Crowdfunding helps authors to pre-test their book before publication and can give you an instant readership and social media circle all your own as your supporters will be getting your book and telling their friends about it.
The number of crowdfunding sites is growing and some are now specialising in books.
UPDATE: OCTOBER 2015: PUBSLUSH HAS NOW CLOSED DOWN
Pubslush was devoted to raising money for books, with funders getting books for smaller amounts pledged and perks such as dinner with the author or a character named after you for bigger sums.
The platform has seen some notable successes. The Legacy Life, How to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate to Increase Sales by Brian O’Neil raised $33,000, while A Beautiful Mess by Ali Berlinski, touted as Carrie Bradshaw meets David Sedaris, brought in a total of $12,600 from 964 supporters, which would work out roughly at $13 apiece. For $5-plus, backers got the ebook in any format while for $15-plus they received a printed book.
A Beautiful Mess was published in May on Amazon as a paperback and ebook and already has a very healthy 23 reviews, largely, I should think, from the initial supporters, which is another bonus of crowdfunding – guaranteed reviews.
Authors can keep the funds they raise even if they don’t reach their goal and Pubslush charges a 4% fee plus processing charges of about 3.5%. Pubslush is also a publisher which takes on “high-potential” books from the platform and Berlinksi’s book was their first title. For every book sold on the imprint, the firm will donate a children’s book in its mission to support children’s literacy initiatives.
Authors provide an overview, a summary, a cover image and an excerpt from their book. Minimum sum to be raised is $500 and the fundraising term can be 30 or 60 days.
There don’t seem to be many books seeking funds on Pubslush at present, so if you’re looking for pre-publication backing, particularly if you have strong social media circles to draw on for support, then Pubslush could be a good choice.
Unbound is a UK crowdfunder for books and features some well known authors. The drawback for many writers here is they really want proposals through agents. They do take proposals direct from authors but warn they are inundated so it could take some time to get back to you.
As well as books and other levels of rewards, backers also get access to the author’s Shed on the site where the writer shares research and excerpts from a work in progress.
Some of Unbound’s recent hits include Letters of Note by Shaun Usher, which raised nearly 250% of its target. The book is a spin-off from the great website of the same name, featuring an eclectic mix of fascinating correspondence. Usher is publishing a high-quality, cloth-bound coffee-table volume in colour. £30 backers get a copy of the book while £150 gets you the book, a goodies bag and two tickets to the launch party.
Due to the success of his website, Usher says he had been approached by many publishers wanting to bring out a book but he chose to use Unbound and let the people who like the site to help him make the book.
One of the more unusual perks offered on Unbound is for funders of Banks’s Game by Rupert Isaacson, which is a book about history’s first recorded horse-whisperer. Isaacson set up the Horse Boy Foundation after the success of his book The Horse Boy and supporters pledging £1,000 for the new project will get a full day’s session with him learning how to make a Lusitano stallion dance.
There are a lot of great books on Unbound and it could be ideal if you have an agent or a reputation on a writing site. If you don’t, then you need to have a compelling proposition and a lot of patience.
Indiegogo features a wide variety of projects, loosely in the areas of creative, causes and entrepreneurial. They charge a 9% fee on funds being raised but hand back 5% if you reach your target.
Projects include the We Animals photography book, which has raised over $46,000, nearly 150% of its target, but there are a lot of books on the site which have raised paltry amounts.
The site’s forte is in tech where popular projects can bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars, so authors need to carefully research the suitability of the site for their books.
Kickstarter is the world’s biggest crowdsourcer for creative projects and features plenty of books. One pitch has seen over $25,000, representing 344% of the target, pledged for Personal Look Into The Life Of Jack Kirby The King of Comics by Jeremy Kirby, grandson of the great comic book artist and writer. For a $1,000 pledge, you get a piece of original Jack Kirby artwork.
Marketing guru Seth Godin raised a colossal $287,342 last year on Kickstarter for his book The Icarus Deception, over seven times his initial target, but he is a star with a huge following.
Kickstarter can offer your book a good funding source if you make sure it has a big appeal in its category and particularly if you have a good following already to get things rolling. Take a look at the Most Funded publishing projects on the site to get an idea of what succeeds there. Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing site so you have to reach your target to get the funds. They charge 5% of the total raised plus processing fees of 3-5%.
UPDATE; OCTOBER 2015: WEFUND HAS STOPPED ACCEPTING NEW PROJECTS
Wefund claimed to be the UK’s biggest crowdfunder and had a speciality in raising relatively small sums for theatrical productions but there are some books on the site. If you are looking to raise smaller amounts of £1,000-£3,000 this could be a good place to try.
You have to meet your target to get funded and if you do, Wefund will charge 5%. If you don’t reach your goal then all pledges are cancelled and there are no charges.
Gofundme offers the facility to set up your own site quickly and easily. It says it is the most popular crowdfunding site for personal causes and offers a choice of a personal donations campaign or all-or-nothing crowdfunding.
The site has a range of tools to produce attractive websites and gives some good advice on how to set up and run a successful campaign.
It features a variety of book projects, mainly for fairly low sums up to around $2,000, and also has some campaigns looking for funds to run book tours.
For the personal donations’ option, Gofundme deducts 5% from each donation received. All-or-nothing crowdfunding is relatively new to the site and the 5% charge is only made if the campaign reaches its target.
UPDATE; OCTOBER 2015: PLEASEFUNDUS HAS CLOSED DOWN
Pleasefundus calls itself the world’s local fundraising platform and features projects covering a wide variety of targets, including a cookbook, Mission: Explore Food, which has raised over £16,000 after setting a £15,000 target, while another book, Watertight Marketing by Bryony Thomas, raised over £5,000 to get funded.
It is an all-or-nothing site and charges 5% if a project is successful and nothing if it fails to reach the target. Your project can be linked directly to your Paypal account. The site has a very thorough FAQs section which should sort out any queries.
You could also try the DIY option by setting up a website or a page on your existing website with a Contribute button to Paypal or one of the other payment processors. The drawback is you have to be able to set up an attractive site and bring supporters to the site. You’ll need to consider whether the 5% fee saving would be worth the effort involved.
If you do want to set up your own crowdfunding website, you could look at using a WordPress theme built for this purpose. One recent theme that looks to have good potential is Fundingpress, which is available for $55 from Themeforest.