and an excuse to shout out to the world again about your book. Sometimes book agents review contest winners, so there is a possibility of being contacted by an agent and having more opportunities for your book.

Upon winning, you may also be given an emblem or sticker that can be place on your book cover. You may even elect to edit your back cover copy to include the award designation.

The cons of entering contests are the cost and potential for disappointment. If you might regret not giving this opportunity a chance, then go for it.

Here are a few contests to consider entering.

(You may also want to research online for local contests and others that might fit with your particular genre.)

Colorado Book Awards

www.coloradohumanities.org

Benjamin Franklin Awards

www.ibpabenjaminfranklinawards.com

Foreword Book of the Year

www.forewordreviews.com

Next Generation Indie Excellence Book Awards

www.indiebookawards.com

The National Indie Excellence Book Awards

www.indieexcellence.com

IPPY (Independent Publishers)

www.independentpublisher.com

Readers Favorite

www.readersfavorite.com

Good luck!

E-Books & PDFs & Apps—Oh My!

E-Book AppDid you know that 50% of Americans now own a tablet or e-reader device? A new Pew Research Center survey shows that e-reading has been rising along with tablet ownership. This is encouraging if you are considering publishing your book digitally. But which would be a better way to go: e-book or app? Let’s take a look at how they compare.

An advantage to reading e-books on a digital device is the flexible text which allows the font size to vary and reflow to fit the screen. Additional features such as highlighting, note-taking, read-along audio, and a built-in dictionary are important to readers of e-books. If your book is mostly text, with few images, an e-book would be a great publishing option.

What about picture books that are mainly full-page illustrations with very little text? An e-book option might be to export a PDF of the print book layout. A PDF, or Portable Document Format, is fixed and preserves the look of the printed book. One drawback to a PDF, however, is that the pages are usually too large for digital screens, forcing the reader to scroll around to see the entire page. Also, since most e-book distributors do not support PDF uploads, the author would need to set up a shopping cart capable of delivering digital files in order to sell PDFs online.

Another option for picture book authors would be to create an app from their story and characters. By adding games, animation, and activities, readers become engaged with the book in a whole new way. Education and entertainment combine in an app for a fun, interactive reading experience.

To find out more about digital publishing options, please contact Gail Nelson at e-book-design.com.

Why to Consider Writing an eBook

e-BookYou are an expert at something. You have a passion for something. Why not share all you know with your audience and create an item to sell online?

Having an eBook helps you brand yourself and is the first step that can often lead to a printable, “real” book and more business opportunities such as speaking engagements and consulting.

Your eBook makes you a credible expert in the eyes of your viewers. You may have been passing out tips and strategies for years in your blog posts or in handouts and newsletters that can be turned into an eBook that you can sell.

Your eBook is a low cost item that can lead to other packages and services of higher value. You can even give away your eBook to build your subscription numbers and opt-in lists or use it as a bonus for a larger purchase of another kind.

By promoting your eBook, you will be perceived as the “go to” person in your niche. You may even find the process is so easy that you begin work on a tele-seminar or webnar with the information you have collected for your eBook. These are also income opportunities as you can record these events and create CD’s or DVD’s.

Remember that your eBook is often a teaser for a larger product or service. Keep the eBook simple and helpful but not everything you know. Let the eBook lend itself to the reader wanting to hire you as a consultant or buy another book or product of some kind.

Be sure and have your website on the bottom of each page in case your eBook is passed around. At the end of the book, have a call to action that prompts another purchase or visit to your website. Offer a bonus, a free gift or a discount for something else you offer.

Often you can take your blog posts and repurpose them into an eBook. If your eBook is short for example under 20 pages, you may want to offer it for free. Over 20 pages and you can charge a fee. Be careful not to put too many topics into one eBook as you may be able to break them into multiple eBooks.

Transition gracefully from one section to another in your book. At the end of a section, you may want to let the reader know what is next or what they will learn in the next chapter.

eBooks are beneficial if they solve a common problem that your audience often experiences. You may also be offering hot tips to accelerate their business. Decide on your angle, and then create a title that captures attention and states clearly how the reader will benefit from reading it. Be specific to the niche you wish to reach. Narrow your focus and target audience by including that niche name in the title or subtitle. To sell well, do not try to appeal to everyone.

