Crowd Funding Your Novel: Pros and Cons

Money cash
(Photo credit: @Doug88888)


Let’s face it.  Funding your own novel is an expensive process.  Even if you are a self-starter like myself who would just as well publish a print copy and e-copies of my book through Amazon Createspace, it still takes gold to get the publicity and advertising you need, not to mention the dough for the author’s copies and fees for getting a table at a convention or two. Don’t forget the host of ISBN numbers you will need for each edition of your book.

As an English teacher and father of four, I have done some research about crowd funding sites that could possibly help struggling indie authors get the most exposure possible.  What is crowd funding?  Well up until a few years ago it was an illegal process by which a load of people on the internet send money or pledges to a beneficiary who then used the money to do a random project.  It’s not illegal anymore since the JOBS act, and as long as you prove that you are using the money for your project and not for personal gain, you can possibly get the startup cash you need to fund your indie novel.

What (exactly) does an author need to pay for when putting together a writing project sans actually writing the novel?  (Note, this is if you are making an Amazon book). Here is a list:

  1. Copyediting – I do this myself, but I have an English degree.  I also pass it by some trusted colleagues who will do a good job for me, so I don’t pay for it.  However, if you do not have an English degree, then hire someone.  I do this service on the side and make $1 per page.  This is pretty modest and there are many others out there who charge much more, but it will be worth it to get this done.
  2. Cover Design – I paid an artist friend (who is now working full time as an artist) $100 to do the cover art for The Transgression Box.  Good cover designers can run much more than that, so you will have to do a lot of shopping around.  Find someone local to save money.  However, I have done a lot of research about what makes for good covers that cause people to want to read your book, and could probably do this myself with Pixelmator or Gimp, but it’s much better to hire a professional who knows what makes a cover pop.
  3. Typesetting – I use Scrivener which with a few easy numbers plugged in to the compiler can format a book to Amazon’s specs pretty quickly and painlessly, but for an added fee Amazon will do this for you.  I have written a pretty detailed instructional post about this very topic that you should probably check out.
  4. Advertising – You might think that some of the best advertising you can do for your book will be through radio or television (which can get pretty expensive).  Most ad companies will charge upwards of $20,000 for a month long campaign.  If you want to try to crowd fund that much money, then be my guest, but do you really want to spend all of your gift on that?  There are other ways to advertise, mainly through internet advertising, and Rob Walling has written a great article that breaks down all of the “click” advertising that you could invest in that in many cases is much cheaper than the traditional advertising.  One of the best way to advertise your book is to get yourself admitted as a guest on a radio show or television show.  This is tough, but type up a PR letter and send it to your local radio and TV stations.  Michael A. Banks wrote a great article about this and other things, and in it he states:

I think you’ll find a fairly receptive market in regional and some national radio talk shows. Literary Market Place has a special listing of national and regional TV and radio talk shows that feature authors as guests. A letter to the producer (not the host) of these shows is a good place to start–again accompanied by a copy of your book.

Once of the nice things about being “on” a radio talk show is that you usually don’t have to travel at all. Guest spots on radio are more often than not accomplished by telephone hookup–
and the station pays the phone bill!

If possible, present yourself as an expert on a topic, in addition to being an author. Talk show producers and hosts (and audiences) find author/experts to be far more interesting guests than “just authors.”

5.  Author Copies – Amazon usually charges about half the shelf price for author’s copies.  You will need around 25-30 of these to take with you to book signings and conventions where you can get your feet in the door with publishers and potential fans.  You can then use the money that you make from selling the author copies to turn around and buy more author copies.

I have discovered two very reputable crowd funding sites in my search through all of them.  These two are the most trustworthy and not scams:

1.  Kickstarter – The pros of using this site is that they have big social media connections and can get your project in front of many people.  It is simple to sign up with them and after filling out some information, making a video about your project and writing up a blurb about it, you will have a set time to raise all the necessary funds to get you on your way.  They charge a percentage of only 5% of your target goal, and offer you suggestions for “perks” that you can offer donors to help them give more money (i.e. a signed copy of the book mailed to a donor’s address for a $15 gift).  However, Kickstarter is all or nothing, in that if you do not raise the total goal amount by the deadline, then you get absolutely nothing.  Donors do not pay until the project is completely funded, expect you to follow through on your promises, but all promises must be made with the caveat that you will raise all of the money.

2. Indiegogo – This site is just like Kickstarter, but the percentages of payment are a little lower.  They have more options for funding, but any money donated stays with them until the pledge drive is over.  One positive is that even if you raise $5 of your goal, you will keep the $5 minus their 9% cut.  If you fully fund, you only owe them 4%.  You may also offer “perks”, but if you don’t fully fund you may find yourself spending all of your donated money getting signed copies of your book out to your donors and paying postage.

So there you have it.  I hope this helped someone because I am seriously considering doing this with This Broken Earth.  Currently it doesn’t have a print edition and I’d like to see that happen.  If you have experience with crowd funding or just self-pubbing your book on a budget, then comment below.  We’d all love to hear any wise nuggets you have to offer on the subject.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

2 thoughts on “Crowd Funding Your Novel: Pros and Cons

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