What is Crowdfunding? Is it Right for You?

Guest post by Nicole O’Dell

nicoleodellNicole O’Dell, one of our agency’s clients, is the author of 23 books since 2007, founder of non-profit organization, Choose NOW Ministries, host of Choose NOW Radio: Parent Talk and Teen Talk, publisher at Choose NOW Publishing and a national Christian event speaker. She brings messages of hope to women, parents, teens, and tweens. The mother of six, including pre-school triplets, writes issue-driven YA fiction, like her popular Diamond Estates Series and upcoming Drama Ensues series, and non-fiction for teens like Girl Talk, based on the popular advice column she writes with her two daughters. “Hot Buttons,” is her Focus-on-the-Family approved non-fiction series to help parents tackle tough issues.

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What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is all the rage these days. And it makes sense because a successful campaign guarantees a successful product (book) launch since the necessary sales happen upfront. Or at least enough so that what comes later is gravy. How awesome is that?

But it can be a horrifying prospect to take your idea and present it to the public for a vote. I recently launched my own, and it was so difficult to press the launch button on my campaign page. It’s been an exercise in humility to remind myself that the success or failure of this one campaign is not a referendum on my self-worth. As writers, we’ve all had that feeling a time or two, no?

Not only had I spent years building my ministry and working within my passion for the parent-teen relationship, but then I spent months, weeks, and hours and hours of time on various aspects of the campaign and the product. It’s personal. And it’s scary. Oh, so scary!

It can be very risky for several reasons.

1. It’s public. I’ve equated the launch of my crowdfunding campaign with the horror of walking into church naked. It’s vulnerable. It’s taking something that means a lot to you and laying it bare for the world to see it succeed or fail. Imagine if your book proposals and the responses of all who saw them where just splayed on a public site. Eeek!

2. It’s permanent. If you get it wrong, there’s nothing you can do to erase a failed campaign. It’s like a public vote against a product or book. That’s not saying you can’t still release it, but it’s not going to have the same launch effect.

3. It’s not at all predictable. There’s no way to know why a campaign for a man who wants to raise money for pet shelters by getting drunk on webcam reaches over 400% of its goal, but other more, shall we say, valuable campaigns aren’t successful. Maybe it’s the shock factor. Maybe it’s the tribe factor. Or maybe it’s some other factor we don’t even know about yet.

Why, Who, and What?

Crowdfunding works best when it’s for something not readily accessible. You have to be able to create a felt need for the product you’re offering rather than send people scurrying over to Amazon to buy something just like it. Yes, my book is a devotional for parents, and there are lots of those, but Powerline365 has components that make it unique. There is the email subscription that delivers one of the 365 devotions to the reader’s inbox every day for a year, and there are other unique aspects. That’s vital in order to have a successful campaign.

When you have a product that seems to make sense for crowdfunding, you have to also ask yourself why you’re doing it. People want to feel that you’re letting them in on something special if they fund your project. How can you create that feeling in an authentic way? Since Choose NOW Ministries is now a non-profit organization, (not a requirement for crowdfunding) I am able to offer tax-deductible donations. Also, I can really appeal to the needs of families. My friend Mary DeMuth had a highly successful crowdfunding campaign for her book, Not Marked. It’s about recovering from sexual abuse. Specific. Niche. And clearly in response to a need.

How does it work?

The two main funding platforms are Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Kickstarter is bigger, but indiegogo has some different options that made it a better fit for me. Mainly, Kickstarter doesn’t allow self-help books for some odd reason, but they do allow fiction (though fiction is harder to fund). So that left IG as my only option. Another difference is that Indiegogo allows you to do fixed funding (you have to earn it all to get any) or flexible (you keep whatever you get–fixed earns more and costs less but has more risk). They both make it very easy to actually set up the campaign. Unfortunately ,they don’t write the marketing copy or create the video for you.

