crowdfund writing retreat

The ultimate guide to crowdfunding your writing retreat

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  • Insurance

You might not be able to cover everything in one crowdfunding campaign, but it’s better to aim high. 

writing retreat in europe crowdfund

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:

Kickstarter

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. 

Indiegogo

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. 

GoFundMe

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…

Your pitch

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…

Visuals

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…


writing retreat crowdfund

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! 

To save yourself some energy, you can schedule your posts in advance using a social media manager such as BufferHootsuiteTailwindCrowdfire, or Tweetdeck.

And of course, keep yourself positive. Crowdfunding is daunting, but keep in mind the real reward at the other end!

crowdfunding writing retreat


 

European writing retreat

Fabulous Writing Retreats in Europe to Book in 2020

Top European Writing Residencies 2020

Writing retreats are the writer’s dream. It gives them space to concentrate completely on their creative work without the day-to-day domestic distractions. However, they are also an investment of time and money. So if you’ve been saving up for a retreat, you want to make sure it’s the right one for you.

In this list, I’ve decided to focus on taught writing retreats, because those provide extra value to what is otherwise just a ‘space of one’s own’. These vary in intensity: from multiple daily workshops, to weekly feedback sessions, from small group sessions and individual tutorials. Some leave your day unstructured with the option of socializing and sharing your writing in the evening. Whatever format works best for you, there’s a retreat out there for you!

 

Iceland Writers Retreat

When: 29 April-3 May 2020

Where: Reykjavik, Iceland

Cost: £1834-1287 depending on package chosen. Also possibility to extend the stay.

Genres: Fiction

About: Over the course of the retreat, each participant is enrolled in a total of five two-hour small-group writing workshops (max. 15 participants) led by internationally acclaimed authors. There’s also a Q&A panel with all faculty, and numerous readings and social functions.

What people have said about it: “Workshops were amazing. Down-to-earth discussions in a small group atmosphere.” – Sam, Canada, 2015 participant

France Writing Retreat 2020

Verse Kraken Writing Retreat

Verse Kraken Writing Retreat: Brittany

Date: 8-15 May 2020

Where: Brittany, France

Cost: £850 (earlybird price until 31st December: £775). Includes accommodation, food, and tuition.

Genres: All writing genres welcome

About: Inspired by the area where the residency will be taking place, participants will discover spaces where history and present overlap, where nature and urbanity co-exist. The retreats are taught, which means participants will have a mixture of site-specific workshops and tutorials as well as alone time to spend on their writing. There will also be optional excursions.

What people have to say about it: “Verse Kraken was a place of metamorphosis and growth I never imagined possible – beautifully structured with a wonderful mix of workshops with a thread tying them all together effortlessly and designed to make us think in new ways.  It felt like home, a safe place to grow and explore and become more confident being myself, knowing my voice as a writer. ” – Jaime S, writer, poet.

Write Away Europe: Hydra, Greece

When: 17-23 May 2020

Where: Hydra, Greece

Cost: $2400/2800 including accommodation, tuition, breakfast and dinner, as well as a few extra perks.

Genres: Fiction and Non-Fiction

About: Write Away Europe organizes multiple retreats around Europe. This one promises a peaceful retreat with gorgeous views and food.

What people have said about it: “Thanks for the energy and inspiration! What a life-changing week, my notebooks are filling!” -Maureen J., travel & non-fiction writer

The Lemon Tree House: Italy

Date: 16-30 May 2020

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Cost: 2600 Euro

Genre: all writing genres, as well as visual and performing arts

About: The Lemon Tree House is an artist residency program designed to create the perfect balance between social and alone time for creating work. Days are free and unstructured, with cocktails, dinner and craft talks in the evening with the writer and artist-in-residence.

What people have to say about it: “I loved that my ONLY responsibility for two weeks was to create. Grocery shopping, cooking and all of life’s little distractions were taken care of by Julie and the amazing staff. My duty was to write. And so I did. I loved it!” — Sofi Papamarko 2014 Fall Lemon Tree

Writing retreats in europe

Lemon Tree

L’atelier Writers

Date: 31 May-6 June 2020

Where: Chateau Les Bardons, France

Cost: €900-1700, includes accommodation, tuition, food, nightly aperitif and online community. There is a $10 application fee.

Genre: Fiction

About: The heart of L’Atelier Writers is community and this extends beyond the length of the retreat, with opportunities to collaborate and support each other online. The days are a mixture of unstructured time to write and scheduled discussions and readings.

What people have to say about it: Their website doesn’t feature testimonials, but you can get a taster of the goodwill surrounding them by looking at their Twitter feed.

Abri Creative Writing Holidays

Date: to be announced

Where: Gardoussel Retreat, France

Cost: £875 including tuition, accommodation and meals, or £295 for just the course

Genres: Fiction and Non-Fiction

Abri Creative Writing Holidays organizes various retreats across the year to suit different budgets and styles of writing. Keep an eye out on their website for announcements!

What people have to say about it: “What a tremendous week. The writer in me feels recharged, by the wonderful location – the tables in the meadow, the fireplaces to talk around in the evening, the mountain views and even a river to swim in – the nourishing food, the best massage I’ve ever had on site, but above all the company, and our wonderful feedback sessions in the Buddha garden” -Margaret Dolley

Ireland Writer Tours

Date: 28 June- 5 July 2020

Where: west of Ireland

Cost: earlybird pricing (until 15th January): $1,995. The cost includes accommodation, breakfast and some other meals, tuition, transport and fees for the tours

Genre: Fiction

About: A tour of the west of Ireland combined with individual tuition and group workshops from Jennifer Dornbrush and Jill Marr. The theme of the retreat is ‘Thrilling Concepts: how to create best-sellers & become a thriving author’ and is aimed to help writers take the craft to the next professional level.

What people have to say about it: “A perfect combination of writing workshops and seeing Ireland. I left with Ireland in my heart and new enthusiasm for my craft”.–Elin N., Colorado, U.S.A.

European writing retreat

Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Write Away Europe: Bulgaria

When: 26 July-1 August 2020

Where: Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Cost: $1850 including accommodation, tuition, breakfast and dinner, as well as a few extra perks.

Genres: Fiction and Non-Fiction

About: Write Away Europe organizes multiple retreats around Europe. Writers will stay in 3-star accommodation in the charming city center, nearby the sights and Europe’s longest pedestrian zone, and vibrant Kapana, a Bohemian area popular with artists and creatives with numerous small shops and cafes ideal for whiling away the free afternoons walking, exploring or sitting al fresco and digging deeper into your words and ideas in this captivating, cultural city.

What people have said about it: “I couldn’t possibly have loved it more! Thank you again for putting it on and allowing us all to come together in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever spent time!” Kimberly P., Novelist

Other Writing Retreats in Europe?

If these dates don’t suit or your budget is lower, then don’t despair. There are still lots of option to DIY your own writing retreats in Europe: hire a gite or an airbnb house, invite some friends, and give yourself a schedule or a goal for your time there. Sometimes, even just a weekend or a day can make a big difference!