Dr. Alke Gröppel-Wegener, Senior Lecturer in Contextual Studies and National Teaching Fellow at the Faculty of Arts and Creative Technologies at Staffordshire University shares her experiences of a different route to publication on a project that was recently discussed in the Times Higher.
For years I had a wanted to consolidate the teaching strategies I developed through my research into a workbook for students, but I never had the impetus to realise it. This spring, however, I decided to bite the bullet and put together a Kickstarter campaign to raise some money to make it happen. For me this worked very well, as it concentrated my efforts and gave me a deadline, as well as generating investors which meant pressure to get off my backside and actually see this project through. The outcome is that I was able to raise the money to print 150 ‘test’ copies of the book and the pressure of others’ expectations motivated me to actually finish writing and designing it. I am currently in the stage of sending out book copies and preparing other rewards such as a little launch event to say thank you to backers.
The finished books ready to be sent out – plus the postcards that were one special reward. You can read more about the book and project to create it on my blog.
If you are thinking of trying this route of raising money, here are some of my experiences that might come in useful:
- The Campaign. Be prepared for the fact that it will take you longer to put your campaign onto Kickstarter than you thought it would. But, it is a really good process, because like writing a more formal bid for funding, it makes you think through the project properly and encourages you to consider all the things that make it special (and worth investing). Kickstarter has a nice feature where you can send a link of your campaign so other people before you make it officially live, and I found that a very useful way to get feedback on it.
- The Rewards. It is worth spending some time really thinking about the rewards that you can offer – and having a bit of fun with them. But, keep in mind that these might be things that also need to be produced, so will end up costing a bit more. Make sure you budget for them.
- The Video. Everybody said that having a video is really important. And I spent some time looking at the lovely and very sleek videos that you can find on the site and then was really hesitant to try and make one myself. But then I thought about what the video is there for: it is there to show potential backers that you are actually a person. Now unless you are bidding for money to make a film, this doesn’t need to be a sleek production – and mine ended up being done with the webcam that came with my laptop, some stills I took with my camera and then edited on some free software that was again on the laptop. It will not win an Oscar by a long shot, but it did the trick of allowing me to say hello to people and at the end thank them for their interest – and encourage them to back the project.
- The Target. With Kickstarter the target you set is the target that the pledges need to reach – there are other crowdfunding platforms where you get your pledges no matter what, but they take a bigger cut (and yes, Kickstarter takes a cut, too). Now this INCLUDES the postage that people are pledging for getting rewards. I didn’t quite realise this and it is important to keep in mind when you decide how much money you need to raise.
- The Duration. You can set the duration of your campaign, and it is said that 30 days is a good length. I did that and it worked for me, but towards the end I got a bit fed up with the whole thing and just wanted to continue with my project, rather than look after the campaign.
- The Timing. I don’t know whether there are auspicious days to start your campaign, etc., but when I look at the graph of pledges they seem to distinctly level out on days when people weren’t at work. Maybe this is due to this being connected to education, so a work project in a way, but in hindsight having it run over a bank holiday weekend might not have been the best idea, as it felt like I was basically losing an extra day to the slow-pledge weekend.
Once you have decided on all these things, you declare your campaign live. And this is where the waiting started. Kickstarter usually checks it, to make sure you are not breaking any rules, so initially I was waiting for them to email me that it was fine. And then I could properly declare it live – and now I was waiting for people to pledge. But as I would realise, this shouldn’t be a waiting game, this is the time to start campaigning, so next week, I’ll share more tips from my experience once the campaign went live…
We look forward to hearing more about this next week! In the meantime, if you’re interested in crowdsourcing then you might like to take a look at the tips we collated.