When Deanna Zandt signed her contract with Barrett-Koehler to publish her first book, Sink or Swim: Making Waves of Change in a New Social Media World next April, she knew the house did not give advances, relying instead on a more author-friendly royalty structure. To help fund her research and give herself the opportunity to devote full-time to writing, Zandt, a media and technology consultant, reached out for financial assistance and sent a fund-raising letter to 500 potential backers. The appeal was directed mainly to the communities that have been the focus of her life for many years: feminists, organizers and political activists.

“Relationships are everything, and we can help each other,” noted Zandt. “Sink or Swim is about the power of technology as a social networking tool for those on the sidelines of technology advances—women, people of color and more.” She hopes her fund-raising effort is an example of practice what you preach. Zandt's goal is to raise $15,000 to cover expenses, travel and research. Donations totaling $6,558 have come in since she started her appeal June 23, with $4,558 raised through her e-mail/Twitter campaign and $2,000 in a matching fund set up by large donors. The owner of the Two Boots pizza chain in New York has also contributed $100 a month in pizza to cover some of Zandt's outlay for food. “I'll even trade some of the Two Boots' gift certificates for research help,” Zandt said. She said she chose to publish with B-K even without an advance because “it was much more important for me to work with someone so supportive and aligned with my own beliefs about the need for progressive community development in our culture.”

A graduate of SUNY at Albany, Zandt is an expert in women and technology. She works with groups to create and implement effective Web strategies toward organizational goals of civic empowerment. In January, Zandt was chosen as a fellow for the Progressive Women's Voices at the Women's Media Center.

“I don't think that crowd funding should necessarily replace book advances, but it's certainly another tool for writers to think about in the context of the media ecosystem,” Zandt explained. A few criticisms have come Zandt's way from associates who think she is sacrificing her artistic integrity, but the overwhelming response has been supportive. “I hope you'll forgive my chutzpah, yet I want this to happen so badly I can taste it. It's a dream come true,” Zandt wrote in her letter. Zandt can be contacted via http://www.deannazandt.com/.