This book will distill hard-won lessons of successful projects into well-documented advice alongside case studies.
My book, Crowdfunding: A Guide to What Works and Why, will cover planning a project, carrying it through its funding phase, and fulfilling goals by offering a combination of case studies of successful (and unsuccessful) projects and detailed, specific guidance on each phase. Accompanying the book will be extensive video interviews with people and groups that figured out the knack of making crowdfunding work for them.
You can back the project to get access to video and blog entries as I post them and prepare the book; to get a DRM-free ebook, a softcover print edition, or a limited-edition hardcover print edition; and to have me come and present on-site to a group about the best approach to audience-backed projects.
- The book should be ready in April 2013 in ebook and print formats.
- Blog posts and video interviews will start appearing in September 2012.
- I'll post drafts of some chapters by the end of 2012.
- I'll answer questions any time.
Why am I qualified to write such a book? I’m a freelance technology reporter for The Economist, BoingBoing, Macworld, and many other publications. In my 20-year career as a reporter and author, I've written thousands of articles and dozens of books. I know how to deliver.
I’ve been fascinated by crowdfunding since 2010, as it seems one of the first truly new tools for artists and makers to bypass conventional funding, sales channels, and grants, and maintain artistic and commercial control. I want to bring my passion and interest to this book to help those of you who want to use crowdfunding, but don't know all the ins and outs.
Here are some of the articles I’ve written about crowdfunding over the last two years:
- Busking for Millions, about Amanda Palmer (June 5, 2012)
- An Atom-Based Product, Developed in Bits, about the Glif (October 6, 2010)
- Geeks of the World, Stump Up, about Rich Stevens’ Diesel Sweeties (May 8, 2012)
- Putting your money where your mouse is (September 2, 2010)
Because so many different kinds of people and organizations now turn to crowdfunding, I’ll explain the approaches that each kind of group should take, such as a food maker trying to open a retail establishment with the help of customers or an arts organization that wants to stage a production and use crowdfunding in addition to traditional solicitations.
The kind of advice I’ll pass along includes:
- Your funding goal is just a minimum to achieve what you’re promising backers. Set additional stretch goals at higher levels to encourage initial backers to continue to spread news about a project that’s already funded. Backers may increase pledges after the funding goal is met to make these stretch targets happen. (The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive, Diesel Sweeties)
- If your first attempt at a project fails to fund, don’t give up. Learn from what didn't work, and relaunch. On the second try, some projects hit their stride. (Thomas Phinney, Cristoforo fonts)
- Collect the emails from your correspondence with fans, customers, or admirers you've received over the years, and write personalized notes explaining the project. (Keith Knight, I Was a Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator)
- A project video should be competently produced, but if you make one that's too slick, it may lead potential backers to think you’ve already completed your project. Make a video that has a personal voice and touch. (Dan Provost and Tom Gerhardt, Glif)
- Because many projects that reach their funding goals hit the mark within the first several days, you might choose a short duration, as brief as 10 days, to maximize the impact of marketing and publicity. (Ze Frank, A Show)
I’ve spoken to dozens of people who turned to crowdfunding to get their creative visions off the ground over the last two years. But to take those conversations to the next level and produce a finished product you can hold in your hands (or even watch) I have to reach out to you. I need to travel around the country to interview people and shoot video, then write the book. Along the way, I have to hire a design, illustrator, and other creative people to collaborate.
I know using crowdfunding to fund a book about crowdfunding may sound funny at first. But it makes sense. The support of a group of people who want the book, videos, and in-depth research to happen is what will drive its success. And I can’t imagine writing a book about the topic without going through the process myself.
With tens of thousands of crowdfunding projects mounted over the last few years at Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and other sites, the time is ripe to distill the advice of what works—and why—and create a guide to successful crowdfunding for the hundreds of thousands of projects that will follow.
(Quick disclosure: This is an independent project. Kickstarter as a company isn’t providing any money nor has any editorial involvement or commitment. And while I write for many publications as a freelancer or regular contributor, this is a solo effort on my part.)
I live in Seattle, and my plan is, at a minimum, to visit San Francisco, Portland (Oregon), Los Angeles, New York, and Boston, and many cities in those vicinities. I hope to expand that list and hit less urban areas along the way, too, and, if enough funding is received, travel outside the U.S. I’ll also conduct interviews via Skype, but to tell a story well you need to sit in front of people and listen. (Tell me about great crowdfunded projects you’d like me to write about in the comments, too.)
I’ll film and photograph my meetings with the creative people who have used crowdfunding, and post videos to backers of the project. I’ll also blog lessons learned while I travel. The culmination of this research will be a roughly 200-page book available to backers above a certain level, both in ebook and print format. (The ebook will be DRM-free, and available at least in EPUB and PDF formats.)
The funds raised in this project cover the cost of printing, travel, and collaborators. Some backer levels fund the costs of bringing me to you (either by remote video or in person) to pass along the insight I’ve gathered to help with your project planning.
My stretch goal for the project is to raise enough money to turn the video footage into a short documentary. Because I'll know when the project funds if I’ve raised enough, that will change how I film and record audio as I go.
The book couples well-illustrated essays about projects with how-to advice. The essays will explain the history and development of a project, how the funding period worked, and lessons learned. I’ll also write about Kickstarter and other crowdfunding firms.
The how-to portion will turn that hard-won wisdom from projects (including ones that weren’t funded or failed to complete after receiving funds) and explain how to create, market, and fulfill a project. And how, when you’re done, how to launch another. This includes what you need to do in the weeks or months leading up to launching a project, creating an effective video, handling tax issues, planning a marketing campaign over the duration of a project, and providing updates while the funded activity is being worked on.
While I’ll sell the book later as well, backers at the $125 pledge level will have access to an exclusive hardcover edition. The more interest in the hardcovers, the more features I can add to it, such as a better cover or the inclusion of a DVD or flash drive with videos.
(Photo: Used via Credit Commons license for purposes of illustration. ©2011 Mike Krzeszak.)
Absolutely, if that helps defer costs or brings folks in the door who you want to hear the presentation or be involved in questions and answers. I'd just ask that you spell my name right. I learned from Amanda Palmer that her "house concert" rewards were mostly purchased by groups of people who pledged together.