Most of travel writers, me included, dream about publishing a book. Even though we know we live in a digital era, there is something romantic about the feeling of holding printed version of your book in your own hands.
Fortunately, mostly thanks to this same digital era, especially crowdfunding, publishing your own book and spreading the word about it – has never been easier.
Crowdfunding principle is pretty simple – you offer your product or service on one of CF platforms, and ask people that are interested in that same product/service to buy it directly from you, before it is available on the market.
That way people get to that product/service first, and at the same time, with their donations, allow your project to come true.
STEP 1: BUILDING A COMMUNITY
For me, the idea of writing a book and crowdfunding it didn’t came over night. It was something that was cooking in my mind for years and years, even before I knew crowdfunding existed.
I was traveling around the world on $10 a day, posting photos on my FB page, making videos and posting them on my YT channel, writing a blog. And of course, I was trying to reach as many people possible with my story, and create relationships with them. I was featured in the media plenty of times, held lectures about low-budget traveling, replied to every single email or message, no matter how silly I thought the questions were.
It was a two way relationship – my followers were giving me the motivation be explore more and to be a better writer, and I was giving them a window into my life full of travels and adventures. A win-win situation.
So, when years passed by and I laid on a hammock in a fishing village in Ecuador and decided to write my first book, I already had thousands of people reading my stories online.
I didn’t want to publish my book in an conventional way, via publishers – I wanted to do everything myself, knowing that from all people that have been reading my stories in the past, some of them will be willing to purchase the book directly from me.
STEP 2: CREATING A CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN
When five months later I was done with writing the book, I could focus on creating my crowdfunding campaign and in this way offer the option of buying my book for my followers, friends, family, and some random people that will bump into it.
The most important thing was to make a great video, short, and straight to the point. Having the life that I had, it wasn’t a big problem to have many amazing shots from all over the world, and edit them in a way that people who watch it have the urge to buy the book and read about my travels in more details.
It also helped having a girlfriend that can do an amazing job editing it.
Of course, along with the video, I had to write a good pitch that explains few things to people that visit my crowdfunding campaign:
WHO am I?
I had to write something about me in few words, basic information, and put few photos, so people can see that I am a real person, relate to me and my story, and they also need this feeling of safety – if they decide to contribute, can they trust me?
WHAT do I do?
Show them why am I any different from all other travellers in the world.
WHY would they want to buy the book?
This is very important – people can maybe relate to you, respect what you do, but they are interested on how will they profit from purchasing your book. Will you give them some answers, will your book enhance their life quality?
My book was there to show them how they can travel the way I do, and if they are not interested in traveling themselves, they can read some of my interesting stories that have never been told before.
FOR WHAT I need the money for?
People want to know where their money will go to.
I wrote all of my expected expenses, divided them in few categories, and gave them the opportunity to be a part of creating my first book.
WHAT will they get, apart from the book.
Crowdfunding is a great way to sell your product or service, but you can also play a lot with adding perks along with your main product.
The idea is to cover large price ranges, from couple of dollars, to few hundred or thousand, so there is something for everyone. I offered them my e-book, bracelets from Kenya, T-shirt I wore everywhere, some framed photos, even my ukulele that I traveled with for years.
I made some smart moves, like the $40 BEER perk for example – I got many free beers from one brewery in my city, and in exchange I promised to put their logo on the back cover of my book. Even though I haven’t earned anything directly from that brewery, I earned additional $23 (the book alone was $17) for each person that bought that perk, plus I had couple of beers with interesting people.
One more important piece of advice – surround yourself with people with experience in crowdfunding (like I did with Hrvoje, Oleg and Igor), and check out some successful and unsuccessful campaigns in your niche. You can learn a lot from them.
STEP 3: PROMOTING YOUR CAMPAIGN
After weeks of research, pimping up your campaign and choosing the right timing (I launched my campaign on my birthday, knowing a lot of people will visit my FB profile on that day), it was ready to go live.
The beginning is obvious – I shared my campaign with my FB friends and followers, friends and family via email, with people reading your blog via newsletter, etc. They pushed my campaign on the right path. More personal contact – the better success.
But, I was careful not to push it too much. I always ask politely that they share if they cannot contribute, and even if they didn’t, I didn’t hold it against them. I didn’t want to lose my friends over this.
And then, when all this was done, everything slowed down a bit, so it was up to me to spread the word about my campaign on some other places, to people that never heard about me.
Forums, Reddit, FB groups – they are all good places to spread the word, but you have to try to do it subtly, because it can result with negative reactions. Everyone is trying to sell something these days, I didn’t want to be one of them.
I prepared a statement for the media, but also carefully chose which media will find my story interesting. The “more personal – better success” tactic works here as well.
STEP 4: YOU’RE JUST GETTING STARTED!
Month and a half after starting the campaign, it was over. I raised $13,000, more than double of asked amount, which was more than enough to cover expenses of publishing the book in Croatian and English.
But, since crowdfunding is not the beginning, it is also definitely not the end of the story. When your campaign finishes, its time to get going, use the money you collected, send the perks to your contributors, and start with promoting your product via different channels.
After my CF campaign, I went on a tour, and sold even more books than during my campaign.
Having a great idea is not enough to start a crowdfunding campaign. Behind a successful campaign is a lot of work, effort and renunciation. And Time.
In my case, book and preparation for this campaign lasted five years.
So, if you have an idea, work around it. It won’t be fast, it won’t be easy – but pleasure with the result will definitely be worth your time and effort.
PS. You can check my current campaign, and buy a copy of my new book here – 1000 DAYS OF SUMMER.