HackDigital.net’s founder, Luke Marshall, crowdfunded and self-published a book this time last year. In honour of the anniversary (and the fact he’s hustling for HackDigital.net), he shares some of his wisdom from the experience.
Oh for the love of gosh – please stop it guys!
How you uh, how you comin’ on that novel you’re working on?
I would hear this every other damn day. And had been for the last three years. It was rubbing salt into the wound every bleeding time. I used to love that quote, that antagonistic quote so much, until, around 2009 during my time in Sydney, I announced I was going to write a book. Unfortunately, the writing had carried on for a few years, and the more it did, the more that quote reared its ugly head from my friends and acquaintances.
Fortunately, something changed in the year 2012 – I discovered the sites Blurb and Pozible. In this post, I’ll discuss the latter, as it enabled me to generate demand for my unfinished book, and raise almost $4,000 in the process.
The down-low on crowdfunding
Pozible is a crowdfunding platform. If that doesn’t make sense to you don’t worry, most of the population is still catching on. Broken down, crowdfunding is a way to earn money for your ideas, based on their merit and the quality of your proposal. I think it’s important to have both. For example, you can have the best idea in the world and pitch it poorly, or the best pitch for an idea and still have it fall down. The latter happened with one of the projects I supported – Beerend – a seamless, well put-together pitch, but failed due to the idea not quite gelling with its audience requirements.
Crowdfunding has seen a surge in years of late, with a number of high-profile successes like Patient Zero (check out their just launched Sydney campaign too)! And some rather well-documented flops. Navigating the path to funds has never been more exciting, but at the same time, it’s not free money.
It started with a plan
In almost all instances in life, it is always better to do and learn, than plan and don’t. But when you have one shot at something, a little groundwork can go a long way. Verbalising what you intend to do first can be a great sense-check for what the reception is going to be like. But don’t just run in past your close friends, as sometimes you won’t hear what you want to:
“is this the book u have been writing for ages?”
Get ready for the launch
Other than verbalising, there are a number of other things you can do to get familiar with the process and kickstart your intentions. PlanBig was a great resource for me. I announced my intentions on there and the community managers and other members were able to give me some great pointers. Poring over the historically successful plans at Pozible really helped me frame my campaign, particularly those related to writing. A special shout-out goes to Kate Toon, who I saw at the Emerging Writer’s Festival in 2012 who spoke about her crowdfunding success with An Enjoyable Poetry Book, and helped spur the motivation along. Pozible also hosts crowdfunding workshops regularly announced on Eventbrite that can be good for meeting other project creators.
Feeling a little melon-choly?
Okay, so I lied. While planning and getting ready are important, you can spend too much time talking about it and not enough time doing. Remember, 90% ready is almost always better than 100% ready, and you don’t want to agonise over execution and remain in stasis. The things I think are key for your campaign are:
- Pitch video and images
- Amazing copy
- Great prizes and incentives to pledge
Here’s what I did and I’ll break down each one for you.
Pitch video and images – I didn’t mess around with this, I’ve goofed around on camera before and this was no time to be camera shy. I got a mate I was paying to do the photos for the book to start shooting and off we went. iMovie is a pretty good resource for chopping together video, and failing that, Windows Movie Maker can be pretty nifty too. The shots I got from my friend made great collateral for feeding into the proposal.
Amazing copy – I’m not the world’s best writer, but keeping it short, punchy, and to the point is key. Be authentic, share a bit about yourself, and remember that people usually aren’t pledging exclusively for the incentives – they’re pledging and getting behind you! People want to see you succeed so having some well-said words will go a long way in helping them feel good about their decision.
Great prizes and incentives to pledge – Here’s something you won’t usually hear. The people you think will pledge big don’t, and the people who you didn’t even think of will pledge big. There’s an element of chaos with what people feel they can give you and its not an exact science. Having a broad range of values is a good thing, and book-ending the most valuable rewards with something truly unique will really bolster your campaign. I was very surprised to find 4 of the top 5 rewards gone within the first week. The other big winner were social media shout-outs – people were chasing me for theirs! (And I delivered)
The last thing I’ll add to the execution, is maintaining a realistic goal. I did some calculations with mine and thought I needed $2,000 to offset the effort and costs of self-publishing versus not doing it and I was pretty on the money, but there are other project creators who have been burned. Its a tricky process and hard to put a value on the apple of your eye, but ultimately you should err on the side of caution without putting yourself into debt.
Once you launch, the target doesn’t get there by itself. You’ve got to hustle down on that shit. The majority of my leads came from my social media networks and then my friends sharing those updates. The former nets more pledges, but the latter extends your network visibility. So encouraging both shares and pledges is great. There are a number of other things you should be doing too, some of which I did, some of which I didn’t. Launch event, PR releases, talking about it with friends/family/randoms, celebration event, and Tweeting influencers for shout-outs are all good tactics. In fact, Google searches on PR strategy, earned media, and low-budget social media, will all net good results.
The finish line
Congratulations, you made your target and you win the moneys! A couple of things to keep in mind at this point are that the money doesn’t come instantly (usually 7 days), there’s a % fee that goes to Pozible (or other crowdfund site), and that you SHOULD UPHOLD YOUR PLEDGES. Don’t be one of those arseholes that takes your money and then fails to deliver on the promise. It’s bitterly disappointing and I’ve been burned in the past.
Applying this to digital marketing
There’s potential in the world of crowdfunding for small brands to get in on the action. I’d stress that this needs to be for the right brand, and one that does not have a marketing budget. But a great campaign I saw came from the Naked agency – a campaign about giving a crap. A gentleman sat down on a toilet until the money was raised for a toilet paper brand – with 50% of that money then going on to help sanitisation in developing countries. Seriously well played.