Jon Yongfook didn’t even intend to write a book at first. But the growth-hacking expert and software entrepreneur decided to give it a shot when Guy Vincent, founder of crowdfunding platform Publishizer, dropped him a note and suggested he throw his hat in the game.
“I was in a sassy mood,” writes Yongfook on his website, “so I replied ‘ok.’” And then he raised $12,775 in 30 days.
While crowdfunding has long been a popular way for musicians, inventors and artists to raise money and develop interest in their work, it’s becoming a more common option for authors as well.
Crowdfunding a book basically involves taking pre-orders. If there’s enough interest to hit a preset funding goal, the author will write and publish the book. This fundraising method offers several benefits for authors, depending on which site you choose, such as a guaranteed payout if you meet your minimum fundraising goal, and no obligation to write a book if you don’t find enough of a market.
If you’re considering crowdfunding your next book, studying Yongfook’s campaign for Growth Hacking Handbook could help you achieve similar success. Here’s his best advice for aspiring crowdfunders.
Build your audience first
Yongfook’s buyers didn’t appear out of thin air; he already had a network in place, including his Twitter and Facebook followers as well as a mailing list.
“I think anyone launching a crowdfunding campaign needs to have some assets or network built in,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to do it without it.” Before you decide to create a crowdfunding campaign around your brilliant idea for a novel, make sure you’ve put some work into building an author platform.
“My advice would be to keep blogging about the subject you want to write a book about, build that community, build that mailing list and use it when it’s time to crowdfund that pet project!”
Spread the word
Since Yongfook’s foray into publishing was unexpected, starting with the note he received from Vincent, he didn’t have a lot of time to plan a marketing strategy. He did find and pitch some of his media contacts, but he found most were not interested in covering his crowdfunded book launch.
Instead, he focused on social media and guest posts. He used his personal social media accounts, including Facebook (and a promoted post) and Twitter, and sought out retweets from influencers. He wrote a guest post for The Next Web and volunteered for an “Ask Me Anything” with Tech In Asia.
Be ready to work hard
“During the campaign, it was almost like a full-time job keeping up the momentum and the marketing activities,” Yongfook said. He didn’t anticipate marketing would require quite so much footwork.
“I guess I did naively think it would be a ‘set and forget affair’ though,” Yongfook said. “Like I would just click ‘upload’, sit back and enjoy a whiskey, and then a few weeks later, I’d have the funding for my book. In reality, it was a day-to-day hustle and the campaign needed constant maintenance to keep the momentum going.”
However, he was always confident he would reach his goal, and he believes that self-assurance is key to a successful campaign. “I was quite confident,” he said. “I think as long as you are very determined and have a good idea for a book that the market (and more importantly, the network around you) wants, then you’ll meet your goals.”
We asked him what he found to be the most challenging part of the campaign. “The most difficult is the ‘dip’ or the ‘lull,’” he said. “Statistically, most of your crowdfunding activity is going to come at the start and the end of the campaign. Between those two points, the backings can trickle in quite slowly and it can be hard to keep motivated.”
“There was a point in the middle of my campaign where I was quite shocked as it looked like it might not make it, and my confidence went down. You have to power on through that — there will be more activity towards the end.”
Consider the lasting impact
“[Crowdfunding] is just a win-win situation all round,” Yongfook said. “The backers get a book they are interested in, I get to write a book with no huge undertaking of risk.”
When the campaign finished and Yongfook was still receiving emails from people who wanted to buy the book, he created an email list to notify them when it launched.
“After I launched the book and sent the copies to the original backers, I then emailed that mailing list that the book had launched, and instantly had another $2k in book sales (in one day!). So I guess my point is, the positive effects of a successful crowdfunding campaign go far beyond just the campaign itself!”
How to launch your own crowdfunding campaign
While Kickstarter is likely the most popular crowdfunding platform, a few sites specifically focus on writers and their needs. Here are a few of the options to consider:
This is the platform Yongfook used for his campaign. To begin, simply submit a 1,000-word proposal for approval, then choose your campaign’s length (one to 45 days) and funding goal.
If your campaign is successful, Publishizer collects a 5 percent fee on pre-orders, plus 2.9 percent and $0.30 per transaction for Stripe. You retain all rights to your book.
Pubslush’s mission is “to give authors the opportunity to get out of the slush pile.” They do this by helping authors create crowdfunding and pre-order campaigns for their books, 30 to 60 days before their release dates.
The site charges a 4 percent commission and third-party processing fees after the campaign concludes. You keep all rights to your work.
Unbound works similarly to the other sites, though they focus on U.K.-based authors. Authors do the bulk of their fundraising until they hit the 70 percent mark, and then Unbound jumps in with marketing and promotion assistance to help them reach their target.
However, Unbound does take 50 percent of profits (after costs) and keeps the rights to your book. For more details, check out the site’s FAQ.
Have you crowdfunded a book? Would you consider it? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments!