We had a full house at our Jan 20 CIPA meeting – How to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to Publish and Sell Your Book: Sound Guidance on Funding and Publishing Books that Sell! – as we welcomed panelists Mia Fill-Diaz (CU Boulder), Dan Pratt (Pratt Brothers Composition), Dr. Patricia Ross (Hugo House Publishing), Karen van Vuuren (Jamie York Press), and Nick Zelinger (NZ Graphics) to discuss how we can fund the costs associated with independently publishing our book projects. Nick kicked off our discussion with a musical adaptation, “Sound Guidance,” to the tune of “The Sound of Silence”–to great audience enthusiasm.
Crowdfunding Platforms for Indie Authors & Publishers
Crowdfunding–or as Mia Fill-Diaz prefers to call it, online fundraising–is a hot topic these days for creative ventures including books, music, and business startups. Her top recommendation for authors was GoFundMe, because of the flexible nature of the platform, and because you can keep all of your funding, whether you meet your funding goal or not. Well-known option Kickstarter, by contrast, requires users to meet their funding goals or users receive no funding at all.
Most funders, Karen Van Vuuren emphasizes, are your core supporters: family, friends, and close colleagues. Reaching beyond this core group requires focus and a marketing and outreach strategy. While many of us might be prone to focus on social media, Mia advises using email first. “Most funders respond to email,” she says.
Tips for Setting Up and Running a Crowdfunding Campaign
“Be vulnerable, be authentic,” Mia says. “Tell your readers what inspired you to write this book. Tell the story about your story. People don’t care about the what, they care about the why. People give because of emotion, and they give to the human behind the cause, not necessarily the topic.”
Karen agreed. “I learned a lot about representing myself and my product from my crowdfunding campaign.”
Both agreed that video can be an excellent tool, and you don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money on a lush production: a few minutes and a phone is fine.
The average gift for most crowdfunding projects is $95, according to Mia, and Karen confirmed that her most popular level of support was $100. Super small donations (under $20) don’t pan out, in Karen’s experience.
When you choose what to offer for your premiums, keep the gift free (for you to produce) if possible, but make it special. Karen included dog tags for her project, which was a documentary about veterans. The more specific you can be to your project, the better. Limit the number of premiums you offer so you can easily manage fulfillment.
Finally, your work with crowdfunding helps you build your mailing list, as you receive the contact information for all your donors. You can use this in your other marketing efforts going forward.
Establish Your Funding Goal: What Does Your Book Need?
Key to determine your funding goal is to know what you plan to use the money for. Design, editing, and printing are fixed costs that every book publisher must consider. Decide up front what level of investment you want to make in your work. “What your book needs is professionalism,” Dan says, and Nick agrees.
“Think of yourself as the publisher, too,” he says. This means that the product (book) is indistinguishable from books produced by large publishing houses.
Book covers are “product packaging,” less about you as the author than about the people who will buy it and read it. Make sure readers can tell from the copy why what you have to say is worth their time. Every book cover MUST include an ISBN, a barcode (which your designer can handle for you, so that you get the appropriate size), and ideally marketing copy. Without these elements, no bookstore will stock your book.
At the end of the day, though, “a book is about the words that are in it,” Patricia Ross reminds us. “Is it focused? Does it flow? Have you taken the time to make it a worthwhile read?” Editing is key.
A great design is necessary for discoverability, and a good editor can also help you with another aspect of being found: search engines. “Subtitles are used to focus on a specific genre or audience,” Patricia says. “And you may use an even longer subtitle for your Amazon page, as that detail helps more people find your book. Be careful, though, that this is not word salad!” As with the cover, presentation is key.
Both our designers and editors emphasized that costs can range widely for these services, based on what the book needs, the audience desires, and what the author’s goals are. Covers can range from $500-2,000, interior page layout from $1,000-5,000, and editing from $500-$5,000+. Every author should discuss their specific project with the editors and designers in question to receive an appropriate estimate for their book. Length, layout complexity, and additional elements such as tables, figures, or illustrations impact your costs at every level.
Set Funding Benchmarks
Crowdfunding supporters appreciate transparency, and a list of “milestones” that your project can reach along the way to the overall funding goal is a great tool. Beyond knowing what their money is going for, some supporters may choose to fully fund one particular component of your project, such as editing or cover design, or they may offer in-kind services that provide this for you.
“Decide what you need first,” Mia advises, “and rank your milestones in order of production, such as editing, then cover, etc.” When do you start your online fundraising campaign? “After you’ve written your book, or you have a first draft. You want something already produced before you fundraise.”
Ask supporters for more than just money. You can ask for donations, for them to share your campaign with their network, or they can provide in-kind support. Make sure you have an easy call to action for your campaign and any benchmarks.
The Benefits of Crowdfunding
At the end of the day, crowdfunding forces you to have your book marketing strategy in place. You need to know who your buyers are, what they want, and how they might help you spread the word. This will help you with every step along your publication path, including editing, design, printing and marketing.
Are you interested in attending a CIPA event to expand your knowledge and increase your chances of success in publishing your next book? Need help to sell your current book? Come to an upcoming event, learn from our speakers, network with your peers, and meet industry professionals!
The views expressed herein are not those of Colorado Independent Publishers Association, its officers or directors. They are solely and completely those of the author. The Colorado Independent Publishers Association will not be held liable for any legal action resulting from information published in this newsletter, and the organization’s insurance will not cover any such action.