Saturday, March 23, 2013

Wot? I'm not Rich Yet? Crowd Fundraising Observations

For the last twenty days I've been deep in the world of crowd fundraising with a project @ indiegogo.com. It's a graphic novel inspired by my series The Hunchback Assignments that I cooked up with artist Christopher Steininger.



I thought I'd share what I've learned up to now. First, in order to understand the whole crowd funding process, I followed (and supported) several campaigns, asked for advice from those campaigners, saw what worked for them and attempted to emulate that. I chose Indiegogo to do my crowd fundraising because Kickstarter is not open to Canadians (unless you have an American partner) and Indiegogo has flexible funding, which means you keep the money even if you don't make your goal. This was appealing to me as I will be going ahead with the project either way. 

This is what I've learned so far:

1) It's work: Okay, I knew that going in but there is a lot of "informing" to do. I've written to my newsletter, posted on Facebook, approached family and friends directly, posted on listservs, written and sent out a press release, finished up the final details on the script, emailed those who contributed personally...well you get the picture. There's a reason why campaigns that are 30-40 days long tend to do better than longer campaigns. It's because of how time consuming it is to keep the momentum up.

2) Think very carefully about the amount you need. We've asked for $15, 000. That's almost exactly what it will cost to do a print run and pay the artist a decent page rate. But I now wish I'd only asked for $10,000. The reason is that since I'm willing to foot the rest of the bill (write offs are fun) we would make our goal earlier and look more successful (we're at 31% right now, but if I'd chosen 10K we'd be closer to 50%). Apparently more people buy in to a project when it is closer to meeting its goal (and afterwards...we all want to be part of a success story). Of course, you don't want to ask for a very low amount...

3) Be prepared to educate your buyers. It turns out not everyone knows about crowd fundraising and Indiegogo or Kickstarter. And the idea of fundraising for an item before it is created is not that common. So there might be some explainin' to do! Many of my books are sold to schools and libraries. They're not used to buying something before it's created. Clearances have to be given, etc., etc., So education is key.

4) Dream big. Deal with the reality. Yes, there are many projects that make mountains of cash. But buried back in the archives of Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the mountains of campaigns that didn't make their goal. When we started we had big dreams of fans and friends chipping in, then the social networking magic would happen, and a giant sized snowball would carry us the rest of the way--maybe even in the first week. After all, my books have sold hundreds of thousands of copies...I just have to convince about 500-1000 of those fans to pick up the graphic novel. The problem is reaching those fans. They may have enjoyed my books, but they might never hear of the graphic novel. Also remember, apparently the last week of a campaign is when the most contributions happen. Nothing like a deadline to motivate people.

5) Be Social. Of course you should do all the social networking you need to do (without becoming annoying...very hard to find that middle ground), but you should also be social with other people who are crowdfunding. Follow their campaigns, cheer them on--they're in the same boat as you. You can learn from each other and support each other's campaigns...getting the word out to more people.

There. That's most of what I've learned so far. Time to march forward into the 2nd half of the campaign.

Of course I'll add my fancy widget to this post. If you like what you've read or are interested in graphic novels and steampunk, just click on the image below. Or if you just want to simply support us then hit the link and use the "Tweet" or "Facebook" buttons to tell the world. It gets the project out there and also puts the project higher in Indiegogo's rankings. Every little bit helps.

Thanks for listening,
Art



14 comments:

Doreen Pendgracs said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Arthur. As a fellow crowd funding participant, I feel your pain and joy. You opted for the longer (45-day) campaign. I knew I could only stomach 30 days, and after nearly one week into the campaign, I'm sure glad I chose the shorter campaign.

A big thing I've learned is that it is MY contacts that are earning me contributions. I have only rec'd one contribution to date from am unknown source. I earned each and every other one via direct contacts.

Doreen Pendgracs said...

Art, I just entered a long comment and it disappeared so I'll be brief.

As a fellow crowd funding participant, an observation I've noticed is that after nearly a week on the campaign trail, only one of my contributors has been someone I don't know. Every other one has been friends, family or colleagues. Makes me wonder about the value of the crowd funding campaign vs just having a private campaign without the big fees.