For example, if I wanted to help entrepreneurial stay-at-home moms make money, I might title my eBook, Tips for Entrepreneurial Stay-at-Home Moms to Make Money while your Baby Naps: What You Can Do in One Power Hour to Earn Income. This identifies my audience clearly.

Consider whether your eBook builds the brand you are trying to establish. Include information about yourself and your specialty to clearly define your zone of expertise for future reference and to lead into other projects you have completed or will have available in the future.

Create bullet points that a prospective reader will glean from the purchase of your eBook, and use those bullet points in your marketing strategy.

Lastly, tell your story in the book. Why did you write it? Was it the book you wish you had had when you were going through a particular time in your life? Let the reader relate to you with a bit of your story so they feel connected to you as they read along. Let your passion flow into the work and enjoy the process of creation. You may find yourself writing more and more using your eBook as a stepping stone to more books.

Continue to Write and Forgive Yourself Along the Way

Eat, Pray, LoveI really enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray Love. I have not had the opportunity to read her latest book Committed yet, but I wanted to share an excerpt from her tips on writing at http://www.elizabethgilbert.com/writing.htm.

I particularly liked this paragraph:

“As for discipline – it’s important, but sort of over-rated. The more important virtue for a writer, I believe, is self-forgiveness. Because your writing will always disappoint you. Your laziness will always disappoint you. You will make vows: “I’m going to write for an hour every day,” and then you won’t do it. You will think: “I suck, I’m such a failure. I’m washed-up.” Continuing to write after that heartache of disappointment doesn’t take only discipline, but also self-forgiveness (which comes from a place of kind and encouraging and motherly love). The other thing to realize is that all writers think they suck. When I was writing “Eat, Pray, Love”, I had just as a strong a mantra of THIS SUCKS ringing through my head as anyone does when they write anything. But I had a clarion moment of truth during the process of that book. One day, when I was agonizing over how utterly bad my writing felt, I realized: ‘That’s actually not my problem.’ The point I realized was this – I never promised the universe that I would write brilliantly; I only promised the universe that I would write. So I put my head down and sweated through it, as per my vows.”

My first book and subsequent stab at eBooks were not very good. But I finished them and put them out in the world at least for a short while. Only with feedback could I learn and improve. Now I have more experience and confidence in my writing and am proud of my latest two books. I am writing more books that will be published in 2011. The flood gates are now open but it took the first book to allow the opportunity for me to move into the love of writing and expressing myself in that way.

It gives me great pleasure to help new authors cross over into the publishing world and allow the possibilities to unfold after they have given birth to their book. So my advice is to write if it gives you pleasure and forgive yourself for your imperfections.

You will have more regrets in the end for not writing than for writing badly. Bad writing can be improved with editing or ghost writing, so let your ideas and creativity come out and get help if you need to polish your work. You do not have to be a natural writer to make an impact with your words. You just have to write and publish and let the world be the judge, make adjustments if needed and continue. Enjoy the journey.

Editing a Manuscript

Jan HaasOur new team member Jan Haas has provided this guest post.

Editing a manuscript doesn’t just mean checking for spelling and grammatical errors.  The editing process starts at the beginning, with a good outline.  Mapping out chapters and sections of your manuscript will go a long way in making sure your information is organized in a concise, easy to read format and that you have information relative to your topic.  Content editing will add structure and flow to your written piece, and will help you connect to the message you are working to convey to your reader.

Although I know people say never disrupt the flow of consciousness, I am an “edit-as-you-go type of person.  I will write an essay for my book, and rearrange sentences in the middle of the writing process.  I think this comes from writing poetry as a teenager. I was constantly re-arranging lines to make a poem flow, and it has carried over into other forms of written work.

Once I have a piece written, I will go back and read the essay out loud, listening for flow and checking for mistakes.  If the words sound choppy, or if the ideas don’t flow, I will edit on the spot.  For me, this is a natural process because I have been doing it for so long.

In my particular case, editing coincides with the writing process, but that isn’t true for everyone.  Some people write an entire manuscript without re-reading and editing along the way. I know that many people do not like the editing process, and they need someone to help them.

