Guest Column: Crowdfunding A Book Release

David Gaughran talks about Crowdsourcing his latest self-published novel, A Storm Hits Valparaíso , through the recently created Irish website, Fund It.

Self-publishers have lots of advantages over the traditional route: we are quick to market, we can price very competitively and still turn a profit, we can write (and publish) whatever we like, we earn up to 70% royalties on our work (more if we sell direct), and we control every aspect of how our books are presented to the reading public.

One of the obvious downsides is that we have to pay for things like editing and cover design, and if you are committed to a professional approach, you will have to shift several hundred copies before you break even for all those out-of-pocket expenses, let alone recoup anything for all of your own time invested in writing, publishing, and promoting each title.

When I first heard about the US crowdfunding site Kickstarter, I was intrigued. Here were a bunch of artists, filmmakers, and writers who were leveraging the power of the internet to fund their creative projects. In return for their support, funders received rewards based on their level of contribution (from a copy of the book or movie to magazine subscriptions, special editions, unique artwork, or an invitation to the premiere).

Self-publishers have used Kickstarter to cover editing costs, pay for hardcover print runs, commission cover art, release limited editions, and create audiobooks.

Rather than a begging bowl being passed around, the rewards can be quite tantalizing, representing a bargain for those pledging. While some projects are unsuccessful in hitting their targets (and those who pledged are never charged), the slickest presentations with the most creative rewards are often oversubscribed, sometimes hugely. The only problem, for me, was that Kickstarter was only open to US artists.

Last month, I came across an Irish crowdfunding site called Fund It – an initiative created by the Temple Bar-based non-profit Business to Arts, and supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage & The Gaeltacht and British Council Ireland.

Using Fund It, successful projects have included poetry performances organized by a small press, an interactive storytelling map of Dublin for locals and tourists, a year’s print run for a student literary magazine, and soon, hopefully, my project.

Essentially, I’m using Fund It to take advance orders for digital and print copies of a novel that will be published in December. If successful, this will allow me to turn a profit before the book is even released.

This project was on a relatively small-scale, but I can see so much potential here. In the future, as my audience grows, I could use Fund It to pay for an offset print run or a limited edition hardback.

Aside from the rewards they receive, crowdfunding allows readers to feel like they are a part of the publication process – helping a book come into being – and they will see their name in the Acknowledgements too.

Book marketing, these days, is all about connections. Self-publishers (and small presses) can’t compete with the wall-to-wall promo that accompanies a blockbuster novel from a big-name writer. What we have to do is seek out those passionate readers who will champion our books to others – generating that ever-elusive word of mouth.

And what better way to get that conversation started than including your readers in the very act of creation?

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David Gaughran is the author of If You Go Into The WoodsTransfection, and Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should. You can catch him at http://davidgaughran.wordpress.com