One of the mission statements of Verse Kraken is to create an affordable retreat for writers. This is why we will always offer a full scholarship place and, when possible, other discounts too. Sometimes, even with our help, taking a week off can still be overwhelmingly expensive: travel costs, loss of income, finding alternative care for dependents, and more.
One option we recommend is to crowdfund. This can be daunting, of course, so we thought we’d write a little handy guide to the process.
Getting over the fear
The biggest hurdle to crowdfunding is likely to be… yourself. It’s daunting to ask friends, family, fans of your work, and total strangers for help, especially for a writing retreat! But try to remember two things:
- Accepting help is not a weakness. You’ll be surprised at how much people are happy to help. It’s a great feeling to support a writer in their quest to get some quality writing time.
- You do deserve time to write and develop your voice. Yes, you do.
I haven’t met a writer yet who hasn’t had a little demon nesting in their brain, feeding them negative thoughts about their worth. Please, do yourself a favour, and send that demon off on a holiday long enough for you to set up a crowdfunding campaign. He can come back later, drunk on pina coladas, and do whatever he wants, it’ll be too late.
How much do you need to raise?
You also need to decide how much to raise. The writing retreat may cost x amount in fees, but what isn’t included in that? Consider factoring the following into your total amount:
- Travel expenses (flights, trains, taxis…)
- Subsistence (if not included)
- Accommodation (if not included)
- Entertainment whilst on the retreat (outings and other excursions)
- The crowdfunding platform fee (2-5% of total amount)
- Reward expenses (how much it’ll cost to manufacture rewards)
- Loss of income for the time you’ll be away (rent and bills still have to be paid)
- Cost of alternative care while you’re away (whether for people or pets)
You might not be able to cover everything in one crowdfunding campaign, but it’s better to aim high.
Choosing your crowdfunding platform
These are the three main crowdfunding platforms: Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and GoFundMe. Your country or region may also have specific ones worth checking out (for example in France Ulule and KissKissBankBank are big!). The fees are correct at the time of writing this, but do double check before making a decision.
Here is how they break down:
Full amount or you get nothing. 5% fee on total won + 3-5% payment processing charge on each transaction. 14 day waiting period for funds. The advantages of Kickstarter are the increased visibility of your project, so I would recommend this one if you’re trying to raise £1000 or above. Projects have to be approved by Kickstarter to go ahead, so you’ll need to put more effort into creating a campaign with this one.
You can choose flexible goals, where you win the amount raised even if it didn’t reach your total goal. 5% fees on total raised, and 3% + 30 cents transaction fees. Indiegogo is the middle ground between Kickstarter and GoFundMe, and my personal favourite.
Flexible funding is the name of the game, you keep everything you raised. 2.9% + 30 cent processing fee on each transaction. The advantage of GoFundMe is that you do not need to create rewards. The downside is that there is less visibility. Only 1 in 10 campaigns gets funded on GoFundMe. Having said that, a couple of our writers used it last year and were successful, so it’s worth a shot!
Planning a campaign
Your crowdfunding campaign is going to need a few things:
- A catchy title
- A compelling story
- A video would be a bonus but isn’t compulsory
- At least one photo/graphic
- Rewards for your backers
- A marketing plan
Let’s break these down…
The catchy title and compelling story should put across a few things to your prospective backers:
- Who you are (a brief history of your writing to date. If you’re at the start of your writing journey, don’t be afraid to say this!)
- Why you are crowdfunding
- What it would mean to you if you raised the money
- A taster of the cool things they can expect as backers.
That last point is probably the least important. They are investing in you, the person, the writer, so anything else is just a bonus.
Even if you think only friends and family will see it, if you’re using Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, your campaign will have a wider reach, so don’t assume people will know anything about you. Feel free to share excerpts of your work, links to things you’ve done, footage or photos of your work…
They say a photo is worth a thousand words, in which case a video probably converts to a million words. Most platforms have the space for a video, which can sometimes be replaced by a photo. If you have the energy, I strongly recommend creating a video. It doesn’t have to have flashy production values, it can just be you, talking to your phone in selfie mode. In a previous crowdfunding campaign, I drew a bunch of silly drawings and text and put them together stopmotion style to illustrate my campaign. It was pretty shoddy (I like to think my video skills have dramatically improved since then) but you know what, I raised the amount I needed to!
If you really don’t want your face anyway, then try Lumen5. It’s an easy way to create videos using stock images and videos to illustrate your text.
Even if you have a video, there’s no harm in adding photos to your campaign to bring it to life. Think of: images of you performing your work, photos of your books/notebooks, photos of where the writing retreat will take place, etc…
Perks for your backers
Perks definitely require some thinking through. You want to offer a variety to suit every pocket, from the pal who has a spare fiver, to those with deeper pockets that day.
From experience I would suggest three things:
- Don’t over-promise, especially for things to be created or sent whilst on the retreat. You don’t want to spend your retreat making backer rewards instead of writing.
- Give yourself a generous timeline for delivering the rewards
- Think through the costs of the rewards, as you don’t want them to cancel out the money coming in, that defeats the point a little…
These are all mistakes I’ve made so you don’t have to!
Types of rewards can include:
- People’s names in your next book, or on your website...
- A handmade/limited-run pamphlet of writing from the retreat
- Postcards with a short story/poem on them
- An online or in-person workshop or performance (if in-person factor in travel expenses and maybe restrict this geographically!)
- Feedback on people’s writing (be precise on how much and what you are offering to critique. You could get a 70,000 novel rather than 5 poems)
- Any merchandise you have: for example badges, t-shirts, broadsheets, previous books you’ve published… You could print a special edition of one of your poems as a card perhaps…
If you have other interests and talents, feel free to include them here too: drawings, jewelry, cakes. etc etc
Another option is to get your talented friends involved: would they be able to donate some of their work as rewards in your campaign?
A marketing plan
A marketing plan might feel like a daunting thing, but it can quite simply be a list of things you’ll aim to do before and during your campaign. For example it could be something as small as this:
- Email everyone I can think of (BCCing them of course) to tell them about the campaign
- Post on social media at least once a day. Alternate between Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Create a blog post on my website
It’s very easy for people to miss things the first time around on social media, so don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. When I’ve donated to crowdfunding campaigns it’s often been the 4th or 5th time that I’ve seen it. Sometimes you’re just not on the right device, or the right place, to back a campaign, so it’s good to be nudged!
Not everyone can afford to donate, of course, but do encourage your friends and family to spread the word about your campaign on their own social media channels. Private and personal messages can be very effective. Obviously, don’t overdo this though!
And of course, keep yourself positive. Crowdfunding is daunting, but keep in mind the real reward at the other end!