The Book That Love Built: What I learned about running a crowdfunding campaign

Keanu Reeves Whoa

31 days.
53 funders.
$2,000 goal.
$2,560 raised.
1 gorgeous cover.
6 official ISBNs.
50 printed copies.
100 postcards.
1 short story.
50 signed prints.
1 tandem webcast.
2 incredibly happy creatives.
1 book that love built.

You guys did this. Not me, not Desz, not IndieGoGo – you.

You’re the ones who went above and beyond, reaching deep into pockets and social media feeds to show that you believe in me, in Desz, in the book, and in each other. You’ve changed the way I look at being an indie creator and amplified what I know to be possible. You made a dream come true, paving the way for more beautiful dreams in the future.

Thank you. Endlessly, honestly.

And now for something completely different: the deconstruction of the Cora Riley cover-funding campaign.  What went wrong, what went right, and what I need to learn for next time.

What I Learned About Crowdfunding

I’ll be honest, y’all. I had to be convinced to run this thing, and I didn’t think I’d raise $1,000, much less $2,500. I thought my audience was too small, the goals too selfish, the time wasn’t right. Clearly, that was silly.  Since this was an experiment, I wanted to run down the lessons I’ve learned so other folks considering crowdfunding have a reference point and I remember for next time.

What I Did Right

  • Ran numbers for exactly what I needed, including IndieGoGo + PayPal fees and perk fulfillment costs
  • Built several perk levels that built on each other
  • Kept the goal modestly low to allow for overfunding and stretch goals
  • Wrote updates on the IGG site, my blog, and my newsletter when we reached milestones, added new things, or needed a boost
  • Provided social media shareables to make it easy to share
  • Followed up with every contributor a couple days later via email to ask them to share the project
  • Added milestone incentives (cover reveals, book excerpts) to motivate donations
  • Liked, RTed, and thanked people for sharing the project on social media
  • Wrote a profile about Desz so people knew her better
  • Emphasized the importance of artists relying on their audiences and co-creation
  • Stuck it out even when I was crying because I thought no one loved me

What I Screwed Up

  • Didn’t ask enough people with bigger platforms for help soon enough
  • Didn’t pay attention to the calendar; Nov 1 is paycheck Friday, meaning I missed out on those donations
  • Offered a stretch goal that’s actually a spoiler and doesn’t mean anything until you’ve read the book
  • Forgot that IGG income is counted as actual income and therefore counts on my taxes
  • Didn’t have enough under-$100 perk levels
  • Included Inkchanger in perks; people already have it so were less likely to donate at that level; needed an alternative
  • Didn’t pimp the project in places I’m not already known (like Reddit) to get fresh eyes on it
  • Didn’t get enough emotional support from friends who understand when I was freaking out

Next Time

Yes, there will be a next time. The success of this project has proved in very real terms that I can rely on my audience’s patronage, which means changing the way I conduct the business of self-publishing my books. Knowing I’m not alone – not just creating for you but actually with you – makes the roadmap significantly.  As it stands, the plan is to release a Forgotten Relics book twice a year (one in spring and one in fall). If we run a $1,500 Kickstarter every six months, banking on a growing audience and planning for killer stretch goals, who knows what kind of incredible things we can achieve for/with these books?

Visions of audiobooks, signing tours, collector’s editions, and merch are dancing in my head already…


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