I’m thrilled to welcome Nicole O’Dell to Land of 10,000 Words today. This amazing woman apparently never sleeps. She’s been running a successful ministry (Choose NOW), designed to encourage and empower parents and teens, for a number of years now. She speaks on a wide variety of topics, writes books (23 so far), has added a publishing arm to her ministry, is married and has six (6!) kids (from 5-year-old triplets to a young man serving in the military). I’m exhausted just writing that!
Plus she’s fearless (okay, she doesn’t SHOW fear). Recently, she stepped out in faith to launch a crowdfunding campaign. I’d heard of such a thing, but didn’t understand how it works. She’s graciously agreed to share information on the process, in a very open and vulnerable way.
“I walked into church naked.”
That’s exactly what it feels like to launch a crowdfunding campaign.
I recently did just that. Some friends (Tracy Higley and Mary DeMuth) threw me a proverbial towel so I could attempt to cover up. And some others jumped in with early donations to get rid of the ZERO right away. Plus I had the whole Choose NOW Team backing me up. But, still!
Not only had I spent years building my ministry and working within my passion for the parent-teen relationship, but then I spent months, weeks, and hours and hours of time on various aspects of the campaign and the product. It’s personal. And it’s scary. Oh, so scary!
What is crowdfunding and why would someone try such a thing?
Crowdfunding is a super-risky, but potentially awesome way to make products available to the public. It pools the resources of the people who are most interested in either owning or supporting the development of a new idea or work. In my case, it would be the user of Powerline365 or those who believe in the project and want to support the raising up of a godly generation of teens who would fund–or buy in–at various levels based on what they’d like to own or gift to someone else.
There has to be a need for the product (book, gadget, album, etc). Now, if you browse through the campaigns that have succeeded, you’ll find some nutty things, but as long as someone needs them, or thinks they do, the campaign stands a chance of making it. Yes, my book is a devotional for parents, and there are lots of those out there, but Powerline365 has components that make it unique. There is the email subscription that delivers one of the 365 devotions to your inbox every day for a year. There are also other unique aspects that would theoretically make mine a successful campaign. One of which is my team who is helping me spread the word. Another is me–I’ve worked hard to build a reputation in this arena…but that still doesn’t guarantee success.
You’ll find that it’s difficult to crowdfund fiction. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you really have to think about how to effectively frame it, honestly evaluate the help you’ll have, and consider your current platform.
For example: If you wrote a novel about someone who survives abortion, is given up for adoption, and then grows up to find a cure for cancer…you’ve got a lot to work with. You can appeal to people who have had abortions, people who have been involved in adoption, people who’s lives have been touched by cancer. All of those can be used to trigger that felt need. And then, in your video you could talk about how fiction breaks down walls because a reader approaches it with an open mind much more so than with non-fiction. You’d be appealing to people who want to help you speak out about a topic.
Where would one go to attempt such a thing?
The two main hosts are Indiegogo and Kickstarter. Kickstarter is bigger, but indiegogo has some different options that made it a better fit for me. Mainly, Kickstarter doesn’t allow self-help books for some odd reason, but they do allow fiction. So that left IG as my only option. Another difference is that Indiegogo allows you to do fixed funding–you have to earn it all to get any of it–or flexible–you keep whatever you get. Fixed-funding projects earn a lot more and cost less, but they do carry more risk.
Both Indiegogo and Kickstarter make it very easy to actually set up the campaign. But they don’t write the marketing copy or create a video for you (you’ll see what I mean in a minute). This was a sticking point for me. If you’re like me, it’s much easier to write 10k words than 100 words. You’ll find, as I did, that your copy will make or break you.
Yes. I already know several mistakes I’ve made. One of them had to do with the campaign video. I wish I’d had the time and resources to make a more professional video rather than the sub-par screen capture I made of myself talking right to my computer. It’s fine…shrug…but it’s nothing special. I think a stronger video impact would have made a better impression not only of me, but also of the expected quality of the product. Here, you can see what I mean.
