Not One Stinkin’ Dime

I decided to try an experiment. What would happen, I wondered, if I set-up a crowdfunding appeal on either Kickstarter or Indiegogo? I had written a post, Kickstart Your Indie Projecton Indies Unlimited in favor of Kickstarter, and my fellow IU writer Rich Meyer had written one, Mendicancy – The First Refuge of The Modern Indie, critiquing the idea of independent authors asking for money to fund their book costs. What better way to prove my point that people are happy to fund novels, and to gain visibility for my book at the same time, than to put together a crowdfunding campaign?

The concept of crowdfunding is straightforward. Crowdfunding is similar to a venture capital deal except for one crucial difference — those who give you money do not own a piece of your project. Their compensation is a tiered structure of gifts or perks that you specify on your fund raising page.

The process is transparent. You can see exactly who gives you money. Unlike a purchase on Amazon, you can see whether an acquaintance has purchased your book. On Kickstarter and Indiegogo you can see the monetary contribution and the contributor in your reports.

My project was simple. My novella, “My Gentleman Vampire: The Undead Have Style” contains unconventional themes about alternative lifestyle choices. My vampires are fun and fabulous. I wrote the book with PG-13 rating on purpose, hoping it would find its way to those who would enjoy it.

The story for the vamps came to me as I was convalescing after a series of surgeries at the end of 2011. I will admit that I was weaning myself off of the pain medication. I was compelled to write it, so I put down a murder mystery I was working on and did so. After it was finished, I was confused as to how I would find the niche for my tango dancing vamps. I could not craft a genre category on Amazon for Paranormal/Adventure/Dance/Coming of Age/Humor/Gay. I announced the book and did some promotional stuff. After the initial bump it plodded along. Needless to say I was disappointed.

The crowd-funding experiment would, I believed, serve two purposes. Even if I didn’t make much money, I reasoned, the page views would gain visibility for the book. I decided to use Indiegogo because you get to keep the money regardless of whether you reach the amount you target as your goal. (Kickstarter requires you to meet your fundraising target or you don’t get any of the money) I looked around the Indiegogo site and found a few writing projects. Indiegogo touts their Gogofactor algorithm, and I felt sure that my book would attract attention and achieve a high rank. Then I took the big step, created my profile, my project, and activated the countdown.

Within the week a representative of the site, offering to help me should I need it, contacted me. This was professional and I was encouraged that the experiment might work.

The next step is where, I am guessing, I went wrong. I did not spam my friends and family asking for money to accomplish my goal. I did not send a single e-mail. I let it ride.

This is, of course, not what the site wants you to do. You are supposed to announce the exciting news of your project to your social media network. You are encouraged to visit your social media sites and post updates. There are “consultants” who will advise you on how to run your campaign. I already knew what they would tell me. My experiment was to test the power of the site, to prove whether or not using a crowdfunding to market my vamps was viable. To market a book that contains deep within its frothy scaffolding a message I believe in.

My reason for not spamming is simple. I believe that in a network of dedicated authors all believe their books to be important. I respect the writers in my network. How narcissistic would it be of me to say that my book, no matter how timely the message, was more important? And, for your convenience, that I have a PayPal account to make your contribution to my project easier. Thank you.

What is a successful fund raising project on Indiegogo? There are loads of gadgets. The number one funded project when I checked recently is a pen-sized apparatus that can spray stuff on your skin to perk you up like an energy drink would. Frankly, I would rather eat a piece of dark chocolate in the afternoon to combat the three o’clock energy dip.

Which crowdfunding site is more successful in raising dollars? According to this post, Kickstarter Owns Indiegogo, it appears that Kickstarter has Indiegogo beat.

You might find it contradictory that I will end this post by telling you I am still in favor of a writer using crowdfunding to finance their project. Yes, my experiment did not raise the funds specified. I did not, however, follow the suggestions regarding my social and business networks. And, because I did not blitz my network with spam, I did not move myself up to a position to get the page views. For me, that marketing failure is the key. The inability to distribute the book is disappointing. The money was never the goal.


