After I raised funds with Indiegogo to support the launch of my debut novel, Juventud, in 2015, I decided to do the same for my story collection, Perfect Conditions—only better. Crowdfunding is an excellent way for authors to offset the travel expenses and costs of book launches. A book release is exciting, especially for those who know how hard the author has worked. The lead-up to a new title’s release—preorders, the arrival of print copies, planning event appearances—provides the essential ingredients for the author to run a successful crowdfunding campaign: enthusiasm from supporters, plus the opportunity to set concrete goals and achieve results.
Get a Head Start
Authors should launch their crowdfunding pages one to two months before their books are released, and/or when they want to start participating in speaking engagements. Most successful campaigns meet their goals between the 30- and 40-day marks; I launched my recent campaign 35 days out from the pub date, so I just chose the latter for my Indiegogo deadline—thus maximizing lead time to push both the book and the crowdfunding page.
Use Polished and Professional Media
Those with the time and resources may want to shoot brief (two-minute) videos for their pages, describing why they’re asking for support. I’ve used professionally shot footage of me reading at events to showcase a snazzy “book tour moment” instead. Authors will also want to upload several high-resolution stills of themselves, cover images, etc.
Set Realistic Goals
For each of my books’ launches, the budget came to roughly $2,500. This was also the amount I felt was reasonable to ask for and that I could realistically raise. Research reveals that keeping the goal amount below five figures increases the likelihood of successfully crowdfunding an author’s publishing-related project.
Tell Good (and Upbeat) Stories
An author’s story needs to be clear and concise as well as personal. When I launched my recent campaign, I was still waiting to hear back from book festivals. I referred to readings where I’d presented my novel in 2015 and explained that my goal was to accept similar reading invitations for the new book. Authors should avoid the temptation to tell sob stories about why they need money, and how if they don’t get it they won’t be able to go anywhere. People are drawn to contribute because they feel enthused about an author’s endeavor, not out of pity or guilt.
Don’t Feel Bad About Scrapping Perks
I had offered small perks (bookmarks, press swag, signed author copies) during my first campaign, and no one asked for them. My backers evidently want their funds to directly help launch the book rather than pay for promotional perks, so authors shouldn’t feel badly about leaving them out.
Email and PM Contacts
When my campaign went live and I shared it on social media, I immediately started receiving contributions. But the overwhelming response came from emailing letters to select contacts: professionals outside the arts, persons gainfully employed, and fans. Tweak the letter and email it repeatedly. In the final five days, with $700 left to raise, I private messaged those who seemed likely to respond to a bold but friendly nudge. People are busy—authors must (kindly) PM with a link. Some only chipped in $10 or $20, but with those final contributions, the campaign exceeded its goal.
Keep Supporters Updated
Once a campaign succeeds, authors should share the news, along with their latest book buzz. By my campaign deadline, the Chicago Tribune had selected Perfect Conditions as a 2018 “Summer Read”—plus, I had the announcement for the hometown launch party ready. This was a great opportunity to cross-promote.
It’s All About Relationships
The campaign’s over and the goal has been reached—now what? An author should keep a list of backers; remember those individuals, update them as the tour progresses, and be genuine in cultivating rapport. Chances are those same individuals will contribute to the next campaign.
Vanessa Blakeslee is the author of Perfect Conditions: Stories (Curbside Splendor, 2018), Juventud (2015), and Train Shots: Stories (2014).