Crowdfunding for Authors
Posted on March 13, 2013
Back in November, I considered writing a post about crowdfunding after jumping on board for a Steampunk series called The World of Steam led by . That wasn’t the first project I ever backed. I also backed a zombie documentary as well as Amanda Palmer‘s record-breaking Kickstarter that she recently talked about in TED Talks. On Indiegogo, I backed a friend’s production called The Interview.
Today, I backed The Veronica Mars Movie Project, which is set to be the biggest Kickstarter project so far – it reached its $2 million goal in less than 24 hours with less than 32,000 backers (the funny promotion video done by Veronica Mars alums with Kristen Bell is worth just checking it out). Now, I’m not Ms. Moneypants, and my backing amounts aren’t usually large. But I like backing and contributing. Why? Because I like that the consumer has a say in what material gets produced.
Instead of larger organizations being the gatekeepers to what we get to view or partake in, we consumers get to show our support with small donations that help make things happen. I know that as a burgeoning author, I can’t help but look at this model and think – wow, could that happen for me? Could I set up a project where, after I finish my WIP and get it ready for publication, I could put it out there and let the potential readers fund me getting it to publication level? In simple terms, yes, that could happen. But there are so many other factors to consider.
One thing I’m noticing through crowdfunding is that the ones that make most of the money tend to be led by a person already known or who already comes to the table with fans. If you search Kickstarter for book projects, the ones that are making 100% of their goals are for established authors creating an anthology or possibly for those that have visual aspects to them – art book, photography book, or graphic novel.
Also, there are levels of backing, or tiers. At each one that matches a money donation level, there are rewards to the backer. For a media-type project like music or a visual series, there are multiple ways to help promote the levels. It could be hard for a new author with no prior work published to come up with incentives. Also, if an author doesn’t have a teaser of what the work is about or what’s written, how would a reader know they wanted to back it?
There are two current projects in publishing that have met their goal and could serve as examples. One is from Blake Northcott for her Arena Mode – superhero novel with an RPG addition. Northcott already has a couple of books available through Amazon, and she’s offering something a little different with a tabletop RPG addition. The other project is Michael J. Sullivan’s Hollow World novel. In his description, he talks about the difficulty in getting new works published. He already has his Riyria Revelations series, so any backer would already be aware of his writing. But these projects as well as others on Kickstarter do prove that there is space for backing novels. But it would be hard for a first-time writer.
I’m not saying that it’s not possible or that it isn’t an idea that needs consideration or discussion. But I think it would be hard to create the kind of fervor for an unknown author that an established star gets. Would people break records to back a new Firefly season or movie? Oh how I wish they would try that!!! But for an author that no one knows – it could be another form of rejection.
Perhaps it’s a moot point as self-publishing already fulfills the direct-to-consumer model. However, the amount of people self-publishing continues to increase, and every author should be trying to figure out ways to change the game. There are costs that crowdfunding could possibly provide to help an author get the level of services that only traditional publishing offers – high quality cover, first-class editing, even some PR help for promotion. Maybe crowdfunding an author could be a step to bridging the gap between self-publishing and traditional publishing. I’m nowhere near trying this out, so I can’t be a guinea pig for the idea. But I’ll be paying attention to see if anyone does try it and cheering them on!