Campaign for Cash: Crowdfunding Tips for Writers

Gigi Rosenberg
From the March/April 2013 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

9. Create a fun video. This tip could be a subset of “Lose your shame.” Many writers won’t relish being in front of the camera, but a short, fun video posted on your crowdfunding page will greatly increase your chances of success. At Kickstarter, projects with a video succeed 50 percent of the time, whereas projects without videos succeed only 30 percent of the time. Again, check out other project videos. Some are very slick, but even the homemade ones, if sincere, can be effective in showing your potential backers how much you care about your project and their support.

10. Make your campaign the priority. “If I did my crowdfunding campaign over again I would have chosen a time when I didn’t have any other work on my schedule and when I wasn’t traveling,” says Germain. “You really need to be able to check in regularly during a campaign and to change plans at a moment’s notice. This is especially true if your campaign takes off; I felt like I was scrambling to keep up.” 

Robillard estimates that he spent two hours a day for thirty days sending out press releases, writing e-mails, and “turning over digital rocks to locate anyone I might have forgotten about,” he says. Robillard had already published one novel with HarperCollins when he decided to crowdfund his latest. “I did my Kickstarter campaign to gauge interest in my book,” he says. “It’s the bootleg version.” Now, if he tries to go the traditional publishing route, he’ll have thousands of people who’ve already heard about the book and a much better handle on where to find his readers. 

A few days after I dropped my letters requesting funding for the Spalding Gray workshop into the mailbox on the corner, an envelope fell through my mail slot. It was an angry letter from my sister who told me to “get a job” if I needed money to attend a workshop. A few more days passed with no news. Several close friends ignored my request altogether. 

Then, Spalding Gray was reported missing. A few days later he was presumed dead—an apparent suicide. (Two months later, his body was found off New York City, in the East River.) Now I wasn’t just devastated that the world had lost this talented artist, I was also ashamed at what seemed like my misguided fund-raising effort. 

But then something amazing happened: Cards and notes started falling through my mail slot with checks ranging from twenty to fifty dollars. As it turned out, some friends and colleagues sent money anyway, knowing that I would find a different workshop to attend to help bolster my writing and performing career. 

And I did. I applied for a professional development grant for eleven hundred dollars from the Regional Arts and Culture Council of Portland, Oregon, to attend a voice workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts with the world-famous teacher Richard Armstrong. I showed on my budget the three hundred and fifty dollars I had already raised from my letter campaign. I won the grant, and with that money and the funds I raised from my community I covered all my expenses, including airfare, housing, meals, and tuition. 

Was it worth the writhing embarrassment? You bet. Would I crowdfund again? When I have the right project and the energy for the campaign sprint, I won’t hesitate. 

Gigi Rosenberg is a writer, artist coach, and author of The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing: How to Find Funds and Write Foolproof Proposals for the Visual, Literary, and Performing Artist, published by Watson-Guptill in 2010. Her work has been published by Seal Press and the Oregonian, performed at Seattle’s On the Boards, and broadcast on Oregon Public Radio.