Crowdfunding a Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Awkward

Crowdfunding a Book: The Good, the Bad, and the Awkward

What would it be like to fund your first novel with a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter?

A blog post on author Josh Fruhlinger’s site has the scoop.

Kickstarting a debut novel

Fruhlinger’s debut novel, The Enthusiast, came out in late 2015. It has more than 80 ratings and 20+ reviews on Goodreads. It’s available in hardcover, paperback and as an ebook… and it was funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign.

Fruhlinger’s blog post says it all: “I Kickstarted my first novel, sold 1,319 books and made $4,369.14 (so far) — and so can you (maybe) (under fairly specific circumstances).”

His initial goal was to pay himself for his time writing the novel, since it would, in theory, eat into his potential freelance-writing earnings time. He was more than successful in this endeavor, and his goal of $6,666 was met – and far exceeded, totalling more than $20,000. Fruhlinger was able to put this extra cash toward tasks like printing costs, editorial assistance, design and promotion.

Dealing with unexpected emotions from crowdfunding

However, this influx of cash from patrons almost immediately led to some major guilt.

“The actual process of writing the novel took a lot longer than I thought,” wrote Fruhlinger. “This was very stressful to me; I felt like I was letting all my backers down, and with the very, very large amount of money I raised being very, very public, I worried that people would think I had scammed everyone out of an awful lot of cash.”

Still, he finished his book, and is happy with the final product.

In his post, he offered some learned lessons to those who might be interested in trying their own campaign to fund their novel.

Lessons learned from Kickstarting a book

  • The secret to a successful Kickstarter doesn’t start with Kickstarter. A large number of his backers were already fans of his work and his site. Tap into your audience! If you don’t have an audience, build one.
  • Write your book first. Fruhlinger noted that this would have drastically cut down on his anxiety.
  • Do your best to estimate costs in advance and be conservative. Printing costs turned out to be more than Fruhlinger expected.
  • Professional services aren’t cheap!
  • Don’t bet on big sales if you don’t need to. Fruhlinger noted he’s been left with more leftover stock than he would have liked. Consider print-on-demand.
  • Offer your backers big-ticket items. “People who are backing you are likely to be invested in you and want you to succeed, so a personal touch like that is something they’ll enjoy and appreciate,” he said.

After reading about Fruhlinger’s experience, it’s easy to see the appeal of crowdsourcing.

I’ve used Indiegogo before to fund a creative project, and while my campaign was successful, there’s still some complicated feelings that can come from asking for, and being given, financial support. Strings can feel attached, even when they truly aren’t. I have built a good base of loyal readers, but I still don’t think I would feel comfortable asking them to pay for the creation of my first book.

What do you think — would you do a crowdfunding campaign for your novel?

Traveler and blogger Chris Guillebeau

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6 comments

  • Awesome ideas, here. Thanks for “kick starting” my brainstorming.

  • Interesting article. Would I use kickstarter for a novel? Probably not, for a bunch of reasons.

    But…that doesn’t say it’s not a good idea. I’ve had short stories appear in a couple of anthologies that used kickstarter and those anthologies did outsell most of the other anthologies I have been published in.

  • Good ideas, where i can buy this book?

  • I have often thought about doing Kick Starter. Several months ago I researched information on this type of funding. I created a campaign and was close to making it live, but chickened out. Someday, maybe, I will feel comfortable launching it. For now, my focus is on book 2 of my series. I self-published my debut novel, The Italian Rose – a mafia suspense thriller. If you have written a book you know it takes time to write 100k words. Which is why I have decided to make writing the priority. However, I am saving notes, original chapters reviewed by a pier author, timelines and small doc. files to use for a campaign.
    I would definitely agree with Josh, it would be better to have your book done, or almost finished first. Writing a novel can be overwhelming. Adding the pressure of pleasing backers could be counter productive.
    Christina Mitchell

  • Noor says:

    There are many options and book-specific sites available.

    Publishizer — be mindful. They promise to send your fully funded work to editors/agents, and take a bigger cut (30%) than average.

    PubLaunch (still in Beta mode), but the same idea.

    Headtalker is a powerful social media mobilizer with a wide outreach.

    Crowdfunder — another “outreach” site.

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful blog .I liked the way that you wrote and presented this information.

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