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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Crowdfunding a Debut Novel - One Writer's Story

Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post by UK novelist Pete Oxley.

Pete is a member of my forum at When I heard via the forum that he was using the crowdfunding website Indiegogo to finance the publication of his debut novel The Infernal Aether, I was immediately intrigued.

So I asked Pete if he would like to contribute a guest post for my blog detailing his experiences to date. He kindly agreed, so here it is.

* * *

Crowdfunding, funding a project through a large group of people over the internet, is increasingly being used to raise finance for a variety of things, from new inventions to bands' latest albums. Can this also be used to help the independent author get their novel published professionally? 

Why crowdfund?

There are a number of costs involved in getting a book published, including editing, cover art and formatting. That is before any marketing and advertising costs are factored in.

Of course, if an author is signed up to a traditional publisher then they would cover some or all of these costs. But how can the independent, unsigned author manage it?

There have historically been two options. One is the do-it-yourself option, which can often result in something which is unprofessional and amateurish at best, unreadable at worst. The alternative is vanity publishing, where an organisation edits and publishes the book for a fee. Unfortunately this option all too often ends up with the author ending up with a garage full of books which will never be read. 

How can crowdfunding help?

Campaigns typically work by funders effectively pre-ordering the book; as a result, the author with a successful fund-raising will always sell some copies. This could increase their profile and increase the likelihood of more sales.

Done right, a successful campaign that has been planned properly would also involve a number of professionals who not only know how to get a book edited, formatted and published but also would be invested in the project's success. After all, if the book becomes a hit, then they would benefit from basking in its reflected glory. 

Lessons learnt

A few months ago I started my own journey to see whether I could use crowdfunding as a way to help me achieve my dream of unleashing my debut novel on an unsuspecting public. The campaign went live last week and the results so far are encouraging, with a team lined up and my project already 33% toward its funding target. So what lessons have I learnt so far? 

1) Create a buzz and a profile

If no-one knows about your book or what your writing is like, then why would they spend money investing in it? So make sure you get as much of your writing out there as possible. Over the past year I have been posting the first draft in instalments on a number of websites, linking all my updates to as many social networks as possible - Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, not to mention my own blog.

This has been a scary and risky step, but a very effective one; slowly but surely I have been not only getting some incredibly useful feedback on my writing, but also have started to build up interest in my story.

2) Keep up a dialogue with your readers

When people comment on your work, make sure you do them the courtesy of a reply. With any luck you'll start to generate some good discussion and people will want to come back time and time again to see what you have to say.

3) Get that first draft under your belt

Before you start your crowdfunding campaign, make sure you have at least a first draft done and dusted. Getting over that initial step done can be a very time-consuming process and while investors will understand that they have to wait a few months for the editing and formatting to be done, only the most patient would be happy to wait for the 12 months plus that most people spend in hammering out that painful first draft.

4) Choose your platform wisely

As I hinted above, there are plenty of options in terms of crowdfunding platforms, all of which have their relative merits. Key things to consider when making your choice include:
  • What type of campaigns do they host and which are most popular?
  • How easy is it for people to pay?
  • How easy is it for you to set up your campaign and what support do they provide throughout? 
  • What tools do they provide to help you promote your campaign? 
  • How will you be able to let people know about it and how will they find it?
5) Have a budget

You need to be clear about what you're asking for and how much each element is going to cost. This is important not only from a logistical point of view - you don't want to run out of money partway through - but also people are much more likely to invest in a project that is clearly well thought-out.

This can be a bit of a minefield, especially in terms of deciding on whom to use for the various elements - editing, cover art, etc. I will be honest and say that I did not really have the first clue where to turn, and so for my campaign I used the services of Fictivity Press, who have walked me through the entire process, identifying whom to use for what and coordinating the whole crowdfunding process. They even sorted out the promotional video below - a key (if terrifying!) part of the campaign.

6) Don't be afraid to shout about it!

Finally, when you do launch your campaign you'll need to drum up as much interest as possible.

Whilst you should absolutely use all the promotional opportunities which the internet and social media provide, do not overlook the simplest method - your friends and family. For me, this meant plucking up quite a bit of courage - what if they laughed at me? what if they hated it? - but it has proven to be highly effective. Not only that, but I've been overwhelmed and more than a little touched by the support I've received.

Byline: Pete Oxley is a freelance writer and business manager who lives in the English Home Counties. He enjoys reading and writing in a wide range of areas, but his main passions are sci-fi, fantasy, historical fiction and steampunk. His crowdfunding campaign for his debut novel, The Infernal Aether, is currently live on this page of Indiegogo, in conjunction with Fictivity Press.

* * *

Many thanks to Pete for a thought-provoking article, which only serves to confirm my view that crowdfunding is becoming a method of growing importance for authors who want to publish their books and e-books to the highest professional standard.

As a matter of interest (and disclosure) I invested $5 in Pete's campaign myself. This entitles me to an e-book copy of his novel once it is published. More importantly, though, I wanted to experience how crowdfunding works from an investor's point of view. For both these reasons (and supporting a member of my forum too) it seemed an excellent use for five bucks!

If you have any questions or comments for Pete (or me), as always, please do post them below.

And, of course, if you would like to support Pete's campaign as well, just click through to this page of the Indiegogo website, read about the incentives on offer, and click on through to make your investment!

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