crowdfundingIf you’ve read Part I and Part II of this series, you know I decided to crowdfund my next picture book through Kickstarter with a HYBRID (not self, not traditional) publishing model. I’m running a five-day series on my blog discussing some of the potential benefits of crowdfunding. Today’s topic is experimenting with viable publishing models and helping other writers.

Before I started writing full-time, I had a career in online banking and payments – so a strong business background. One of my responsibilities was developing new ideas for products and services and testing them. I bring that enthusiasm for “the next great thing around the corner” to my publishing career.

I’ve been observing crowdfunding for quite some time now, and I’ve backed at least a dozen projects – some successful and some not. I even set up a crowdfunding project through Kickstarter a couple of years ago, but decided against going forward at the last minute for various reasons.

One of those reasons was that I didn’t feel that books published via crowdfunding were taken seriously, and that there was a stigma attached to them. I didn’t want to put my work in that bucket.

Now , even bestselling authors are publishing via crowdfunding. The world is waking up to the idea that so long as a book is GOOD, the WAY it gets published doesn’t matter as much.

As a writer who needs to make a living, my highest priority is writing the best books I can and getting as many of them published as possible. Therefore, I’m willing to look at each and every viable option available to me (including digital publishing, which I have already done). I think other authors and illustrators should do the same. We have the opportunity today to take control over our careers in ways that wouldn’t have seemed possible even five years ago. That’s exciting!

But I know many writers still have fears about the state of the publishing industry and what role they will play. I am a proponent playing the most active role possible. I’m demonstrating, through this project, that an author can actually put together a fantastic team, including an editor, publisher, agent, and illustrator, in order to get a cherished book published.

Crowdfunding is no longer synonymous with self-publishing. It can be self, traditional OR hybrid (a combination of the two) future-of-publishingpublishing. The path I paved is just one of myriad ways I’m sure will open up as publishing continues to evolve. But I hope I can take some of the mystique out of the process by sharing my experience with fellow writers. I also hope that the model we’ve created for building a team, crafting the contracts, and actually producing the book can be a model for authors, illustrators, publishers and agents going forward. Here are just a few of the ideas we are hoping to prove with this project:

  • Authors CAN have some control over their own destinies and forge relationships that will lead to publishing opportunities
  • Editors and art directors are STILL critical – no  matter the publishing path.
  • There are opportunities for small publishers to add more books to their lists without taking as much financial risk.
  • There is a HUGE role for agents to play as boilerplate contracts tend not to apply to hybrid models.

NOTE: It’s important to state that we have no idea (yet) what the outcome of this experiment will be. I am NOT saying that success is guaranteed relative to other forms of publishing. FAR from it. Crowdfunding is a HUGE amount of work that takes a great deal of dedication and passion. What I AM saying is that I believe it is now a viable path to successful publishing and that is part of what I hope to prove.

So, I hope this project piques your interest and you find yourself learning a great deal, even if you never crowdfund a publishing project.

Don’t forget to follow along with the rest of the posts in this series!

Monday, Why Crowdfunding Part I

Tuesday: Why Crowdfunding Part II: Creative Control

Wednesday, Why Crowdfunding Part III: Experiment with New Publishing Models, Teach and Share with Fellow Writers (This Post!)

Thursday, Why Crowdfunding Part IV: Timing

Friday, Why Crowdfunding Part V: Demonstrating Demand PRIOR TO Publication

Have questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. Hope you’ll join me for this crazy adventure!

Categories: Agents, Authors, Books, Children's Books, Creativity, Crowdfunding, Digital Publishing, Picture Books, Publishing, Self Publishing, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. Hi Julie,

    This is an exciting project and I wish you the best. I know you’ll learn a lot an I appreciate what I’ll learn from your experiment. One question I have about Crowdfunding has to do with how well one is known. I can see how a well known author or artist could raise enough money to produce a book through Crowdfunding (I’ve supported a couple of wonderful artists who are putting out books of their artwork). You have an amazing self marketing plan that is obviously working for you. But for those of us who might be published but are “under the radar”, I just don’t see how Crowdfunding would work. Do you have any thoughts about this, as I suspect a lot of people might be in the same boat as me.

    • You ask some excellent questions Diane. I will know a great deal more about the importance of platform once I actually start my campaign (and I am interviewing others who have had successful campaigns), but yes, I think having a decent reach within the audience you are targeting is critical.

