Note from Pete Nikolai: In this guest post, U.S. Marine pilot Jason Ladd shares the background and secrets behind his successful crowd-funding and crowd-publishing campaign for his book One of the Few. Crowdfunding is a viable option for creatives of all kinds, and authors are tapping into the help available from friends, family, and others who want to support them and their work. Jason speaks from experience–this is how he did it successfully.
Authors have more options than ever to create a book and share it with the world. Now there are more options to fund it, too. World, meet crowd-publishing. It’s how I raised over $7,500.00 to fund my book in just over 30 days!
I first heard about the concept of crowd-publishing from Tom Morkes, a fellow author and veteran. When I watched him raise over $12,000 in 30 days for his book Collaborate using Publishizer.com, I knew he was on to something.
With Publishizer, you set your target goal and the duration of the campaign (recommended between 30 and 55 days). If you meet your goal, you receive your funds (minus a small fee) and receive the documents necessary to fulfill your orders. If unsuccessful, your customers receive a refund and you pay nothing.
Crowd-publishing accomplishes two major goals:
- It validates your book’s concept and sales potential.
- It minimizes risk by funding your book up front.
Crowd-publishing has other benefits as well. A successful crowd-publishing campaign will:
- Retain all rights and publishing options for the author
- Serve as a marketing tool
- Help assemble your team of collaborators
- Provide a springboard for you to make the next leap into the world of publishing
But browse a few sites and you will see that not all crowd-publishing campaigns are successful.
(WARNING: Unsuccessful crowd-publishing campaign HERE)
Reconnaissance and Pre-Mission Planning
You can’t execute a mission without planning first. I’d like to share with you some valuable intelligence I gathered during my reconnaissance of the crowd-publishing battlefield.
If you haven’t started building your platform, start. Now. A crowd-publishing site provides a great webpage to pitch your book as well as the mechanism for collecting pre-orders, but you will a need a base of operations–a command and control center–from which to monitor the mission.
If you’re thinking about crowd-publishing, you might already have a book proposal. If you do, you can copy and paste a majority of your book proposal directly into your crowd-publishing website with only minor formatting required.
Don’t have a book proposal? That’s okay. By building your crowd-publishing webpage, you will be on your way to creating one. After all, a crowd-publishing campaign is essentially a book proposal in a webpage format.
Before getting started, I viewed some of the successful and unsuccessful crowd-publishing campaigns to look for common characteristics. Most successful campaigns included:
- A professional-quality cover design
- An engaging or intriguing video
- Numerous, creative packages (from $9 e-books to $3,000 partnerships to exclusive memberships)
- A strong sense of collaboration
- A visually pleasing webpage–creative, vibrant, and fun
At the time, I had something I whipped up in Photoshop to keep me motivated, and I’m embarrassed to admit that at one point I thought it might be good enough. Professional authors understand the importance of a professional cover design, but new authors sometimes hesitate to make that investment, and I was no different.
I realized that even a crowd-publishing campaign involves risk. An unsuccessful campaign would cost time and energy, not to mention the psychological toll of failure. After receiving valuable counsel from my team of advisors, I decided to have the cover professionally designed and used a service called 99Designs.com, where artists compete on your cover design for a cash award.
I gave detailed guidance and worked closely with each artist. The end result was an amazing design that captured every element I envisioned. Additionally, the process also provided imagery for marketing materials that I would need to start creating buzz through social media.
(Shh! Can you keep secret? This is the amazing artist who designed the final version of my cover. Don’t all hire him at once; I plan on using him again!)
Some are in the style of a book trailer, and others are simply an explanation of the project followed by a call to action. Publishizer encourages authors to be creative with their webpage, that’s why you’ll see my “Evolution of a Book Cover” image and even notes from one of my flights in an F/A-18 Hornet.
I had been toying with the idea of a book trailer, but I’m not a video expert and didn’t have the resources to make one myself. That’s when I called in a little help from my friends.
I phoned a friend and film score composer in L.A. and talked with him about a book trailer. He got me in contact with an award winning film director who was interested in the project. A few phone calls later, we had a vision for a video. It required an additional investment, but it was well worth it. After all, do you believe in your book or not?
I was late to the party with these. I wasn’t ready with partnerships when I launched my campaign. But as Colonel Graff reminded Mazer Rackham in in the film adaptation of Ender’s Game, “You’re never ready. You go when you’re ready enough.”
After my campaign launched, I began reaching out to like-minded individuals and organizations to explore how my book might help us both accomplish our missions. I found a Christian organization willing to receive a shipment of donated books and provide them free of charge to military service members. That enabled me to create some unique “SUPPORT THE TROOPS” packages with opportunities to support both my book project and our troops. I also explored similar partnerships with a Christian apologetics organization with chapters on university campuses across the U.S.
You might find a sponsor, a donor, or even a publisher! You are limited only by your imagination.
The more the better. The more creative the better. Most campaigns I researched offered a few big packages (My “4-Star Package” included 120 books for $1800.00, and it sold!). You never know who’s waiting out there in the community to give you a huge boost of support. Give lots of options, but don’t forget to think big. Have a little faith. No, have big faith!
Once your campaign is live, the work has just begun.
I chose to publish excerpts of my book on my blog FIGHTER FAITH at www.jasonbladd.com. This was an opportunity to share even more of the book than what readers could sample on my campaign site. Regular social media posts help create and maintain the momentum necessary to succeed.
Publishizer allows your to make tweaks and corrections to your campaign as needed. If you are struck with creative genius mid-campaign, add it to your website. I added several “Reward Packages” in the middle of my campaign to accommodate demand and new partnerships.
Keep your tribe and team of collaborators informed on the status of your campaign. Refuse to be forgotten. Give the procrastinator every reminder they need to pre-order your book!
Continue networking and planting the seeds of collaboration. You can’t make it this far without help, and you will need more still. Fortunately, the author community is full of support and reciprocity. I volunteered to help two authors launch their books while I was crowd-publishing my own.
(Check out my review of Michele Cushatt’s Undone: A Story of Making Peace With an Unexpected Life and the website for Jeff Goins’ The Art of Work).
Research Your Publishing Options
If you’re crowd-publishing, you’re probably not using a traditional publisher. At least, not yet. A successful campaign will provide you with the funds to self-publish independently, or with professional assistance from a company like WestBow Press.
Every good military commander complies a list of “Lessons Learned” at the completion of a mission. After completing a successful campaign, take notes of what you learned along the way. Then share them with the author community. We’re all in this together, and we all have the same mission: to share our message with the world.
Now go. You’re ready enough.
Jason B. Ladd is the author of One of the Few, a U.S. Marine, and an Iraq War veteran. Jason is a contributor to The Bottom Line and writes for FIGHTER FAITH, a website he founded to help others lead with conviction, embrace parenthood with joy, and develop a worldview capable of answering life’s biggest questions. He and his wife Karalyn are the parents of six children.