|The Express Diaries|
What is a crowdfunder?
In many ways crowdfunders are a very old idea, made possible by very new technology. They bring together the project designer (from now on I’m going to use ‘author’ for simplicity) and their target audience directly, cutting out the need for publishers or agents.
Here’s how it works; the author announces his project on a crowdfunder site (we’ll talk about them in a second), listing exactly how much money he needs to get his novel off the ground. Interested members of the public then donate towards this project. They run for a specified period of time (usually about 6 weeks), and if the number of pledges hits or exceeds the minimum target, then the novel is funded.
You can probably already see the advantages; for the author, no money is wasted on producing books that won’t sell; for the audience, they get their money back if the project fails (a little more on this later), and they get to help novels out that they genuinely want to see the light of day.So how does it work?
There are a number of different fundraising websites, but only two of them are commonly used at the moment. The first is the massive US-based www.kickstarter.com (so ubiquitous that crowdfunders are often called ‘Kickstarters’) and the second is the smaller European www.indiegogo.com . Anyone anywhere in the world can pledge to either site, but you need a US-based tax code to start a project on Kickstarter, so the choice of which site you use really comes down to where you are based – although a Kickstarter-UK site is due to arrive at some time towards the end of the year.
My own novel is being funded at www.indiegogo.com/expressdiaries
Setting up a project is as simple as registering at these sites and filling in some online forms.Why would people pledge their hard-earned money to a project?
Peter Parker learned to his cost that with great power comes great responsibility. Well, with a crowdfunder, with great pledges come great rewards. Crowdfunders are usually set up to have a number of tiers. For the lowest level of pledges (usually $10 or less) you usually receive an electronic copy of the book, and an acknowledgment. Higher tiers net you a signed copy of the physical book, and for even higher tiers the author may even write you into the story, or set it in your home town. Have a look at my funding site above for the sort of ideas we came up with.
Okay, okay – why would people pledge their hard-earned money to my project?
Well, that’s the real question, isn’t it, and a harder one to answer. Crowdfunders may seem risk-free on the face of it, but what nags at the back of every author’s mind is ‘What if nobody pledges at all? It’s humiliating!’
Well, the success of my crowdfunder has got an awful lot to do with www.yog-sothoth.com (YSDC) - a website devoted to the works of HP Lovecraft, and weird fiction in general. The Express Diaries was written in conjunction with YSDC, which helped me out in a number of ways. Firstly, it introduced me to my wonderful artist, Eric Smith, who has drawn in an enormous amount of interest with his fantastic cover and interior artwork. Secondly, it meant that The Express Diaries could be heavily featured on YSDC itself, and many of the early pledges came from subscribers to that site, meaning that The Express Diaries was fully funded in less than a week.Another thing that helped me is that YSDC produced a trailer for The Express Diaries – you can see it here:
The trailer, if I may so myself, is pretty amazing, especially considering that Paul (the webmaster of YSDC) put it together with no prior experience of video editing – these things are relatively easy to do, and are amazing at helping draw people towards your project.The first chapter of the novel is available free at www.indiegogo.com/expressdiaires , and again this has really helped to generate interest in the book.
How likely are you to succeed with a crowdfunder?There’s been a recent study into the phenomenon of crowdfunders from a group interested in role-playing game supplements. It isn’t specifically about novels, but the statistics make interesting reading. Here’s a link to the study - http://www.geekindustrialcomplex.com/articles/crowdfunding-report-part-1 - but the very quick summary is this:
· Kickstarter projects were far more likely to succeed than Indiegogo projects
· The projects that did get funded were usually $5000 or less
· The successful projects often ended up with significantly more than their target, and the failed ones with significantly lessWith this in mind, for The Express Diaries we decided to try for a ‘bare-minimum’ non-profit target, with a hope that if things were successful, we would add in various ‘stretch goals’ – extra rewards for the funders if we passed higher goals. As of writing, we have just passed our first stretch goal, and are heading towards our second.
Any pitfalls?A few. Other than the nagging fear that no one will pledge at all, one problem with crowdfunders is that they’re due a bit of a backlash. Many internet pundits are already loudly proclaiming that the crowdfunder market is saturated. Whether it is true or not, it’s what people are starting to talk about.
The second problem is the thorny issue of refunds. Pledgers are actually making a donation to your cause and, for indiegogo at least, you as an author are under no legal obligation to give the money back if the project fails, or even necessarily go ahead with the project if you receive all the funds. You would be committing career suicide if you didn’t honour this, however, because as an independent author all you have to rely on is your reputation. In this internet age, a bad reputation will spread a heck of a lot faster than a good one.
This problem is more of gossip than anything else – for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, the chances of an author taking the money and running are practically zero... but that doesn’t stop people talking about it on the forums.
My experience of running a crowdfunded project has been overwhelmingly positive. Here’s my advice – don’t believe the rumours. There are a lot of crowdfunded projects out there, but that can only be good for the consumers and the creators. Crowdfunders give creators a tremendous forum to show off their novels to the world, and give consumers a chance to help out projects that wouldn’t stand a chance of getting published by conventional means.
Crowdfunders are here to stay.Nick Marsh is the author of Soul Purpose, Past Tense, The Ancients and The Express Diaries. Visit his website at www.nick-marsh.co.uk, or his blog at lordof1.blogspot.com