Okay, Folks. Here, at last, is Option 3. It's loaded with merits and possibilities. And there are a number of people who have seen it work. I'll explain what it is first, describe it's strengths next, and pose some of the pitfalls last.
Option 3: Raise Funds In Advance Through Kickstarter.com
Ever heard of kickstarter.com? It's a website designed to help people raise capital to fund projects of almost any kind. Really, the sky is the limit as long as your project is for profit. I suspect there are legal issues over a non-profit venture.
Research the site and look around a bit. You'll see what I mean about the possibilities. I saw a lady raising money to support her while she paints a room. Others raising money to create apps for iPhones. And, of course, to publish books.
The basic idea is that you explain your project in detail, using a video if your are really serious. You set a target goal, say $3,000, that you need to hit to fund your project. Then you provide incentives to people to provide money for your project. For a $5 donation perhaps you email a thank-you. For $50, a signed copy of your book. Then you market the heck out of your project and direct traffic to your listing at kickstarter. The best part is that no one is obligated until you meet your funding target--they don't provide the cash, and you don't have to give them the product until the goal is met.
The donations provide you the funding before you actually spend the money--or spend a lot of it. My feeling is that you want to get moving as quickly as realistically possible, keeping in mind you need to produce high quality writing, professional artwork for your cover, and professional editing, production, and binding, as well as digital formats.
Here's how I'd do it:
1. Research publishing and selling books on kickstarter.com under Writing and Publishing. You can then limit it to subcategories, such as Children's or fiction. Get an idea of what products hit their target and why. What incentives did they use that worked? Is a quirky attitude good? Is real product beneficial? Why will people like your product?
2. Research the following costs so you can build a credible and realistic plan:
a. Cover art (don't skimp here). Lots of resources are out there for this. I'll discuss what I've researched thus far in a later post.
b. Layout and production for both soft and hard copies
c. Editing (don't skimp here, either)
d. Distribution, whether through an online service, such as createspace.com, or a local production company.
2. Come up with a creative pricing structure for what you will give based on various levels of donations.
3. Determine a Funding Goal that will pay for your costs and provide you with the capital you need without setting it so high that you'll never reach your goal, and thus never get any funding.
4. Once you've pre-sold your books and met your funding target, you end up with a number of additional copies you can either sell yourself through your website, amazon.com, or market to a traditional publisher with a proven track record.
5. Write a really, really good book. First. Before you try and pre-sell it. If you already know about kickstarter, then do this first. If not, go check out the site so you have a goal in mind.
Here are the benefits:
1. First and foremost, you pre-sell your books and wind up with a number of additional printed copies--all paid for. No out of pocket expenses.
2. Remember: this is highly dependent on: finding the right funding goal, creative incentives for donations, quality control on writing/editing/production/art, and good marketing. Do that and you've got a chance.
3. If you set your goal properly, as mentioned in 1 above, you should wind up with books completely paid for that you can sell yourself for full gross profit.
4. This model is not vanity press publishing because you are not out any costs--not in the long run--and you still maintain complete editorial and artistic control.
1. Not many, really, unless you haven't developed a decent marketing strategy or creative incentives. The kickstarter.com website doesn't do much in the way of promotion. You have to do that yourself. Remember, the goal is to be read and to sell books, not just to convince your family and friends to buy them. You haven't created a following if you do that, and that means you aren't going to be able to create a real career out of this.
2. You have to create a solid product first. Not many people want to pay you to learn the craft of writing, but they might be interested in funding the production of a decent product that only lacks the means of production and distribution. You still have to master the craft, so don't go out there and make a bad name and reputation for yourself. I've seen even the most successful authors lose credibility and readers this way.
3. Legacy publishers and new indie publishers still have great power and, if they continue to evolve, will have great power to market and promote you. Do a good job and you may be able to sell to them. Do poorly, and you may not. Still, I'm not sure there's harm here.
So, I've necessarily had to slow down my personal efforts in pursuing this route because of time commitments, but I'm interested in your thoughts. What do you think? What should Option 4 be?