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Friday, March 6, 2015

Crowd Funding for Indie Authors

                                                                         By Rebecca Bruner

Independently published authors face two major hurdles to success: financing and book promotion. Professional quality publishing packages for print books can cost thousands of dollars, and without a marketing plan, your book is still likely to become just another title floating through cyberspace on the endless tides of Crowd funding provides authors with the means to both raise capital to underwrite the costs of publishing, and at the same time, build an audience by raising awareness for their book projects.

What is Crowd Funding?

Crowd funding is a way for groups of people to sponsor projects and products that they feel strongly about. In exchange for their pledges of financial support, crowd funding investors are offered “Perks.” A perk is any product, service, or benefit that the supporter will receive in exchange for the money they pledge.

If you stop to think about it, non-profit organizations, including local churches, have always been subsidized by the donations of people who feel strongly about their mission. The same basic principle operates in crowd funding, except that the donors receive tangible perks in exchange for the money they invest in a project.

Kickstarter and Indigogo

Two of the most widely known crowd funding platforms are Kickstarter ( and Indiegogo ( These platforms have slightly different emphases. Kickstarter focuses on raising money for creative projects. Indiegogo has a broader focus and is therefore less exclusive about what kinds of projects they will take on.

If you are a fiction writer, and you have no plans to crowd fund anything other than fiction, Kickstarter may be right for you. If you plan on crowd funding any non-fiction projects, Indiegogo may be the better choice.

With both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, setting up a campaign is free. However, these sites obviously have to make money to stay in business. They do that by taking a percentage of the money raised through the crowd funding campaigns hosted on their websites (this can be anywhere from 4-10%). It costs nothing to set up a campaign, but once the money comes in, the host site will collect their share of the donations. Learn more about the specific costs associated with Kickstarter and Indiegogo by visiting their websites.

Fixed Funding vs. Flexible Funding

Another significant difference between these two major crowd funding platforms is that Kickstarter only allows for fixed funding campaigns, while Indiegogo also allows for flexible funding campaigns. A fixed funding campaign is an all or nothing proposition. Your supporters pledge money toward your project, but if you do not meet your goal, you don’t receive any of that money. Your supporters pay nothing, and you get nothing. End of story.

With a flexible funding campaign, you receive all the money pledged toward your project, whether or not you meet your funding goal. However, for campaigns that fall short of their funding targets, Indigogo charges higher fees.
The main advantage of a fixed funding campaign is the motivation it gives your supporters. If they want your book and they understand that it won’t be published unless you get enough pledges to reach your goal, they will feel a greater sense of urgency about getting their friends to support the project too. This may be a little easier if you are writing non-fiction, because people may be quite passionate about your topic, even if they have not yet read your book. It’s somewhat more difficult to inspire the same kind of passion in fans who haven’t yet read your fiction.

Resources for Learning More

I learned about crowd funding for authors when I attended an evening session presented by Thomas Umstadt Jr. from Author Media at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference last spring. He explained the basics of how to use crowd funding platforms like Kickstarter or Indiegogo to finance independent publishing projects.

Since then, Author Media has produced “The Ultimate Crowd Funding Course for Authors” In this course, Thomas Umstadt Jr. and author Mary Demuth discuss all the phases of a crowd funding campaign, drawing heavily on the lessons they learned through Mary’s highly successful campaign for her book, Not Marked: Finding Hope and Healing after Sexual Abuse. Mary raised about 250% of her original $10,000 goal and pre-sold approximately seven hundred copies of her book in the course of her crowd funding campaign. I highly recommend this very helpful and comprehensive resource. After listening to it, I felt very well prepared to design a crowd funding campaign of my own.

My Own Experience

Right now, I am working to set up a crowd funding campaign for Welcome, Earthborn Brother, my science fiction novel for young readers. I’m planning to launch this campaign on Indiegogo by the end of March. I made the decision to do this for two principle reasons:

      1.  To raise money— Writing is my day job. Publishing independently puts all the costs of book production on the author’s shoulders. I simply don’t have the money for all those essential up-front expenses, like professional editing, layout, and cover design. I can’t afford to spend so much getting Welcome, Earthborn Brother published that I have to sell thousands of copies just to recoup my initial investment.
      2.  To promote my book—I see crowd funding as a great marketing tool. Unlike independent film makers or visual artists, authors have it pretty easy when it comes to figuring out what perks to offer our supporters. We can offer them copies of our books! In exchange for different donation levels, I plan to offer copies of my ebook, my print book, and autographed copies of my book. Because nearly everyone who invests in the crowd funding campaign will receive the novel in exchange for their support, I will be enlarging my reader base automatically. I’m hoping people will get so excited about Welcome, Earthborn Brother that they will spread the word to their own friends and social networks, encouraging them to invest in this campaign, too. I think it’s a fantastic promotional strategy.

