Crowdfunding Usually Doesn’t Work for Writers – But It Can

The following is an excerpt of an article for Jane Friedman – you may view the full post here.

cfa pinkCrowdfunding can market and presell your book. Since most books fail to turn a profit, the ability to raise money and reader enthusiasm before expenses is a valuable resource.

However, authors have a poor track record doing it. Over 70 percent of author crowdfunding campaigns fail, and many authors who have tried crowdfunding have nothing to show for it.

What Is Crowdfunding?

Most people think money when they see the word crowdfunding, and that makes sense—funding is the second half of the portmanteau. But crowdfunding is much more valuable than just the funds raised.

First, crowdfunding centralizes and organizes your fan base. This is the crowd part of crowdfunding. Unlike when selling your book through brick-and-mortar or online bookstores, where buyer information is hidden from the author, you get all the contact information of everyone who preorders your book on your crowdfunding page.

If you have read even one marketing book, you know the power of having an email list of people that have bought in—in this case, literally—to your product. Instead of hoping your Facebook post appears in your reader’s feed, or paying to advertise in a periodical that may or may not be of interest to your reader, you can email your fans directly, and for free, to let them know about events and offers. You won’t have to hope that the people who care most about your messages will receive them—you will know.

This is important because later, when your book is actually published, sales are driven by rankings, and rankings are driven by algorithms. And algorithms are driven by volume and speed of reader activity. With your fans’ contact information, you can ask them to synchronize their watches to your book’s official publication date, and to go online all together to rate and review your book (and buy additional copies as gifts for family and friends). This kind of “clumped” activity is what has the potential to boost your book’s rankings in the algorithm, and create the visibility for potentially greater sales numbers.

Second, crowdfunding is book marketing boot camp and publication day training.

To read more, please visit the full post here.

Q&A About Crowdfunding for Authors – for Jane Friedman

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Jane Friedman. To read the full article, click here.


JANE FRIEDMAN: I worry that some authors who are interested in crowdfunding don’t have the proper resources or network in place to run a successful campaign. While I don’t want to be discouraging at the start of this interview (!), are there situations where you advise authors to wait before they start a campaign—to ensure they have some essential components in place?

BETHANY JOY CARLSON: Most authors are surprised when I advise them to prep for three months to a year. Authors need well-organized reader contact information, a great draft cover design, and time for effective communication.

Crowdfunding is marketing, and that means it is subject to Effective Frequency, or The Rule of Seven: a person needs to hear a message seven times to act on it. So, authors need to communicate with their readers seven times before their book’s crowdfunding campaign launch. This means creative emails, posts, blogs, tweets, events, etc. about their campaign in the months leading up to launch.

I also remind authors that, just like with party or wedding invitations, not everyone invited will respond. In other words, not every reader invited to buy the book on a crowdfunding site will do so. If an author has an engaged email list, perhaps 10 percent will do so, and around 1 percent of their social media following will respond.

It really helps to line up a patron or two ahead of time who will take a big bite out of that figure—$500-1,000 or more—which cuts down the size of the email and social media threshold substantially.

Authors also need a good draft book cover to crowdfund their book. We hear the adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” precisely because that is exactly what people do. Sometimes authors attempt to design their own book cover, but that is almost always a bad idea. Authors should hire a professional book cover designer and budget to spend that money before they begin promoting their crowdfunding campaign. Depending on the book, workable drafts may cost between $30 and $1,500 (which is a reasonable max for a book cover draft).

For an author undertaking their first crowdfunding effort, about how many hours of prep time would you budget, and then how many hours per day during a typical campaign?

To read the answers to these and other questions, visit the full article here.

Crowdfunding for Authors is available for preorder on Indiegogo.

How One Little Idea Turned into $70,000 for Books

This is a partial repost from an original post on the BACCA Literary blog. Visit the original post here.

My how-to guide Crowdfunding for Authors is coming out in October. It’s based on three years of experience at The Artist’s Partner, working with authors who have used Kickstarter and Indiegogo to finance their publishing projects. Since 2013 these authors have raised $73,972 for novels, memoirs, children’s books, and more. And it all grew from one little idea five years ago.

author mosaic

It began when BACCA decided to periodically incorporate the “biz” of writing into our critique meetings. At our first such “biz” discussion, I floated the idea of teaching an eBook publishing class. I submitted a proposal, and was teaching my first “eBook DIY” class at WriterHouse in the spring of 2012.

It was in a subsequent class that author Stefan Bechtel (Roar of the Heavens, Mr. Hornaday’s War) was a student. He was then writing the memoir of retired action bowler Bob Perry. Bob is a quintessential New Jersey hustler, so in retrospect it’s no surprise that he and Stefan were the first to suggest that maybe this “Kickstarter thing” could be used to fund their book. They hired me to orchestrate the campaign, and in September of 2013 we raised $6,945 for what was then titled Bowling for the Mob.