      This is another reason why I think it’s a great idea for ALL authors and illustrators to start building their platforms as soon as they can, rather than waiting for a publishing contract. When you have a platform, you are more likely to be able to create opportunities, IMHO. One analogy is, you don’t HAVE to have a college degree to be successful in business, but it’s a foundation that sure does help a great deal – even if it’s just to get your foot in the door by having that line-item on your resume. I view platform the same way.

      Having said all that, I also think it matters how much you are asking for. The more funding you need, it follows that the you will probably need a larger platform.

      I hope that helps!

      • Thanks, Julie. I agree about building the platform. I have not been as consistent with mine as I should. I’m so old school and am still not real comfortable with all the new technology. It is pretty daunting! Plus, I don’t have a lot to say for a blog and don’t really get the whole branding thing. It’s funny, because I’ve been a published illustrator for decades, and a published author, but personal reasons took me out of the business for awhile and now it’s a whole new world.

  2. I am in the same boat as the above responder. I appreciate and honor your entrepreneurial skills and enthusiasm, but not every writer has either 1) the skill set or 2) the interest in “doing it all.” Different strokes for different folks. I do believe that us “quieter” types will find our way as long as the work is the best it can be. Craft will always come first in my book. In the meantime, I wish you the very best in this endeavor!

    • Indeed, craft should come first in EVERYONE’S book. Craft first, publication second. No matter which route you take.

      I will play devil’s advocate on the “skill set” issue though. I have personally watched hundreds of writers come out of their shells to embrace more of the business side of writing in the past three years. Some shells are tougher than others, but getting behind the business aspect is becoming more and more critical.

      Also, I hope I’m not giving the impression that any part of this experiment is easy for me. It’s a HUGE amount of work and I’m practically eating the inside lining of my stomach out of fear.

      But the most important thing to me is to bring this book into the world any way I can because I believe in it. So I hope that helps some too. I am not at all superhuman. If I can do this, others can do this. Even if you don’t have a huge platform right this minute.

  3. deborahholtwilliams

    Crowdfunding is all totally new to me, so this may be a dumb question, but when people fund an idea, is it a donation, or is it with the idea that they will be paid back?

    • Hi Deborah,

      The artist I mentioned earlier who is kickstarting her book gave things out depending on what was donated. For instance, a donation of ten dollars would be rewarded with a signed art postcard, twenty might get the postcard and a bookmark. Forty five got a signed copy of the book, and larger amounts were rewarded with the book and some original artwork. Her project is completely self published, but she has a big fan base and was able to raise all the money she needed and more.

    • Hi Deborah, Here’s an example of one that I backed. If you look at the right side, it shows you the varying levels of support and what you get at each level. So it’s not just a donation, you actually get the book (and maybe even more). They may not all be set up this way (and I’m not saying Julie’s will be), but many of them offer varying levels of donation with varying levels of “prizes.” So you are basically pre-ordering the book so they have the money to fund the printing. Once it’s done, you get what you paid for. At least that’s my understanding. Not trying to overstep Julie here at all. She may have a different way of setting it up.

      And Julie, I think your business background is probably a huge asset to you. Some of these things I wouldn’t even think of. So, I think it’s great that you are willing to blaze the trails for us and fill us in on the process. I know for me, your out of the box thinking has really opened my eyes to possibilities I hadn’t thought of.

      • Hi Marcie – My project will indeed be set up that way. With varying levels of rewards.

        Thank you for your comments about the trail-blazing. I’m glad you are thinking about publishing in new ways because that was one of the hopes I had going in – demystify and present new possibilities.

    • Deborah – not a dumb question. There ARE types of crowdfunding based on lending, but publishing projects fall into what is called “Rewards-based,” which means donors get gifts such as bookmarks, art prints, signed copies of the book, etc. depending on how much they contribute.

  4. This discussion and approach to funding a book is fascinating. I liked looking at the link Marcie posted above. I think that is a great example of a crowdfunded book, but there are a couple of important distinctions about that book that make it a good candidate for crowdfunding, IMO. It’s a niche art book by a well-known illustrator. People who are into fantasy art are REALLY into it, and would probably spend the money on the book. Also, it’s possible an art book like that may increase in value, making it interesting to collectors. And, as an artist, she can offer things like original art prints to people who pledge at higher levels.

