When I decided to self-publish my book, my first big, scary concern was how I would market it. How do people decide what to read? If you’re me, your mom casually mentions a new book that you absolutely must read two to three times a week. So then you always know what to read without ever really having to try. Unless I can talk my mom into spreading those phone calls out to include a few hundred thousand other people, I have some research to do.
Setting that completely daunting problem aside, I sat down to make a self-publishing budget. Before I even got to the wild guesstimating that would have been my marketing costs, I was up to a number that made my stomach drop. Self-publishing may have many perks, but being cheap is not one of them.
I mean, sure, I could technically self-publish something at a very low cost. I could make a ginormous PDF of my manuscript as is and send it off to Amazon and let it quietly join a list of millions of other digital titles. It would have typos. It would look like a Word document. No one would bother to read it, and I honestly wouldn’t want them to.
To self-publish a book the right way, I need to hire a professional book editor. I need cover art. I also need to get an ISBN and a Library of Congress number and have a lawyer read it and write me a nice little disclaimer to save me from the litigiousness memoirs tend to inspire. The number keeps changing depending on last vendor I’ve spoken to, but $6,500 is the lowest out-of-pocket cost I have come up with.
Do you have $6,500 sitting around? Because I do not have $6,500 sitting around.* I was still hesitant about the crowdfunding model though, for a couple of reasons. First, I’ve seen it misused. With one foot in the music world via my husband, I’ve witnessed an extraordinary number of bands with no business sense begging for money for a ill-conceived project that “rewards” people for their donations with something fairly meaningless. It makes you feel a little embarrassed for them. Now, I’ve also seen musicians do smart, professional, elegant Kickstarter campaigns too. Unfortunately, seeing enough bad campaigns has the same effect as Facebook invites from people I don’t know: eventually I stopped looking at any of them.
The numbers on successful Kickstarter project (the most popular crowdfunding platform), however, are compelling. Kickstarter campaigns raised $319,786,629 last year; there were 1,666 successful publishing projects. I know this because I’ve written a handful of articles on crowdfunding. In fact, it’s such a hot topic that was a little worried about the arc of its popularity. If I take two months to assemble a really great campaign, will Kickstarter be passé by then? Or worse, completely saturated with similar campaigns? Has crowdfunding peaked? Or is it just taking off?
When I started seriously considering the idea, I had my answer as soon as I bounced it off some friends. I was shocked to find out how many people had no idea what Kickstarter even was. Well, I guess if it hasn’t hit mainstream yet, it can neither be passé or too commonplace.
What’s more, as I began to organize my plan for marketing my theoretical Kickstarter campaign, a lightbulb went off. This is the initial marketing campaign for my book. Marketing the campaign is marketing a pre-sale of the book. It also lays the groundwork for the book post-production. And it’s all laid out in this nice, tidy, online format. First big, scary concern relieved; second big, scary concern – how I was going to pay for self-publishing – also in the works.
Kickstarter it is.
* Incidentally, if you do have $6,500 sitting around, please feel free to contact me. I will take good care of it and let you write a forward or something.