If you’re like me, it’s much easier to write 10k words than 100 words. You’ll find, as I did, that your copy will make or break you. My friend Thomas Umstattd went into my campaign and pointed out some places where I needed to make some adjustments to convey a clearer call-to-action. He and Mary DeMuth are now putting together an amazing set of podcasts to help people experience a successful crowdfunding campaign. I was blessed to have an opportunity to listen to the pre-released podcasts which will be available for your use soon, I’m told. Almost all of the things I did right were either direct advice from them or things I’d already planned but were confirmed by their advice. But I did make some mistakes.

Mistakes? What????

Yes. I can already tell you three big mistakes I made, and I’m sure there are more. I’ll fill you in on those in a follow-up post at the end of the month.

1. My video: I wish I’d had the time and resources to make a more professional video rather than the sub-par screen capture I made of myself talking right to my computer. It’s fine…shrug…but it’s nothing special. I think a stronger video impact would have made a better impression not only of me, but also of the expected quality of the product.

2. My sales copy: My first wave of viewers saw the first attempt at my crowdfunding page. That was before I tweaked the copy and before I realized they might want to know I’ve written other stuff. Oops. And I can’t do anything to get those viewers back.

3. Funding budget: At this point in the campaign, I wish I had set the minimum funding level lower, at, say $5000. Then I would have possibly had the opportunity to bring out some stretch goals. At this point, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

But my campaign might not succeed!

Well, I’d guess that if your’e reading this blog, you’ve sent off a proposal or a query only to be rejected. Right? Well, think of potential failure as being a lot like that. You took a risk because the possibility of a good result was worth the potential pain of failure. Did it mean you were moving outside of God’s will because you experienced rejection? Of course not. There are many reasons that God allows rejection, failure, or even success that looks like failure into our lives.

I have an interesting story in a recent blog post in which I describe four direct and miraculous answers to prayer. One of them was me seeking confirmation from God that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing with my campaign. I asked for a direct response, so GOD SENT ME A TEXT!

Ultimately, for me, and I suspect for you, it comes down to faith. If you enter into a crowdfunding campaign, you have to be okay with public vulnerability and be able to work through the feelings that come with things not going as you’d hoped or expected. There are ups and downs during a campaign, just like during the writing journey as a whole. And ultimately you may decide that crowdfunding is not for you. Or, maybe you’ve been encouraged by the prospect of a new possibility. Either way, I encourage you to bathe your project in prayer and then step out in faith. One way or another.

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Powerline365Powerline365
Plugging Parents of Teens into the Source

Powerline365 is a high-voltage, multi-format daily devotional to help parents raise Christian teens without losing connection.

Daily insight will ground you in truth as you plug into the Source. It’s time for you to power-parent from a place of confidence and surrender, believing God’s Word is true, and His promises will never go unfulfilled. 

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within [your teenager], will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6, NLT)

17 Responses to What is Crowdfunding? Is it Right for You?

  1. Jackie Layton January 13, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    Hi Nicole,

    Thanks for sharing your process. You’ve given me a lot to consider. I’m also going to share with my husband who is the director of development at a non-profit for older adults.

    Thanks again!

    • Nicole O'Dell January 13, 2014 at 8:18 am #

      Glad to have been of help, Jackie. I hope your husband is able to find the information valuable, too!

  2. April Gardner January 13, 2014 at 9:02 am #

    I’ve been wondering what crowdfunding was all about. Thanks for sharing! I’m knocking at the door of the teenage years with my two. :-) God’s riches blessings on this ministry!!

    • Nicole O'Dell January 13, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      Enjoy those pre-teens, April! These years are a blast! :)
      Thanks!

  3. Janet Sketchley January 13, 2014 at 10:15 am #

    Thanks for explaining this so clearly, Nicole. Now when someone asks me what crowdfunding is, I’ll send them to this post.

  4. Sherida Stewart January 13, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    Interesting, Nicole. This post caught my eye because blogged for someone published with Choose NOW.

