Getting Sponsorship for Your Self-Published Book

Image by Peggy_Marco via Pixabay

Updated: 1/2/2021

Crowdfunding has been called the no money, no problem solution in self-publishing. Back in the day, aspiring authors would charge all their publishing expenses on credit cards or even withdraw money from their retirement accounts in order to make their dreams come true. Sadly, those authors watched their life savings depleted by expensive vanity publishers and unscrupulous con artists. However, a lot has changed as cheaper businesses sprouted up during the digital revolution. Just a few years ago, a book cover might have cost you thousands of dollars, but today, you can create one for a buck on Canva.  

Though self-publishing is becoming less expensive and a lot easier, it isn’t free. You still have to pay for a book cover, hire an editor, as well as pay for marketing. So how do you pay for all this when you’re broke? 

Well, since we indies (independent authors) are running a business, we can raise capital like a normal business. Yes, with the help of the internet, we can finance our businesses through crowdfunding campaigns and straight-up ask people to back our projects. There are several online sites that authors can use to fund their self-publishing projects such as; Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon just to name a few. 

No, This Isn’t Begging

In a popular Ted Talk, performance artist Amanda Palmer encouraged artists to “ask without shame.” Amanda by the way held the previous record on Kickstarter for raising the most money for a music project with over one million dollars in donations. The money she raised not only went to fund the project but also allowed her and her band to give away their work free of charge. In an age where most artists discourage torrents and file sharing Amanda and her band actually encourage it. This is blatantly counterintuitive to most corporate business models in which freebies are used only as a short-term marketing ploy. However, Amanda’s strategy is more long-term, using digital music as a promotional tool, rather than a moneymaking venture. As the industry argues over .99¢ songs, Amanda and her band have successfully cut out the middle man and are setting up their next tour.

I can hear you already, that’s nice Rachel, but how are authors doing on Kickstarter?  I’m so glad you asked, in 2020, fantasy and sci-fi author Brandon Sanderson, successfully raised $5 million on Kickstarter for a publishing project. Although he had an established career and a large fan base, he was the first author to raise millions for a fiction book. And there are others within the industry crowdfunding their projects as well such as publishing companies and comic book writers. Heck, even Sesame Street did a campaign in the summer of 2019, for an enhanced digital book.  So if Big Bird can ask for donations, you can too!          

How Does This Work?

First, you decided how much you’ll need, and once you figure that out, you’ll need to decide which platform you’ll want to use. Kickstarter is the most established and popular site for artists. However, Indiegogo is also a good site to run a campaign. The big difference between the two is if you don’t raise the full amount for your crowdfunding campaign, Kickstarter will withhold the funds because it’s an all or nothing deal. On the other hand, Indiegogo will give you whatever amount you raised which makes it a little more enticing even if their site is a bit smaller. 

Patreon is another crowdfunding site that is subscription-based so people can donate to your project every month. This is good for those authors who have a blog or podcast that requires funding and don’t want to advertise, here, readers or listeners can support the project. Patreon is also good for those authors who have a book they’d like to share online as they write it. If you’d like to learn more about the various crowdfunding sites here are some links:

Here are a few basic tips on how to run a successful campaign:

  • Plan well in advance.  
  • Keep your fundraising goals small in the beginning.
  • Successful campaigns are funded by tiny increments, so set the pledges to smaller amounts like $1 or $5.
  • It’s not usual for authors to offer books but don’t forget to offer swag for smaller donations like signed bookmarks, stickers, or pens. You can create those things at places like; VistaPrint, Zazzle, and CafePress.      
  • Campaigns with videos explaining your project and enthusiasm seem to do better than those without them.
  • Have a compelling blurb explaining your project with a call to action.
  • Promote your project on social media because most projects are funded by family and friends but don’t forget to reach out to podcasts, vlogs, and the blogosphere.
  • Fund other projects in popular niches like movies, gaming, or music to get visibility on the site as well as establish some good karma.
  • Promote your campaign to your mailing list and in your blog posts.
  • Do guest posts on popular blogs and include a link to your campaign in the byline.

Beware of Fees & Taxes 

What a lot of indie authors get wrong, is the amount of money they’ll need to cover all of their expenses. For example, most crowdfunding sites take a 2-9% cut of all money raised. However, the fees don’t end there, some banks and middlemen like in the case of Kickstarter (through Amazon Payment), take another 3-5% for credit card processing fees. 

Another thing to consider are the shipping costs because you’ll need to ship your gifts or swag to those who supported your campaign. Ca-ching!   

As if that weren’t enough, authors can’t forget the taxman because not properly including all income sources can easily trigger an audit. In fact, Kickstarter addresses this in a Tax Guide on their website. That means you are going to have to carefully do the math and possibly raise your monetary goals to accommodate these additional expenses.

Crowdfunding can be a viable path for the author who already knows how to promote a book since the steps are so similar, but even then, there are no guarantees of a successful crowdfunding project. Nonetheless, you should be aware of the alternative ways to pay for your self-publishing expenses, that don’t include raiding your retirement account.   

16 comments

  1. Interesting. I’ve dealt with a lot of sports sponsorships in my time, but getting a book sponsor hasn’t occurred to me.

    With writing being such an art, do you not see many writers shying away from this method?

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

    • Honestly, no. There is commercial writing and literary writing. Literary writers write for arts sake. While commercial (genre) authors write to make money which is hard, because most publishing companies offer little, or no support for their writers in the form of marketing and visibility. They invest only in authors who sell BIG while the others, are left on their own. If you’re not Stephen King or J.K. Rowling then this is a problem. That means advertising and book tours are out of the question for most authors unless, they want to pay the costs themselves. I say, instead of using your own money, why not get a company to foot the bill? If you’re willing to promote a book, why not another product?

      • Fair comment. I’m always open to sponsorship, because i know what the benefits such things can bring. I do think i’d be very careful of the company and the product though. With it being my own book i’d want to have passion for the product. Whereas if i was a sportsmen and asked to endorse a clothing company i didnt particularly like, well, that wouldn’t be much of an issue

        I look forward to post number two though 🙂

        Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

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  4. I really love this advice. This will go in a long way to perfect my zeal and dream.

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  5. Oct 7, 2013 Monday Morning West Coast time 4:335 AM

    I was ripped off by Publish/America having received only one Royalty check in the amount of $1.40 this one check was to prevent me from suing them for breach of contract. Here seven years later I notified them that I would not be extending my contract with them. My novel is now ready and waiting to go into production. I too am in need of a sponsor to help me with the cost of initial publishing. I have the travel and promotion expenses covered but without a product in hand to display and sell that leaves me out of business. This is the first of three finished manuscripts that I can have published this year. A sponsor would allow me the opportunity to get published now rather than waiting to finance this project myself during the first quarter of next year. (E-bay MRL1950)

  6. October 19, 2013 West Coast Time 7:13am

    I am a writer. I have three manuscripts finished that I would like to now self publish. My first Novel Sheryl, Lost In Ecstasy – By MRL was Published by Publish/America. The corrections they said they would do was not made. I received one Royalty Check in the amount of $1.40 over a seven year period. I am now ready to take my revised novel to a second printing. I am looking for a sponsor who can assist me with initial printing cost and the launch of my Romance Novel. Thank You.

    NOVELS READY TO LAUNCH: Sheryl, Lost In Ecstasy – Once In a Life Time – Johnny (dirty dancing story).

    MRL Enterprises, Inc.
    561 Keystone Ave. 685
    Reno, Nevada 89503-4304
    e-mail: mrlcorporation@yahoo.com

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