This is part one of a multi-part series on crowdfunding. I’ve had success with a number of different methods, and I’m going to share how I did what I did, what and where I did it, and what’s coming next (I think).
Crowdfunding (n): using the potential future market for a product to fund the product before it is made available for sale. See preorder.
Amazon has long allowed pre-orders for books on its site; the difference here is that you get paid first, then you write the book and ship it, where with Amazon, the pre-orders mostly ensure that the book will end up on various bestseller lists, having logged a large number of sales on a single day.
I should clarify a couple of other terms as well.
Traditional publishing (n), also known as “trad pub”: a method of offering a written work for sale through the use of a publishing house, a distribution company, and bookstores, frequently also involving an agent, an editor, an advance on sales, etc.
Self-publishing (n), once known as vanity press publishing: a method of offering a written work for sale directly through one of the many print-on-demand and distribution services. Primarily a 21st-century phenomenon.
Those are broad categories. Many authors fit in both, some in neither. It depends on how they prefer to work, and I neither make judgments on that nor represent that I know best how either route should be run. What I’m discussing here is another way to go, one that fits neither of the above definitions precisely, although it does often meet up with self-publishing down the road.
No, crowdfunding of a literary work can allow an author to get paid to do the work, not just (possibly) get paid after having done it.
If you’re an author, here are some prominent ways to get paid for your work without going either the trad publishing way or the self-pub route:
Kickstarter/Indiegogo: I’ll start with the ones you know. There are differences between the two sites, of course. They think the differences are material; I assure you that from an author’s standpoint they are not. Both are large, powerful sites with great reach. They also have a commensurate amount of chaff that your missiles have to negotiate to strike their targets. If you’re Stephen King, this is a fantastic way to go. If you’re Cj Lehi, not so much. Basics: You set the funding target. If you reach it, you get paid. If you don’t, you don’t. Your supporters won’t be charged unless you’re successful, which minimizes their risk. Being successful in this space takes something out of the ordinary, though. Not for the faint of heart.
Patreon: Here’s one you don’t know. Although nobody’s heard of these guys, the funding model is both bleeding-edge and centuries, probably millennia, old. Just as Mozart and Beethoven produced their symphonies for wealthy patrons, who were paying their way while they scribbled notes, Patreon allows you to have regular contact with a group of patrons that support you either on a monthly or a per-work basis. The relative newness of the site means traffic isn’t all that heavy, but there is good bang for the buck here. Basics: you produce work and post it, and your patrons are automatically billed for it. They can pledge as little as $1 a month. The more of them you have, the more you make. You may also post free content, and you should.
Pubslush: Billed as a method of cutting through the slush pile, Pubslush attempts to get pledges for the completed work before it hits the press (pre-orders are also available, if you’re going to print anyway). In this way, it functions much like the big crowdfunders above; you set a funding goal, and if you hit it in the time limit you set, you get the money. Basics: you set up a campaign page, and you set a funding goal. Unique little feature here, you can set a funding goal that does not show on the main page, which allows you to set a BHAG and still get paid if you don’t hit it. Pubslush also supplies marketing analytics to its authors, which can be useful.
Inkshares: Backed by some of the biggest players in the industry, this is a platform that builds a sense of a growing book as you go. Ingram Publishing Services is the backbone, one of the biggest distributors in the book world. It’s a clever play, really, allowing them to find out which books have their own sales platforms before they commit resources to the book. But if that platform is there, they’ll do it, and they have the clout to do it right. Basics: you can start with as little as a tweet, 140 characters that describes your book. From there you can do blurbs, upload chapters, drafts, all manner of things, and push those things out to your “followers”. The more of those you have, the more platform you have for the book, the more likely you are to hit your pre-sale numbers, which is what triggers publication. When you hit the number (1000, for instance, is the pre-sale target for trade paper), they’ll edit, cover, and publish the book for you. You keep 50% of the money (and yes, they set the price).
Pentian: This is a new player in this space, at least in the US. Pentian is big in Spain, and some of their marketing materials are still in that language. Unlike all the others above, there’s an up-front editorial process here that you have to get through. It’s not terribly selective, but if you clearly can’t write, you won’t get a page and a campaign, so do the work. Basics: After you run the editorial gauntlet, your page goes live and you can start soliciting pre-orders from fans. There’s a twist, though, and it allows your backers to participate in the future sales of the book. If they sell the book for you, they get some of the proceeds. Yes, it cuts into your percentage, so Pentian pays out less than the others. On the other hand, having your fanbase with a stake in your book’s success isn’t all bad.
In coming posts, each of these will get an in-depth treatment. So come on back.