Last Saturday was the last day of the IndieGoGo campaign to fund printing and shipping costs for Advice for Beginners. And we did not reach full funding.
I basically saw this coming (for a few reasons) after just the first couple weeks of the campaign, so I’m not super disappointed. But I don’t regret the failed attempt, either. I still think it’s a super book idea with great potential and, in suffering catastrophic failure, I learned a lot about what to do better (or less, or the same, or not at all) the next time around. And I am more than happy to share that knowledge with you!
So! For your edification, here’s the great stuff I picked up during this fun adventure. I:
Figured out the market risk free. This is the main reason I wanted to do a funding campaign instead of taking out a loan and peddling board book out of my trunk for the next few years/forever. A crowdfunding campaign helped me decide, risk free for everyone, if there was a big enough demand for this to be a financially viable project. And, at least at this point, there wasn’t. I’m glad I learned that before plunging my family into debt.
Learned about promotion. And more specifically, I learned just how deeply I fear and loath promotion. Asking people to give me money is about 13 ½ lightyears outside my comfort zone. But you know what? It wasn’t so bad. Nobody told me to knock it off. Nobody stopped following or blocked or unfriended me. Everyone was really cool about it and pretty supportive. People chipped in as they could, and they were really generous about spreading the word on my behalf. While I was actively promoting (I stopped once it became apparent this wasn’t going to fly), I kept it to a conservative 1-2 promos a day and everyone was absolutely fine with that. (I talked more about promotion in this post a few weeks ago- check it out if you want more information about the dos and don’ts I picked up.)
HOWEVER. For any of you considering a similar avenue, prepare yourself to be bombarded with spam about how to boost funding. The moment you send out your first promo, they will find your campaign page, your email address(es), your facebook page, your twitter feed, and your blog, and they will throng you. Fortunately, it all stayed digital, but it was still a little creepy at times. Brace yourself.
Recognized the importance of a solid launch. Unfortunately, I recognized it after the fact. That whole ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ notion I started out with did me no favors. I posted the pages for Advice for Beginners on my blog on a Monday, and received tons of positive feedback. So I whipped together a campaign page and had it up and running just three days later. And we all know how that went down. (Spoiler: in flames.)
If I got to do it all again, I would have taken an extra couple weeks to build up a little more support and momentum for the opening day. Another thing I would have done in those few weeks of prep? Draw up an actual promotion plan. *shudders* But seriously, my advertisements were thrown together the morning of- often the hour of. After a week, I figured, ‘Oh, I should make bookmarks to hand out to people I see so I don’t have to actually speak’. So I designed them and printed out a sheet of cardstock, and then I realized the ship was going down and bailing with a rusty tin can wouldn’t save it. So I never handed out a single bookmark. They’re sitting beside my computer at this very moment, uncut, waiting, a silent rebuke to my utter lack of planning.
Learned not to take it all so personally. Okay, I’m not even sure this is a choice a person can make, but do try. Back in the early days, this campaign sometimes broke my heart. I wondered why all those people went on and on about how I should publish this… and then didn’t bother to buy a copy. I wondered if it was me. Maybe they just didn’t like me. Maybe the book idea wasn’t as good as I thought. Maybe the numbers weren’t solid? Maybe I was using the wrong shampoo? And around and around it went in my head.
This tailspin of darkness and woe was stupid. The fact is, most crowdfunding campaigns don’t pull through. And given the amount of work I put into mine, it would have been downright miraculous if it had. I knew this going into it. And I figured out pretty quickly to just let it go* and keep chugging along.
(*- Am I the only person who feels like Disney has robbed the entire planet of the ability to use this phrase with any degree of gravity? Seriously, that movie straight up hijacked a perfectly good expression and I want it back.)
All things considered, I would do this again. It wasn’t as horrific as I was envisioning it (which, granted, left a lot of room for improvement), and it was actually kind of fun at times. Thrilling, even. But if I do it again, it will be something I really believe in and I will give it the time and attention it deserves. And maybe it will fly!
(In closing, a real quick shout out to Madison Dusome, who was kind enough to share with me her hard won research on crowdfunding campaigns; and to Marie Hogebrandt, Tante Willemijn, and CM Schofield, who coached me on promotion; and to the dozen or so folks who glanced over the campaign page before it went live and offered me delicious feedback. Any sliver of success this campaign enjoyed was probably due in large part to their generous input.)