Crowd funding websites, be it Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or what have you, are very popular right now and are getting a lot of press. But the idea of crowd-funding is quite old, and as John Biggs has shown us with his soon to be complete Mytro project sometimes the older methods still work better.
Back in early December 2013 John announced that he was writing a book called Mytro, a YA novel about a secret train system that runs under New York City, and was raising funds to he could self-publish it. John has been regularly posting about the Mytro project ever since he launched the funding round, and he was back again today to share details on where the money came from and discuss the effectiveness of his crowd funding efforts.
You might recall that he started the crowd funding for his YA novel on Indiegogo, but that was just the beginning. He reports that contributors found the project via Facebook, Google, and even the Techcrunch website.
Now, you might think that Indiegogo was how most of the contributors discovered the project, but you would be wrong. Most of John's funds, and most of his contributors for that matter, came from direct mailings. Rather than rely on the flashiest crowd funding tricks, he instead relied on one of the oldest. He's been sending out mass emails for about a month now, and so far he has raised over half his funds ($9,376) from email alone:
I sent out lots of email. I hated myself for it. But it works. If you don’t have a large list and a solid mailing-list provider, you’re probably sunk. That said, we need to remember that I wrote a kids’ book. I’m not working on a pocket drone or body tracking smartwatch. The email list consisted of people I know and who submitted their email to my Mailchimp account or other email gathering systems I’ve had over the years. These leads, as they say, are gold.
I am one of the people who has been getting those emails, so I was deeply curious to see just how well it worked. I don't like spam any more than the rest of you, but as you can see from John's data this can be an effective way to raise funds.
The chart below (click to enlarge) shows the amount of contributions over time. Do you see the 3 huge spikes starting on or about 15 December? Those are from the email blasts, and so are some of the smaller spikes in January.
So do you think this is a choice that indie authors should make?
IMO that would really depend on whether they know enough people. Remember, John's mailing list came from people who had exchanged emails or who had "submitted their email to my Mailchimp account". He didn't go out and buy a mailing list (what I thought when I got the first email), and that is probably why this technique worked.
If you buy a mailing list, chances are the emails will get caught in a spam filter. I can't speak for any other service, but Gmail is very good at catching unsolicited emails. John's emails, on the other hand, went into my inbox because of my previous contact with John.
This funding method would probably work best if it matches the interest of your network of contacts. For example, a non-fiction title which focuses on a specific part of a specific industry could be crowd funded if the author knows enough people in that industry. And that's just one example, I'm sure there are others.