Crowdfunding has become an essential component of self-publishing. Its a great way to see if anyone wants your book before you shell out printing costs, and if successful, it can diminish out of pocket expenses to bring your story from drafts and sketches to a real live book.
Someone recently requested to meet us solely to discuss our decision to choose Indiegogo as our crowdfunding platform over Kickstarter. It was a bit of a contrary choice given prevailing wisdom, but that’s how we roll (we printed a book in a digital world after all).
In going back through our thought process, we decided to write out our reasoning and share it with everyone. Naturally, it got us thinking about what we did well in our campaign and what we could have done better, so we’ll share that in a future post.
Here are our reasons for picking Indiegogo:
1) The fees are lower on Indiegogo.
This isn’t a huge deal. The difference is 1% for projects that reach their goal. Indiegogo takes 4%. Kickstarter takes 5%. Both platforms use payment processing systems that take 3%. So with a campaign that raises $10,000, you get an extra $100 on Indiegogo. That shouldn’t make or break any projects, but $100 buys business cards, promotional materials, or gas to a signing.
In exchange for that extra 1%, Kickstarter provides a platform with far more traffic. The number we’ve seen thrown around is six times as much. We gave up that extra traffic for the small financial difference because we did not think the traffic would benefit our fundraising. Expecting people just floating around these websites to fund your project seemed like a recipe for failure. We were completely prepared to drive all the traffic to our campaign, so we figured we’d take the extra cash.
Part of that expectation had to do with our story. There seem to be stories that appeal to niche audiences beyond the creators’ personal network. For example, a story about a kid having two dads might seem worthy of support to people who can relate to those circumstances, but the creators couldn’t be expected to know all the two dad families out there. In that case, more traffic on a platform might be worth the additional cost.
Our story is mostly for people who want a good-time read with their kids. That’s a pretty general audience where its hard to stand out. The other obvious audience for our book was people in New Orleans who wanted to read a story set at their zoo. We live in New Orleans and are probably more capable of reaching those people ourselves.
The other side of the coin of being on the smaller platform was that it was easier to stand out on Indiegogo. Our campaign was featured in a couple places on the site, and it even reached the homepage briefly. Counterintuitively, we might have received more exposure than otherwise on the site with less traffic. But this is just speculation.
2) Indiegogo gives you the option to keep whatever you raise even if you don’t reach your goal.
We were nearly finished creating the book when we started crowdfunding, and we were in the fortunate position of being able to fund printing no matter what. Sure, things would have been tight for a little while if we had to completely fund ourselves, but we were committed to seeing the project through.
Given that we were printing regardless of the outcome of the campaign, we wanted whatever money we raised. Indiegogo offers a “flexible funding” option that allows you to keep funds short of your goal. Kickstarter is all or nothing. Indiegogo’s take goes from 4% to 9% if you don’t reach your goal, but for those of you keeping score at home, losing 5% is much better than losing 100% if you don’t reach your goal.
This flexible funding option also allows for a little more strategy in setting your goal. You can put the goal at an ideal number instead of the minimum amount of necessary funds. If you come up short of your ideal goal, you could still have enough to proceed. Going for an ideal goal rather than minimum goal on Kickstarter would be a big gamble.
We found it challenging to keep the campaign rolling after we reached our goal, and we definitely could have used more than we raised. Despite raising enough for printing, we’ve put nearly an equal amount as what we raised towards the book. It starts to add up in ways you’d never expect. One thing we wished we had done is to set our goal higher, and Indiegogo allows you do that without risking catastrophe.
3) All transactions happen on the Indiegogo platform.
Indiegogo accepts Paypal and credit card transactions on its site. Kickstarter donations go through Amazon payments. We expected that some of our supporters might not be all that tech savvy, and adding the extra step in the process of setting up an Amazon account could turn people off. This isn’t a relevant concern for many projects, but we thought we knew our support base well enough to make that judgment.
On the receiving end, Indiegogo puts the funds directly into your Paypal and bank accounts. If you are doing a flexible funding campaign, you receive much of those funds immediately on donation. The remainding funds are deposited when the campaign ends. Kickstarter takes quite a long time to approve your bank account, so your funds can be delayed if you don’t have everything in order when you begin.
Benefits of Kickstarter
1) Greater traffic and user base
You get the point here. More traffic = more potential donors from outside your network.
2) The rewards survey function
Kickstarter allows you to send a survey to your backers about their rewards, compiles the responses, and allows you to export a spreadsheet with all the information. This really alleviates the administrative burden in getting t-shirt sizes, reward choices, and shipping it all out. Last we checked, Indiegogo had backer reports, but you had to manually ask and enter responses for awards. Ryan was recently involved in a Kickstarter campaign with another project, and he thinks that this survey function might be worth the 1% difference in itself.
3) Greater credibility for products on the platform
This is a commonly stated reason for choosing Kickstarter, but it’s one of those ideas that feeds itself. The only major difference is perception, and maybe that’s because Kickstarter is the pioneer and Indiegogo is the emulator. There is speculation that journalists are patrolling Kickstarter, but not Indiegogo, for potential stories. Some have complained about Indiegogo’s site design, but it is practically identical to Kickstarter except for the colors. Kickstarter is cooler for the same reason it’s cool to wear a giant polo player on your shirt, and that reason is no good.
Other differences that aren’t all that relevant to children’s books:
1) Kickstarter must approve each campaign before it can begin.
2) Kickstarter limits campaigns to creative projects. Pretty much anything goes on Indiegogo.
You can’t evaluate crowdfunding platform in a vacuum, so some of the ways we benefited from Indiegogo might not apply to your project. Weigh the options, make a choice, and go. You’ll never be able to run the exact same campaign on both platforms, so just assume you made the right choice. Ultimately, your success is dependent on you and not the platform.