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Is Crowdfunding a Book Right for You? A Radically Transparent Crowdfunding Case Study for Authors

There are many models for publishing a book in today's indie environment. Some authors (like me) choose to be entirely independent, but others choose to work with partnership publishers or options like crowdfunding.  

Crowdfunding a bookIt's important to note that there is no ‘right' way to publish, it's up to you – but you need to know all the pros and cons, as well as any costs involved before you choose your path. 

In today's article, James Haight talks about his choice to crowdfund a novel and the tools he used to get there. 

When I decided to crowdfund my first novel I had no idea what to expect and no one else seemed to either. In fact, it was nearly impossible to find real data from actual crowdfunding campaigns.

Thankfully, I came out ok on the other side. Not only did my campaign raise enough money to offset costs, but my book also got picked up by a publishing house. For an unknown author such as myself, it was a dream come true.

Now that I’ve undergone the experience, my goal is to help other authors be successful in their crowdfunding endeavors as well. By being transparent about my own campaign, I hope to help authors set expectations and strategize to be successful in theirs.

What Crowdfunding Platforms Should You Choose?

Choosing the right platform can be a daunting task. There are the traditional crowdfunding giants like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which provide (theoretical) access to massive audiences, but there are also specialized platforms such as Inkshares and Unbound that double as a publishing house as well.

Ultimately, I decided to choose a platform called Publishizer which acts as a virtual agent between you and publishers. I chose Publishizer because my primary goal was to be picked up by a publisher and I believed that they offered me the best chance to achieve that goal. (For a deeper discussion of the pros and cons of each platform available to authors, check out a fully detailed post here.)

[Note from Joanna: Just to be clear, this article is James's opinion and experience and I'm not personally advocating crowdfunding or any of the platforms for your book. Please make sure you evaluate the pros and cons for your situation.]

How Much Time and Effort Does Crowdfunding Take?

I dedicated approximately TWO MONTHS to my crowdfunding campaign. I spent the first month preparing for my campaign (before it launched) and the next month running it.

As you will see below in the sales data, crowdfunding is won or lost BEFORE your campaign goes live. That means that your work and preparation are highly frontloaded.

Community CooperationIn the first month, I spent anywhere between 1-5 hours per day preparing my campaign for launch.

This included areas such as building an author website, creating a pitch video, developing a synopsis, and planning a launch party. Although I didn’t keep track exactly, I likely spent ~80-100 total hours in the first month preparing for my campaign.

The good news is that managing the campaign is much easier after you launch. I found this phase to be more about execution and maintenance than about building anything new.

While the campaign was ongoing I spent approximately 1-2 hours per day with occasional spikes and lulls. This phase entailed more operational tasks such as clever updates on social media and sending out emails. I estimate spending approximately ~40-50 hours total on the campaign during the second month.

How Many Books Can Expect to Sell?

By the end of my campaign, my novel sold 334 copies and grossed $6,475 in total sales. The day by day sales totals are shown in the chart below.

Daily Total Sales Throughout Crowdfunding Campaign:

Crowdfunding Daily Sales Chart

Crowdfunding is all about momentum, and the name of the game is to get as many backers as possible on the very first day.

Like a snowball rolling downhill, initial sales build future sales. An effective launch day is critical to a successful campaign. Nearly $2,000 of the $6,475 total dollars I raised came within 24 hours of opening the campaign. This sales chart is proof that the success of a crowdfunding campaign is determined before it ever launches.

(Note: Day 2 was my official launch day, but some of my more ambitious fans found out that the book was available a few hours before midnight the day before).

Please Note: Your Genre is Important for Expectation Setting

fundedI was ecstatic about these results. At the time, my novel became the most funded “literary fiction” novel ever on Publishizer. This is important because a book’s genre can have an enormous impact on sales potential.

While success is wholly dependent on the individual author, a book’s genre can generate significant tailwinds or headwinds.

It doesn’t take more than a quick search through the Kickstarter archives to see that the most funded book projects fall into the fantasy, science fiction, or non-fiction (especially business) genres.

