I decided to try an experiment. What would happen, I wondered, if I set-up a crowdfunding appeal on either Kickstarter or Indiegogo? I had written a post, Kickstart Your Indie Project, on Indies Unlimited in favor of Kickstarter, and my fellow IU writer Rich Meyer had written one, Mendicancy – The First Refuge of The Modern Indie, critiquing the idea of independent authors asking for money to fund their book costs. What better way to prove my point that people are happy to fund novels, and to gain visibility for my book at the same time, than to put together a crowdfunding campaign?
The concept of crowdfunding is straightforward. Crowdfunding is similar to a venture capital deal except for one crucial difference — those who give you money do not own a piece of your project. Their compensation is a tiered structure of gifts or perks that you specify on your fund raising page.
The process is transparent. You can see exactly who gives you money. Unlike a purchase on Amazon, you can see whether an acquaintance has purchased your book. On Kickstarter and Indiegogo you can see the monetary contribution and the contributor in your reports.
My project was simple. My novella, “My Gentleman Vampire: The Undead Have Style” contains unconventional themes about alternative lifestyle choices. My vampires are fun and fabulous. I wrote the book with PG-13 rating on purpose, hoping it would find its way to those who would enjoy it.
The story for the vamps came to me as I was convalescing after a series of surgeries at the end of 2011. I will admit that I was weaning myself off of the pain medication. I was compelled to write it, so I put down a murder mystery I was working on and did so. After it was finished, I was confused as to how I would find the niche for my tango dancing vamps. I could not craft a genre category on Amazon for Paranormal/Adventure/Dance/Coming of Age/Humor/Gay. I announced the book and did some promotional stuff. After the initial bump it plodded along. Needless to say I was disappointed.
The crowd-funding experiment would, I believed, serve two purposes. Even if I didn’t make much money, I reasoned, the page views would gain visibility for the book. I decided to use Indiegogo because you get to keep the money regardless of whether you reach the amount you target as your goal. (Kickstarter requires you to meet your fundraising target or you don’t get any of the money) I looked around the Indiegogo site and found a few writing projects. Indiegogo touts their Gogofactor algorithm, and I felt sure that my book would attract attention and achieve a high rank. Then I took the big step, created my profile, my project, and activated the countdown.
Within the week a representative of the site, offering to help me should I need it, contacted me. This was professional and I was encouraged that the experiment might work.
The next step is where, I am guessing, I went wrong. I did not spam my friends and family asking for money to accomplish my goal. I did not send a single e-mail. I let it ride.
This is, of course, not what the site wants you to do. You are supposed to announce the exciting news of your project to your social media network. You are encouraged to visit your social media sites and post updates. There are “consultants” who will advise you on how to run your campaign. I already knew what they would tell me. My experiment was to test the power of the site, to prove whether or not using a crowdfunding to market my vamps was viable. To market a book that contains deep within its frothy scaffolding a message I believe in.
My reason for not spamming is simple. I believe that in a network of dedicated authors all believe their books to be important. I respect the writers in my network. How narcissistic would it be of me to say that my book, no matter how timely the message, was more important? And, for your convenience, that I have a PayPal account to make your contribution to my project easier. Thank you.
What is a successful fund raising project on Indiegogo? There are loads of gadgets. The number one funded project when I checked recently is a pen-sized apparatus that can spray stuff on your skin to perk you up like an energy drink would. Frankly, I would rather eat a piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon to combat the three o’clock energy dip.
Which crowdfunding site is more successful in raising dollars? According to this post, Kickstarter Owns Indiegogo, it appears that Kickstarter has Indiegogo beat.
You might find it contradictory that I will end this post by telling you I am still in favor of a writer using crowdfunding to finance their project. Yes, my experiment did not raise the funds specified. I did not, however, follow the suggestions regarding my social and business networks. And, because I did not blitz my network with spam, I did not move myself up to a position to get the page views. For me, that marketing failure is the key. The inability to distribute the book is disappointing. The money was never the goal.