Following the Crowd

In the last 12 months, there has been a lot of buzz about crowdfunding, especially as a potential monetary channel for authors. Some books were successfully funded on Kickstarter (while many disappeared without a whimper), then came Unbound, which labels itself as a crowdfunding platform and a publisher in one and is actually quite selective of the projects taken on, followed by Pubslush, a platform dedicated to crowdfunding books, and now Authr. Be sure: many more fish will attempt to feed in these seemingly prosperous waters.

If you’re unfamiliar with crowdfunding, it’s this: “The practice of funding a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the Internet.”*

You may be excused in thinking that with such a process, the wisdom of the crowd will prevail. It doesn’t. Successfully crowdfunding a project, whatever it is, has a lot more to do with marketing and perseverance than with a project’s merit. Oh, and it helps to be famous to begin with. Just see the likes of James Franco, Spike Lee, Don Cheadle and others, using crowdfunding sites for their projects.

Still, these days, publishing is pretty much 90% marketing, and authors have accept this and get involved. Running a successful project on a crowdfunding site requires a lot of work and involvement, before, during and after. Don’t simply think you can post your project and everyone will donate. It’s essential to engage, starting with people in your own network and expanding from there.

Separating your project from the crowd

My first foray into crowdfunding has just started. I thought I was well-prepared. Turns out I’m not, but I’m learning a lot on the fly. I run Rippple Books, a small publisher of fiction. One of our writers, Royce Leville, won an independent publishing award a few years ago, and for his next book, we wanted to try something different in order to build momentum and reach new readers before the book is published. Enter crowdfunding.

But as there are so many book projects trying to be crowdfunded, we feared that Royce’s collection of short stories would get lost in the crowd. We needed a way to make the project stand out. In the end, we were lucky that the director Marc Bethke liked one of Royce’s stories so much, he adapted it into a short film screenplay. Together, we’re trying to fund the production of the film and the publication of the book, all under the banner of “a unique film-book crowdfunding project.” Take a look at our campaign page: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/short-film-mikelis-and-story-collection-the-book-of-names/x/7963130

What started as a publishing venture has morphed into a cross-media endeavor, and this means we’re pulling film fans towards the book and readers towards the film, and whatever else in between, and this will continue long after the campaign is over: the book will drive the promotion of the film, and when the film is released, it will bring viewers back to the book.

Plus, it’s become increasingly apparent that crowdfunding is suited to short-form fiction. It’s much easier to post a short story for potential backers than an outline for a novel. It fits the digital era too, as readers are more willing to give 5-10 minutes to reading a punch-packing short story on a mobile device than to committing to a 600-page doorstop. And like a song, a short story can be easily shared as well.

So, if you’re a short fiction writer looking to crowdfund your collection, I suggest you think outside the box a little. Try to make your project more than just your stories. You could partner with a musician, who writes songs based on your stories, resulting in a book and a CD, and possibly a joint tour. Or with an artist who illustrates the stories and puts the resulting work on display. Or with a fashion designer who makes cool t-shirts based on your stories. Or…whatever else might be interesting, transforming and, er, crowd-pulling.

Guest post written by Cam Jefferys

An award-winning author in his own right, Cam Jefferys also runs Rippple Books, a small publisher that works with authors who offer unusual perspectives and who challenge the established structures. The three P’s stand for “producer to public publishing.” Rippple likes to connect books with readers, and to have readers share the books around. That’s why every publication has a Travel Page at the front, so readers can document where the book travels.

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