Crowdfunding Fiction

A few months ago I stumbled on to a great project where two architecture students designed and developed emergency housing for people caught in natural disasters. Their invention, the Ablenook, is a tool-free, modular housing structure that is sustainable regardless of terrain, resilient to low level hurricanes, and expandable so many families can be provided for at once, and schools and businesses can be temporarily relocated.

Here’s a clip if you’re interested:

Many of these projects are necessary, important, and relevant to humanity. Some, well, not so much:

But that’s cool. It’s okay to want to do creative wacky things. That’s one of the great things about living is that sometimes you’ll see some whimsical facets that make you forget about the horrors. It’s all necessary.

Sites like Kickstarter have become hugely popular and people in every walk of life and in many diverse fields have found every which way to exploit them.  The writing and publication fields are not to be excluded. There has been a surge in recent years for authors to look to crowdfunding to kick off their projects. It’s sort of a way to replace or offset the ever elusive advance money.

Now, before I go on I should explain that when it comes to writing the term ‘crowdfunding’ is not new. Crowdfunding could mean anything from collaborative group projects, mass prompt competitions, to simply someone who’s willing to provide story ideas to someone else who wants to write them (an idea man). But with these money raising sites, these participants who contribute to crowdfunding really take on a roll similar to a patron, a donor or a sponsor. They put up the money in hopes of having the “honor” of contributing to the project. In return they may get special credit for their contributions, or the ability to host an exclusive event, or maybe even a chance to be immortalized in the work itself – the ultimate bragging right. “Oh yeah, you got your name on a brick in a park? Well I was written as a character in this year’s New York Time’s best selling master piece. So there!”

The site PenUltimate has a treasure trove of terms relating to crowdsourcing and writing. Click here to learn more.

Someone left a comment on a blog post I read recently regarding how a writer could possibly achieve success in this sort of activity. A gentleman named Ted Thomas wrote:

1. Gain some success doing self-published writing in one or more fields.
2. Pitch your next fiction novel on 
crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter, where only the highest approved (see below) bidders win the privilege of having their own real life stories woven into the plot, with the chance to share in the revenue once a certain sales figure is reached.
3. Bidders fill out detailed questionnaires and privately post interviews, which become the source material for both the author’s final picks and the backstory of the novel.

3. The funders become beta readers and editors.

4. The novel is 
epublished in serial form on a platform such as Amazon; the funders are trained by the author to become the main promoters of the book.
5. If the novel fails, the funders lose out, but have a privileged spot for the next attempt. If it succeeds, the funders get both a modicum of fame and some return after book sales reach a pre-arranged level.

See what he did there? That Thomas is a genius if you ask me. Not only does he propose that these folks contribute money to a story that hasn’t even been written yet, but he’s signed them up to be PR mules too.  *golf claps*

Wow, right? This sounds like a bitchin’ idea!  Let’s go out and get started!

Woooah! Wait-a-sec. Before we rush off, this seems like one of those too good to be true thingies. Yep, it is. There are some poignant cons to this sort of scheme.

  • First…you haven’t written the story yet. I don’t know about you by my oh-shit-I’ve-written-myself-into-a-corner stack is greater than my fuck-yeah-I-finished pile. You’ll have to come up with a contingency plan for what could happen should the story go south. Even if you finish it, the chances of it being successful equates to a crap-shoot unless you’ve really got something going.
  • Second, it’s possible that your work could be disqualified for awards down the line. It’s just speculation from what I could find, at least in the monetary funding of the work, but sometimes these speculations can turn into something. More risky in this aspect is the crowdfunding where collaborative endeavors are at issue. Be sure to investigate everything having to do with your intellectual property to save yourself grief down the line.
  • Third would be that there’s a lot of talk from places like Forbes and Geekwire sounding alarms about the laws or lack there of concerning crowdfunding. What may seem like a good idea now, when you’re starting off, could drastically change by the time you’ve made enough of a name for yourself to get some larger sponsorships.

And that brings me to what keeps me on a fence about this. So, it makes sense that you need to make a name for yourself in order for this to be a successful project, so if you’re at that point why would you need to crowdfund your work? There’re still many stories out there about new and rising authors scoring 5-6-7 figure signing deals with major pub houses.  If you’re on the upswing in your writing success, why would you want to beg for money? (yeah, I know – starving bill collectors in India…)

Maybe I’m just a helpless optimist – if you work hard, and learn to write well, and focus on what you love about writing, money will come.

What do you think?


5 thoughts on “Crowdfunding Fiction

  1. I love the idea of crowdfunding my writing. Imagine how productive you could be if you had crowdfunding patrons fund your writing for a year… but then, if you’re as good as all that, why not write a masterpiece and have an agent find you a publisher who will pay you to write the next books?

  2. bardconstantine says:

    Interesting, but a fiercely loyal following would be required for a writer’s success in this, I would think. At this exact moment I’d love help to gather funds to cover the cost of commissioning my preferred artist for my next novel. But I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting it out on Kickstarter or the like because the irony is that I’m not ‘big’ enough yet.

    • Exactly! There’s lots of projects I see being good fits for crowdfunding, but somewhere in my conscious asking fans to cover an upfront for writing affronts me. Just the writing aspect of it. If there was a crowdfunding effort to say, bring your favorite author out to give a lecture or workshop, yeah, I can totally see that. But where a project like a book has yet to be written…seems like bad business to me. If you’re good people would possibly buy your books, which should help pay for more writing, yeah?

      • bardconstantine says:

        Exactly. It’s not in me to ask for funding for something like writing a book, even though the expenses can get up there if you want to get as professional as possible. Crowdfunding is a bit hard for me to get my head around. I guess it really depends on how passionate the people are about the project.

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