Why crowdfunding to self-publish your book could be a great idea

You are so excited to have finished your novel and now you want to self-publish it. Great idea but what if you don’t have the funds to invest in your book what can you do?

In our last newsletter we shared how you can get financial help towards the cost of our Bookcamp training but what if you would rather pay to have your book done for you. You could ask your parents/auntie/bank manager for the money. Maybe sell some things or search down the back of the sofa to come up with the cash. What about asking strangers to invest in your book? It may not be as weird as it sounds and could have added benefits.

Crowdfunding has been around for some time now – it’s a way for lots of individuals to back a project in return for some rewards. The money raised provides the funds to start the project. It’s a great idea and has been used by many creative folks to fund music, films, put on a show or generate funds to produce a prototype of a design. In fact there are few limits to what you could crowdfund with recently bids even paying for vet bills.

So you may now be thinking – sounds good what’s the catch! The main thing you need to have a successful crowdfunding experience is time and commitment. You need to create your project, tell people about your book and generate enough interest to encourage people to part with money in return for a reward. Here’s a quick guide to what you need to get started:

  1. Decide how much cash you will need – do you need to pay for an editor, graphics for your cover, formatting and typesetting your book and printing some copies. £1200 to £1500 is a good starting point.
  2. Think about what rewards you can offer in return for the investment. You start with small amounts and work up. Make sure that whatever you offer as a reward will not cost you more than the investment (remember to factor in any postage costs). You could start at £5 – it can be as simple as a bookmark, a postcard thanking the person. Moving up to an e-book for £10, a printed copy of your book £15, how about a dedication in your book for £50, dinner with you the author £150, a character named after you for £500. The options are only as limitless as your imagination. You decide how you want to split the rewards and how many you can offer, the more exclusive the higher the price.
  3. Decide on the crowdfunding platform to use – Kickstarter and Indiegogo are both well established. Each has its own rules about whether you can take the funds if you don’t meet your funding goal, and all charge a fee so think about what would work best for you. Or you could even help children improve their literacy by using Pubslush – a new crowdfunding platform just for books. We love this model because if fits with our idea of community and giving something back to help others.
  4. Plan your project – 30 days is the recommended time. When will this work for you? You need to be able to promote your campaign, respond to questions and send out rewards so make sure you can give it your attention. Draft in some help as back up too.
  5. Write up the details about your book, about you and why you wrote it. Imagine you are the person reading it – what would trigger you to part with some cash? Most successful funders have told their story well, produced a video and made it really compelling. This is your chance to really sell your book and you as the author.
  6. Have your social media set up to promote and respond to your campaign. Start with friends and family – ask them to help share out your campaign. Could you get your local paper involved?
  7. Plan what your next stages will be for producing your book and imagine this being a great success.

So there you have it – our brief guide to crowdfunding. But what extra benefits could you get? You have already begun to market yourself as the author of a book before it is even printed. You have readers waiting for it to arrive. Most self-published authors will agree that marketing is a learning curve and you will have already begun to market your book. Using social media to promote your campaign means you will have built up relationships with others who are keen to help you.

Crowdfunding to get books published is growing and we can understand why. With guaranteed sales, publicity about your book and the cash up front to allow you to achieve your dream we reckon it is worth the effort. What do you think?

How to fund self-publishing your book

You have finished your book, it’s taken a lot of blood sweat and tears and now you want to publish it. If you want to keep the momentum going self-publishing is the way to do it. The questions I get asked a lot are; how to self-publish and how much will it cost.

You have choices about how you self-publish your book may be based on how much money you want to invest, your skills and the time you have available. But it’s also about what your hopes are for your book and your motivations for self-publishing it. Do you only want to give your book to family and friends as a gift or do you want to earn an income from your book?

Think of yourself in a publisher’s shoes – if they are going to publish your book to sell, they invest their money in editing, proofreading, designing a cover, formatting for an ebook, typesetting for print and marketing. If you want to earn money from your book you need to invest in it to produce the most professional book you can. Your writing deserves it and so does the reader. Which takes us back to the question of how can I fund this?

I have already written about the costs that some self-publishing companies charge (check out Are you a cash cow?) It can be a very expensive business but it doesn’t need to be. Maybe you can skill swap or rope in the services of friends to help with some of the technical aspects.

Funding for training

If you want to learn the skills to publish your book and you live in Scotland you can get help to fund your training from Skills Development

Scotland Flexible Training Opportunities fund. This fund provides employers and self-employed people with 50% of the costs for all sorts of training up to £500 per person. But wait a minute I hear you say “I’m not an employer or self-employed I am a writer”. Well, guess what – if you are looking to sell your book then you will be a self-employed writer and as far as Skills Development Scotland is concerned that entitles you to apply. You can find out more here http://www.ourskillsforce.co.uk/funding-for-skills/flexible-training-opportunities/

You could seek out training in cover design, typesetting and formatting and learn the skills to create a professional quality book. Our Bookcamp training programme offers all this and a lot more besides.

