What is Crowdfunded-Publishing? And why you should consider it. Featuring Susan K. Hamilton author of Shadow King
You've heard of Kickstarter...
Crowdfunding isn't a new concept. The advent of the internet, social media networks, and our increasing online existence it is no surprise to see artists, authors, and creatives of all kind leveraging the power of their social networks. Platforms like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, and GoFundMe are household names, yet Crowdfunding isn't restricted to these avenues. Along with these innovative platforms a host of publishing oriented sites have cropped up. Inkshares, Crowdbooks, and UnBound have taken the concept of Crowdfunding and provided a haven for authors to engage audiences in an exciting way. By running campaigns to attract readers, specifically pre-orders of their latest WIP, authors are able to access the power of the Crowd to publish their work.
Why should indie authors consider Crowdfunding?
There are several reasons...
Crowdfunding your novel is a rewarding experience that nets the author a number of key advantages over self-publishing. While I published my first novel via the self-publishing (Amazon KDP model), it was not my first choice. I initially attempted to crowdfund on the Inkshares platform. There were a few key factors that attracted me to the concept.
Despite those advantages...I found that the world of Crowdfunding isn't easy...
My first campaign to fund and publish Nemeton was a failure. The novel was under a different name, concept, and had poorly written drafts. I was so excited about the idea though, and I knew others would. There was one key issue, I wasn't done writing the book yet, and readers could tell. They never said as much, but the lack of interest told me all I needed to know. I wasn't ready to publish under this model.
Don't let that discourage you...
I have seen many other authors succeed where I failed and I learned a few key things from them. In fact, for this blog I pulled in one of the authors who recently succeeded in publishing through Inkshares. I interviewed her so you could better grasp the concept of crowdfunding and how to publish your book through this exciting method.
Meet Susan K. Hamilton, author of Shadow King
About Susan K. Hamilton
Susan K. Hamilton has always enjoyed writing, but didn’t truly start writing in earnest until her freshman year at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, when her English teacher challenged the class to write “something creative.” The resulting short story eventually transformed into her first novel, “Darkstar Rising.”
In 2016, she entered the Launchpad Manuscript Competition and her manuscript, “Shadow King”, was a Top Ten finalist and is currently in production at Inkshares (release date TBD). The following year, she entered a different manuscript in the 2017 Launchpad Competition, and made it to the Top 25. That novel—“The Devil You Don’t”—will enter the production queue at Inkshares in 2018.
Susan lives outside of Boston, Massachusetts with her husband and cat, and is currently working on a follow up novel to “Shadow King.”
Why did you initially decide to go with a crowdfunded approach?
I actually had never heard of crowdfunding for a book or Inkshares until I entered the 2016 Launchpad Manuscript Competition. I really went this route because it was part of the competition.
How does crowdfunding work?
Crowdfunding, at least in the Inkshares model, works on the premise that you put your novel up on their web site, open it for funding, and then solicit people to pre-order copies. If you get enough, then Inkshares will invest in the book through different levels of production and marketing support.
They had two levels originally – the Quill Imprint which had a threshold of 250 orders and full Inkshares publishing which required 750 orders (it is slightly different if you’re part of an Inkshares contest). Quill could be considered “publishing light”: you’ll get a line edit/proofread, design and layout, and distribution through online outlets. I have heard, however, that they are going to be phasing out the Quill Imprint during 2018.
Had you tried querying agents?
Yes, I’d been querying agents for several months and had no nibbles, and when I saw the Launchpad competition – which had the option of getting judges’ feedback – I figured I had nothing to lose.
Did you consider Self-Publishing? What held you back from going down that road?
I actually self-published my first novel, “Darkstar Rising.” I wanted to try the crowdfunding method since it was part of the Inkshares contest, and I was intrigued by the business model. The drawback for self-publishing is it does require more of your own money, whereas crowdfunding through Inkshares is, to some extent, only an investment of your time and effort.
I would be totally open to self-publishing a future novel if I felt that was the best path for me, and I had the resources.
Tell us a little bit about Inkshares from your perspective?
One of the things I’ve liked best about Inkshares is the chance to find some interesting books that I may not have run across otherwise. I’ve also met and become friends with some wonderful other authors who have been very supportive through my campaigns.