    My sons are grown, but your daily devotionals to offer encouragement during those challenging teen years would be great inspiration.

    My grandchildren are ages 3 and 1. Are you considering daily devotionals for parents of toddlers/preschoolers?

    Blessings to all your efforts!

    • Nicole O'Dell January 13, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

      Thanks, Sherida! And thanks for helping to promote CNP!

      My focus isn’t on the early years, but as you know all too well, those young ones will be teens before you know it. :(

      Thanks again!!

  5. Marci Seither January 13, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

    I recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign. I raised over 5,000 in less than 30 days for a book project I have been working on for several years. The best part of the crowd funding was not just that I was able to pay for professional editing, book cover design and professional formatting and several other services, but I have a list of influencers who feel like they have partnered with me in a project they feel is important. That is huge!

    I will be placing a 300 book purchase in the next few weeks to fulfill all of my backer packages. Because of what it takes to set up the video and the text, what you end up with is an online press kit about your project that is easily shared and commented on.

    A few of the comments were so helpful I posted them in Facebook and paid to promote them which also added traffic back to my website and Kickstarter page. I will be sending out the packages in February and have kept my backers updated on the progress of the book. I am anticipating a big second order soon after the packages are sent out.

    As a wonderful bonus….I was sent a contract to collaborate on the screen play based on my research and manuscript. Crowd funding isn’t for every project or every person, but it is something that, if done right, can help make a dream become a reality.

    • Nicole O'Dell January 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

      Great story, Marci! Congratulations on your successful campaign and on your contract. Wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing.

  6. Kimberley Payne January 13, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    Thanks for this post, Nicole. I’m in the midst of a campaign through Kickstarter for my children’s activity book, Adam’s Animals, the second in the Science & Faith Matters series.
    It’s daunting! I would’ve loved to see Thomas and Mary’s podcasts. I’m sure I’ll come up with a fantastic list of “what not to do” after this campaign is over. Thanks for sharing.

    • marci Seither January 13, 2014 at 8:16 pm #

      Hi Kimberley!,
      Kickstarter was a huge project for me. I really had to make a lot of connections and let people know I was going to be starting a campaign before I actually began it. I know one of the biggest things for me was coming up with creative packages. I just finished making the 32 prairie inspired aprons I need to fulfill a few of the packages I came up with and am working on a few of the other package items while I wait for final proofs. Once the Kickstarter campaign is over..it isn’t over until all the backer commitments have been filled.
      Best of everything in looking for the right options for your project,
      Marci

  7. J.D. Maloy January 13, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    I love the guest posts on this site!

    Nicole, you are an amazing woman of God who wears many God-given hats. I applaud all you do and believe the Lord will continue to use you as His vessel as a light to the world. Right now, I don’t intend to do a crowdfunding project, but I wanted to thank you for sharing so much here today! You really helped educate us with your thorough post of this topic :) Keep making a difference, girl!

    P.S– smiling on the 3 direct answered prayers and that crazy text. How faithful is our God. And access to the Keurig… sweeeeet!

    • Nicole O'Dell January 17, 2014 at 8:54 am #

      Thank you so much for the encouragement!

      And, yes, those were some crazy cool answers to prayer! :)

  8. Sara Goff January 16, 2014 at 2:23 pm #

    Nicole, Crowdfunding is new to me, and I appreciate your insight, as well as the courage and heart you’ve put into championing this critical outreach. I’ve only begun to get to know you through Choose NOW Publishing, but already I have tremendous respect for your humility, your honesty, and your drive to spare parents and teens the rocky road you traveled alone at that tender age. I have no doubt that you will succeed with Powerline365, and that God will be your guide.

    • Nicole O'Dell January 17, 2014 at 8:55 am #

      Thank you, Sara!

      Whether this campaign succeeds or not, obedience is the ultimate success in all things. (That’s my daily reminder to myself! lol)

      :)

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