Funding services

If you don’t want to learn to do everything yourself or you want to publish quickly then you can pay someone else to produce your ebook, cover or print files for you. The prices for these services can vary greatly so you may be able to fund from your own savings (if anyone still has some these days!), use credit or find a kindly relative or friend to fund it for you.

Have you heard of crowdfunding? It’s the new kid on the block for funding your book. Crowdfunding is a way to ask people to invest in your book where you offer them some special return based on the level of investment. Crowdfunding has been around and used for raising finance for many sorts of projects including films, events and products but is now being used more and more to publish books. This is an exciting new option with benefits that can extend beyond the money itself. Sinclair and I attended some training about the pros and cons of crowdfunding recently and we think it has great potential. Look out for next week’s blog where I will share more about this.

Are you a cash cow?

You have spent time writing your book, maybe you have tried to get a publisher to take it, or maybe you always wanted to be an Indie Author – it does sound cooler than self-published writer don’t you think? Whatever your route to self-publishing, the next decision you make is an important one. Will you do everything yourself or pay a self-publishing company to do it for you? What do you need to consider and how do you know if represents good value?

It does concern me that as self-publishing increases in popularity, you as a writer are now seen as a cash cow by the same big business publishers that rejected your books. These businesses are relying on your lack of knowledge or fear of an unknown world. They may offer excellent services but armed with some knowledge you can ask them some challenging questions before you part with a big cheque.

Self-publishing may be a big learning curve for you and it’s no surprise as the traditional publishing world wanted to surround the processes with mystique to stop pesky writers like you believing you could do this for yourself. Many of them would have you believe it is so complicated that you can only be allowed into the club if we deem your work good enough. Or as is more the case today – you are a celebrity and have millions of followers on Twitter!

With many of the traditional publishers grudgingly accepting the tide is changing, is it any surprise therefore that so many have now grown new arms to embrace the self-publishing writer? These same businesses want to maintain this air of mystique and control to entice you to part with lots and lots of your cash because you can’t possibly do it yourself! This helps to justify the high price tag that you have to pay them for the privilege of publishing your book and even be grateful that they will give you 50% of the royalties earned on your book sales.

Take Balboa Press (self-publishing arm of HAY House) as an example – with prices for packages ranging from £899 to £4,999 plus 50% of your royalties (money earned from book sales). They do detail clearly all that you will get for each package, there is a big list with ticks against the prices – ISBN allocated, author volume discounts, online UK distribution, custom cover, personalised back cover, interior book design and so on. The higher the price the more ticks you get – makes sense doesn’t it – of course it will cost a lot more to add hardback formats, Google and Amazon searching, US distribution, press releases and 100 business cards and social media set up guide (it’s only a PDF!). So you now want the whole package and it’s going to cost you £4,999.

So is it worth it even if you have the money to spend? There are some questions you should ask – what exactly are they going to do for you? Read all the small print! Work out how many books will you need to sell to break even? Using their own example from their website of cost of sale (printing) and royalties rates from a retail sale of a book priced £10.99 you would earn approx £0.94 per book that means you need to sell 5,319 books before you start to make a profit. There is no marketing for you in this top of the range package – that will add another £699 although it’s not clear what this buys.

Do you know what these list of ticks really mean and what they would cost you to do yourself?  With a little research you would find:

You can buy 10 ISBNs for your own use for £120, you could learn to format your ebook yourself and upload it to Kindle and other ebook services direct, you can typeset your book, design your cover and submit it to a print on demand company (Lightning Source for example set up is £45 approx per book) and for a small fee (around £8 per title) you have your print book available through their worldwide distribution network including Amazon and all the major book sellers. You will need to give retailers/wholesalers a discount but anything that you make you keep. So even using the same price/costs/discounts you would earn twice the royalty rate £1.88 per book. If you round up your spend to £200 to allow you to buy some business cards then selling 107 books means you break even.

Sinclair and I have now self-published 10 books between us (and helped many other writers too). We didn’t know anything about the publishing world before we started self-publishing; we figured it out, learned lots and made a few mistakes along the way. We know that you can do it yourself too. At Indie Authors Scotland we are determined to be different. We have created our unique flexible Bookcamp training programme to teach you how to produce your book yourself. But we also know that some of you don’t want to learn the skills and want your ebook or print book done for you. That’s why we have created our own Pick n Mix service options at very fair prices. You can see exactly what you are paying for. We will never take royalties from you. We pride ourselves in providing good value and ongoing support for our author community.

Whatever option you choose to become a published Indie Author take time to ask questions and choose the route that offers the best support and return for your budget.