Conversely, other genres such as literary fiction, historical fiction etc… make up a disproportionate number of failed or abandoned campaigns.

Authors should understand that their book’s genre will impact their total addressable market. Thus, they should set expectations for success accordingly. While entrepreneurs crowdfunding their latest business book may reasonably expect to raise $15,000 +, most fiction authors (that don’t have an established audience) should expect $10,000 to be an upper bound of success.

How Much Cash Can You Keep?

Crowdfunding evangelists seldom mention the fees associated with running a campaign. While I didn’t have to pay any money out of my own pocket, my crowdfunding platform did take a hefty 30% cut from my total sales.

These types of fees are typical.

Authors can get lower fees by shopping around between the platforms (the bigger the platform the lower the fees), but authors must plan to give up a sizable chunk of their funds.

To me, it was a small price to pay to achieve my dream of offsetting costs and getting picked up by a publisher. However, authors that are only interested in self-publishing might benefit from hunting for a smaller fee percentage.

The below chart details how the number of books I sold eventually translated into the money I could keep.

Crowdfunding Earnings Chart

Is Crowdfunding Right for You?

Crowdfunding is difficult and time-consuming, but it can offer substantial rewards to those who persevere. For me, crowdfunding helped accomplish a lifelong dream. But for others, it may be an expensive and time-consuming path to self-publishing.

I personally believe that crowdfunding is a great avenue for authors who are serious about selling their book, getting a publisher, and building an audience. However, I would recommend this path only to authors that are willing to invest focused attention for at least two months.

[Note from Joanna: Crowdfunding also works best if you have readers or a market ready for your book. If you have no email list and no platform, it will be very hard to get any traction with crowdfunding.]

For those that are willing to put in the work, crowdfunding presents a chance to short-circuit the traditional publishing process and to build an audience that you never had.

I hope that sharing my experience will help you decide if crowdfunding is right for you! If you decide to go down the crowdfunding route then please join us at The Book Crowdfunding Academy. Together we are building a community to help guide fellow authors to crowdfunding success.

Have you ever considered crowdfunding to pay for the editing and cover design etc. of your book? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.

James HaightJames Haight is currently awaiting the launch of his debut novel Jack & Coke and spends his time helping other authors navigate the crowdfunding landscape at The Book Crowdfunding Academy.

He is also the author of the eBook Funded: The Exact, Steps, Strategies, and Tools to Crowdfund Your Book, which outlines exactly what an author needs to do to successfully crowdfund their book.

‘Publishing House,’ ‘House Style,’ and More. Why Are Businesses ‘Houses’?

Image of houses to illustrate publishing houses, fashion houses, and so on

A few months ago I was on Derek Lewis’s podcast, The Business Book Podcast, that gives advice to people writing business books, and then just a few weeks ago, Derek asked me a question that piqued my interest. He wrote, 

“Why do we say ‘house’ in many business and professional settings? For example, ‘House of Dior,’ ‘house style,’ ‘house salad,’ ‘a major publishing house,’ etc.? I hazard the guess that it's because virtually all businesses used to be home-based businesses, but I can't find anything anywhere on the subject.”

'House' Is a Very Old Word

Well, like the word “dead,” which we talked about recently, “house” is an especially old word that goes back to Old English. Some of the earliest citations in the Oxford English Dictionary are from some of the most famous old manuscripts in the English language: “Beowulf,” the West Saxon Gospels, and Bede’s “Ecclesiastical Histories.”

The use of the word “house” to describe a place of business or a building used by people for nonresidential reasons also goes back to Old English though. It doesn’t appear to be a later addition after “house” the residence.

The OED notes that many compound words—such as “almshouse,” “bathhouse,” “lighthouse,” and “slaughterhouse”—use “house” to make compounds that describe the purpose of a structure. 

There are even Old English citations that resemble the more specific examples in your question such as “publishing house” and “House of Dior.” 

