By Kirsten S. Traynor –
Crowdfunding sites pop up all over the internet, competing with the two big early giants Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Some crowdfunding sites cater more to creative artists, others to charitable projects or tech startups.
A few dedicate themselves to fine writing, pushing the evolution of the publishing industry. These platforms create unique communities that pair writers and readers, letting them mingle online. The three currently vying for writers and supporters of fine prose are:
Unbound: UK based. Believes that people who love books deserve a say in what gets published. The model is simple: The author pitches an idea. Readers support it. With enough support, the book is published by Unbound. After production costs, net profits are split 50/50 with the author.
Pubslush: (featured in 05/09/2014 FFW newsletter) similar to Kickstarter with tiered rewards. Allows authors to raise funds for books, publishing and literary events. All projects must raise a minimum of $500. If no one funds the project in the first 2 weeks, it disappears. The site provides authors with a platform to gauge reader interest. Once successfully funded and the manuscript has been uploaded, the fund button morphs into a purchase icon, driving sales.
Inkshares: For novels, illustrated books and articles. Combines traditional aspects of legacy publishing houses, such as editing, marketing, book design and distribution with do-it-your-self entrepreneurial spirit, so authors play an active role throughout. Successful projects are edited by their top-notch team at $0.07/word using a portion of the funds raised. Inkshares develops relationships with national publications, helping writers break in to large markets with a fully-fledged project. Recently they sold a funded piece to Atlantic Monthly and are negotiating another for GQ. For books, royalties are split 70/30 in the author’s favor.
I decided to test drive the Inkshares system, launching an article for Pollinator Week: Stung: In Search of Honey Bees. I set a modest goal of $540 for a 6,000 word piece. A big chunk of the funds will go towards editing. Believing that an early push helps drive others to fund, Inkshares kicks in an extra $5 for every new backer during the first 10 days of the campaign.
Experience taught me crowdfunding requires diligence, especially if your audience isn’t web savvy. Although I reached over 35% of my goal in the first 3 days, in retrospect it would have been better to develop a clear marketing strategy before launching. Due to the lag time in magazine publishing some of my media blitzes will not appear until early August, near the end of my campaign.
If I ever decide to launch a larger book crowdfunding project, this footwork will come first:
=> Line up 10 supporters in place to back small amounts immediately
=> Draft personal campaign letters to potential backers in advance; send immediately when project launches
=> Let relevant magazines, blogs and clubs know about the campaign in advance, identifying relevant tie-ins so they announce the project to their members/readers.
=> Engage in public events locally, spreading the word via flyers
=> Have a greater social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, etc. prior to launching, so I have increased name recognition and my campaign spreads online.
All three sites allow the author to share drafts or excerpts during the funding phase, building excitement and enthusiasm in their sponsors. These sponsors turn into advocates, driving others to your work. Readers will often offer advice, comments and suggestions, creating a two-way exchange between the author and their audience. Crowdfunding platforms have the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry, but they require dedication, enthusiasm and lots of advance planning.
Kirsten S. Traynor is an English major turned scientist, whose research improves honey bee health. Her work has appeared in Wired and Scientific American Mind. By reading FFW, she won her first grant, a German Chancellor Scholarship (BuKa) to traipse around Western Europe for 18 months studying bees. She has since landed a Fulbright, an NSF honorable mention, a PEO scholar award, and a USDA NIFA grant. For her crowdfunding project she stepped out of the ivory tower of academia and is learning to navigate social media. Follow her on Twitter @FlowersLoveBees. www.flowerslovebees.com Go get STUNG!