Crowdfunding Tips from Write to Publish 2015

Crowdfunding. This seems to be the buzzword in DIY venues. Have an awesome tech idea? Crowdfund it. Conjured up an epic game worthy of geekdom fame? Crowdfund it. Want to publish a book? Crowdfund it.

Write to Publish 2015 included an entire panel on book crowdfunding. Nicole McArdle, marketing director at PubSlush; Chris Morey, publisher at Dark Regions Press; Patrick McDonald, publisher of Overcup Press; Todd Sattersten, freelance publishing consultant; and Leia Weathington, graphic novelist, provided insight and advice on how crowdfunding works.

Here are some tips you might have missed at the Write to Publish conference:

Use the time before a campaign—Use it to gain supporters and begin promoting the idea of the project to your outside network. Promoting a campaign before it launches will allow supporters to familiarize themselves with the project and will give you time to answer any questions they may have. It also gives you the chance to figure out the nitty-gritty stuff, like shipping costs and taxes, and build that into your budget. Take some time to build a professional presentation. Don’t just have huge blocks of text explaining the campaign; make sure to incorporate some images of your company, your team, and your logo. A video presentation may be necessary, but keep it brief and try not to read off your notes in a monotone voice. Be happy about your campaign and portray a sense of urgency. Campaigns are usually pretty quick (thirty days, generally), so you don’t have time to lollygag around. Make sure your presentation reflects that. Another tip: use the correct verbiage. Words like “donate,” “pledge,” “sponsor,” and “fundraising” lead people to believe they’re getting nothing in return. Instead, try using phrases such as “supporting a project,” “helping to bring this book to life,” and “pre-ordering a book.”

Be creative with the rewards—Have no more than ten rewards, unless you have a stretch goal. Figure out the different tiers you’re going to have and be creative about them. Use smaller rewards first (like below the retail price of the book you’re trying to fund), then go up from there. Give the fans what they want, things related to the campaign that don’t cost you too much money. For example, if you’re promoting a book, have rewards like a signed copy, a personal inscription, or a custom dust jacket. Keep in mind, the internet loves images, so incorporate that any way you can, from original artwork to sneak peeks of the finalized covers.

Develop a creative marketing strategy—Plan your marketing strategies in advance. Go local, contact newspapers and blogs, see if any local libraries or cafes will host a book reading or book signing event. Contact the niche audience that the book targets. Podcasts are also a good way to get out there. Ask your current social media followers to vote on a reward and use the winner when you launch the campaign. Doing these things will allow you to feel more connected to your supporters and for your supporters to feel like they are part of the campaign.

To make sure you don’t miss our next conference, check out Write to Publish.

Talking with Patrick McDonald about “The Tall Trees of Portland”

Patrick McDonald is an Ooligan graduate and the owner of Overcup Press here in Portland. Recently I had a chance to sit down and talk with him about their beautiful new art book, The Tall Trees of Portland by Matt Wagner of Hellion Gallery.


Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. The Tall Trees of Portland is a beautiful book. What really made it fascinating for me were the whimsical surveys and glimpses into each artist’s workspace. Where did that idea come from?

Matt and I hatched up the idea together. We had the intention of doing it with our first book, The Tall Trees of Tokyo, but it was too difficult to coordinate photography on the international level. With this book we were on our home turf, so it was much easier. Our idea was to have an environmental shot, followed by the survey, and then four pages of art. It was an expansion from the Tokyo book, and we doubled the amount of real estate for the art. We were able to do more full bleeds and saturate the pages with color.

I notice The Tall Trees of Portland is the same trim size and price point as the Tokyo book, but the page count is much higher. How were you able to manage that?

With the Tokyo book there was the added expense of having to go to Tokyo. Since we didn’t have that with the Portland book, we were able to bump up the page count. We also pulled out the gatefolds because we wanted to make sure all the artists were equally represented. There are some who are at the top of their game and have quite a bit of notoriety, and others who are equally as talented but not as well known. By listing everyone alphabetically and giving them all the same amount of real estate and the same format, it was a great leveler.

With so many contributors, it must have been difficult to coordinate everything.

When dealing with artists, you have to accept that they are going to march to their own drum. There weren’t any challenges with the content that we didn’t anticipate in advance.This book came together in probably less than a year; the Tokyo book took us—when you figure in Tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, earthquakes, language barriers—over two years to finish. This one went faster because we knew what we were doing and everyone was local.

Can you tell me about the acquisition process for these books?

It wasn’t really an acquisition so much as it was cooking up ideas over beers for a few months.

I’ve known Matt for twenty years, and for the last ten he’s been hanging art shows here in Portland. A lot of his shows featured artists he met in Japan. He’d bring them to Portland, let them stay in his house, and show their work here. Then he would take Portland artists over to Japan to show their work there. I thought it was just a fascinating story.

When I started Overcup, I was thinking about what kind of books would sell. Which books do people never get rid of? What needs to be a book? And for as much as I’m a writer and a reader, art books are things that nobody ever gets rid of. These are books that deserve to be books. So I started talking to Matt: “You should make books. There’s no archive for what you do. You hang a show, it’s there for a month, people buy the art, then it’s over. We should do a book of these Japanese artists, it would be great.”

Is there anything else you’d like to share about the book?

One of the trends in publishing now is a proliferation of artist monograph books, and I think for the right artists those are great. But we talk about our books as being a weird kind of travel book, as a sort of survey of a city and a creative class in that city. It just strikes me as being a lot more interesting overall because you can get a sense of place. The questions in the survey are things such as “Where do you like to eat breakfast?” and “What’s your favorite bridge?” and to me those are things that make readers feel a little more connected to the artist. The artists start to seem familiar, you start to like them because of their responses, and you get a sense of the city.