Tis the season for giving, so I thought it would be a good time to talk about a new trend: crowdfunding. My husband and I have become hooked on TED Talks and one of them we watched was given by musician and artist Amanda Palmer. It was called, “The Art of Asking.” She started out as a street performer and talked about the experience of asking for money without saying a word. Are we obligated as observers to pay for viewing art? No. But maybe we should be. Most of the time, art shows are free, working on a donation only basis. So how do artists make a living? One answer that more and more artists as well as entrepreneurs are turning to is crowdfunding.
“Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet.” Many successful startups began this way. Over the summer, I attended a fantasy conference in Detroit and crowdfunding was the topic of one of the presentations. Here is what I learned.
Let’s start with some of the companies that host crowdfunding projects. Kickstarter is probably one of the most well-known and will probably get you the widest audience. They have an all or nothing approach where your project is either funded or not. Gofundme is popular for charity projects. Pubslush is specifically for literary projects. With Indiegogo, you get to keep the money you raise, but the organization takes a larger cut. They’re all worth looking into!
What kinds of projects might you post? Anything from selling BBQ sauce to publishing a novel. You also set the parameters for what you’re trying to raise. One author said she only asked for half the money she would need to publish her book. You want to set realistic goals to improve your chances of getting funded. You can even ask for help in funding additional items like marketing and cover design. In fact, it’s important to think about all aspects and possible expenses before jumping in.
Some tips for a successful campaign:
- Make sure your campaign stands out. One way is through making a video, but keep it short and to the point (2 minutes tops). Projects with a video are more likely to get funded.
- Make sure you can deliver a good product.
- Have a completed project to insure success.
- There’s a pay-it-forward option that allows you to give back to the community that supported you.
- Have a pre-campaign, as well as one during, and after.
- Offer press releases to let people know. Use social media, forums, etc.
- Develop a street team of fans who can create blasts on the internet to get the word out.
- You want a big push from the start. If you hit 50% right away, you’ll probably get funded.
- Make sure your rewards for donations can be fulfilled. Also make the rewards fun and enticing like offering free BBQ sauce or signed copies of books. Virtual prizes are also common and free for you.
Here are some specific examples of rewards you can offer:
- Authors can provide critiques
- Have someone’s name included in your story
- Personal video thank you
- Read tarot
- Offer to read your story to someone or record it
- Have a digital book giveaway
Additional tips for writers trying to publish a book:
- You can choose to self-publish the project using the funds OR use a publisher who manages the details for you. (Cool, right?)
- It helps to provide author interviews, and you probably won’t have to pay to get them.
*Remember that you can only give what you make. There are also some rules about giving away food.
Getting back to Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk. As a musician, she almost never stays in a hotel, relying on the hospitality of her fans. But she also makes them a part of the rock star experience in a more intimate way. She’s known for allowing her fans to write comments on her body with markers after a show. That’s what I call trust! So it’s definitely a give and take process, born out of mutual respect.
There’s actually all types of crowdfunding, not limited to the above mentioned organizations. When a writer asks for feedback from fans on a published story and then incorporates their suggestions into the next story, I would consider that a form of crowdfunding. There’s no monetary exchange, but I would argue that you are still asking for donations. You want to make a better book and gain ideas from your fans. In exchange, your fans are involved in the process. Check out the book Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields for details on how this works.
I’ve also seen many artists include simple donation buttons on their websites and blogs. They might ask for help in keeping them supplied with materials like brushes and paint. The downside is that you might feel obligated to produce art in a certain way to please the fans that are supporting you. I’ve toyed with the idea of including a donation button on my blog, but haven’t done so yet 😉
Whatever you decide, to crowdfund or not to crowdfund, it is useful to know there are options out there. Either way, it is certainly an exciting time to be an artist/entrepreneur. As we delete the middle man and form more symbiotic relationships between creator and audience, there are no limits to what we can achieve! And certainly, everyone benefits.