“Printing house,” for example, first appeared in the mid-1500s, about 75 years after William Caxton introduced the first printing press in England. The first instance of the phrase “style of the house” looks like it appeared in 1871, and “house style” was first put in print in 1905.

Casinos started being referred to as “the house” in 1776.

Is Random House Really Random?

Finally, an interesting tidbit I came across while researching all these uses of “house” is that supposedly Random House, the publisher, was not based on someone’s name--there was no Mr. Random. Its name comes from the meaning of the word “random” because in 1927, one of the founders said they were “going to  publish a few books on the side at random," and since it was a publishing house, they decided to call it Random House. I find that funny and charming. 

And since Random House merged with Penguin a few years ago to make Penguin Random House, I thought it would be fun to also look at how Penguin got its name, but the story there is a little less exciting. The founder wanted a logo that was “dignified but flippant” and his secretary suggested a penguin

When Did People Start Living in Separate Houses?

Anyway, back to the main question. Like Derek, I couldn’t find an exact answer as to why what we think of as a word for a residence is also used to describe so many different kinds of business entities. I can tell you that it doesn’t seem like the residence meaning arose first to be followed by the business meaning—they seem to have emerged at the same time. And like Derek, I suspect it has at least something to do with the close intermingling of home and work life before the industrial revolution. 

I know almost nothing about the history of architecture, but Wikipedia has an interesting article about the evolution of housing design, and it says that most dwellings were communal and quite lacking in privacy during the fifteenth century and earlier. Supposedly, it wasn’t until the late 1500s that homes were built with corridors that had rooms off them with one door so that people weren’t passing through each other’s rooms all the time. It’s pretty interesting. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Mignon Fogarty is Grammar Girl and the founder of Quick and Dirty Tips. Check out her New York Times best-seller “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing” and her 2018 tip-a-day calendar.

10 Surprising Pilgrim Names

Pilgrim names

Subscribe to the Podcast: Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

When I was writing the thousands of sentences in my iOS game, Grammar Pop, I wanted to include as many different names as possible, so I looked at old names, new names, spelling bee winner names, lists of popular names in as many countries as I could think of—and one short list I ended up finding was a list of all the American pilgrims’ names. And I was struck by how unusual, symbolic, and hopeful many of the names were.

1. Remember

Remember Allerton was a little girl of about five when the Mayflower set sail. "Remember"…that’s such an interesting name.

2. Humility

Humility Cooper—Humility— was a passenger on the Mayflower who came with her aunt and uncle when she was just 1 year old.

3. Desire

Desire Minter was a young woman who came over on the Mayflower; she was probably younger than 19. Both Desire and Humility later returned to England, which wasn’t common.

4. Degory

Degory Priest was an adult hatter, about 40 years old, who came alone on the Mayflower, planning to bring his family over later. Unfortunately, he died the first winter at Plymouth. About 40 percent of the passengers died that first, hard winter.

5. Oceanus

Oceanus Hopkins was a baby boy born while the Mayflower was at sea, and his name isn’t much of a mystery. He was born at sea, and his name comes from the Latin word for "ocean."

6. Demaris

Demaris Hopkins was Oceanus’ 2-year-old older sister. Historians believe the Demaris who was on the Mayflower died, but then the parents had another daughter and named her Demaris too.

7 & 8. Resolved and Peregrine

Resolved White and Peregrine White were two young brothers on the Mayflower. Resolved was 5 at the time of the voyage, and like Oceanus, Peregrine was born on the ship. He was born while the Mayflower was anchored in Cape Cod Harbor. His name comes from the Latin word for “pilgrim.”

Finally, it’s hard to choose, but I think these are my two favorites.

9 & 10. Wrestling and Love

Wrestling Brewster and Love Brewster were two young brothers from Leiden, Holland, who came over with their parents. (About 40 percent of the pilgrims on the Mayflower were religious separatists who had moved from England to Leiden, hoping to find a better life, but it wasn’t working out. So they decided to make the dangerous journey to America.) 