Author: L. A. Lewandowski

Lois Lewandowski graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in Political Science and French Literature. A passion for life lived well is reflected in her novels, Born to Die-The Montauk Murders, A Gourmet Demise, and My Gentleman Vampire, giving readers a glimpse into the world of the beau monde. Lois lives in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at her lifestyle blog, and her Amazon author page.

31 thoughts on “Not One Stinkin’ Dime”

  1. I’m a bit confused. What did you hope to raise the funds for? This has always been why I haven’t understood what Indie Publishers do when they seek crowdfunding. What exactly is it they hope to use the investment money for? And what do investors get in return? Can you link to your Indiegogo page so we can see what you were asking for.

    1. Hi RJ,
      The book was written, but I was having difficulty reaching the niche I felt would enjoy the book and identify with its message. In addition, there are themes within the book that I feel strongly about. I do not have the funds to do a mass distribution, and I was hoping to gather enough funds to send the books out to the appropriate youth centers.
      I have attached the link to my campaign which is still listed on Indiegogo.
      On the page you will see the simple perks I listed in return for a small contribution. My goal was distribution and increased visibility, both for the book, “My Gentleman Vampire”, and for the reason I describe in the campaign.
      Thank you for your comments.

        1. Thanks for sharing the site. It was interesting to see what you offered. Sorry you didn’t get more takers. It was a nice pitch. Not too pushy and clear in its goal.

  2. Oh Lois… how disappointing! Oddly enough, I did look at a kind of crowd funding concept years ago when I was finding difficulty sourcing a publisher for my first book, ‘Surviving the Battleground of Childhood’. I thought about self-publishing it, when self-publishing was frowned upon as ‘vanity-press’ stuff. It was something I really believed in and, I thought, would benefit a lot of people (all be they invisible to those not touched by the subject). Long story short, I found a small press publisher and the rest is history. But I feel for you, Lois.

    1. Hi TD,
      Thank you for your kind words. 🙂
      As I said, this was an experiment. I am resilient and pretty stubborn. Your journey shows the same sort of determination. There is more than one way to skin a cat.

  3. I think you’re looking at marketing wrong.

    Good marketing is NEVER about “spamming your friends and family”.

    Good marketing IS about telling people about a product you have/will have that GIVES THEM VALUE.

    OK, think about it: if you knew someone who had invented the most AWESOME pizza slicer you had ever seen, wouldn’t you tell your friends who eat pizza all the time about it? Of course you would! Insert whatever example makes more sense to you into that concept.

    You’d be OK telling your friends about this cool product because you believe it is worth their time to look at. You think it is worth their money to own. You are ADDING to their life by telling them about it.

    Ideally, that’s all marketing ever is: a marriage of a good product and it’s perfect target market.

    If you are marketing well, it’s NEVER spam, because the people hearing about it from you are all people for whom that product will be an awesome and incredible addition to their lives. In the case of books, we market to readers who like our sort of book – because then we are offering something which has value to them.

    1. Hi Kevin,
      I think marketing for Indie authors is often an experiment. I sold three books yesterday, and I have no idea why. I adjusted the categories on one of my books, but I also posted it here at IU, and ran a freebie last week. Who bought them? What worked?
      I have realized that “My Gentleman Vampire” does not fit neatly into a genre. It is an odd story – and it has readers waiting for the next installment. I have not decided when to revisit it, but the file is full of ideas.
      Marketing is fascinating. I have had support from my writer network in recommending my books, and I am appreciative of their confidence. I am very excited about the next book, which I began writing at the end of 2011.
      Thank you for your comments.

  4. Interesting experiment, Lois. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea you were working the crowd 🙂 I actually participated in an author’s Kickstarter campaign by contributing a nominal amount and she did end up reaching her goal, but she worked the heck out of it and I’m not sure she’d do it again. I’ll have to ask her. Even though I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for funds from my network, I don’t have a problem with folks using whatever avenue they see fit to get their work out there. Back in the old days, artists were funded by ‘sponsors’-rich folks who gave artists $$$ or a place to work, or whatever, so that art could be made.