I’ve enjoyed working with the staff at Inkshares so far. I think the one thing I’ve found frustrating is the speed of production. They have not gotten through the books in line ahead of mine very quickly, and I wish they would do more regular communication about how close the book is to actual kick-off (when the editor is ready for it).
What strategies did you use to attract readers?
In my first campaign for Shadow King, I really had not strategy. I had no idea really how to network or use social media, so I really just started flailing around which just caused me a lot of churn and anxiety.
When did my second campaign for The Devil You Don’t, I had a better idea of what I was doing and was much clearer with my marketing and communication. I tried to use hooks from the novel to drive interest on both Facebook and Twitter. I also created a video book trailer. I did a better job networking with other Inkshares authors who helped promote Devil to their followers as well.
What would you tell someone interested in Crowdfunding their novel?
I would say it is more work than you think it is. If you think you’re just going to send out some emails and the orders will roll in, you’re probably going to be disappointed.
Do a little research before you open your book for funding. I’d recommend reading this article from Donna (Fung) Litt (who I met on Inkshares) and watching her videos on crowdsourcing your book: https://medium.com/@DonnaMLitt/10-hard-earned-lessons-on-crowdfunding-your-novel-dd14fe2b77cf
Crowdfunding is a marathon, not a sprint so pace yourself. And remember this about people: a lot of them won’t take action until the deadline is on them. It will be frustrating for you, but remember that.
And lastly, I would say social media is great for general awareness, but most of my pre-orders in both campaigns came from me sending personal messages to individuals telling them what I was trying to accomplish, and specifically asking for their support. Also, asking the folks who order your book to help by personally recommending it to one or two of their friends is good too – most of us are more likely to buy a book that our friend recommended versus one that someone retweets about.
What did you dislike or struggle with during the Crowdfunding process?
I struggled with crowdfunding because I’m not the best self-promoter. Marketing is not my expertise and I found the constant pressure of of networking with people, following up, and coming up with new ways to promote my books to be—frankly—exhausting. There were some days where I felt like I couldn’t focus on my writing or editing because I had to spend my time networking and promoting.
That being said, I’ve learned a lot that will help me market better once my books are released.
The other thing I found really frustrating was having people say, “of course I’ll support you!” and then never followed through, despite several follow up conversations. And that didn’t just happen with strangers or distant friends. I actually had some very close friends who I thought would be slam-dunks for orders… and they weren’t. I don’t blame them for that—it might be they wanted to and then couldn’t for some reason. So don’t be surprised if that happens, but don’t let it derail you.
Crowdfunding isn’t for everyone, and like Donna says in her articles, it is NOT a “shortcut” to publication. You still need to have a good product and you have to put the sweat equity into making your campaign a success.
Anything else you’d like to share about Crowdfunding?
The other thing is—at least in the case of working with Inkshares—you need to be very patient. If your campaign comes to a successful conclusion, that’s great. But that is just the start. Then you wait. And wait. And wait some more until there is an editor available for you.
Shadow King has been waiting for an editor for nearly a year, and there are several books in front of me still. I’ll be lucky if I get to the editor this fall.
And that has been really hard – not only because I’m very excited to get my book into print, but also because I hate knowing that all the wonderful people who supported my campaign are still waiting for a return on their investment. I know they’ll get a great book eventually, but I wish it was going a lot faster.
WELL DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM SUSAN?
From my own experience...
Many of the things that Susan relayed about the Crowdfunding process are 100% accurate. It is not a race, it is a marathon. I watched as several author friends battled their way through to 250 orders or even the more elusive 750 order needed for full publication. You think that a president goes gray fast? These authors looks like the walking dead, but they got to their goal. The model provided by Inkshares.com and other Crowd-Publishers is an enticing concept for an author who has a finalized manuscript, a gritty determination, a sense of social media online, and the tenacity of a marketer, because that is what it takes.
My final thoughts on the matter are simple. Try it out! I think every author should try and crowdfund a novel. I myself am considering a second run with one of my new WIP's. Considering what I learned from the last round, and the audience I built for my first novel, I welcome the challenge it presents.
In the words of the immortal legend
Christopher Lee is the indie author of Nemeton, an avid history buff, mythologist, bardic poet, and keeper of the old ways.