Wrestling was 6 years old when the Mayflower set sail, and Love was 9. Wrestling likely died, but Love lived long enough to serve in a militia under Myles Standish, marry, and have four children, one of whom he named Wrestling after his brother. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and "The Song of Hiawatha," is one of Love Brewster’s many descendants.

I didn’t use most of these names in Grammar Pop because names like Wrestling and Love would have been confusing in sentences because they’re words and don’t sound like names to us anymore, but I thought it was fascinating that the pilgrims seemed to give their children such symbolic and mostly hopeful names.

Most of this information came from MayflowerHistory.com

10 Surprising Pilgrim Names

Pilgrim names

Subscribe to the Podcast: Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

When I was writing the thousands of sentences in my iOS game, Grammar Pop, I wanted to include as many different names as possible, so I looked at old names, new names, spelling bee winner names, lists of popular names in as many countries as I could think of—and one short list I ended up finding was a list of all the American pilgrims’ names. And I was struck by how unusual, symbolic, and hopeful many of the names were.

1. Remember

Remember Allerton was a little girl of about five when the Mayflower set sail. "Remember"…that’s such an interesting name.

2. Humility

Humility Cooper—Humility— was a passenger on the Mayflower who came with her aunt and uncle when she was just 1 year old.

3. Desire

Desire Minter was a young woman who came over on the Mayflower; she was probably younger than 19. Both Desire and Humility later returned to England, which wasn’t common.

4. Degory

Degory Priest was an adult hatter, about 40 years old, who came alone on the Mayflower, planning to bring his family over later. Unfortunately, he died the first winter at Plymouth. About 40 percent of the passengers died that first, hard winter.

5. Oceanus

Oceanus Hopkins was a baby boy born while the Mayflower was at sea, and his name isn’t much of a mystery. He was born at sea, and his name comes from the Latin word for "ocean."

6. Demaris

Demaris Hopkins was Oceanus’ 2-year-old older sister. Historians believe the Demaris who was on the Mayflower died, but then the parents had another daughter and named her Demaris too.

7 & 8. Resolved and Peregrine

Resolved White and Peregrine White were two young brothers on the Mayflower. Resolved was 5 at the time of the voyage, and like Oceanus, Peregrine was born on the ship. He was born while the Mayflower was anchored in Cape Cod Harbor. His name comes from the Latin word for “pilgrim.”

Finally, it’s hard to choose, but I think these are my two favorites.

9 & 10. Wrestling and Love

Wrestling Brewster and Love Brewster were two young brothers from Leiden, Holland, who came over with their parents. (About 40 percent of the pilgrims on the Mayflower were religious separatists who had moved from England to Leiden, hoping to find a better life, but it wasn’t working out. So they decided to make the dangerous journey to America.) 

Wrestling was 6 years old when the Mayflower set sail, and Love was 9. Wrestling likely died, but Love lived long enough to serve in a militia under Myles Standish, marry, and have four children, one of whom he named Wrestling after his brother. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and "The Song of Hiawatha," is one of Love Brewster’s many descendants.

I didn’t use most of these names in Grammar Pop because names like Wrestling and Love would have been confusing in sentences because they’re words and don’t sound like names to us anymore, but I thought it was fascinating that the pilgrims seemed to give their children such symbolic and mostly hopeful names.

Most of this information came from MayflowerHistory.com

10 Surprising Pilgrim Names

Pilgrim names

Subscribe to the Podcast: Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

When I was writing the thousands of sentences in my iOS game, Grammar Pop, I wanted to include as many different names as possible, so I looked at old names, new names, spelling bee winner names, lists of popular names in as many countries as I could think of—and one short list I ended up finding was a list of all the American pilgrims’ names. And I was struck by how unusual, symbolic, and hopeful many of the names were.

1. Remember

Remember Allerton was a little girl of about five when the Mayflower set sail. "Remember"…that’s such an interesting name.

2. Humility

Humility Cooper—Humility— was a passenger on the Mayflower who came with her aunt and uncle when she was just 1 year old.