    Hmmm. I may be available…

    1. Hi DV,
      It would be wonderful if your friend would share details of her campaign with us.
      I have no issue with artists or entrepreneurs asking for funding. My experiment was to test the site not only in terms of funds but for page views. I discovered that I needed to drive the Gogofactor to get the funds or page views. At the same time I was hoping to shed light on an issue I believe in.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  5. I’m so tired of Kickstarters. I somehow missed that article on Mendicancy, but thanks for the link. I don’t know why, but it just seems like everyone is doing them and they are really starting to grate on me.

    The whole “you’d recommend a good product to your friends and family if it wasn’t yours and youre doing them a favor” sounds way too much like the coaching I got from my Mary Kay upline and I hated that. If I have to sell to friends and family, I’d rather not sell. It’s why I am no longer your friendly (cranky) Mary Kay rep. 🙂

    And I know the arts worked that way once, with patrons etc. But patrons, didn’t quite work like this crowdsourcing stuff. For one, they often told you what you could and couldn’t paint (medieval iconist will attest to this) which is not exactly how I want to write books, but maybe the way the world is swinging. ie: if it won’t have a pre-existing fanbase ready to buy it, I’m not going to write it.

    I’m soured on the idea. Which, of course, is not the popular opinion. I’m fairly certain they are here to stay despite my old fart sensibilities…which hate them.

    My young friends all think it’s the glorious future however, so what do I know.
    I’m very tired of hearing, “help me pay for my next project, etc.”
    Maybe doing the work on a project you believe in and then finding out it has no audience is just as bad, but if you give up on a project or only move forward if the crowd supports it…
    I don’t like how that could play out either.

    And like any past era, perhaps we are over-romanticizing this “patron arts” situation. Maybe, it had its downfalls as well. Finding a patron for one. How many brilliant artists never made art because they didn’t have backing?

    Oh, for a time machine.

  6. Hi Frances,
    I tried to sell Avon and Longaberger baskets. I don’t like to make people who love me feel obligated, so I failed there as well.
    I agree that we have romanticized the notion of sponsorship. Tchaikovsky wanted to write music for The Nutcracker that was more like the book, dark and violent. He thought the final ballet fluffy, and was only happy when it was a huge success.
    I support authors who I feel write quality books and “pay it forward” as my friend Martin says.
    And, the failure to get the distribution of “My Gentleman Vampire” has not stopped my writing. I will be publishing a murder mystery before the end of the year, and a short story in the horror genre. Upward and onward. 🙂

  7. I have a kickstarter success story to tell – NOT my own. My daughter [26] has a group of friends from school. She still keeps in contact with them and hence, so do I. One of those friends is a writer. I had never read any of this young writer’s work but I knew her quite well. When the daughter told me about the new kickstarter project I felt honour bound to make a donation.

    Long story short, young friend reached her target [$8000] which was for professional editing, cover design, ebook and paperback printing costs.

    About two weeks ago I received my complimentary ebook and paperback [that was what my donation entitled me to]. I read the book and was blown away. Seriously.

    Now if I had not donated to the kickstarter project I would probably never have read the book [for fear it would be…um..not so great]. And I would never have known how wrong I was. So there is value in the concept for both giver and receiver.

    In terms of networking, I know this young author has a wide circle of supportive friends, and I know she sent out updates and an odd little video clip to all those on the contributors list. What she did to get people onto the list in the first place I don’t know.

    From a marketing perspective, people who contribute feel a sense of ownership towards the book. I, myself, will be writing a glowing book review about it very soon. If all the other contributors do some kind of promotional activity then the word of mouth alone should see some results.

