Go Fund Yourself

See full issue for 2017 08-28

Writers should be paid. We can all agree on this. My question is: Should readers pay before the story is even written? As you probably guessed by the title of this week’s article, I want to talk about author crowdfunding campaigns.

Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and other crowdfunding campaigns have enabled creative types to get some seriously cool stuff out into the world and they’ve helped entrepreneurs launch amazing businesses. They’ve also helped families and individuals in dire circumstances pay for things like medical and funeral costs. Tough times come without warning, and I love that we have a way to ensure people who need help get it.

Authors needing money to write a book? I have a hard time with this, because it costs nothing to write a book. I’m probably going to be very unpopular for saying this, but these campaigns bug me. I know, there are worse things in the world that I could be wasting energy on, but when I see, “Help me write my novel!” I lose my shit a little.

Everyone has a book in them. Most of those books are probably not very good. Whatever. Doesn’t mean you can’t write it. You should. Odds are someone will enjoy your words. Just like there’s a soul for every mate, there’s a reader for every book, but the writing costs nothing. Why do you need cash to do it?

When you’re asking strangers for money to write a book, it better be phenomenal, in my opinion. I want to read something life changing when you’re done. Maybe this bothers me because I don’t have a lot of money. I’m a writer, for crying out loud. Most writers have day jobs, because book sales aren’t exactly reliable. We have no choice but to earn money to pay our bills in a non-writing way, or we offer editing services, ghost writing, or whatever to pay bills so we can be home to write our fiction.

Now, not all author crowdfunding campaigns are annoying. Sometimes, the author is creative (and realistic) in that they aren’t asking for the moon. They need this much for professional editing or they want to pay for a killer cover by a talented artist. They also offer cool rewards like copies of books they’ve previously published, gift cards, or little goodies not available anywhere else; Audible codes, mugs, t-shirts, etc.

But making it possible for you to quit your job/take a holiday and give your book the time and attention you feel it needs, just seems like a shitty reason to expect someone to give you money. You’re asking other people to pay your bills so you can sit on your ass and screw around on social media most of the day. Hey, I’m a writer. I know how it all gets done. Sorry, but I can barely keep my own lights on. I’m not paying for yours.

I need my money for my own books, and for things like food and clothing. Know what I do to fund my books? I work and save what I can to cover the costs. I’d rather let readers fork out some cash for a finished product. I know I’m being judgmental, but we’re all entitled to our opinion and I do have a lot of those.  If you want me to fork over my hard-earned cash for your book, particularly if it’s a first novel, you’ve gotta give me a better reason/reward than I’ve been seeing from others.

For example, prove to me you’re a worthwhile investment. The rest of us have to do this with publishers, so it’s reasonable to expect to sample the product we’re investing in. The better idea is to have the novel finished (or at least a rough draft), or to have short fiction available to read, so the people donating can see what they’re helping put out into the world. If I see a damn fine writer needing assistance with cover art and editing, I’ll happily throw a bit of cash their way (if I have it), because I don’t often find damn fine writers.

So, before you set up that campaign, think hard about what you have to offer, both as a reward for donating and in terms of your writing skill. Are you asking for cash because you’re too lazy to put the work in? If you are, then don’t bother writing the book at all, because the real work comes after you publish. Consider submitting your work to publishers (who take care of those pesky covers and editors). And if you still decide to do it, understand that my lack of support isn’t because I don’t want you to succeed. I want all of us to succeed. However, my funds are limited too, and I’d rather use it to pay for my own books… and to buy cake.


Renee Miller

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