    The problem I see with picture books (and I’m not trying to undercut what Julie is doing at all, just thinking aloud) is that, if I want a certain book, I generally want it RIGHT NOW — because my kid is in a certain developmental phase, or has a certain interest. To give a silly example – I don’t want to wait a year for my crowdfunded picture book about potty training to come out. Because of this, I think that if I were to support a crowdfunded picture book, it would have to be because I am supporting the author – either because it is someone I know personally and want to support, or because it is an author I love and would purchase his or her next book anyway. That makes the author’s reach really important.

    Are there other examples of authors who have tried crowdfunding books? I’m curious what other types of books and authors have tried this and succeeded (or failed).

  5. Love the series of articles. I have been considering doing a “kickstarter” after taking an online class from Will Terry and Jake Parker. I wasn’t familiar with the term “crowd funding”. SO, I did a search and I thought maybe you would find this interesting. It’s the top 10 crowd funders .

  6. Love what you’re sharing. Don’t know if I’d have the energy. But, I do hope you give us some idea of what the out-of-pocket expenses will be as you proceed. Fundraising is a good idea, but I would have a tough time asking people. I am good at PR and networking, but stink at fundraising, unless it is for a selfless charitable cause. Am reading everything you write with great interest.

    • Thanks Patricia for following along! That’s one of the things about crowdfunding is that in theory it covers your out-of-pocket expenses. I certainly wouldn’t have the funds to publish this book out of pocket. There will be SOME expenses of course, and when the time comes, I will be sharing all of that information as well.

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience with us Julie. You are brave letting us live it along with you. I’ve funded Kickstarter projects in the past. I like that you have to meet a certain goal to move forward. I think it helps project owners get an early reading of whether or not they have enough support. This is not true with self-publishing. In self-publishing, authors often front the cash on the HOPE they will have support. With crowdfunding, you can’t make it to the next step without a base audience. It’s like a mini-launch before the real-deal.
    As an author-only, how will you present your project on Kickstarter? All the examples you provided above were from author/illustrators. Illustrators would have an easier time showing samples of the finished project. Are you going to share the full text of your book? Highlights? Are you going to show sample illustrations? It seems like you would need a commitment from an illustrator before the project began? How would a new author go about doing this without fronting cash? I wouldn’t feel right asking an illustrator to do work for me on the promise of possible future money.
    Also, I’ve wondered what fees Kickstarter (or a similar website) charge. Do they have various options… like pay us this much and we’ll make your promotion video, pay us this much and we’ll do advertising? If money is flowing away from the author, that would be a concern for me. Thanks again for sharing your journey!

    • Hi Hannah, great questions!

      I will not be sharing the full text of the book – just enough to entice backers. And my illustrator for the project (who HAS been paid an advance) will have one completed illustration and several sketches that will be used for the campaign itself so people will get a feel for what the finished book will be like.

      Kickstarter fees are simple. You pay 4% of your the total amount you ask for PLUS 3% credit card processing fees IF you meet your goal. You get no money at all if you don’t fund your project (nor do you pay Kickstarter anything in that case).

      Kickstarter does not make videos, do “official” advertising, etc. They do feature projects on their website, but I have yet to figure out what voodoo they use to determine which ones to feature.

      Hope these answers help!

  8. Julie,
    I always enjoy comments on normal posts in our community, but I am RELISHING this full-blown discussion and dialogue on this topic. So much to learn!
    Like a poster above, I was first wondering about the initial level of exposure an author or illustrator would need to take this approach. It couldn’t be random or thin…under-girding your repeated mantra that ‘this is work!’
    I hope in the process you get some idea, as this project goes forward, of how your work on 12×12 and the resulting role of ‘fans and followers’ out here help move this project along. I would guess some of that work for this project ‘really’ started before you developed the idea. Will your data from the funding phase, and the eventual income (sales) phase, give you that kind of information?

    • Damon – Assuming most backers identify themselves (it is possible to contribute anonymously), I should have a pretty good idea of how significant a role my platform plays in my ability to fund the project (assuming – fingers crossed – it gets funded). And yes, I will share that information once I have it! I am trying to be as transparent as possible about what and how I am learning as I proceed. Thanks for your questions and support!

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