10 crowd-funding lessons for authors

I’ve been crowdfunding a novel for — well, I was about to write, for too long.

But I realised today that I don’t really want it to end. I’m happy getting there slowly. I’ve finally fallen in love with the process, and stopped wishing I had already reached my target. Here’s why.

  1. Crowdfunding gave me full permission to get out there and talk about the novel — far more so than I ever talked about the four books I published previously (in 15 languages) with “real”
    publishers. How come? Because I absolutely NEED to talk about it, or I won’t raise any funds.
  2. Crowdfunding made me look into the novel’s ideas and themes afresh — in order to understand how it might appeal to potential readers. That done, I was better prepared to find the kinds of audience who might be drawn to a book unlike any I’ve written before.
  3. Crowdfunding gave me a reason to learn to use things that will be useful to me in life and work more generally. Mailchimp emails, Pinterest boards, Wistia videos, Hootsuite for scheduled social media, and hashtags to bring in people who might never find me otherwise.
  4. Crowdfunding taught me that people liked some kinds of content, and didn’t like others much, or at all. Sometimes these lessons were reassuring and made me glow inside. Sometimes they were like a kick in the guts. (My best friend unsubscribed!)
  5. Crowdfunding taught me to take both types of lesson in my stride. I’m a stronger person for it.
  6. Crowdfunding taught me to be more considerate of others who crowd-fund. I have learned how nice it is to receive an encouraging email or tweet or “like”, even (or especially) from people who don’t fund me.
  7. Crowdfunding taught me that I can’t possibly fund the whole thing unless my friends spread the word — cash alone won’t be enough. (NOTE to friends: please, read this one again!)
  8. Crowdfunding actually changed the nature of my book, in several ways. Here’s just one. A principal character, Alexander Pope, was that rare thing — a rich poet. Only because of my interest in funding models for authors did I realise that Pope’s success was directly attributable to his skill at crowdfunding (in the 1700s they called it “subscription publishing”). I learned that Pope suffered the same agonies as any other crowdfunder, but ended up with possibly the all-time greatest list of subscribers. And I put an account of his struggles into my book — making it a book ABOUT crowdfunding as well as a book funded by the crowd.
  9. Crowdfunding confronted me with evidence of something weird about many authors. Between us, we imagine entire worlds, and convey great quantities of wisdom. But when it comes to the business of publishing, too many of us go blank, and hold ourselves victims of other people’s decisions. I’m thrilled to be working with a large group of authors, of all kinds, who intend to turn that on its head — by imagining what publishing might be like if authors had more say in it, and then making that come about.
  10. Crowdfunding enabled me to see afresh why it’s ALSO great to work with “proper” publishers, who have great ideas, and useful connections, and can share the hard work.