The other day I was at a barbecue event with friends and we were talking about the idea of crowdfunding. For those who haven’t heard the term before, crowdfunding is an online campaign for artists and entrepreneurs to raise money to help cover the costs and mitigate the financial risk of their creative or business ventures.
Authors are getting on the bandwagon. There is a trend in social media for authors to fund their writing projects by seeking donations based on the book’s idea. It’s a great idea, in theory, and many authors have made money this way. In some cases, replacing the advances given to them by large publishing companies. Even Marketing Wizard, Seth Godin, is crowdfunding his latest book.
Since traditional publishing houses typically only publish books that have a pre-existing fan base, it can be difficult for new authors to be acquired by a large publishing house. According to the Cadence Group, crowdfunding can “provide financial backing and proof of market viability for a new author, giving them the accreditation needed to be successful in the publishing industry.”
It’s an innovative new way for self published authors to cover the costs of their next book and get paid to write it. But what about the idea of a book being a product that is supposed to make money? There would need to be some integrity required from the author to provide either a print or ebook copy (and other swag) in exchange for a donation.
Advances, however are just that: an advance against future sales. Crowdfunding seems to free the author up to make money on the book in addition to its sales, as opposed to making money off the book after it makes those sales.
I’ve also seen small publishing houses use sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to crowdfund for their magazine or anthology that’s going to be published. It gives them a chance to pay the authors and cover their printing, advertising, and distribution costs.
But what about authors who already have publishers? Or are locked into contracts and want to invest in promoting their book for bigger sales? How would that work? Some publishing houses don’t pay much of an advance. More often than not, publishers today expect authors to get out there and promote themselves online, which can take a lot of the author’s time. While the major houses have distribution in all the retail outlets, smaller publishing houses (and many Canadian publishing houses) don’t have that kind of distribution. In other cases, large publishing houses might only support a novel so far, not paying the hefty fees required to give the book placement. In those cases, would it make sense for an author to take matters into their own hands?
Given that crowdfunding is a trend, and possibly the future of writing, Would it be ethical for an author to crowdfund the novel in order to get that advance and cover the extra costs involved in promoting their book on their own? Is it only for indie (self-published) authors, or is it a good idea for all authors regardless of what route they took to publication?
This is where I ask you for your opinion. I would like to know what you think, as followers of my blog. At first, I personally rejected the idea of crowdfunding, but when it comes to promotion and distribution of my own books, published by a small house, would it be fair to ask for advance funding to cover some of the costs I’ve incurred, that my book sales (at a lesser percentage than self-published authors see) have yet to cover.
If so, what kinds of rewards would interest you. I’m open to any and all suggestions.