Just over a year ago I successfully launched a crowdfunder for my book, At Home With The Furries using the Kickstarter platform and so I thought I’d share a few thoughts of what I learnt along the way of doing mine. The why, the how, is it really as easy or difficult as some photographers have said.
(To read more on crowdfunding and self-publishing photobooks why not become a valued supporter of mine over on Patreon! There are interviews with some truly great photographers on the site and you’ll also be helping me develop The Mermaid Project, my latest work!
Is it really a horrendous experience? ( yes it is, we’ll come to that)
- Don’t do a kickstarter
So possibly not the first rule you might have been expecting. Honestly if you have any other way of funding this book, exploit it. The crowdfunding process is without doubt the most challenging and emotionally draining experience you’ll have. Children..whatever. Buying a house..easy. This is beyond the realm of anything you’ll have experienced. Amazing highs followed by crunching, appalling lows where you’ll question everything about yourself and your work. I mean, it’s dreadful. Awful. Don’t do it if you don’t have to. On the flipside if it works, you become an honorary member of the Kickstarter support group…trust me you’ll need it.
2. Timing is everything
There’s a reason why book publishers launch their books in the Spring or Autumn and if you’ve totally ignored my first rule ( I don’t blame you really, I ignored a lot of sage advice too) Kickstarter campaigns usually succeed if you also follow that model. Launch in the Spring or Autumn. “But why Tom, what on earth are you talking about?” (Ed) Well it breaks down like this.
Jan-Feb-no one has any money
March-May-Now we’re talking, its spring, it’s the beginning of new things
June-Aug-Summer, everyone is on holiday
Sep-Nov-Planning for Christmas, great time to launch/finish
Dec-Christmas, your book should be out by then
3. Ask for what you need, not what you want
I would have loved to ask for £15k which is what At Home With The Furries ended up costing, I knew that as my first published monograph and unfortunately I’m not as yet the Alec Soth of the furries, (give it time though) there’s no way I could get more than £10k. And that was pushing it.
The golden rule for a first photobook is always ask for less than £10, 000, it has to be a manageable amount and something that is achievable over the campaign.
Blue Coat Press, a noted photobook publisher of books by Tish Murtha, Jim Mortam, Zak Waters and lots of other photographers tend to campaign on a minimum of between 6k to 8k. Kalpesh Lathigra published Lost in the Wilderness and asked for £8k, Matt Writtle with Sunday was £6k.
I asked for £9500 and it achieved £10,181
The hope is that the amount you ask for becomes the minimum achieved. Jim Mortram’s book ‘Small Town Inertia’ ended it’s campaign at £21,000 which helped the book have a much larger impact than it would have done. Two print runs and both editions have sold out.
Having said all that, some campaigns do ask for more than £10k, it depends on your audience and the strength of that backing. Some photographers ask for £50k and make it. It’s a case of being realistic. Less is best on the whole.
4.How long should I run the campaign for?
As long as you can take the pressure of doing it, when you launch it’s a full-time job and there’s no way around that. It will suck up all of your time. I recommend 30-35 days. If you time it right, you can cross two paydays which is very helpful.
Another point to bear in mind is that although people can pledge at any time, their money won’t be taken until and if you reach the target you set. So no target of £9500 reached, no money is taken.
As the price goes up, it’s a good idea to offer the backers more and more bang for their buck. So for example there should be an entry level reward, such as a set of postcards for £10.
Offering the book at a reduced price is a great idea, say 25 books at £25, that gets the party started. I had 18 rewards and there was at least one backer per pledge price point. I spent a lot of time thinking about price points, what I could offer
So for example an unsigned book was £30, a signed book and postcards was £40, a signed book, postcards and furry bag to carry the book in was £70. Remember that the whole point of doing this kickstarter is to pre-sell books, so the book should be included in all of the more expensive rewards. An obvious point perhaps but not one that quite a few failed Kickstarters failed to follow.
Be realistic, it’s unlikely that a backer is going to drop £275 on a book and a six month Skype mentorship. But they might spend that on a really cool reward such as a signed book, limited edition signed print, hand made furry slipcase and set of postcards.
Pick rewards that are relatively easy to organise, I’m talking postcards, prints, posters, bags, slipcases for example. An idea I considered was to do a furries tea party, but I decided the logistics of it would be too much of a strain on top of everything else.
6. Get all your ducks (or wolves) in a row
So you’ve shot a cool video of yourself talking to camera about how you need everyone’s help with funding this, okay check. Hopefully you’ve added some examples of the sort of thing people can expect as well, good check.
You’ve written the campaign up, it’s concise, it’s snappy. People understand what you want. Don’t hold back in the detail of the book, if it’s a collection of photographers for example, name them all. All their networks will aid in the promotion of the book.
The rewards are done and costed out. On that note you’ve costed up exactly how much you need to print the book.
Print costs (if self publishing)
Delivery of rewards
You’ve started to trail the campaign a few weeks ahead of launch, little hints on social media. Oh by the way, you’ll need Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Linked-In plus anything else you can think of. Whatsapp, Messenger, Snapchat, Youtube, Tumblr, Email newsletter.
