It seems a little backwards to crowdfund my novel before it’s finished. I’m expecting a lightning strike from above to punish me for hubris.

I wouldn’t have posted NooSpace on Inkshares if it wasn’t for the Tracking Board’s LaunchPad Manuscript Contest. NooSpace was chosen as a finalist in the contest, and setting the book up on Inkshares was one of the perks.

Now that it’s there, and I’ve started getting actual pre-orders, I’ve realized crowdfunding is handy for many reasons:

  1. It compels you to finish the book. The idea for NooSpace has been bouncing around in my head for years (more about that later). I’ve always wanted to write it, but I’ve always found more important things to do. But a deadline always works for me, and a crowdfunding campaign gives me one. I will owe it to my supporters to get the book done.
  2. It tests the story concept. Most writers have dozens of story ideas waiting for their turn. The challenge is knowing which ones to write. Crowdfunding lets you develop the idea, write part of the book, and then see if people like it. If it falls flat, you can go back and rewrite it, or just move on to another project. You don’t have to spend a year writing and editing the full book before you discover if anyone is interested.
  3. It helps build an “author platform.” They say every successful author should define their own brand, build a following on Twitter and Facebook, build an author website, and manage their own PR and marketing. I am generally terrible at those things. This forces my out of my shell into the brave new world of self-promotion.
  4. It connects you with other authors. The other writers here have been very supportive. Even other contest participants, with whom I am technically in competition, have been open and helpful. Regardless of whether NooSpace gets published on Inkshares, these relationships should be valuable in the future.
cart before horse
The Crowdfunding Cart and the Magic Writing Horse

It’s not all unicorns and roses, though. Running a crowdfunding campaign means more time doing things that are not writing the book. My recent not writing has included:

  • Setting up an author website
  • Contacting and following other authors and projects on Inkshares
  • Paying attention to Twitter and Facebook and making posts there
  • Saying thanks to the great friends — and even a few strangers! — who have pre-ordered the book
  • Writing blog posts (writing, yes, but not the book)
  • Provisional cover design
  • Cooking up interesting promotions for readers
  • …and more.

Is it worth it? Focusing on an author platform does seem to work. Mystery author C. Hope Clark has related how she wrote her first novel and couldn’t sell it. So she made a name for herself online, through her site, and that led to the publication of two successful mystery series.

In an ideal world, writers would focus on their craft and leave production and marketing to professionals who know what they’re doing. But first time authors have to pay those pros out of their own pocket, based on unshakeable faith in their own work. It’s not a financial option for everyone.

Crowdfunding seems like a good middle road: a way to build interest in the book, and build an author platform at the same time. Let’s see how this plays out!