The Realities of Independent Publishing #5

By   Hannah Bickerton 5 min read

whitefox: helping brands, thought leaders and writers create beautiful bespoke books

In this series of blog posts we summarise a decade’s worth of wisdom from our experience on the front line of independent publishing, sharing the top trade secrets we believe every aspiring author should know.

The publishing industry presents so many wonderful options for writers today. That being said, it can be an overwhelming industry to navigate. For those looking to publish independently, there is so much practical information about the writing process, the steps to publication and how to go about it all. But what we don’t see as much of are the honest realities of independent publishing, the choices you should or shouldn’t be making, and the implications of those choices.

Over the last ten years whitefox has worked closely with over 600 independent authors, assisting them in producing their books and taking them to market. During that period we have worked on fiction, memoir, arts, culture, history, cookery, business, children’s books, and everything in between. We understand the intricacies of the process and what factors can dictate whether a book rockets or fizzles out.

#5 Yes, crowdfunding is an option. Here is how to do it successfully.

If you want to rival the quality of traditionally published books, you’ll need to set a realistic budget to invest in your project—which unfortunately isn’t an option for everyone. With the perfect set of criteria, however, crowdfunding can prove to be a viable route. The honest truth here is that a crowdfunding route works most effectively for two types of project: deluxe, bespoke editions for a specific audience, or fan-fiction projects/graphic novels that have a dedicated fanbase. Essentially any book that has a high perceived value to a defined audience segment—so it may be extremely niche, transcending normal book categories, or an exclusive that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s rare that you will convince a generic consumer to invest in a more typical book project. Furthermore, you will need an existing platform and an audience who already back you to get your campaign off the ground, so if you’re planning a crowdfunding route be sure to plan ahead for this.

If you have the winning formula of an existing platform plus a crowdfunding- appropriate product, however, it can be a solid strategy for de-risking a publishing project. Here are some useful pointers: The foundation of all successful crowdfunding campaigns is a brilliant pitch. Here you want to make clear to the world what they will be getting if they make a pledge, sharing the backstory to the project. But don’t wait until the bottom of the page before telling potential backers what they’re going to get because if they aren’t interested in the final product they won’t take the time to read on. Instead highlight the book’s unique selling point, how it will impact everyone’s lives, and emphasise the quality and beauty of the design. Then share the origin story for the project and why it matters so much, setting the scene for the journey you are all about to go on together.

Putting a face to the project will really help you here as your goal is to earn the audience’s emotional investment before securing a financial one. A great example of this is master coffee connoisseur James Hoffmann, who came to whitefox with the intention of creating an exclusive cloth-bound coffee-table book for the dedicated fanbase from his blog. Due to the highly bespoke format of his book, James needed backers to cover the cost of the print run. In order to garner support, he created and embedded a YouTube video on his Indiegogo page, in which he explained why his book, The Best of Jimseven, was interesting and unique, talked about its ‘high-quality finish’, what topics it would cover, and who exactly it was for. With a clear strategy and powerful pitch that really spoke to his audience, James was able to raise over $30,000 (£24,000) from 806 backers on Indiegogo and cover the costs of the entire project, from editorial to design, print and beyond.

‘The advice I got is that it is important to meet your stated goal quickly. Campaigns that don’t get to their goal quickly rarely ever get there. People like to feel like they’re backing a winning campaign and so I set my target lower than I actually needed, but quickly hit my target and was able to take that momentum up to where I really needed it to go.’ | James Hoffmann, author of The Best of Jimseven

Third-party platforms such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter are fantastic tools for packaging up your projects and enabling a sophisticated delivery to your audience. Many will take a small percentage of your total raised funds and charge a transaction fee. In some instances you may prefer to crowdfund privately, which was the case for historian and whitefox author David Hargreaves and his academic partner, Margaret-Louise O’Keeffe. In order to raise the amount needed for their 780k-word four-book World War I boxed-set chronicle As We Were, David and Margaret- Louise came together to privately crowdfund through their combined network. They wrote a heartfelt email (including a nicely produced video of an interview with David about the project) to personal contacts and subscribers of David’s online blog, The Century Journal, requesting funds for the project by way of purchasing one or multiple advance boxed-set copies retailing at £100 ($130). By the end of their crowdfunding efforts, they had acquired a total of $35,000 (£28,000), with 300 people backing the incredibly bespoke publication, which went on to sell several hundred copies and appear in The Sunday Times and other national media. Private crowdfunding works excellently when you can contact your network directly to inform them of your project and appeal to them on a more personal level, with the added bonus of bypassing any third-party fees. Just be aware you will have to manage the administrative side of managing funds, invoicing and fulfillment yourself!

Crowdfunding isn’t easy—it requires a considered strategy, a savvy mindset, and a commitment of time—but if your book idea is one people will love then you stand a good chance of success. And if you’re able to reach your goal, you will not only have the funds in your pocket to take the book forward, you’ll also have the support of a community of readers waiting in anticipation.

Download our free PDF guide to find out more information, insights and exclusive tips on book crowdfunding.

So now you know all our secrets—well, most of them. Publishing independently isn’t that complicated really, and for many it’s the option that makes the most sense. Be as informed as you can so that you can make the right decisions as you go through the process. Sometimes it’s the things you never thought about that can form a critical part of a book’s success.

Read more on how James Hoffmann’s bespoke book project achieved over 800 backers on Indiegogo here.

Hannah Bickerton
Hannah Bickerton
Hannah has worked in marketing for nine years, specialising in strategy development for start-ups and EdTech companies. Having recently jumped across industries to join the Whitefox team, Hannah isn’t a complete stranger to the publishing world with previous employment at Macmillan and TES Global. She is now dedicated to ensuring that anyone who has something interesting to say knows all about whitefox.