For the last twenty days I've been deep in the world of crowd fundraising with a project @ indiegogo.com. It's a graphic novel inspired by my series The Hunchback Assignments that I cooked up with artist Christopher Steininger.
I thought I'd share what I've learned up to now. First, in order to understand the whole crowd funding process, I followed (and supported) several campaigns, asked for advice from those campaigners, saw what worked for them and attempted to emulate that. I chose Indiegogo to do my crowd fundraising because Kickstarter is not open to Canadians (unless you have an American partner) and Indiegogo has flexible funding, which means you keep the money even if you don't make your goal. This was appealing to me as I will be going ahead with the project either way.
This is what I've learned so far:
1) It's work: Okay, I knew that going in but there is a lot of "informing" to do. I've written to my newsletter, posted on Facebook, approached family and friends directly, posted on listservs, written and sent out a press release, finished up the final details on the script, emailed those who contributed personally...well you get the picture. There's a reason why campaigns that are 30-40 days long tend to do better than longer campaigns. It's because of how time consuming it is to keep the momentum up.
2) Think very carefully about the amount you need. We've asked for $15, 000. That's almost exactly what it will cost to do a print run and pay the artist a decent page rate. But I now wish I'd only asked for $10,000. The reason is that since I'm willing to foot the rest of the bill (write offs are fun) we would make our goal earlier and look more successful (we're at 31% right now, but if I'd chosen 10K we'd be closer to 50%). Apparently more people buy in to a project when it is closer to meeting its goal (and afterwards...we all want to be part of a success story). Of course, you don't want to ask for a very low amount...
3) Be prepared to educate your buyers. It turns out not everyone knows about crowd fundraising and Indiegogo or Kickstarter. And the idea of fundraising for an item before it is created is not that common. So there might be some explainin' to do! Many of my books are sold to schools and libraries. They're not used to buying something before it's created. Clearances have to be given, etc., etc., So education is key.
4) Dream big. Deal with the reality. Yes, there are many projects that make mountains of cash. But buried back in the archives of Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the mountains of campaigns that didn't make their goal. When we started we had big dreams of fans and friends chipping in, then the social networking magic would happen, and a giant sized snowball would carry us the rest of the way--maybe even in the first week. After all, my books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies...I just have to convince about 500-1000 of those fans to pick up the graphic novel. The problem is reaching those fans. They may have enjoyed my books, but they might never hear of the graphic novel. Also remember, apparently the last week of a campaign is when the most contributions happen. Nothing like a deadline to motivate people.
5) Be Social. Of course you should do all the social networking you need to do (without becoming annoying...very hard to find that middle ground), but you should also be social with other people who are crowdfunding. Follow their campaigns, cheer them on--they're in the same boat as you. You can learn from each other and support each other's campaigns...getting the word out to more people.
There. That's most of what I've learned so far. Time to march forward into the 2nd half of the campaign.
Of course I'll add my fancy widget to this post. If you like what you've read or are interested in graphic novels and steampunk, just click on the image below or right here. Or if you just want to simply support us then hit the link and use the "Tweet" or "Facebook" buttons to tell the world. It gets the project out there and also puts the project higher in Indiegogo's rankings. Every little bit helps.
Thanks for listening,