It costs money to grow a content business. Have you ever considered crowdfunding?

The Tilt research finds it costs an average $10,700 to start up operations, and ongoing revenue or infusions of cash to expand the content product line.

If your business bank account won’t support the growth, consider a tool that usually grabs attention for launching physical products – crowdfunding. The well-known platform Kickstarter supports a whole world of word projects. 

Oriana Leckert, head of publishing at Kickstarter, says “Crowdfunding is a unique way to build and strengthen connections between an author and their readers, a publisher and their audience, any kind of creative person and their network.” Oriana says.

But, she notes, crowdfunding also brings secondary benefits like raising awareness of the work, building communities, testing ambitious ideas, and making a “moment” out of bringing new work to life.

Oriana, who works on Kickstarter’s outreach team, works with a wide range of creators. Some of the successful projects include:

  • Terrell Jermaine Starr launched Black Diplomats, a podcast featuring interviews with people of color and women who specialize in global affairs. It raised $17K from 260 backers on Kickstarter. Rewards for its supporters ranged from a pin to free access to its Patreon content and shoutouts on the podcasts.
  • Long-time author Brian Sanderson used Kickstarter to release four secret novels (digital and hardback). He targeted $1M and raised almost $42M from 185,000 backers while offering rewards and exclusive preview content to the supporters.
  • Independent publisher McSweeney’s used Kickstarter as a bridge to move from an 18-year for-profit company to a nonprofit operation. It promoted upcoming content from Roxanne Gay and Lena Dunham as well as new books and a new podcast season. Its 3,400 backers pledged over $250K.

About 150 projects launch every week in Kickstarter’s publishing category. “A few years ago, when we crossed $200 million pledged, we put together this extensive roundup of 117 Favorite Kickstarter Publishing Projects to show what’s possible,” she says.

Book campaigns tend to be the most straightforward because authors generally use the platform to raise funds for print production and the other costs associated with bringing a book to life. 

But, Oriana says, campaigns also exist for larger, stranger, or less tangible items. Their success requires creators to get creative by figuring out unique rewards, coming up with innovative promotional plans, and connecting with everyone in their network to bring everything to life. 

Creators who meet their project goal pay a 5% fee to Kickstarter and receive their money two to three weeks after the campaign ends.

How to get started

Kickstarter offers a plethora of resources to help creators launch a crowdfunding campaign. Its robust hub covers projects from books, comics, journalism, poetry, zines, and more. It tackles topics from creating your Kickstarter budget to building your audience to getting your crowdfunded books into libraries,

But Oriana’s No. 1 piece of advice for the Kickstarter curious is to find five live campaigns and become a backer so you can follow those creators out in the world. “This will give you a sense of how people are running their projects – the tone and style of their campaign pages, the kinds of rewards they’re offering, the cadence of their updates, the frequency of their promotion, and everything like that,” she says.

And don’t forget the historical archive of Kickstarter projects. Oriana says, “Do a deep dive into what works and what doesn’t, and unabashedly adopt all the best tactics.”

Learn revenue opportunities and much more with experts at Content Entrepreneur Expo (May 5-7, 2024).  Registration is now open!

About the author

Ann regularly combines words and strategy for B2B, B2C, and nonprofits, continuing to live up to her high school nickname, Editor Ann. An IABC Communicator of the Year and founder of G Force Communication, Ann coaches and trains professionals in all things content. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.