From Crowd-Funding Campaign to Print: The Case of Maggie MacCormack and the Witches’ Wheel
I strongly encourage those who are inclined to crowd-fund to do so. I offer my story to prospective crowd-funders in the hope that it will shine a light on some personal aspects of the experience. Of course, the particulars of every campaign will differ, but the more experience and knowledge that is shared, the smoother goes the campaigning process.
I had never really considered using a crowd-funding platform as a means to sell and distribute my work. I certainly didn’t imagine it to be a slam-dunk business decision. Sure, millions of people shop on the popular platforms every day, but there’s almost as many products and ideas to choose from. Vigorous promotion and a good amount of luck appear to breed good fortune in this particular game of chance.
However, as I completed my manuscript and shared it with a few choice connections in publishing, the overall reaction to Maggie MacCormack and the Witches’ Wheel was that it was “fresh”, “exciting” and “well-written.” I received publishing offers, but the upfront advances were unappealing, and I was put off by the amount of publicity I was expected to pursue on my own time and dollar.
“You should put it on Kickstarter or Indiegogo,” a few people close to me suggested.
“I dunno,” was my usual response. Putting myself in the spotlight is not one of my favourite things to do. But, to be honest, the challenge of making the crowd-funding option work, and the amount of creativity involved in making it unique, piqued my interest.
According to the checklist of things one needs in place to run a campaign, I was at a severe disadvantage. I didn’t have a massive group of friends on Facebook; I didn’t have a long list of contacts…I didn’t even have an Instagram account.
What did I have? A quality project and a good feel for marketing. Furthermore, I knew I would be able to provide a strong video and a clear, well-written campaign message.
It was important to me, should Maggie be successful, that I would share that good fortune with organizations that work to preserve our environment and, in some way, to give back to the community. I made a decision to give a percentage of my gross profits from the sale of Maggie to Sea Legacy, One Tree Planted, the Children’s Book Bank and The Barrie Food Bank. My campaign page informed potential supporters that if they would back Maggie, they would also be backing these well-deserving organizations.
In preparation for the launch of my campaign, I wrote 30 blog posts to be published daily for 30 days. My posts were about the soup-to-nuts of creativity. They were rich in content and edited in length for concentrated reading. I wanted to give people a taste of my writing, and something substantive to think about; rarely was the subject matter a direct promotion for my novel or campaign.
I joined Facebook groups and published my blogs to a virtual audience of tens of thousands of subscribers every day. However, I have no idea how many people actually read them. The amount of comments and FB “likes” did grow with each post but when I switched my site from http to https -SSL certified – the “likes” disappeared. I received many private messages of excitement and encouragement, and many strangers wanted to become friends on Facebook.
I shared my videos, in compliance with publishing requirements of different social media. I posted daily on Instagram and I asked my actual friends-in-real-life on Facebook to share my blog posts with Facebook friends and ask their friends to do the same. I didn’t expect any one of my friends to spend money on my campaign, but I had hoped that if enough people shared my campaign and posts for the duration of the 30-day campaign, I would find an audience.
The campaign hit the ground running. Money poured in fast and furious. 10%…20% 30%…40%…“I’m gonna make my goal,” I gleefully thought.
Then the campaign inexplicably flat-lined.
Zero website action.
I stayed my course and…
…Finally within a week of campaign inactivity I began to hear from many, many prospective contributors that they had actually tried to contribute to my campaign and were shut out. They encountered glitches when they tried to hit the “purchase” button; they were constantly receiving messages that their postal code or zip code was “wrong”. But the zip codes and postal codes my contributors provided were not “wrong”, and I would receive from them screen shot after screen shot.
I brought this up with Indiegogo, providing them with the screenshots, and they consistently played down the issue. It certainly wasn’t on their end, I was told. Yet, when people who are tech savvy, and are in the UK, Hong Kong, America, Japan and Canada are all experiencing the same issue it’s more than a coincidence.
I complained to Indiegogo some more and suddenly I received a flurry of orders. One after the other, after the other, until…another wave of silence followed by more people telling me they could not contribute to my campaign; the person who made twelve attempts to contribute holds the record. Indiegogo again told me it was not due to a glitch in their system. Near the end of my 30-day run, I was still short of my goal and I took up Indiegogo’s opportunity to extend my campaign by 10 days. It was a good decision. By the end of the 40 days I had exceeded my goal. Maggie MacCormack and the Witches’ Wheel was to go to press.
Frankly, it takes a lot of faith in people and an unwavering belief in your product to keep going. In light of my own experience, it’s hard to overstate the value of tenacity in surmounting roadblocks that are not of your own making, or simply a less-than-helpful feature of the crowd-funding environment.
A Curve in the Road
I received my funds, made donations to the organizations as promised and readied my book for the printer. Then, something quite unusual happened: I dreamt the book one night as if it were a movie. Only slowly did it begin to register with me that this was a gift. There were elements of the dream-story that were not in the then-current text, but that I felt certain must be included in the final version.
Revisions needed in order to seamlessly add these elements to the story increased the production schedule of my novel.
I kept my backers aware of my decision as I set a course to incorporate elements of my dream. I felt pressed to deliver the book to these eager backers but I did my best to keep the pressure from getting in the way of my creative endeavour. I worked at a feverish pace to complete it. My proofreaders and my editor did the same. I knew that rushing the revisions would take a toll on the quality of the work. Revising took longer than I anticipated – and it took longer than I would have liked to finesse the book back into shape and ready for press. But, in the end, I think I achieved the seamlessness that I was aiming for.
I am grateful for the support my backers gave to me. I am also very happy with the final product, which is now on sale at maggiemaccormack.com