You can in fact send a soft launch to friends if you want them to check over before you launch for real.
You’re going to be talking about this campaign for the next 30 days or so. Don’t do what I did and think you’re going to wing it with social media. Plan the social campaign out so you have maybe 10 or so social media posts ready to launch. At least one per day. I had this crazy idea that my campaign would take off like a rocket and not stop. It did take off, but someone packed the wrong fuel..:-)
7. Are you ready?
Time to launch it, well before that. You need to fill in all the paperwork for Kickstarter, provide them with your bank details for example.
Once you launch, expect a flurry of activity, the first three days are key. I had a fantastic start, 30% funded after three days.
A top tip for all newbies is that within the Kickstarter platform are custom urls. Something I only discovered halfway through mine ( doh) These are the web address for your Kickstarter with special tags attached which means that in the Stats section of the campaign you can track where your buyers are coming from.
So for example, you’ve got some press for the campaign and you’ve provided the website in question with one of these custom urls you can see if you’ve received any pledges through it.
Social media is key, it’s not necessarily how many followers you have, it’s more about how active you are and how supportive you are on these platforms.
The breakdown of all the pledges from social media was very interesting on my campaign.
For example 25% of my funding came from Facebook pledges with 40 backers
16% came from Twitter with 41 backers
1% on Instagram with 2 backers
I was fortunate in securing some great press coverage along the way. Cosmopolitan in the USA featured the work as did Time Out in London and Patch O’Furr who runs Dogpatch Press, a furry news website. All of which combined with my social media posts helped me to reach the target as well as Kickstarter searches, links from my websites and friends, family and the furry community believing in me.
Post up the Kickstarter links on all your bios-Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, your website, your blog, Linked-Iin. It’s about making it as easy as possible for people to back you. Instagram will only allow one external weblink on your Bio.
Find a friend. No not the app, line up a confidente or two. Perhaps a photographer who has already been through the crowdfunding process, someone to call when you’re in the plateau stage and on that note…
8. The Plateau
The beginning and the end of a Photobook Kickstarter is where all the action is.
30% funded in three days was a brilliant start, as the rewards fly in and the notifications start flying up on your phone, it’s an amazing rush. However on the 4th day it dried up and nothing was coming in. For the next three weeks it was a gradual climb to about 66% which is good of course but to achieve that required me to not stop talking about the kickstarter to everyone I know. And not just friends, but friends of friends, friends of friends or friends, Family, family friends, people you’ve just met. Old colleagues. On twitter, facebook, Instagram everyday.
Facebook forums and groups, magazines I worked on. Facebook direct messaging, I was very popular. It becomes an obsesson and everyone who has done a photobook kickstarter will probably tell a similar tale.
You cannot stop talking about it, you will become that person. Tommy Ten Tweets a Day. Hammer social media to pieces, do not stop. It’s relentless.
Be creative, don’t beg, just be really interesting and make it look like a lot of fun because it is. It’s so fulfilling done right. Remember you are the creator and as such its your responsibility to be the cheerleader, the promoter and just about everything else to get it over the line. People will help of course, they’ll back you and you will be so grateful for their help. In the end though, it’s all down to you.
9. The finish
You made it over the line, maybe like me it all hit the target in the last few days. Perhaps you’ve still got a few days left and you’ve hit your target. If so stop reading this article and push for a stretch goal. Make a bit more money, you’ll need it. Book publishing can throw up unexpected costs.
Now the real work begins as you’ve got to produce it to the ridiculously high standards you’ve set in your campaign. Enjoy this moment though, it’s an amazing achievement.
Just one more thing
It’s worth remembering that although the total amount you’ve made is impressive, there are costs to take into account.
First up, Kickstarter take 5% fee of the total.
Plus another 3% in card processing fees.
So you’ve lost 8% off your total.
Then that total figure received includes your postage costs.
So you could be looking at around £1000 in shipping costs.
At Home With The Furries
Thanks to all the lovely Kickstarter backers, all 205 of them plus the many more buyers of At Home With The Furries. So far 400 books have sold from a print run of 750 copies.
The book came out beautifully as you can see below. The cover is furry to the touch and the production standards are incredibly high. The book buyer at the Tate Modern was so impressed, he exclaimed. “You’ve gone all out on this book haven’t you”
It contains an essay by Laura Noble of L A Noble gallery and a text by Uncle Kage, the chairman of Anthrocon, the world’s biggest furry convention in Pittsburgh.
The Tate Modern and Photographers Gallery are stocking the book.
Dog Press ran an update on the book recently. https://dogpatch.press/2019/06/03/broadbent-the-furries/
To read more on crowdfunding and self-publishing photobooks why not become a valued supporter of mine over on Patreon! There are interviews with some truly great photographers on the site and you’ll also be helping me develop The Mermaid Project, my latest work!
To get hold of a copy of the book, visit my shop here
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