3. Desire

Desire Minter was a young woman who came over on the Mayflower; she was probably younger than 19. Both Desire and Humility later returned to England, which wasn’t common.

4. Degory

Degory Priest was an adult hatter, about 40 years old, who came alone on the Mayflower, planning to bring his family over later. Unfortunately, he died the first winter at Plymouth. About 40 percent of the passengers died that first, hard winter.

5. Oceanus

Oceanus Hopkins was a baby boy born while the Mayflower was at sea, and his name isn’t much of a mystery. He was born at sea, and his name comes from the Latin word for "ocean."

6. Demaris

Demaris Hopkins was Oceanus’ 2-year-old older sister. Historians believe the Demaris who was on the Mayflower died, but then the parents had another daughter and named her Demaris too.

7 & 8. Resolved and Peregrine

Resolved White and Peregrine White were two young brothers on the Mayflower. Resolved was 5 at the time of the voyage, and like Oceanus, Peregrine was born on the ship. He was born while the Mayflower was anchored in Cape Cod Harbor. His name comes from the Latin word for “pilgrim.”

Finally, it’s hard to choose, but I think these are my two favorites.

9 & 10. Wrestling and Love

Wrestling Brewster and Love Brewster were two young brothers from Leiden, Holland, who came over with their parents. (About 40 percent of the pilgrims on the Mayflower were religious separatists who had moved from England to Leiden, hoping to find a better life, but it wasn’t working out. So they decided to make the dangerous journey to America.) 

Wrestling was 6 years old when the Mayflower set sail, and Love was 9. Wrestling likely died, but Love lived long enough to serve in a militia under Myles Standish, marry, and have four children, one of whom he named Wrestling after his brother. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and "The Song of Hiawatha," is one of Love Brewster’s many descendants.

I didn’t use most of these names in Grammar Pop because names like Wrestling and Love would have been confusing in sentences because they’re words and don’t sound like names to us anymore, but I thought it was fascinating that the pilgrims seemed to give their children such symbolic and mostly hopeful names.

Most of this information came from MayflowerHistory.com

10 Surprising Pilgrim Names

Pilgrim names

Subscribe to the Podcast: Apple Podcasts or Stitcher.

When I was writing the thousands of sentences in my iOS game, Grammar Pop, I wanted to include as many different names as possible, so I looked at old names, new names, spelling bee winner names, lists of popular names in as many countries as I could think of—and one short list I ended up finding was a list of all the American pilgrims’ names. And I was struck by how unusual, symbolic, and hopeful many of the names were.

1. Remember

Remember Allerton was a little girl of about five when the Mayflower set sail. "Remember"…that’s such an interesting name.

2. Humility

Humility Cooper—Humility— was a passenger on the Mayflower who came with her aunt and uncle when she was just 1 year old.

3. Desire

Desire Minter was a young woman who came over on the Mayflower; she was probably younger than 19. Both Desire and Humility later returned to England, which wasn’t common.

4. Degory

Degory Priest was an adult hatter, about 40 years old, who came alone on the Mayflower, planning to bring his family over later. Unfortunately, he died the first winter at Plymouth. About 40 percent of the passengers died that first, hard winter.

5. Oceanus

Oceanus Hopkins was a baby boy born while the Mayflower was at sea, and his name isn’t much of a mystery. He was born at sea, and his name comes from the Latin word for "ocean."

6. Demaris

Demaris Hopkins was Oceanus’ 2-year-old older sister. Historians believe the Demaris who was on the Mayflower died, but then the parents had another daughter and named her Demaris too.

7 & 8. Resolved and Peregrine

Resolved White and Peregrine White were two young brothers on the Mayflower. Resolved was 5 at the time of the voyage, and like Oceanus, Peregrine was born on the ship. He was born while the Mayflower was anchored in Cape Cod Harbor. His name comes from the Latin word for “pilgrim.”

Finally, it’s hard to choose, but I think these are my two favorites.

