Monday, September 12, 2016

Can Crowdfunding Help Me Publish My Book?

Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to meet the fabulous Lydia Sherrer at a local author event in Indiana. My table was across the way from hers, so I had lots of opportunities to watch her interact with others. I quickly learned she was someone I wanted to get to know, and as a result I also wanted to read her books -- I mean, I was certain her books would be packed with the same amount of personality that she contained in real life (and after completing book 1 in the series I can tell you that I was correct... Lily and Sabastian have quickly become one of my favorite literary duos.)

I'm super excited Lydia agreed to write up a guest post about her experience using Kickstarter to publish the first two books of her series.

Thanks, Lydia!

Can Crowdfunding Help Me Publish My Book?

Short answer: yes. Long answer: only if you do it right.

Hi, my name is Lydia Sherrer, self-published author of modern fantasy series "Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus - the Lily Singer Adventures." Books 1 and 2 are published (books 3 and 4 are on their way), funded via Kickstarter (91 backers pledged $4,832). Both books received five star review awards from Readers' Favorite and have a 4.9 out of 5 star rating on Amazon .  I tell you this to give you an idea of where I'm coming from when I say that crowdfunding is absolutely a valid tool in your dream to publish your own book, but it is not an endeavor to be taken on lightly, without detailed planning, or without a commitment to work your butt off.

To successfully crowdfund a book project you need three things: a solid product, a solid platform, and a solid plan.


First of all, you need a solid product: crowdfunding isn't charity, or some magical money pot in the sky that you can pray to and all your dreams will come true. It is a community of individuals who use their own hard-earned money to back creative projects that they believe are worthy.

Therefore it is your job to make sure that the product you are putting out there is the absolute best it could possibly be. You can't just publish for you, to scratch some itch or add a shiny badge of accomplishment to your collection. It has to be bigger than that. It needs to be something that helps people, brings them enjoyment or benefit, changes them.

Has your manuscript been read by multiple beta readers, some of whom are NOT your friends, but experts in your field with a critical eye? Do you already have the editor, formatter, and publishing route lined up? Do you have any cover art yet? Have you written a back cover blurb that captures your reader's attention?

Your crowdfunding project should be the last piece of the puzzle, not the first. People back projects that seem well-thought out, well-planned, and already have as much of the work done as possible. All they need to do is add funding, so that the idling plane can take off the runway.


Projects need backers, and for backers you need a platform. Your friends and family are not enough by themselves. If, prior to this, you've not done any kind of advertising, blogging, social media, newsletter list, etc, if you're not part of any groups, organizations, or what-have-you that creates a community of supporters around you, your crowd-funding project is doomed. Crowdfunding isn't there to bring you supporters, it is there to give your supporters a means by which to fund you.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't accomplish this without thousands of loyal fans. But it does mean you need to have a presence on social media, possibly have your own website, and have been active in the places your ideal supporter will be hanging out. In addition to my friends and family, I tapped my 1000+ Facebook friends, my 500 or so Twitter followers, the few hundred people I had on my mailing list, and the people I knew from writing groups, work, church, clubs, etc.

If you hope to publish your own book, you should start building a platform NOW, because your platform is what will get your crowdfunding off the ground and attract others to your cause.


Lastly, you need a solid plan: if you don't have a plan for packaging and delivering your solid project to your solid platform in a way that will win over backers, your project will fail. So your first job is to go on Google and do a search for how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign (I personally recommend Kickstarter over Gofundme or Indiegogo, but do your own research). Yes, I'm serious. Go do a Google search and start clicking on articles. There are a ton of people out there who've written in-depth analysis of what works and what doesn't, so you have to educate yourself on such things as: which platform to pick, what to include in the description, what rewards/levels to provide, how to make a winning intro video, logistics of fullfilment, and more.

Go find other successful book Kickstarter campaigns and look at what they did (you can check out my Kickstarter from last year to get an idea of what a successful Kickstarter looks like). Also see if you can find unsuccessful campaigns and notice what they have in common (ex: lack of a good intro video, short/unprofessional description, little or no artwork, typos, badly planned rewards, etc.)

All this reading takes time, but it is absolutely essential to succeed. I've seen way too many half-assed kickstarters fail for people who had a good product, just no idea how to package it. Make sure to get feedback on your campaign page before it goes live. Those first viewers will help you catch typos and point out confusing or unpersuasive bits that will take your campaign from average to winning.


Yes, you should consider crowdfunding for your self-publishing project. However, you need to decide if you have the time and resources to accomplish it. I spent months getting ready and during the campaign I spent every single day marketing it, posting about it, calling people, writing emails, and more. If social media is not your thing, if you don't like putting yourself out there or asking people for help, if you're not willing to put in the work to create a solid plan, crowdfunding may not be for you.

The only reason my project was funded was the amazing generosity and help I got from my wonderful friends and fans. In the end, it is THEY who will get your plane in the air. Crowdfunding is just that, crowd funding. But they can't help you if you haven't already helped yourself.

Good luck my friends. If you have any questions or want to chat more about my Kickstarter experience, hit me up on Facebook or check out my website for my contact details.


Ann Bennett said...

Interesting way to fund publishing your book.

Jonathan Schramm said...

Thanks for sharing, Lydia! I've actually considered crowdfunding in the past and this really gives me a good idea of what to expect. Really appreciate the post!

Unknown said...

Thanks for commenting Jonathan! It is certainly an option to keep in mind, in this day and age so to speak. Not for everyone, but it can be leveraged to great gain for any creative endeavor if you have the right elements in place.

The key is to treat it as building a community of individuals who are invested in a creative project, and going above and beyond to give them great rewards for their support, as opposed to viewing it as a charity or a way to get easy money. This was one reason I chose kickstarter and not gofundme. In general, Kickstarter is for creative projects, gofundme is more for emergency situations where pure charity is needed for a vital cause affecting someone's health, aid work, etc.

There is a HUGE community of people out there who love supporting kickstarter's, and who spend a lot of money on them. You just have to craft a compelling campaign and then find those people.

Unknown said...

Indeed. Because I was determined to get the most professional quality editor/cover artist/formatter, etc for my book, my costs were such that I couldn't cover it myself (you CAN self publish a good quality book for very little, but it is hard to find really good quality for cheap. Sometimes to afford things you have to stay simple, and my project was anything but simple).

Unknown said...

Great article, Lydia! :)

Unknown said...

Thanks Meg! I hope it was useful :)

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