Why Indiegogo?

I decided to use Indiegogo for two main reasons:

      1.  The first reason is that I also write non-fiction. If I should decide down the road to crowd fund a non-fiction book, I know that Kickstarter is not open to projects of that kind. In some ways, this campaign will be an opportunity for me to learn the ropes of crowd funding through Indiegogo so that if I need to create a bigger campaign in the future, I will understand how it all works.
       2.  The second reason is that Indiegogo allows for both fixed funding and flexible funding campaigns. Since this will be my first experience with crowd funding a book, I’m not completely certain what to expect. That’s why I wanted the option of creating a flexible funding campaign.

 I’m quite excited to see how all of this will work out. I’m planning to run this campaign throughout April, 2015. If you are interested in following the progress of this venture as it unfolds, please check out my blog at


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Writing Characters - The Men in My Life


By Shannon Taylor Vannatter
I’ve been happily married for thirty years and have a thirteen year old boy. They are the men in my life. But since I write inspirational romance, there are other men in my life. For my readers to fall in love with the hero, I have to fall for him first. A large part of a lovable hero comes from how they treat the heroine. That part is easy. My heroes treat my heroines the way my husband treats me.

As my writing has evolved, I’ve found an audience for cowboys. But my husband isn’t one, nor do I live where there are a lot of genuine cowboys. I had to learn their lingo and mannerisms as well. The best place to study cowboys that I’ve found is Texas. Especially since my rodeo books are set in Texas. Since we have family there, we visit every few years. And as a rule, I try to only use settings I can actually visit, so I know I’m getting the details right.
For my first cowboy book, I spent a day at the Fort Worth Stockyards, where my rodeo series is set. I researched the rodeo, history, and lifestyle, but I spent a lot of time just watching and listening to cowboys. I also Googled and found a list of cowboy lingo and rodeo slang to help me get into character.

Since we’re talking romance, they have to look good too. I’m a very visual writer. In the beginning, my friends and family saved their magazines and catalogs. I cut out pictures of attractive or interesting looking people and kept them in a large folder. When I started a new book, I’d get out my folder and find a picture to represent my hero and heroine. It depended on the story. If there was an important side character, I found their picture too. And if hero and/or heroine have kids or pets, I had pictures for them also.
For the last ten years or so, I’ve Googled to find my characters. In a way, I miss the old catalog and magazine days. It was more time consuming than Googling, but with the JC Penney catalog and Redbook magazine, I didn’t worry about seeing underdressed men. When I first ventured into internet images, I used Stock Photo. But as my booklist grew, Stock Photo didn’t have enough variety. One day, I Googled male models with green eyes. I found a lot of them, but some of them didn’t wear clothes. And if you Google cowboys, they almost never wear shirts.

I finally figured it out—I Google male model headshots. Sometimes, they don’t wear shirts, but you can only see shoulders. Not that I’m opposed to shirtless men, but it feels odd when I have to send my editor pictures for the cover art and I send her a shirtless cowboy. I’ve only done that once and apologized because it was the only picture I could find that fit the cowboy in my head.
I used to keep all of my character images in my Picture file on my computer. But then I discovered Pinterest, a writer’s best friend. I have boards for all of my books except my first two rodeo titles I wrote before I discovered Pinterest. I have a board where I keep images of future and potential characters and a board of engagement photos for scene inspiration.

Now, as I write books, I create a board with characters and scenes as I go. On my Rodeo Family board, I included a lot the heroine’s clothing since she dreams of being a fashion designer. My book boards have gotten larger and more detailed with each book. And when it comes time to send my editor images for cover art, I have everything together and ready to go on Pinterest. I keep private boards for books not yet released. Shortly before the book releases, I make the board public and share my Pinterest reveal on Facebook, so readers can get a glimpse of the book to come.
I often joke about getting paid to Google men and that it’s part of my job. A few years ago, I was stuck on a character, partly because I couldn’t find a picture to represent the guy in my head. My local writer’s group was planning their first retreat, so I went and once everybody learned about my character problem, several of them helped me Google men. We laughed because our Christian writer’s group was Googling men at our Christian retreat at a church camp.

My husband knows about the cowboys in my life. Often, I’ll be at the computer and he’ll ask what I’m doing. My response—Googling men. He doesn’t bat an eye. In one of my dedications, I thanked my husband for not minding if I dream about cowboys all day.

Answer this question for a chance to win a paper copy of my latest release, Rodeo Family: Do you have any tips for organization in writing or any other area of your life?

To purchase your own copy now, click here. 

She's beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori's surprised at the helping hand the church's new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.

Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she's built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he's exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves


Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.
She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at:,,,, and Learn more about Shannon and her books at  and check out her real life romance blog at