If I had a dollar for every person who asked me about funding for their book projects, well, I could start a fund for those very projects! Not a week goes by without an email or call from someone seeking free publishing services.
Unfortunately, there is no secret publishing fund or author scholarship program available, but there are some options to consider if you’re strapped for cash.
1. Utilize Crowdfunding – One of the most common ways to raise funds for book publishing is through crowdfunding. You can create a campaign through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and raise funds with the help of family, friends, peers, clients and the general public. Investment levels range from small contributions ($20) up to large contributions ($1,000+). With crowdfunding, contributors aren’t just making a donation—they must receive something in return. The strategy here is to pre-sell copies of your book before it is published, as well as offer other items or services based on different investment levels. For example, you could offer a t-shirt based on the theme of your book or consulting time with you.
Hint: Study completed campaigns to see how the most successful ones were designed. Often times the majority of funding comes from people the author knows directly, so it requires a lot of promotion on your part. Also note that Indiegogo tends to be more author-friendly than Kickstarter, which declines as many campaigns as it accepts.
2. Apply for a Grant – The government makes grants available for various types of educational projects, so if your book has a purpose that advances a cause, there is a small chance you could locate a grant to help. Honestly, grants for publishing aren’t common, but it can’t hurt to check listings at Grants.gov.
3. Get a Sponsor – Enlist a corporate sponsor to back your book. For example, if you’re writing a memoir about an illness you’re battling, perhaps a specialty hospital or drug company may want to help you get your story out in exchange for exposure in your book. But think bigger when it comes to sponsors. They don’t just want to see their name in your book. They may want to have you speak at their events, or distribute copies of your books to their customers. Get creative and don’t be afraid to ask!
4. Align with a Nonprofit – If your book has a hook that could potentially benefit a nonprofit association, by all means, ask if they would like to partner with you. For example, if your book is about mental health, perhaps one of the big nonprofits that educates people about mental health would like to support your book and help you get the word out. Despite the title, larger nonprofits often have extra funds to invest in marketing and spreading awareness for their cause.
5. Put Your Hand Out – If you simply want to ask people to donate, you can easily start a campaign with GoFundMe, a donation platform where you can create a campaign to accept donations for your “cause.”
6. Sell Your Stuff – If you’re truly strapped for cash, then you’ve got to find a way to make it happen. Sell household stuff such as books, clothes, toys and collectibles on eBay or Craigslist. Get rid of that jet ski you only use a few times each year. Make some sacrifices in exchange for reaching a truly rewarding personal goal.
7. Get a Book Deal – The traditional publishers pay authors to produce their books. Start by reading the book: How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen. Then start pitching agents via the Association of Authors’ Representatives. You can also watch for contests online to potentially land a book deal.
8. Decide to Get Serious – If getting your book published is truly a priority; it’s time to treat it that way. Set aside funds whenever possible. Skip your daily Starbucks visit, pack a lunch, turn off cable, and find other ways to build your publishing fund. Unfortunately, there are rarely scholarships available and money doesn’t rain from the sky. Like anything else in life, if you really want it, you’ve got to find a way to make it happen.
Most importantly, when it comes time to publish your book, avoid cutting corners. Self-published books should be thoroughly edited and have professional cover design and typesetting. When you skip these steps or enlist an inexperienced friend or family member to help, it can negatively affect the long-term success of your book. The reality is that readers do judge a book by its cover, and also by the quality of the content in the book. A handful of typos are forgivable, but problems on every page will turn off readers and get reflected in book reviews.
Lastly, keep in mind that self-publishing should be treated like a business—because it is one! If you set it up properly, you will establish yourself as a publisher, and therefore launch a business venture. That means that the expenses involved in publishing your book can become tax deductions at the end of the year (talk to an accountant). So you’re not throwing money away; you’re investing in your future.
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