There is no real right or wrong way to edit a written piece.  But know that editing isn’t just about spelling and grammar.  It is about how a written piece conveys a feeling, and how the flow directs the reader to follow an intended path.

Starting with a map or outline of your manuscript is a big step in the editing process that many people overlook, yet it is a key step in making the content edit much easier.

Please connect with Jan on Facebook, Linked in, Twitter, or her personal blog.

Let Jan help you write or give life to your own story or your family history! Visit Spirited Roots for more information.

How Writing in a Journal Can Help You Get Your Book Done: Part Two

pencilsWriting in a journal can provide practice and consistency to your daily habits of writing as you progress towards the completion of your book.

This is Part Two about the five steps towards a journal writing program in 28 days.

Step Four:

On the fifteenth day, increase the length of time you are writing to at least twenty minutes each day, and continue with one sentence at the end to express your feelings. Remember, the content is not as important as the action of writing every day FOR YOU ONLY. No one else will be reading this unless YOU choose to share it. I recommend keeping it private for now as others may judge you and attempt to analyze your personal thoughts, which may discourage you from continuing.

Step Five:

On the twenty-second day, write for fifteen minutes continuing your life experiences. After the fifteen minutes, spend the next five minutes writing about your feelings, thoughts, challenges and dreams. This is important as it will start your process of building your comfort level of sharing with others eventually. At this point, the habit of writing is your goal – the content will evolve as you become comfortable exploring and recording your past, your present and your future. Keeping this up for twenty eight days will be an excellent beginning to becoming more confident in your writing abilities.

CONCLUSION

Awesome! At this point you now have the tools to continue to journal every day. I highly recommend reviewing your past entries from time to time as you will notice that as the entries change, you will change and your writing style will improve and evolve. Reviewing is also an excellent way to assist you if you get stuck for ideas at any time.

Once you are in the habit of writing daily, try to focus on a topic that you are interested in and write about it for five or ten minutes each day. Once you have done this for a few weeks, you will have the beginnings of a book that you can work on and refine for future publication.

This post was contributed by Rick Fess. To learn more about Rick, visit his website: Spiritual Fiction Books. You may also connect with him on Facebook.

How Writing in a Journal Can Help You Get Your Book Done: Part One

Writing in a journal can help you get your book moving forward and onto being published.

If you are interested in becoming a writer and an author, where do you begin? Many people find the most difficult part of writing is in knowing where to start.  As you begin your journey as a writer, it may be helpful to start by writing down your thoughts and feelings in a daily journal.

Self-PublishingEven if you have never written in a journal before and don’t consider yourself a skilled writer, a journal is an excellent way to write freely and discover things about yourself in an easy, stress free manner.

Here are some simple steps to get you started:

Step One:

The most important thing to do to begin is to remember that this journal is FOR YOU ONLY! Find a quiet area where you won’t be disturbed and choose a method for recording your thoughts. It could be on your computer, in a notebook or on loose leaf paper, however the action is more important than the medium. As this journal is FOR YOU ONLY, keep it password protected on your computer, hide it or store it in a locked box if you feel others may read it. You may wish to write at work on your lunch if you are unable to write undisturbed at home. Again, the most important thing to remember is that this is FOR YOU ONLY.

Step Two:

Start to write for at least ten minutes on the first day. Enter your thoughts, feelings, things you have done today or recently, plans you have for the future or any goals or dreams you have.

If you find you are frustrated, start by writing an autobiography of your life to date, beginning with your earliest memories as a child. I recommend that you write about the happy times you experienced as this makes the process easier to start and continue the habit. Writing about past, painful episodes will discourage you from continuing. Remember this is FOR YOU ONLY and you are only writing for ten minutes each day initially. Do this exercise for 7 consecutive days.

Step Three:

As you are writing FOR YOU ONLY, on the eighth day add one sentence at the end of each session and express TO YOURSELF in your journal how you are feeling that day. You may have already been doing this, however if you are continuing your life story, this will add insight into your writing and will begin your journey of conveying these thoughts and feelings to others. Add this sentence each day for 7 consecutive days.

Join us for Part Two of this post in two days! Writing in a journal is a powerful way to get into the writing habit and routine.

This post was contributed by Rick Fess. To learn more about Rick, visit his website: Spiritual Fiction Books. You may also connect with him on Facebook.