Thursday, November 29

Crowdfunding: Cutting Out The Middleman

Crowdfunding: Cutting Out The Middleman

What Is Crowdfunding?

I've talked quite a bit about how to sell your work through Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and so on, but I haven't said a great deal about using crowdfunding.

Examples of crowdfunded projects are all over Kickstarter. That site also has a great tutorial, called Kickstarter School, which will step you through every aspect of creating a project.

The Do's And Don't Of Crowdfunding

1. Know how much money to ask for

Look at projects similar to yours and see how much money they're asking for. Don't ask for substantially more.

2. Make your pitch exciting!

Just as when you write a book blurb, you need to catch a readers attention quickly. Make them curious. Fascinated. Entertain them!

3. Make a great video

The Kickstarter folks have put together a great article on just this: Making your Kickstarter video.

4. Thoughtful rewards

Believe it or not, some Kickstarter projects don't have any rewards! Good, varied, rewards for donors go a long way toward making a project successful.

Those points come courtesy of Kris Rush and her wonderful article, Getting Rid of the Middle Man. Kris writes that even if you don't already have a tribe/community you can still do a Kickstarter project. She writes:
[I]f you have a fan base, you’re better off than the folks who are starting from scratch. But I just watched the Bijou raise funds from all over the world, not because of the theater’s fan base, but because small theaters in general have a fan base. 

Different Kinds Of Crowdfunding

So far I've just talked about Kickstarter, but there are many different ways to crowdsource a project.

For instance, Kris writes that a number of novelists are serializing their books online. They fund the project by placing a donate button at the end of very chapter.

Kris recommends, and I think this is an excellent idea, that you finish your book before you serialize it "just in case something in your life goes awry or you have to go back and add a gun in chapter one so that you can shoot that gun in chapter fifteen. (Getting Rid of the Middle Man)"

Yep, been there, done that.

Why Try Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding, or crowdsourcing, allows writers to cut out the middle man.

Kris writes:
I’ve mentioned before how I appreciate the loss of the middle man. But this week truly showed me on a deep level what kind of world we’d live in if crowdsourcing hadn’t gone mainstream. ...

First, that royalty statement. It is missing both some information and some promised money—money the publisher has owed me ... since early last year. ...

As Dean said as he shook his head over yet another royalty fight facing me, the third this year, “It’s a wonder anyone survives in traditional publishing any more.”

I certainly wouldn’t be earning a living at it—a reasonable, above-poverty rate living—any more. In the last few years, I earned about one-quarter of what I used to earn in my bad years. The advances have gone from survivable to insulting. And now publishers are fudging on royalties owed. It’s disgraceful and hard.
.  .  .  .
But the next four e-mails were all from Kickstarter projects run by full-time freelancers. From anthology projects to magazine startups to calendars ...

... Sometimes I participate in a crowdsourced project because I like the people involved, but mostly I do so because I think the project is worthy—something I want in my library, I want to see, or I want to hang on my wall.

None of these projects would have gotten funding through some arts organization, nor would they have made it through the byzantine system set up by the studios/publishers—ah, hell, let’s just call them suits.

And if the project had made it past the suits, then the artist who proposed the project probably wouldn’t have made any money on it. Or the artist wouldn’t have seen any money for  years after the project got released.
.  .  .  .
It’s time for writers to explore all of their options. And many of those options should not include middle men.  The suits don’t care about midlist writers or indie films or small movie theaters. They care about whatever bottom line they see, and they don’t care how they reach that bottom line.

Should You Try Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunded projects aren't for everyone. They're stressful even for those folks who don't have trouble meeting their goals, folks like Kris Rusch and her husband Dean Wesley Smith with their project Fiction River.

Beyond that, there are many other ways to get your work out to readers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, even places like wattpad. I think it would be interesting to serialize a novel on Amazon. Publish one chapter a week and then, at the end, release the book.

It's great to know writers have options such as crowdfunding. We no longer need middle-men. Though it's always good to keep ones options open. (That said, I cringe at the thought of constantly having to fight publishers just to get paid the royalties owed me.)

Here's a useful article from How to Crowdfund Your Creative Project.

Have you tried crowdfunding? How'd it go? Would you recommend the approach to others?

Other articles you might like:
- Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing: Is It Ethical?
- How To Start A Blog
- How To Design A Great Looking Book Cover

Photo credit: "the smile of a man with a wild fan base" by notsogoodphotography under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

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