Monday 21 September 2015

Guest post by Morgan Bell

Kickstarting An Anthology
By Morgan Bell
Sproutlings Kickstarter

A seed of an idea

Have you ever thought about editing an anthology?

I love editing. And I love the joy that community publishing projects bring to emerging writers. For many people an anthology is a first chance to get published. It can also be a new chance for an author to get noticed, to rustle their leaves a bit in the virtual forest of indie books

An anthology, because of the mass of contributors, is a marvel of collaborative energy. The production value is higher. The distribution is wider. And the good will is stronger. Every author in the collection comes with its own team of supporters: friends, family, and fans. An anthology is the perfect project to crowdfund.

Putting down roots

Which crowdfunding platform is best for anthologies?

I chose Kickstarter, and I’ll tell you why.

The anthology I am editing, Sproutlings: A Compendium of Little Fictions, is a Hunter Anthologies project. Hunter Anthologies is based in Newcastle Australia. Last year the editor of Novascapes: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, Cassandra Page, ran a crowdfunding campaign through Pozible. In the final two days the campaign was only about 17% funded. I strapped myself to my laptop and hammered Twitter and Facebook to create a bit of momentum. The project met the $3k target in the last minute. That was cutting it too close.

Two recent news stories about crowdfunding stuck in my mind:

1.       Those bigot pizza shop owners, Memories Pizza in Indiana USA, refusing to cater hypothetical gay wedding pizza parties, going out of business due to their stance, and having $842k donated by conservative sympathisers on GoFundMe

2.       The dude, Zach Danger Brown, who raised $55k to make a potato salad on Kickstarter
It’s horses for courses.

GoFundMe specialities in charity causes. Kickstarter specialises in creative projects.
Kickstarter is also rated highest out of the plethora of up and coming crowdfunding platforms for driving internal traffic ie Kickstarter is a community in itself. People with Kickstarter accounts go there to browse for projects with cool or limited edition rewards. That’s why there are strict guidelines that donation-only (no reward, no product) benevolent causes are not permitted on the Kickstarter. You have to make something. Kickstarter has established itself as marketplace for creative people.

From little things big things grow

Why Kickstarter over Pozible?

I know how I like to market, and it is community based. So lots of small pledges. A virtual shaking of a tin. Many people want to help but they don’t have $50 to pledge, they may not even have $10. Some fee-pricing models make relying on micro-donations unviable. Kickstarter has a discounted payment processing fee for micro-pledges.

Creative people like to support other creative people. So when you are relying on starving artists it is best to accommodate for them. I included tangible rewards (ie something greater than my gratitude or a warm feeling) for pledges of $2, $5, and $8 to encourage and appreciate the low rollers. I’ve been a low roller, and it test your generosity when the bidding starts too high.

The organic feel

Sproutlings: A Compendium of Little Fictions is about as grass roots as it gets in publishing. It is not being marketed on author notoriety, a list of author names has not yet been publicly released. The authors have a secret group where identities were revealed, but it true egalitarian style we don’t want any tall poppies sprouting before the book launch.

To paraphrase Amanda Palmer in The Art of Asking, the best way to engage the curiosity and good nature of people is to ask them for help. Sproutlings is running two Thunderclap crowdspeaking campaigns that will blast off in the final days of the Kickstarter. Thunderclap is a free and easy to use service that allows you to harness the social media power of the crowd. People sign up to distribute one scheduled Tweet (they can also use Facebook or Tumblr), it takes 100 people to activate the campaign. Asking people individually to help you with the Thunderclaps raises awareness about the Kickstarter. Many people click through and pledge.

Movement and sound

We live in a multi-media world.

I’m addicted to YouTube. You’re addicted to YouTube. We like to have our senses engaged.
According to Kickstarter “projects with videos succeed at a much higher rate than those without (50% vs. 30%)” and they’re “by far the best way to get a feel for the emotions, motivations, and character of a project”.

One of the contributing authors to Sproutlings: A Compendium of Little Fictions is a mad keen video book trailer creator, running Moosey Productions. Sproutlings had two promotional videos made. I selected some free creative commons instrumental music myself, one is a spindly creepy gothic tune, the other is a curious xylophone tango climbing the walls.

My authors love to share the videos on social media because they are fun. You know your friends will like them, and possibly ask questions.

I have seen the results on my Kickstarter dashboard stats, people are clicking through from the YouTube videos.

All the things

Make your message easy for people to share.

Mock up some promotional images to share on Facebook and Twitter using Powerpoint and saving the slide as a JPG. Put a great description in words, and all your links, in the description of the image. When people share the image all the info comes along for the ride, nothing high tech, not even cut and paste.

Use the description box and annotations on your video/s.

Post regular project updates to the backers on your Kickstarter.

Use Tweet Deck to schedule round the clock messaging to allow people in other time-zones to find out about the project.

Start a Facebook Fan Page for your anthology, and create an online launch Event on Facebook, and invite, invite, invite.

Answer people when they have questions, listen to feedback, consult your author team, and thank people for sharing!

Join the Thunderclap, Like the Facebook page, Support the Kickstarter:

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