Arthur Slade said...

I agree Doreen. Most of the people who have supported the graphic novel were pointed to Indiegogo by either me or Chris. Only a few are "unknowns."

Yes, maybe something like kapipal.com might have been better. Won't know until the end of the campaign.

Roy Reed said...

Wanted to share. I've been working hard at supporting my sister's Indiegogo campaign, and again, of all the contributors, 3 are unknown to her. She could have saved herself 9% of her funding by skipping the Indiegogo middleman, and having them write her checks directly. I'm not really sure how the company is earning its 4-9%, because they have done nothing directly to support her. Indiegogo does suggest to ask for small amounts, by thinking of a project in terms of steps, each to be funded separately. Achieving more of your goal puts you higher in ranking. If you ask for $1000 and get $500 from ten people, you seem to rank higher than the person who asked for $10000 and has gotten $1000 from 20 people. Lesson learned. There are a LOT of unfulfilled campaigns. It's just as iffy in the success department as self-publishing.

Bill Freeman said...

Thanks Art and Doreen, this is good information. As an outsider, a professional looking video seems to be very important, but the two of you have emphasized the importance of personal contacts. How important is the video?

Bill Freema

Arthur Slade said...

I hear you loud and clear, Roy. I don't know if there are more casual "browsers" on Kickstarter...but I don't get the sense that there are very many on Indiegogo. And it is curious how a project who has $500 of 1000 ranks ahead of us when we have $4600 of 15000. I must admit to not understanding the rankings at all.

Arthur Slade said...

Hi Bill,

I think the video is very important. You want it to look professional. But you do it more for the people whom you don't know...so that they can judge you by your video. It's just a matter of getting those people to look at the video!

steininger said...

I agree with Roy as well. Unless Indiegogo is feeding you traffic (and more importantly contributors) - there's not much of a point. Perhaps the next step in Independent crowdfunding is to cut out entities like Kickstarter and Indiegogo as well. In fact - setting up a nice slick site directly from the creators with various perks, etc would be quite simple - and you could tune it nicely for your audience with more personality, etc. Food for thought.

steininger said...

I agree with Roy as well. Unless Indiegogo is feeding you traffic (and more importantly contributors) - there's not much of a point. Perhaps the next step in Independent crowdfunding is to cut out entities like Kickstarter and Indiegogo as well. In fact - setting up a nice slick site directly from the creators with various perks, etc would be quite simple - and you could tune it nicely for your audience with more personality, etc. Food for thought.

steininger said...

I agree with Roy as well. Unless Indiegogo is feeding you traffic (and more importantly contributors) - there's not much of a point. Perhaps the next step in Independent crowdfunding is to cut out entities like Kickstarter and Indiegogo as well. In fact - setting up a nice slick site directly from the creators with various perks, etc would be quite simple - and you could tune it nicely for your audience with more personality, etc. Food for thought.

small business funding australia said...

I concur Doreen. The greater part of the individuals who have underpinned the realistic novel were sharp to Indiegogo by either me or Chris. Just a couple of are "unknowns."

Yes, possibly something like kapipal.com may have been improved. Won't know until the finish of the crusade.

Arthur Slade said...

I've been using Kapipal as a longer term "continuation" of our original Indiegogo campaign (until we go to print). It has nowhere near the # of bells and whistles of Indie and Kickstarter, but it's a nice way to "catch" the people who missed the original campaign. Plus having no fees to pay (other than the paypal fees) does make up for the lack of "fireworks."

Badger said...

I'm currently running a campaign and have stalled at 18%

Its hard to keep any momentum running without pissing off your friends and customers, I really don't think this is possible without Indiegogo promoting our small campaigns. Their trumpeting Ubuntus $7m thus far does nothing to help my more modest $6k equipment fund :-(

Arthur Slade said...

Feel free to post a link to your campaign here. Would gladly check it out.

And yes, it's a fine red line between asking politely and people getting tired of the requests. At the same time when one of Indiegogo's FAQ mentioned that you have to tell people 7 times before they take action...I was surprised how true that is. At least 60% of our contributors jumped on board in the last four days.