On January 31, 2015, I had the pleasure of being a moderator for the “How to Fund Your Creative Project” panel at Write to Publish 2015. The panel brought together Chris Morey, Patrick McDonald, Todd Sattersten, Nicole McArdle, and Leia Weathington to demystify a subject that most creatives find incredibly daunting: funding. The experience was a great opportunity to dust off my public speaking skills and get to the bottom of this ever-evolving challenge.

As a moderator, my worst fear was the dreaded hear-a-pin-drop, super-awkward, crawl-under-the-table-and-hide silence that scars novice moderators for life. I made sure to be well prepared with a long list of questions to ask, but the panelists made my job easy. The conversation flowed naturally, and many of my questions came up organically as we talked.

During the conversation, most of the questions really boiled down to the importance of planning ahead. Successful campaigns aren’t successful on their own; they must be carefully created and then maintained throughout their duration. In case you missed the panel, here are a few bits of wisdom from our panelists:

  1. Timing. The best duration for a crowdfunding campaign is about 30 days. This is the sweet spot that gives you enough time to raise funds and promote without losing your audience’s interest or badgering them too much. Be sure to give yourself more time than you think you need when picking your delivery/completion dates.
  2. Marketing. Successful campaigns are preceded by a marketing campaign: people need to know about your project before it goes live. Social media is a great way to promote on a budget, and you should remain vigilant in your promotional efforts during the campaign, too.
  3. Visuals. The content and especially the design of your page could make the difference between a success and a flop. Break up long blocks of text with eye-grabbing visuals, include photos of your rewards if possible, and keep your video short and sweet.
  4. Phrasing. Avoid words like pledge, support, and donate in your descriptive language. You want your fans to know that they are paying for a finished product—not just giving to a cause.
  5. Rewards. Avoid phone charms at all costs. They’re expensive, they break easily, and they kinda suck. Save yourself the headache and spring for a nice print, bookmarks, or special signed editions instead.

While crowdfunding for creative projects has been around as long as publishing has, it means something different today. Preorders have been the dominant method for years, but now platforms like PubSlush, IndieGoGo, and Kickstarter have shaken things up and given writers a new collection of tools. These tools can be used to raise funds by connecting authors and artists to their niche audiences, taking the preorder model and adding more options that can accommodate just about every budget. Even considering the short 45-minute time frame, I feel like the audience (and I) left the discussion with a much fuller understanding of what a successful crowdfunding campaign entails.

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