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Crowdfunding a self-published book

One of my writing friends, Olli Tooley, joined me today to talk about crowdfunding a project in a really nice guest post :)

As a writer with a very limited amount of disposable income I have always faced a serious challenge in terms of bringing my book to market. I am not complaining mind; writers with a “proper job” may be able to afford to pay for editing out of their disposable income but they must have to work incredibly hard to produce books in the evenings and weekends, and finding time to promote must be nigh on impossible. 
I confess, the thought of sending my MS off to literary agents and getting the occasional rejection letter really didn’t appeal to me, so I never considered going the conventional publishing route. I have good friends who are traditionally published and I admire them hugely for their tenacity and strength of character, but that’s not me.

My first published book “Time Tunnel to Londinium” was a 9k word children’s story. I didn’t do a full professional job on that. I picked over the text myself and then gave it to my sister, an English teacher. The cover I did on Photoshop (some would say it shows) and I used Kindle, and Createspace for print-on-demand. 

When I completed “Children of the Wise Oak” I knew it was worth going the extra mile to make it a really professional offering. I had read about a new type of crowdfunder aimed specifically at publishing. 

Inkshares offered the chance to get your book professionally edited, with cover design and layout all done by their in house team, and even a certain amount of promotion. You had to shift 750 pre-orders for the full deal, or 250 for a basic package. I thought I must know 250 people who will buy my book. This turned out not to be the case, although I did sell a fair few, I was quite far short of the target by the end. 

That was a bit disheartening; like getting a rejection letter from hundreds of my friends. However, I decided to try again using conventional crowdfunding and I am glad I did because, with hindsight, I think the results were better.
In spring of 2016, I launched a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to cover the cost of publishing my first full novel, “Children of the Wise Oak”.
I set the goal at £1,800 which, after fees, would work out at around £1,600 and I hit my target with a week to spare.

 However, there were some lessons I learned.

Things I did wrong

Not enough money

It sounds like a lot (unless you have self-published before) but in terms of producing a really professional book it isn’t.
I did spend more on the cover than most indie authors. £450 for a commissioned painting from a professional artist.
That included worldwide rights in perpetuity, which could one day be very important. 

I thought that I could just insert a title and author name onto the artwork and hey presto, cover done. But actually, I ended up engaging a professional graphic designer to turn the painting into a proper cover. 

Where I did not spend enough was on the editing. #

Despite all the times people have said, “don’t cut corners on editing” I still did.
Sure I self-edited, and beta readers kindly pointed out mistakes, but the professional edit is the key. My editor was only allowed one crack at it. She did an incredible job, but without the time for a separate copy-edit and line-edit, it was never going to be perfect. 

I should say, she did remarkably well, and there are far fewer errors than in some professional books I have read. Nevertheless, I should have allowed more money for editing. About five or six hundred pounds more actually.
Printing costs were as expected, and I also spent money on a list of ISBNs for this and future publications.

Building a buzz.

It is all about getting off to a cracking start. I relied almost entirely on my personal Facebook profile and messaged my friends one by one asking them to pledge. It was hard work and demoralising as you realise with the best will in the world that not ALL your friends want to read a historically grounded fantasy about Celts and Romans. 

Write a press release and send it to all the local media, as well as any book blogs, in advance of the launch. 

Before launching the crowdfunder, be sure to ask people to check it out in review mode. Make them aware ahead of launch and tell them when the launch will be. 

Things I did right

Range of pledges

I made sure there were plenty of price points to suit every pocket. People could pledge from a pound, to one thousand pounds. Everyone got thanked on my website, regardless of the size of the pledge

I personally resent the type of crowdfunder where the reward is not commensurate with the pledge amount. So I priced my books at about the amount I thought they would sell for. It made it more like pre-ordering than financing a writer’s crazy dream. There were also unique bookmarks and posters featuring the awesome artwork.

Professional presentation

I made sure the write up was well written and error free. After all who wants to buy a book from someone who can’t even write a crowdfunder page properly?

I also took the time to explain how I was going to do everything I set out to do. Nobody wants to pledge if it looks like the person is not going to deliver the goods. 

I saw one project with no pledges, where the writer was seeking £10,000 to “go away for a year to write the book”. 

So how did it go?

I received £1,666 exactly and I spent about £2,500 bringing the book to market, and delivering on all the pledges. 

I had 100 first edition hardcover and 200 paperback copies printed. About half of those went out to pledgers, the remainder became stock. The bookmarks are still good for giving away at book fairs etc.

Now, I am doing it all again for the sequel “Women of the Wise Oak” and I am still on a learning curve, to be honest. 

Current project.

So now I am back again for round 2 and there are some changes. No doubt I will learn more lessons from this project. 

Women of the Wise Oak” is on Crowdfunder and the project runs until 15th March. 

I set the goal at £2,400 this time to allow for a full copy-edit and separate line-edit. Only time will tell if the extra expense will prove worth it, but I am fairly certain it will. 

I will be using the same cover artist and designer as last time, and the same printers as well. 

I have done a press release which went out to all my local newspapers, although so far not one of them has printed an article. Devon Life magazine asked for a copy of “Children of the Wise Oak” to review, which wasn’t what I had hoped for but it is still a good thing. 

I anticipate still spending a little more than the amount I get in, but that’s fine. I will have a stock of copies to sell locally as before.


My feeling is, that even if I had the money to pay for editing, design, and even promotion, I would still consider doing a crowdfunder project for a new book for any self-publishing author. 

It is a great way to guarantee that there will be some sales and readers who will likely review your book early on. It is not much different from taking advance orders for a new title, really.


Dianna Zaragoza said…
Love your posts, Jo. This whole marketing thing is like an alien world, and it's so helpful to have the thoughts of someone who's paved a road ahead.
Joanne Zebedee said…
Thank you so much! I'm glad it is useful :) Good luck with the marketing et al - it's not easy!