Crowdfunding Your Next Book! By Mikey Chlanda

Crowdfunding Your Next Book! By Mikey Chlanda

Are you trying to figure out how to pay for that great cover artist or top-notch editor? Or, maybe you just need to keep a roof over your head and food in your stomach while you write your book.

I was in the same boat with my first book. I needed a way to help pay my bills while writing “Maples: A History of the Antioch College Fire Department.”

I turned to crowdfunding to raise money, using I ended up raising about $2600 in about 3 months, which was enough to get me going.

Here are the things I learned:

Your choice of platform is important. The three big crowdfunding sites are Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and IndieGoGo. Kickstarter does not allow personal fundraising, so if your appeal is more for living expenses than for an actual project, you’ll get denied. The same goes for Indiegogo. GoFundMe does allow personal campaigns.

The second thing to consider is how the money is distributed. When I did my project, GoFundMe was the only one that allowed you to collect the money as it got donated. With the others, you only collect if you meet your fundraising goal. So, you might have nothing to show for three months of fundraising if you never meet your goal. GoFundMe deposited the money in my bank account two days after it was donated.

Non-fiction is a lot easier sell than fiction, especially if it’s your first book. My book was the history of my first fire department. I marketed it to my college alumni page (since I’m an alum and it was the college fire department), the Maples page (the nickname of the fire department), and firefighter groups I’ve been involved with over the years. With fiction, there’s no obvious place to market it to, and it’s a tough sell to raise money when people can buy fiction for $2.99 or even less on Kindle.

If you launch your book to crickets chirping, it may be your pitch, or it may be that your book is not that marketable. You’ll have to decide.

Think outside the box. I got a $100 donation from both the local and the national union I had belonged to as a firefighter. Antioch College donated the rights to all the photos I used (a $2500 value), and provided me with free office space for 6 months. A couple of local historical societies also prepaid for books since they were not allowed to donate to an individual. Some fire museums bought copies. If your book appeals to non-book markets, chase them down, too.

Having a strong Facebook presence is crucial. Easily 90% of my donations came through Facebook itself, or a direct connection. I have close to 1000 friends on Facebook and post daily. People are used to connecting with me on there. They knew me, knew I wasn’t going anywhere, and knew I’d come through with the book. They were buying my dream with cold cash – you must have a trust level there.

I posted Thursday night, Sunday, and then Monday to kick-off the campaign. Weekly updates followed. I raised almost $1000 that weekend, with $500 coming Thursday and Friday.

Other things I did right:

I had a firm deadline six months away, with a big book-signing I’d already committed to. I gave weekly updates. I thanked people for every donation. People didn’t overpay for their prize – I charged the cover price with free shipping. For $25, they got a hard copy of the book, autographed. I was persistent, chasing down every fundraising source.

Some mistakes I made:

I didn’t make the bigger giveaways grand enough. Everyone that donated anything got an e-copy of the book, with $25 donations getting a hard copy, and $100 getting a deluxe coffee table edition. I’m not sure if it would have made a difference, but the $250, $500, and $1000 prizes weren’t really worth it. I only got one donation over $100. Looking back, I would have made the giveaways more one-of-a-kind.

I didn’t collect email addresses for selling people my next book, nor physical addresses to ship the merchandise to. Five years later, I’m still chasing down a few people that I owe books to.

And, I should have thanked each one personally in the intro to the book.

A few final tips:

Don’t be shy, sell yourself without being aggressive, and be persistent without being obnoxious. I did it, and I know you can, too.


Mikey Chlanda is a fire lieutenant turned author after a career-ending injury. The Last Noble Profession, a memoir of his 29 years on the fire department, is his eighth book and is available on Amazon.

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