9 & 10. Wrestling and Love

Wrestling Brewster and Love Brewster were two young brothers from Leiden, Holland, who came over with their parents. (About 40 percent of the pilgrims on the Mayflower were religious separatists who had moved from England to Leiden, hoping to find a better life, but it wasn’t working out. So they decided to make the dangerous journey to America.) 

Wrestling was 6 years old when the Mayflower set sail, and Love was 9. Wrestling likely died, but Love lived long enough to serve in a militia under Myles Standish, marry, and have four children, one of whom he named Wrestling after his brother. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who wrote “Paul Revere’s Ride” and "The Song of Hiawatha," is one of Love Brewster’s many descendants.

I didn’t use most of these names in Grammar Pop because names like Wrestling and Love would have been confusing in sentences because they’re words and don’t sound like names to us anymore, but I thought it was fascinating that the pilgrims seemed to give their children such symbolic and mostly hopeful names.

Most of this information came from MayflowerHistory.com

Courtney Maum

“Living in the country affords me time and space, along with a healthy cardiovascular system from shoveling my own driveway over the six months that winter lasts. What I lack, however, is a physical writing community I can celebrate or commiserate with during the work’s many ups and downs. When I need to get out of my head (which I mean quite literally because sometimes an entire day can go by out here when I haven’t spoken out loud), I go down to the kitchen, plug my phone into a portable speaker, and cook while listening to podcasts. Writing-wise, I’m interested in relationships that are failing, but haven’t totally collapsed yet. Accordingly, my favorite podcasts are a little sassy, but buttressed with real hope. Manoush Zomorodi’s “Note to Self” looks at humans versus their devices, while Dan Savage’s “Savage Love Podcast” is humans struggling in bed. I’ve loved the “Seeing White” series from Scene on Radio, which tries to understand what the hell is up with white people right now. And I’m consistently floored by Esther Perel’s “Where Should We Begin” in which she counsels real couples who are brave enough to let the whole world listen in. The smell of sage hitting hot oil, the story of a frazzled mom who doesn’t want to let her cross-dressing husband borrow her only good bra again, this cooking and listening ritual of mine gives me great community. And if we don’t have a community, how can we write about the world?”
—Courtney Maum, author of Touch (Putnam, 2017)

Writer Photo: 
Writer Photo Credit: 
Colin Lane

Courtney Maum

“Living in the country affords me time and space, along with a healthy cardiovascular system from shoveling my own driveway over the six months that winter lasts. What I lack, however, is a physical writing community I can celebrate or commiserate with during the work’s many ups and downs. When I need to get out of my head (which I mean quite literally because sometimes an entire day can go by out here when I haven’t spoken out loud), I go down to the kitchen, plug my phone into a portable speaker, and cook while listening to podcasts. Writing-wise, I’m interested in relationships that are failing, but haven’t totally collapsed yet. Accordingly, my favorite podcasts are a little sassy, but buttressed with real hope. Manoush Zomorodi’s “Note to Self” looks at humans versus their devices, while Dan Savage’s “Savage Love Podcast” is humans struggling in bed. I’ve loved the “Seeing White” series from Scene on Radio, which tries to understand what the hell is up with white people right now. And I’m consistently floored by Esther Perel’s “Where Should We Begin” in which she counsels real couples who are brave enough to let the whole world listen in. The smell of sage hitting hot oil, the story of a frazzled mom who doesn’t want to let her cross-dressing husband borrow her only good bra again, this cooking and listening ritual of mine gives me great community. And if we don’t have a community, how can we write about the world?”
—Courtney Maum, author of Touch (Putnam, 2017)

Writer Photo: 
Writer Photo Credit: 
Colin Lane

Scrabble Stories

Planning to play some board games or learn some new words over the holiday weekend? Get some insight from this New Yorker video as professional Scrabble players discuss and reenact their most improbable, most regretful, and most humbling plays and moves.

Scrabble Stories

Planning to play some board games or learn some new words over the holiday weekend? Get some insight from this New Yorker video as professional Scrabble players discuss and reenact their most improbable, most regretful, and most humbling plays and moves.

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