To Crowdfund or Not to Crowdfund?

Should writers use crowdfunding to support their writing?

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This is 2018.

Businesses no longer require a brick and mortar shop to function. Independent authors, artists, creators, and entrepreneurs of all kinds find funding and supporters everywhere. There is kickstarter which was one of the first crowdfunding sites, launched in 2009, for funding projects. Indiegogo, which initially began to support independent films, launched in 2006 and expanded to other projects a year later. Then there are sites like gofundme, started in 2010, where someone can request assistance for almost anything – not just project – from medical bills to college fees to a cross country tour on bicycle.

For the creative types, you can get ongoing support through a site called Patreon, where individuals offer incentives for monthly or per project monetary support.  An author might provide their audience with their exclusive Patreon blog for $1 a month, and the blog plus a chapter a month for $5, then extra features for $10, and so on. The greater the level of support, the bigger the perks.

There are other platforms and apps to support artists, like Flattr or Buy Me A Coffee which have been linked on some image sharing sites such as Pixaby. These are one time payments, like tips, when you use or see something you like from a creator.

Amanda Palmer uses Patreon to support her music and art. And if I may quote from her Patreon page, explaining what it is all about, Amanda says,

“this patreon is for people who want to help sustain my ability and freedom to MAKE WHAT I WANT, WHEN I WANT”.

She has over 12,000 supporters. Now granted she was popular before she left the big label, but now she does even more creative stuff, that would never get produced or sold by big labels. Kind of like self publishing, but with a steady income.

In scanning Patreon accounts, for example, using a search for “writer” I found a mixed bag of artists, writers, and others, some with a few supporters, others with many supporters. There were a few writers earning over $1,000 a month, but most I found were bringing in below $500, with the majority at less than that. “Novel” had a few well supported creators, and then a lot of minimally funded writers. Each Patreon user sets their own goals, not always very high, so $300 may be all a creator needs. The next goal could be higher, say $500 a month to write the sequel.

To crowdfund or not to crowdfund, that WAS my question. One strategy might be to use a site like Patreon as your blog and hope to get a little monetary return on your investment of time. But only if you can be consistent AND have additional content, items, or perks to give supporters at higher levels, such as exclusive videos, podcasts, artwork of your characters, or you have other talents you can use to reward supporters (like crocheting or pottery).

For the everyday writer, struggling to keep up with a blog, a Facebook page, twitter and other social media accounts, and working on several WIPs while possibly also working a day job, crowdfunding might be too much of a commitment. Besides building a following, many creators also support other artists, so there is community building within the site. Another social network to keep tabs on!

I am not saying writers should not use crowdfunding, it obviously works for some people. But you should consider the time, effort, and level of commitment to your supporters that is required to maintain a following and keep them happy and engaged. If you spread yourself too thin, you won’t have time to write your novels.

Do you use a crowdfunding or similar service? Share your experience. Is it working for you?

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