By the fall of the next year I was guiding four crowdfunding campaigns simultaneously. I was onto something! It’s been a steep learning curve, with many mistakes and victories along the way. Crowdfunding books is hard – only 29.5% make it. That makes me all the more proud of my authors’ success rate of 97%.

crowdfunding for authors draft coverI’m thrilled to be publishing the guidebook that helped these authors to crowdfund their books, because you can crowdfund your book, too. Crowdfunding for Authors is itself available for preorder on Indiegogo, and will be released on Amazon in October.

Bethany Joy Carlson

Here are the amazing authors who have raised over $70,000 with The Artist’s Partner since 2013!

Organized as follows: Author / Platform – Title (availability).

Zack Bonnie / Indiegogo – Dead, Insane, or In Jail: Overwritten (Coming fall 2016)
Marc Boston / Kickstarter – The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff (Amazon)
Ramgiri Braun / Indiegogo – HeartSourcing (Amazon)
Lizzy Duncan, B. Cunningham, G. Jackson / Kickstarter – Camila’s Lemonade Stand (Amazon)
Jenny Edmondson / Kickstarter – GroomsDay (Amazon)
Mary Buford Hitz / Kickstarter – Riding to Camille (Audible)
Peter Kalifornsky and Katherine McNamara / Indiegogo– From the First Beginning, When the Animals Were Talking (iTunes)
Priya Mahadevan / Kickstarter – Princesses Only Wear Putta-Puttas (Amazon)
Belinda Miller / Did not fund – published anyway! – Above the Stars (Amazon)
Carolyn O’Neal / Kickstarter – Kingsley (Amazon)
Bob Perry and Stefan Bechtel / Kickstarter – Redemption Alley (Amazon)


How to succeed at crowdfunding: Market Research

Crowdfunding is marketing. And it’s the best kind – you get paid for it, rather than vice versa!

“Marketing” can be a word that gives artists hives. But all it is is stepping way back from your project and looking at it through the eyes of your audience. What will entice them before they’ve had the chance to read your book / hear your album / see your film?

Most marketing works on the paradox of “similar but unique”. You’ll want to be well-versed in what is familiar to your audience, and after that identify the element of your work that will uniquely grab their attention. The first step is knowing your audience as precisely as possible.

blog images - market research

Think of a handful of people you know who will enjoy your work the most. Then answer these questions:

  1. What is their age?
  2. Gender?
  3. Relevant characteristics? (This could be geographic location, race, socioeconomic status, religion, shared experiences, shared passions, etc.)

This gives you a good profile of to whom you’re talking when you’re sharing your message. Many artists think they’ll sell more if they explain why really their book / album / film / project is for everybody – but it won’t. Get specific. This helps to set the right tone.

Step Two is another one that artists often dislike: classify your work. You may think your project transcends genre – and maybe it does – but that will not help sell your work. Pick the genre that is the best fit. Which (online) shelf does your work match? This helps to set the right layout for your cover or preview.

Step Three is to research bestsellers to your audience in your genre. Fortunately, online retailers like Amazon and iTunes make it easy to research bestsellers in just about any digital media. If your project does not fit these two websites, find some that do sell your craft. If all else fails, you can browse through your category on Kickstarter and Indiegogo to see what kinds of messages work and don’t work for projects like yours. You’ll want to keep an eye out for things like:

  1. Color scheme
  2. Font
  3. Layout
  4. Design elements / icons
  5. Voice / word choice
  6. Price
  7. For video: soundtrack, voice over, timing, cuts, captions

Pick 3-5 examples that stand out to you as great. What are the common components they share? Borrow these in your own marketing. This helps you to meet your audience’s expectations.

Step Four is the fun part: identify the one unique element of your work that will be of special interest to your audience. Artists often want to select the sixteen elements of their work that are unique and amazing. And your audience will love them all -eventually. But you need to pick the strongest, most appealing one to sell your work first. A confused observer does not become a buyer. A strong unique element in a familiar layout will help you to surpass your audience’s expectations.

Step Five is to work with a designer, writer, videographer, or others to actually turn this research into the pitch for your project. With the above information and successful projects that have gone before you, you have what you need to be on the same page and craft a pitch your audience can’t resist.


For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!

Artists Answer: What was the most valuable service received from The Artist’s Partner?

During a recent client survey, we asked the following question: “What services received from The Artist’s Partner were most valuable to you?”

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For a free crowdfunding analysis of your project, please fill out our Artist Questionnaire. We typically respond within two weeks. We look forward to hearing about your project!