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An introduction to crowdfunding a novel

As digital developments continue at a rapid rate, the publishing industry has become an ever more high-pressure environment to work in, with each year seeming to bring a new technology to threaten the traditional way of producing and marketing books.

Now, as margins get tighter, authors, magazines and small independent publishers are increasingly turning to the internet to build new support for their businesses. And it’s the growing popularity of crowdfunding that’s providing a new avenue for attracting investment and sponsorship to fund projects to fruition.

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Crowdfunding platforms

Among the numerous crowdfunding sites that continue to spring up all over the internet are the big, longer-established names such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo, but there are also much more niche operations like Publishizer which specialise in book-specific fundraising.

Kickstarter, which launched in 2009, is probably the best-known crowd-funding site covering a diverse range of projects in every sector, of which publishing is just a tiny part. However, book-related projects are growing at a rapid rate with numbers more than doubling between 2011 and 2014. Now, as more authors and publishers are joining, they’re becoming a critical mass, and other providers report similar growth.

What all these sites have in common is that they allow interested individuals to pledge funds for what they want to buy, and for creatives to pre-sell their product in order to raise the money to produce it. In exchange for financial backing, crowdfunding artists can offer rewards to those people who’ve put their money up, by giving them preferential deals or extra freebies.

 

So what are the benefits?

There are numerous reasons to crowd fund a book. The most obvious being that the process can cover the whole cost of producing the publication, or not, in which case there’s an early indication that it’s worth less of the author’s time and effort. In other words, it can be an invaluable tool for testing the market as well as for leveraging investment, and it validates the work before you write it, safe in the knowledge that people will be willing to pay for it when it’s finished. Others may simply use crowdfunding to pay for a cover designer or a copy editor.

It may be that an author makes a book available exclusively to those who’ve pledged money to the project rather than putting it on the open market; a particularly useful tactic for very niche or specialised subject matters.

 

Stakeholder involvement

One of the most powerful advantages of crowdfunding is the ability to build a movement around your work. By harnessing the assistance of a wider audience you bring in a group of loyal stakeholders who want to see your project succeed. This helps to build a feeling of community around your project, which can snowball into a substantial fan base in a way that traditional publishers would have great difficulty replicating.

In doing this, it can also build up an atmosphere of anticipation for the work, which is never a bad thing for a writer and especially useful for authors working on future books in an already established and popular series.

 

A boost for self-publishers?

Self-publishing is sometimes perceived as the poor relation in the publishing world. No matter what new innovations come in, the self-published author can sometimes be seen by the market as somewhat inferior to those who’ve secured a traditional publishing deal – the last redoubt of the lesser achievers who’ve failed to get published properly. This of course is completely unfair and a rather dated attitude, but still it persists.

Crowdfunding of self-published work, however, forces the world to take it more seriously. It lends legitimacy to a self-publisher who can now show how many people have pre-ordered their book and how much money they’ve raised.

And this is the true strength of crowdfunding; the money is put up by small-scale individuals parting with hard-earned resources, rather than large organisations following sales predictions. The product arrives at market with its group of supporters all ready to sing its praises and push it to a wider audience. What can be better than that?

 

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