The other thing I’d have done right from the start is include information about the other books I’ve written. Stands to reason visitors might like to know this ain’t my first rodeo. I added all of that in, but 1000 people had already seen the campaign page by that point. Oops.
What if it fails?
In my case, if it fails, then those towels my friends tossed me after I walked into church naked disintegrate and you never see me again. Just kidding. But really, we’re writers. Haven’t we all attempted a project or sent off a proposal only to be rejected? Well, think of potential failure as being a lot like that. You have the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of those who have gone before, so you can avoid some of those mistakes. But your project could very well fail. As could mine.
And we can’t discount the power of prayer and what God is able to do. The following is from a recent blog post in which I describe four direct and miraculous answers to prayer. Here’s one of them:
My crowdfunding campaign has gotten off to a bit of a slow start. That slow start had me questioning everything during a three-hour snow-shoveling ordeal. Had I heard from God? Was I doing His work or mine? Was I being taught a lesson? I became overwhelmed. Physically with the snow. Mentally with my current workload. Emotionally with the campaign. Spiritually with doubt.
So I prayed.
“Lord, I need you to show me…either that I’m doing right or that I’m doing wrong. Either
is okay with me. I just need to hear from You. I need to know if this ministry in general, and the campaign in specific, are just more of that spaghetti I like to throw at the wall to see if it sticks. Is it spaghetti? Or is it YOU? And, I need to know that You have a plan for the future. Would you just show me tonight, somehow, what your answer is? I mean, I’m not even asking You to guarantee the funding of the campaign, I just want to know I’m moving in the right direction. I trust your plans whether they end up the way I want them or not. I just want to know that I’m moving IN them. Would it be too much to ask to have a donation appear like…now?”
I heard a ding that I’d received a text, but I ignored it because I was praying, of course.
“And, Lord, just so I know it’s really You speaking, could the donation be for $1000.00? I know that’s not too much for you…”
Then I checked my text message. It was my mom:
Her: Hey, I’m trying to donate to your campaign, but I can’t see well enough to be sure I’m doing it right. If I give you my numbers, will you do it for me?
Me: Sure! Thanks Mom! How much do you want me to do it for? I expected her to say $50.
Her: God told me $1000.
GOD SENT ME A TEXT! A direct, specific, and immediate answer to prayer via text message. How cool is that? No, He didn’t guarantee that the project would succeed and I’d collect all the funds I need (because if we fall short by even 1.00, we get nothing) but He did let me know that I’m in His will. That’s all I needed. I pray the same reassurance for you, whether it’s in your writing or in a funding campaign like mine. If you want to see a few other stories like that one, visit this post.
Ultimately, for me, and I suspect for you, it comes down to faith. Just like with writing, if you enter into a crowdfunding campaign, you have to be okay with public vulnerability and be able to work through the feelings that come with things not going as you’d hoped or expected. There are ups and downs during a campaign, just like during the writing journey as a whole.
Could you do it?
What questions or ideas do you have? I’m happy to talk them through here in the comments section. GIVEAWAY: And all who participate in the campaign and leave a comment here will be entered to win a Spark30 devotional subscription. We’ll give away one for every ten participants. This can also be gifted!
Here’s some info about my campaign in case you’re curious.
Powerline365 is a high-voltage, multi-format daily devotional to help parents raise Christian teens without losing connection.
Daily insight will ground you in truth as you plug into the Source. It’s time for you to power-parent from a place of confidence and surrender, believing God’s Word is true, and His promises will never go unfulfilled.
And I am certain that God, who began the good work within [your teenager], will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (Philippians 1:6, NLT)
Nicole O’Dell is the founder of Choose NOW Ministries, bringing a message of hope for today’s families through daily articles, weekly radio shows, and the printed word. A mother of six herself, she has authored 23 books for parents and teens, both fiction and nonfiction, all with the goal of helping the reader make good choices NOW.