Crowdfunding a guide to crowdfunding

Crowdfunding imageCrowdfunding has fascinated me since 2009, when Kickstarter, Sellaband, Indiegogo, and others were starting to pick up steam in allowing hundreds to thousands of individuals to contribute relatively small amounts to fund artists and groups recording albums, building products, and making films.

Even after thousands of projects had been funded and completed, it was common to read articles or blog posts stating that crowdfunding was a flash-in-the-pan and a fad. People would become tired of backing efforts, the argument went, and stop contributing. Donor fatigue is a real problem with any fundraising, whether for non-profits or commercial outfits. But it occurs when you pass the hat with the same group of people. What's evolved with crowdfunding is that every project has a unique audience, although some lucky projects break out through word of mouth and mainstream coverage to reach a much broader range of potential supporters.

How real is crowdfunding from the economic side? The Economist said in a recent article there are 450 crowdfunding sites worldwide, and it cites a report estimating $2.8 billion with raised in 2012, nearly twice that of 2011. Hardly a fad! Kickstarter, in particular, has raised the most consistently, with $84 million in completed pledges brought in last year, and likely double that for 2012.

Kickstarter is a generalist's site that helps pull projects from idea into existence for any serious visual artist, videogame designer, independent filmmaker, musician, graphic novelist or cartoonist, industrial designer, food maker, and other makers and creators. But there are many others (hundreds!) with different rules and which reach different people.

I'm turning this fascination into a book about how to plan and execute crowdfunding projects. I'm funding the book's costs, such as travel, collaborators, and print production, through Kickstarter. I like the notion of a snake eating its own tail, and I can't imagine that I could be taken credibly in writing about how you go about raising money in this fashion if I hadn't gone through the process myself.

Over the last two years, I've interviewed piles of people who have raised funds (or failed to) through crowdfunding, and had many more informal conversations on Twitter and through email with others. I found that everyone I spoke to had learned one or more lessons in the process of building a project and getting it funded or missing a target. It dawned on me that collecting this information and then distilling it into a book would be both a great journey and destination both for who want to launch a funding effort and for myself. Tens of thousands of projects have launched so far; hundreds of thousands will launch in the next few years. I want to help people achieve their goals more easily and with more participation.

My effort won't just focus on blockbuster projects, even though Amanda Palmer, who raised nearly $1.2 million for her latest album and tour, shared an enormous number of useful bits of information valuable to anyone when I interviewed her recently. But so have folks who raised just a few thousand, like Kyle Durrie and her cross-country type truck tour. Rather, I'll look at projects of all scales, from a few thousand dollars up to millions to find the commonalities that exist.

I think of the book as two entities: one is a series of essays illustrated by photographs (and accompanied online by videos) about individual projects and creators, focused on what they did, and what they learned in the process. The other is specific how-to advice from conceiving a project through launching it, funding it, and fulfilling it. I want the book to be good to look at as well as a guide to making a crowdfunded project happen. (The book will focus heavily on Kickstarter projects, but I'll provide advice about choosing among the various crowdfunding sites depending on what the project is.)

I've figured out the minimum cost to travel far enough and enlist enough assistance to create a solid book, which I've tentatively titled: "Crowdfunding: A Guide to What Works and Why." While I'm on the journey over the next several months, I'll write blog posts (some of which will appear here at BoingBoing) about people I interview and what I learn, as well as shoot and post video interviews for backers of the project. By about March 2013, I'll have a finished book available as an ebook and as paperback and hard-cover editions.

Crowdfunding lets artists and makers explore work that they might otherwise be unable to find funding for, and take creative and technological risks that they couldn't afford. I want to document what's happening out there, bring back stories from the field, and bundle it up for others to learn from. I've launched my project. Now I get to see if I learned lessons well enough so far to bring my idea to fruition.

(Photo: Used via Credit Commons license and with permission. ©2011 Mike Krzeszak)


  1. Crowdfunding isn’t a solution to some niche cultural issues. It’s a way of thinking about markets in a new way. Fifth generation crowdfunding will address local retail outlets, community ownership of local businesses, more direct relationships between producers and consumers, B Corps raising massive capital for disruption level projects, etc. Just wait.

    1. I love B corporations. The issue there, as I’ve read, is whether the B corp. guidelines will be able to effectively provide the right incentives over changes of leadership and long spans of time. But it’s a great structure. Needs more tax benefits, I think.

    2. i completely agree, it is some sort of community share, a completely new way for funding without large investors and keeping banks completely out of the way. 

      1. In the 1980s, The Far Side had a cartoon about whatever was the subject at hand, and now we turn to xkcd.

  2. I’ve been thinking that a good meta-Kickstarter would be a campaign to start a physical shipping company specifically for Kickstarter projects.  I’ve heard many  successful projects talk about how unready they were to ship 5000 posters or keychains or whatever.  The reward levels could be “discounted handling of your next successful project” or something like that.

    1. Yes, this is absolutely a growing niche. There are already firms that specialize in making and delivering merchandise, but I don’t know that any have tied in perfectly into the Kickstarter/Indiegogo/etc. stream.

  3. as traditional publishers are not really giving you a good share of revenus for your books, i think starting a book project and getting possible readers via crowd sourcing platforms is an excellent idea. 
    A fancy idea would also be to crowd fund research publications, as they are quite expensive when you add travel costs, hotel, conference fees and work time… :)

  4. I think your initiative is very interesting. If you want to compare some crowdfunding websites, I heard about MyMicroInvest ( They are different from other websites as they let people vote for the start-up they like and people will invest with professionals at the same conditions. 

Comments are closed.