    Could I do it myself? -sigh- No. The same reasons that make me a poor marketer would stop me from having the hutzpah to even attempt a crowdsourcing project. 🙁

  8. Sorry you didn’t reach your goal, Lois. I’m always of two minds about marketing. On one hand, works of art should stand on their own merits and artists shouldn’t have to be concerned with filthy lucre, etc.; but on the other hand, I am rather fond of eating regularly. 😉

    As I’m thinking about it, I think Indiegogo and Kickstarter are less like the old patronage system, and more like high school band kids selling chocolate bars to finance their trip to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. The kids, and their parents, hit up everybody they know to buy candy; and in return for their “investment”, the patrons get tasty chocolate. (Mmm, chocolate…)

      1. Lynn, I think we all do! And you’ve almost sold me on crowd sourcing…chocolate! I can’t find fault with chocolate. 😉

        1. Lynne, You are right that the crowd funding sites are more like selling chocolate bars. We could tape a Hershey’s kiss to a paperback cover. 🙂
          Are wealthy people commissioning art? I think there is a sheik who is investing in Hollywood movies, but that is through one of the two sites.
          I think there are lots of wonderful Indie books that are lost in the Amazon dungeon. Putting together a plan to launch my murder mystery will be the next experiment.
          I’ve never entered a book contest, maybe it’s time to try a few of those.
          Thanks for your thoughts.

  9. Gone are the days when a writer could just write.
    Even some of the big name publishers don’t do launches and expect the writer to do their own marketing.
    As far as Indie authors go, we have to do everything. And then hope like mad someone will find our work in the cyber and print jungles and think it worth reading and sharing.

    1. Hi Jeannie,
      I have been researching, when not editing my latest WIP, how to launch the next book. From a social media perspective, Martin Crosbie’s latest book is helpful, as is the latest Gaughran book.
      I feel your multi-tasking frustration.
      Since my book takes place in South Tampa I am trying to explore media, restaurants, etc. that might be willing to assist. Advertising is another option, within a limited budget.
      There are some other avenues to gain visibility. If you aren’t on Pinterest, you should be. Set-up a profile and then follow me. I’ll be happy to pin with you. 🙂
      Thanks for your comment.

      1. I’m not on Pinterest. I will admit that I have heard of it, but that’s as far as my knowledge goes.
        It sounds like something I should do. I’ll take your advice, and set up a profile. I’m pretty techno-unsavvy when it comes to all this, and I’d like to increase my network of writing friends.
        As far as writing goes, I still use a pen and paper.

        1. LinkedIn was where I met most of the writers I network with. I think it is still valuable, you just need to find the right threads.
          Pinterest is visual. I have a lot of writers who follow me and vice versa. But I also have a lot of readers – and that is important, too. Just set up some boards and start pinning. There are several tutorials here on IU.
          Meet you there. 🙂

    2. Jeannie, maybe if you look at the idea of being an indie author the same way a small business owner looks at their business (which is what we are), the marketing end won’t seem so bad. Like my entrepreneur sweetie, Mark, says, you’ve got a product–it needs to be marketed. He ALWAYS advertised his businesses–always had a monthly budget. This is no different. Eventually, if you have a great product, word of mouth takes over, but even then you still need to advertise.

      1. I am so happy to hear you say that, DV. Our books are products, and we need a marketing plan. We need to include business books as our homework along with research, fiction, etc. I’m determined to figure this out.

        1. Thanks also to you Lois.
          I’ve set up the Pinterest and followed you, and I’ll look into Linked In.
          I appreciate your advice and help.
          Thank you

      2. Thanks for that, DV.
        I just love the writing side of being a writer – coming up with stories that I want to share.
        I need to look at ways of getting it out there. I appreciate the comments and your time in responding.

  10. Sorry it didn’t work out for you, Lois, but huge thanks for sharing the story. I can see I’m not the only thinking about it and wondering if/how crowd-funding could provide some kind of boost. Your experiment is massively useful advice for the rest of us – thank you.

    1. Hi Chris,
      It’s nice to see you back at IU.
      I’m glad my experiment sheds light on the Gogofactor algorithm. It is not always clear what promotional efforts succeed or fail. I think Indies need to look for every opportunity to call attention to their work.
      Thanks for stopping by.

      1. Thanks for taking one for the team here, Lois. Sorry it didn’t work out better, but at least now we know what needs to be done to make one of those campaigns work.

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