S2, E50: Lessons Learned in Crowdfunding

As promised, today’s episode is taking a look at Aisuru’s failed PubSlush campaign and contemplating what I think I did wrong and my future thoughts on the concept. There are also a few quick updates on Aisuru’s road to publication!

News & Notes:

  • Made the first updates to my site to make it look more like I was wanting. I used a child template of the Retro-fitted one as a start. It is no longer stuck in fixed width and all my social media and podcast icons are now at the top for quick, easy access. The front page also now has both the latest episode and the latest blog post highlighted. And don’t forget, you can now see the fuller show notes for every episode on the site! Just hit the TLW Episodes link in the top menu to access those entries.
  • Finished the first read through of Aisuru and loved it! Yes, there were typos and I found a few spots I needed to fix something due to inconsistencies, but on the whole, I loved it. It made me laugh and cry and all that good stuff, so yay! I’ve already made the inconsistency corrections so now it’s just giving it one more spelling/grammar check before sending it off to my editor. Oh, and that editing program I mentioned was pretty worthless, so not recommending. It didn’t do well at all for actual grammar issues and just had way too many misflags.
  • Minor updating to show format – more structured progress reports and goal stuff will mostly be done via the blog now, rather than in episodes, leaving more time/room for the actual episode contents.

Main Topic:

  1. During November, I attempted to run a crowdfunding campaign for Aisuru using the PubSlush platform. My goal was to raise at least $2,500 with a secondary goal of raising $4,000 to help cover the costs of releasing Aisuru. The campaignwas slated to run November 1-November 30th. I shut it down November 16th. At that point I’d had 4 supporters and less than $200 pledged. So now it’s time to look at what went wrong withthe whole thing. Why did it fail so badly?
    1. Lack of a big enough social network
      1. Reading more on successful and unsuccessful crowdfunding campaigns, I realize probably my biggest mistake was my lack of a social network. According to most reports I read, you need at least 100 friends on each platform, but particularly Facebook, that will either offer support by pledging or by sharing the word, regularly. If you add up every social network I’m on, I don’t have 100 “friends”, I have very few friends since I’m not a social person.
      2. Of those friends I do have, maybe a handful had any interest in the campaign, an even smaller number being willing to pledge and smaller than that who would talk about it with others. I would have needed a much larger number to be interested and engaged in the project to help overcome my own minuscule network
      3. As I said, I think this ended up being the biggest reason for the failure – to get past that magical 30% funded, almost all campaigns relied primarily on the people you know and around you. Strangers were much less likely to donate until at least that much was funded.
    2. Platform choice
      1. I also think going with PubSlush ended up being a mistake. The platform isn’t a bad one, per se, but so much less used and less trafficked than Kickstarter, that there was little chance of catching anyone’s attention outside of people who saw about the campaign from my own social media and the like.
      2. Campaign stayed on the “new” list on the front page for days – that’s how little used it was
      3. No helpful statistics – PubSlush has almost no data on campaigns to let you see how you are doing or if anyone is even looking at the page. It would have been helpful to see what promotional methods were actually resulting in views or if I was getting views at all.
      4. Payment method wasn’t one that people would recognize – they did their own versus using something like Amazon Payments (which Kickstarter uses) – this may have made people more leery of making pledges when the site itself was less well known.
      5. I set my minimum goal at $2,500, which was only a portion of the costs needed to release Aisuru plus the costs to run the campaign and fulfill the promised rewards; however even though PubSlush has the whole two tier goal level, the page only showed the $4,000 level! So it may have confused folks, thinking I was either lying about the goal, hadn’t corrected my text, or that I’d changed my mind and hadn’t updated it!
      6. The platform also gave me no alerts when people contributed (not even a daily email) and it seemed to almost force people to comment while donating – comments I also didn’t get to see or respond to in a timely fashion.
      7. All in all, if I had it to do over, I’d have gone with Kickstarter – PubSlush just isn’t mature enough yet.
      8. Ending a campaign meant deleting it – and it was gone, poof, as if it never existed. Not even letting me see who had made a pledge (fortunately, at only 4 and all people I knew it was easy to remake the list).
    3. Delay in the video
      1. I hadn’t even planned to do a video at first, so I did the campaign without it. Then when nothing was happening, I did even more research on it and realized the video wasn’t really optional.
      2. Since the campaign was already underway, I did the video fast, getting it up by the 3rd. Of course, since I don’t show myself in videos, it was really just an audio in video form. And it was probably too long – which may have kept it from being effective.
    4. Not enough time/too stressed
      1. The campaign ran in November – during NaNo (which seemed like good timing for Aisuru’s origins, but no, not so good) – I was already way overloaded with work, Aisuru in October, and trying to do NaNo. I also did the conversion of the site to WordPress. And had the show. It was all just too much, then seeing the campaign failing so bad really added to my stress and down cycling. It almost derailed me from NaNo entirely.
  2. Would I do it again in the future?
    1. In the near future? Probably not. I’d still have the same issues that plagued me this time.
    2. Further down the line – perhaps. I would certainly hope that by book 2 or 3 I’d have a much larger social network and be better positioned to do a campaign, however I’d also like to think that by that time I wouldn’t need to and could just do regular pre-ordering of titles starting a few weeks out (which I will do with Aisuru).
  3. What does the failure mean for Aisuru’s future?
    1. Nothing major. As I noted in the campaign itself, I will be releasing Aisuru either way. It does mean it will be funded almost entirely out of my own pocket, but I also believe in it enough to make that sacrifice and investment.
    2. What it does mean though is that there is unlikely to be a hardback version of the novel, other than maybe doing a very small run as special gifts for the folks who have been my biggest supporters and fans along the way.
    3. It is also unlikely there will be an audio book version, at least anytime in the near future, as I can’t afford to pay for a narrator. If Aisuru sells well enough, I will reinvest some of the profits into that option, but again, I doubt it would be “soon” – probably not for at least a year until Aisuru makes back what I already spent.
    4. As for the goodies I’d picked out, you’ll see some of them again during Aisuru’s launch party as part of the giveaways I’ll be holding then.