Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Does crowdfunding really work?

Ahead of writing the next book in my Train Tripping series, I turned to the idea of crowdfunding. It seems wherever you look on the internet, crowdfunding is being pushed as the 'in thing' for writers, musicians, artists and movie producers to raise some capital for their project. So could it also work for a railway adventurer who was busy making travel plans to head to Melbourne to write his next book? Why not? After all, even the crowdfunding sites were touting this as a way to get free money. So what was the result? Does crowdfunding really work?

I always planned to write my next book regardless of whether I reached the crowdfunding target I'd set or not. Living in Australia, I looked for an Australian based crowdfunding platform rather than simply choosing the biggest. I also wanted to find a crowdfunding platform that was more publishing-orientated rather than a free-for-all collaborative of anything goes. So I chose

Publishizer is a crowdfunding platform aimed solely at authors. It seemed the perfect place to pitch my proposal. With three Train Tripping eBooks already behind me, and my travel plans to Melbourne already booked to write the next one, I set about building a launch page, writing a book proposal and having a mock cover designed and uploaded for the book. With Publishizer sending the best of their successful campaigns directly to literary agents, there was even the odd chance that all of my books might come to the attention of an Australian publishing house. So I went one step further. I also sought out a professional puppeteer through who produced a 30 second video for my Train Tripping book series, uploaded it to YouTube and embedded it on my campaign page. The idea was brilliant, or so I thought.

I think I spent the best part of two days putting the whole thing together. I set my crowdfunding target low, from memory it was $874 Australian which was what I calculated my air fares, train fares, accommodation and meals to amount to when flying to Melbourne and spending 3 days riding as many trains as I could for my next book. Next up, I blitzed social media through email, my blog, twitter and Facebook pages, followed by the local newspapers here in Australia over the next two weeks, and watched as my 45 day target campaign slowly ticked by.


I kid you not. 45 days later, I had raised exactly $0. Talk about a disappointment! While I'd received an amazing amount of positive feedback about my puppet video from friends and family, my crowdfunding page on Publishizer had been shared a grand total of 17 times, including 3 tweets and 1 like on Facebook. So was my crowdfunding campaign nothing but a waste of time?

Well.... uh, yes, and no. Apart from the few bucks it cost to create a puppet video, the whole campaign only cost me my time. I look at it this way, it was free advertising. During my campaign, my recently released book Train Tripping Around Sydney became a Number 1 Bestseller on Kobo, and the Kiama Independent ran a story on my wife and I visiting Kiama as part of my Train Tripping adventures. I guess when comparing the few crowdfunding projects that did reach their campaign targets during the same time that my rather unsuccessful effort was live, I did make one important observation. Most of the books that were successful in crowdfunding thousands of dollars were either technology, business or alternate self-awareness books, as opposed to fiction and travelogue books like my own.

From my own experience, you really have to decide first if you could be bothered putting all your ideas out there in the hope of raising some financial support ahead of working on your next book. Keep in mind that pledges of money normally come with one thing attached, the offer of something in return. That something in return is normally 'x' amount of copies of your book when it is released, and books cost money. A quick search on Google will reveal a myriad of crowdfunding sites, all of which promise free money for your ideas in a matter of minutes, and all of which survive by keeping a small percentage fee of the amount you raise. So if like me, you just like to do things your own way, then ignore the promise of free money, (which it isn't), and simply put all your time into writing. At the end of the day I'm aiming for a published book, not a successful crowdfunding campaign.

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