Crowdfunding Publishing - A Science or an Art?
Tuesday, 22 November 2016
I’m not very good at Science, never have been and, despite my best efforts, probably never will be. I like the idea of it, I’m interested in the hows and the whys, the whats and the wherefores, but there is just something in my brain that can’t click with remembering the important Sciencey stuff, or being able to work it out for myself. This can be a bit of a problem, as my full time job is working in a secondary school and, as such, I often find myself in Science lessons, either covering when the teacher is out or providing additional support to the kids when the teacher is there.
“Sir, can you help me with this?” Cue puzzled expression, intense staring at the page of a textbook in the hope that the answer might leap out at me, followed by shrug of shoulders and response.
“I’m not here to give you the answers, you need to work it out for yourself or you’ll never learn anything.” (Back in the old days this phrase would have been accompanied by a swift clip around the ear, but this physical addition to the quip, which all school staff relied on at some point, is somewhat frowned on by Ofsted).
Now, when I first started my campaign with Unbound for my novel Domini Mortum (a fantastic Victorian tale of ghosts, murder and mystery which can be found at www.unbound.co.uk/books/domini-mortum all pledges and support accepted gratefully, thank you very much) I had, in my mind, the impression that the Crowdfunding process was a functional thing, a scientific formula if you will; its most simplified version being:
B + P = T + H
Book + Pledges = Target + Happiness
That is my level of Science, my friends; that is just about my level of scientific formula.
Over the next few months I experienced its true madness, my eyes were prized open to its fury and pinned wide with nails, my ears rang with the sound of its diabolical laughter.
(I made a solemn pledge to myself, before writing this piece, that I would not mention the word ‘rollercoaster’ or any other theme park attraction for that matter, and the word ‘journey’, I hate the word ‘journey’, it is the word of the weeping X-Factor contestant as they share their story, or the Z-List Celebrity, coarsely stuff cockroaches into their mouths in an attempt to reinvent their public persona).
The shock that came to me was because, as it turns out, the actual formula is something like this:
B (NI x Pg x Wr) + SmP (C + Ch + FwM) + L (Po x Dd)= T (NGH)
Book x (New Idea x Popular Genre x Well Written) + Social Media Profile (Confidence + Charisma + Friends with Money) + Luck (Positive Outlook x Dogged Determination) = Target (No guaranteed Happiness)
If you add into this abominable chemistry experiment the perils of; abnormal bouts of fear and depression, lack of self-confidence, and the incessant pangs of guilt, because you feel that you’re emotionally blackmailing your friends and family, then you can see my problem with a scientific approach to Crowdfunding.
Now, as I’ve already said, I’m not the Science guy, there is not an atom of Science to be found in me. I do, however, find myself to be the Crowdfunding publishing guy, and so, when starting the process (and when I had got over the initial shock of the reality of it all) I decided that I needed to find a way to make it work for me if I was ever going to succeed.
The best way to learn something and become good at it, I was always told, was first to watch someone else doing it. I used to be a nurse, years ago, and the way to learn something new on the ward was a three stage process – You watch it once, you do it for yourself and then you teach it. It applies to anything nursing or medical related; changing a dressing, giving an injection, even transplanting a heart.
And so I watched.
I studied other campaigns intensely. I followed their progress; I watched them as they seemed to pluck pledges from thin air, right in front of my eyes. If I was a paranoid man I would be thinking that everyone knew the secret to Crowdfunding and that they were keeping it from me , but I’m not… quite.
So what is the answer? What is the secret formula known only to a few hallowed souls and very rarely passed down to the lesser mortals?
Well, after studying the form, I can reveal that the secret to successfully Crowdfunding your novel is…
There is no answer, it doesn’t exist. There is no direct route to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, no bought at Lidl Sat Nav to help you through the turgid and constricted backstreets of Crowdfunding’s frantic city and that, my friends, is my point. If you approach Crowdfunding your project with the idea that it is an easy and formulaic process, simple to carry out if you follow the recipe then, my friends, you are about to run at great speed into a very large, very hard brick wall. You may just as well walk naked through the streets of your nearest city carrying a sandwich board saying ‘First person to bludgeon me unconscious wins a million pounds and free beer for life’. You will get hurt.
As far as I’m concerned, and in order to make the whole thing seem achievable within my non-scientific brain, Crowdfunding is not a Science, it is not learning by numbers or fact; it is not something that can be broken down into cold definite and winning procedures. Not for me and not for anyone that I have seen who has stepped onto the psychotic travellator of Crowdfunding and been led through terrible, beautiful worlds of joy and doubt that represents their own personal experience. (I was tempted to use the J word there but held firm).
So what has been my great plan? How have I hit the heady heights of 60% plus?
