Running a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign
Traditionally considered a strategy used by charities, crowdfunding is not a new idea. Thanks to the internet, however, modern entrepreneurs have increasingly adopted it to help bankroll creative projects and make a profit. This path has given rise to videogames, tech prototypes and books that otherwise might never have spawned into the world.
That’s why companies like Kickstarter and GoFundMe have become so popular. Providing infrastructure and community, they have enabled savvy marketers to access tribes of people who would historically have never heard about them. Using their services, any author, no matter the size of their following, can connect with ideal reader communities – groups who will happily cover the production costs of a book that excites or interests them, and guarantee the author a profit before they’ve sold a single copy.
Until now, you may have thought crowdfunding was a game reserved for organisations and individuals who couldn’t afford their production costs, but that isn’t the case. Nowadays, more creators than ever use crowdfunding, not to get projects off the ground but to improve their profit margins and the impact of their launches. Authors like Michael J. Sullivan and Brandon Sanderson have even used it to secure six- and seven-figure book revenue streams. Both have used Kickstarter to grow their business in new ways that were once thought impossible when working with retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
If you’re interested in running a crowdfunding campaign yourself, today’s blog post will offer a few key principles you must master to achieve similar success. Whether you need the money or not, using the following tactics, even in tandem with a regular book launch, can enrich your relationship with your existing readers, help you reach new communities and increase your author income.
Do Your Research
Look into the processes of notable case studies and you will rarely read about someone succeeding in crowdfunding without doing their homework. Some lucky creators do go viral without preparing in advance, but they are outliers. Most research and frontload their effort to ensure success. At the very least, you must look at the platforms and weigh up your crowdfunding options before you begin. For instance, Kickstarter is one of the biggest players, but it isn’t the best choice for every creator. Up against it are Indiegogo, Unbound and others, all of which have different rules, success criteria and cultures.
A good way to figure out which platform will work for you is to look at their communities. You can usually identify what type of people inhabit them by looking at popular campaign lists. If, for example, you don’t see any successful projects similar to the one you want to fund, it’s possible that your ideal supporters don’t exist on that platform. On the other hand, if you see several high-achieving campaigns like the one you want to create, you know you’re in the right place. Just remember, this strategy isn’t 100% effective. If you don’t see a campaign like yours, the issue might be that the idea has no demand in general. Or nobody has tried it yet and it has massive potential. Being a thorough researcher won’t give you all the answers, but it will help you make better decisions.
Build Your Community
Some campaigns gain momentum because of a strong concept and word-of-mouth. This is often the case with game-changing tech prototypes that solve a problem. In the arts, however, it’s difficult to convince supporters to invest purely in an idea that will only provide entertainment. As a result, authors often need to be the face of their campaign to make it succeed, selling their personality alongside their work. If you’re a fiction author or poet, in particular, gaining a cult following in this way can help tremendously. Companies have money and resources but you have your personality, which you can use to your advantage in a way many businesses can’t replicate.
Authors do well by posting a video on their campaign page. You might not be a natural in front of the camera, but even an amateur welcome video, explaining your idea, can make a huge difference. Showing your human side has been proven to resonate with readers, according to several authors who have run successful crowdfunding campaigns. Besides that, you could also start a Facebook group, write a newsletter and offer branded merchandise which supporters can wear to promote that they are a part of your community. Collaborating with them will amplify your results because a community can achieve more in a day than you can in a month working alone.
Frontload the Work
If you remember one takeaway from this post, let it be that winning crowd funders frontload their work. Indeed, preparation is key. Some bloggers who have run successful campaigns claim it takes two months of work to conduct a successful month-long campaign, the first 30 days being preparation for when everything goes live. Those who prosper often take a two-pronged approach to prep work:
- They start building their community and creating early buzz for their project.
- They prepare and schedule much of their campaign work in advance.
There are hundreds of potential ways to prepare, many of which will be entirely unique to your project and circumstances. However, a few universal ones that most people do include:
- Writing the copy for blogs, social media posts, newsletters and other web content
- Creating images and videos needed for all their content
- Writing down systems to ensure they work efficiently and optimise their schedule
- Lining up deals with production partners to fulfil pre-orders
- Saving a marketing budget and scheduling paid ads
Frontloading your work is paramount for success. Not only will it leave you feeling calmer and more organised during your campaign, but it will also free up space for you to jump on opportunities and nurture your community in real time.
Master Your Finances
It’s rare to find a crowdfunding author that makes money without investing some of their own capital and keeping a tight grip on their budget. Yes, you might have started your campaign to fund a project you can’t afford yourself, but you have to run it like a proper business if you want to see proper business results. That means crunching the numbers and investing in rewards that will entice supporters to contribute at a higher price point. It also means being strategic about your goal and working out the financial milestones you must hit to appeal to the psychology of potential backers and gain enough momentum to reach your overarching goal.
It’s best to work out exactly how much start-up capital you need before you begin. The lower your initial funding goal, the better. A low floor won’t limit your revenue potential. As author James Hight, who ran a successful crowdfunding campaign and documented his process on Jane Friedman’s website states, “People are more likely to contribute to your campaign if it looks like it’s going to hit your goals.” Setting your minimum goal low helps you create that impression, making it more likely you’ll surpass your minimum and reach stretch goals.
Studies have found that typical month-long campaigns that surpass their minimum goals get around 30% of their funding on launch day and 50-60% by the end of the first week. Hence, if you want to achieve a similar feat, plan to deploy some of your heavy marketing artillery early in your campaign. Just remember to account for marketing costs and the cut your crowdfunding platform will take in fees.
If you’ve frontloaded your work and scheduled content in advance, you should have freed up time for when your campaign goes live. That’s good because, even if you’ve warmed up your audience prior to your campaign launch, being an excellent host during the run is vital for building momentum. For best results, it’s worth lining up surprises that keep your community engaged. Unannounced giveaways will give you something to talk about when broadcasting reminders to pledge money or increase the amount backers have already invested.
Aim to be as active on social media as possible during showtime. Send authentic emails to your mailing list and talk about milestones in your Facebook group. If you can tailor your content to backers at different investment levels and give surprise gifts to everyone along the way, that will make each of them feel even more special and can lead to extra support. What you give out doesn’t matter – digital products like concept art or author interviews can work – as long as you remain positive and maintain an upbeat, professional tone. The right content can even persuade those who haven’t yet contributed to stump up their cash. Not only that, it keeps you front and centre in your audience’s minds, right through the length of your campaign.
Crowdfunding might be an alien concept to you, but it’s worth considering for its massive potential. Yes, you can use it to cover your editing and cover design fees, but what about audiobooks? Luxury leather special editions? Boardgames? Videogames? Unlike the big ebook retailers that most indie authors use to generate the bulk of their income, there is no limit to the creative potential of crowdfunding. Capture the public imagination and anything can happen. If you can dream it, you can fund it.
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