by Alissa Lukara
Once upon a time, you had to rely on grants from literary organizations to support your writing projects-in-progress, your own funds or generous family member donations. Or, you had to wait for even more elusive advances from publishers.
Today, you no longer have to depend only on publishers for advances or squeeze yourself into the boxes of literary organization’s deadlines, tight requirements and crunched arts funding budget availability.
You can empower your own writing project and yourself with needed support starting today by initiating a fundraising campaign for your writing on Kickstarter.com.
Kickstarter is the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects – whether you are writing and publishing a book or literary magazine or funding a film or visual art project. Writers have raised money for editing, self-publishing, e-publishing, research, illustration, design, education and more on Kickstarter. And anyone can start a Kickstarter campaign – published or not.
Most Kickstarter campaigns for writing projects raise less than $5000, and many have goals of $2000 or under, but two campaigns have exceeded the $1 million mark. (Read about comic book artist Rick Burlew’s The Order of the Stick Reprint Drive in Forbes Magazine’s, “Million Dollar Book Proves Kickstarter Model, Now Authors Just Need The Reach”)
Posting a writing project or goal on Kickstarter.com does not mean you do not have to be as clear and specific in your presentation as you would be if you were approaching a granting organization or publisher. The best and most effective presentations are both. You have to know what your goal is and clearly define it. And your project needs an end point. Funding your writing career in general is not going to achieve the result that funding a specific project or piece of a project with a specific culmination will.
If you want to discover what gets results in a Kickstarter campaign, read and explore:
- Kickstarter’s recommendations in the Kickstarter School, beginning at Defining Your Project.
- Kickstarter’s Project Guidelines and
- Recommended and successful projects in the various subcategories, like fiction, poetry and nonfiction under the publishing category.
You will also want to read this comprehensive article by filmmaker and media artist Nathaniel Hansen on “7 Things to Consider BEFORE you Launch your Kickstarter Project.”
Nathaniel, who has raised more than $350,000 dollars for himself and clients on Kickstarter, said this about running a successful campaign. “At the end of the day, two things are really all that’s required: a good idea and A LOT OF HARD WORK. Ok, maybe three – a decent network that supports what you do.”
One piece of that hard work includes creating an effective video that explains the project you want to fund and fun rewards for your backers – that escalate in value and access to you, depending on how much they contribute. These rewards can range from signed copies of books to choosing how a character named after you in a crime novel dies to one-on-one consultations with authors and filmmakers. You also want to keep your backers in the loop with updates on your project’s progress and completion.
Here are four recent successful Kickstarter campaigns by authors, writers and filmmakers.
1. Jack Palms II. Seth Harwood, the author of This is Life, Young Junius and Jack Wakes Up, as well as the podcasts In Broad Daylight, A Long Way from Disney, and Triad Death Match, has since 2006, been giving away his work as free serialized audio books through his website, on iTunes and at podiobooks.com. His goal was to release five titles as eBooks and through Print On Demand over a six month period. He focused his Kickstarter campaign on raising funds for fixed publishing costs such as copy-editing, proofreading, cover design and layout. He raised $7,167 pledged on a $4,000 goal from 92 backers.
His rewards included everything from inclusion in the acknowledgements and a personal thank you note to being a character in his book to having a short story or novella written with you as the main character. Read about his campaign and rewards at Jack Palms II: This Is Life and Other eBooks.
2. The Afterlife Series. Mur Lafferty, an award-winning author of “Playing For Keeps,” “Marco and the Red Granny, podcaster and editor of Escape Pod magazine, felt certain she would get a mainstream publisher for her novellas, The Afterlife Series: Heaven, Hell, Earth, Wasteland and War, which she had given away for years for free as an audio series. But she did not.
She took epublishing on herself with a Kickstarter campaign goal to raise $2000 for ebook conversion, book design and cover design. Two hours after her campaigns started, she reached her goal and at bedtime the first day, she had $5000. By the end of the campaign, she had raised $19, 370. Watch her video and read more about her project and creative rewards for backers at The Afterlife Series: Heaven, Hell, Earth, Wasteland, War
((Note: Both Seth and Mur are also great examples of how fiction writers today are creating platforms — audiences for their writing.)
3. Impasse. One day, screenwriter Jeanne Veillette Bowerman (@jeannevb ), who also created the #scriptchat hashtag on Twitter, was struck by a lover’s quarrel she witnessed in a coffeeshop. She tweeted the event, even though she could not hear anything said in the argument. She also knew it was the inspiration she and director Michael Bekemeyer had hoped to find for a short film. They set a Kickstarter campaign goal of $12, 500 and highlighted their heartfelt dedication and passion for the film project, Impasse: When the Cold War of Love Meets the Moment of Truth. And they promised to share the journey with video clips, blog posts and a ritual shaving of the director’s head at film completion, that made backers feel like an appreciated and included part of the film’s community. They raised $15, 680 from 314 backers. Check out their campaign here.
4. Type Rider. One more fun and successful writing project completed on June 13 is TYPE RIDER: Cycling the Great American Poem. This Poetry project by writer Maya Stein – was a 40 day bicycle ride from Massachusetts to Milwaukee. She celebrated turning 40 and the spirit of creativity by pulling a typewriter (Milwaukee is its birthplace) behind her bicycle and creating poetry community with Type-ins and other events along the way. She raised $16, 427 from 208 backers, who at various higher donation levels could travel with her up to 5 or 10 days.
One final comment, what I also love about Kickstarter campaigns is that their creators often “pay-it-forward” on Kickstarter. All these artists have also backed other artists’ campaigns.
Welcome to the new world of writing and publishing. As certain doors narrow or close for writers, others swing open and breathe new life and community to empower your creative life. Kickstarter is one of your new wide open doors.
I would love to know what you think. What have your or your writer friend’s experiences been with Kickstarter or with granting organizations? What do you think about these new opportunities for writers? I want to hear from you.
Alissa Lukara, the author of the memoir, Riding Grace: A Triumph of the Soul, supports writers to write and complete their books in her online writing workshop, Writing Books that Transform Lives. Find out about the next session that begins July 2nd. Early registration ends Thursday, June 28. Meanwhile, find out how writing can change your life by registering here for the free eCourse, Complete Your Book — Transform Your Life: 7 Key Steps on the Writer’s Journey. Registering for it automatically subscribes you to Transformational Writers updates.