Well, to answer that I must, if I can, take you back to my school life and to a different subject on the curriculum.
At Art I am better; I like Art, there is no right or wrong answer to Art, anything created in the Art studio, or indeed classroom, is subjective and can be found to have its worth, no matter how supposedly bad the idea, drawing or creation is. I like to paint (my house is littered with canvas attempts) and when I am in an Art class I am more relaxed, I can join in a bit more, I can let the students have more of a free reign in what they do (and often the wilder their imaginations and approaches to the class the better). Art, in my mind, is a good thing.
You see, I am one of those creative types, my brain is active and ingenious, but not in a clever scientific kind of way. I literally have made my campaign up as I have gone along. I have the mind of the caffeinated hummingbird, flitting from one random thoughtflower to the next, high on brainpollen . I don’t deal with fact and rational explanation; I deal with ideas, with imagination and with chaos. For me the whole process of Crowdfunding is an Art, something natural and organic, within which random decisions and snap judgments can make a person’s campaign go a long way towards either hitting its funding target or being caught in a swirling eddy of self-doubt and campaigner guilt.
Yes, there are things that you can do to get your campaign up and running, get a few pledges in the bank as it were. These, I have found and in no particular order, are;
E-mail everyone you know, or have ever known, and asking for their support, even people you used to hate (hunt them down on social media).
Constant Facebook and Twitter presence; build up your friends and followers and fill their timeline with news of your project. Anything you post will be better than funny cat videos, smugshare (“I’m so lucky to be having lunch with Beyonce’s hairdresser”) or the worst of the lot - ‘If you are my friend please copy and paste this on your wall or I will sulk’.
Face to face hounding of work colleagues, family and friends.Casually drop your project into conversation; something leading which will prompt them to ask how the campaign is going, giving you the opportunity to press your case and point out how tight they are.
Local newspapers and media.Get to know what angles get attention in the local paper, which writer to pester to get your mug appearing in their pages on a regular basis next to stories of damaged letterboxes and diamond wedding anniversaries.
Get your more loyal friends and family to act as an advocate for you.You may be a social recluse, much preferring to spend your time sat in a darkened room writing novels, but people you know may actually have a friendship and social circle that you can tap into.
All of these things are the basics, the brushes and paint of the Art, the things you must try if you’re going to have any hope of hitting that 100% and getting your book on the shelves and screens of the world; all of these I have tried and continue to try. They will only get you so far however; they will only get you to, what I have decided to call, the SSP (Social Saturation Point, ©Paul Holbrook 2016) which is the percentage mark, measured through the process of Crowdfunding publishing, with which you can measure your social limit, the size of your beaming face to the world around you.
Now, everyone’s SSP is different; for some people, percentage wise, it’s in the low 20s, for others, those that are more socially adept, it is in the 60s or 70s, these are the witty, clever types, those able to express themselves in social situations and having more than a few names in the address book of their soul. There are some however, whose SSP exceeds 100% and who have social prowess simply oozing from every pore in their smug, shiny bodies; they collect pledges and supporters in the same way that I collect grey hairs, they flash a smile, post a tweet and then sit back and watch as their adoring public shower them with pledges. I’m not bitter, I know that this is probably not how it really is, but it’s the picture which wakes me in the night.
I hit my own personal SSP at around 55%, which, to be honest, was greater than I thought it would be as I am not an outgoing, extroverted type; I’m better at writing than speaking, and find myself to be socially awkward and happier in small company; I’ve tried to be better at it but my face shuts down and I run away to the shelter of my own mind.
Now I’m not saying that my approach to Crowdfunding my book is the best way to do it, far from it, I haven’t got to 100% yet. The point I am trying to make, if you can discern it from my babble, is that no two campaigns are the same; each individual campaign is a fingerprint, a snowflake if you will, an imprint of the personality of the author selling their wares. Some are the scientists, methodical in their approach and working to formulas, some may be geographers and historians; looking at patterns and incidents, pre-empting through experience and mapping out their territories, and others, like me, are the Artists; a bit scatter-brained, wildly lurching from one idea to the next and randomly collecting pledges through moments of borderline genius and utter stupidity. The metaphors could go on, but I will spare you; you have heard enough and I will end with just a few words more.
Whether a Scientist or an Artist, a Historian or a Mathematician, you will have your own approach to Crowdfunding, if you are lucky enough to climb onto that travellator. By all means take advice from others; watch and steal, borrow and poach others tactics, but be true to yourself and, most importantly, trust your own ideas; it is your ‘j**rn*y’, your ‘r*ll*rc**st*r’; enjoy the ride.
To support Domini Mortum please have a read of the home page here and make a pledge.
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