On Running Crowdfunding: Rewards

Picking up on yesterday’s crowdfunding commentary:

What sorts of rewards would be attractive?

Rewards are the hardest thing about crowdfunding, I think. (Except for the general nerve-wracking “I’m throwing a party and wonder if anybody will come!” aspect of it.)

Your basic reward for crowdfunded storytelling is the story. $5 gets you the e-book. There’s a real argument to be made for making it a base $10 buy-in because, as someone pointed out to me during the “No Dominion” campaign, if you’re pricing your book at what you’d buy an e-copy for on Amazon or B&N.com, you’re basically just setting up a pre-order system, not crowdfunding per se. But I like a $5 basic buy-in, because it’s a price point almost anybody can afford, and it gives the patron the specific item they presumably most want: the book!

General Reward Thoughts: I said a few days in to the “No Dominion” campaign that I’d already thought I needed to restructure the reward levels, and I still think I shoulda. I should have set it at $5, $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500 for the realistic rewards, and I think leaving the $1K, $2500 and $5K for “anybody got silly money?” rewards is fine. It probably should have looked something like this:

$5 : the novella
$10 : the novella & 2 short stories
$25 : novella, 4 short stories, name in acknowledgements (because holy crap, 520 backers, I’m gonna have four pages of thank-yous!)
$50 : the above & a bookmark featuring the NO DOMINION cover art
$100 : the above & a behind-the scenes chapbook of the NO DOMINION cover art photo shoot/9×12″ print of the cover art
$250 : the above & the limited edition print run of NO DOMINION included
$500 : the above & and your name as one of the characters in either NO DOMINION or one of the companion short stories

(Comments & suggestions on this are enormously welcome, btw.)

For other peoples’ reward ideas: Laura Anne Gilman’s “From Whence You Came” campaign page; Tim Pratt’s GRIM TIDES campaign page, and Chrysoula Tzavelas’s MATCHBOX GIRLS campaign page (which is still running, & she’s less than $100 from reaching 10x her original goal! Go make it happen! :)). There are others that I can’t think of right now, but I will happily link to them in the next post if people want to point me at them in comments.

Best Reward Idea: For the “No Dominion” campaign, it’s clear that the extra short stories were the best reward idea offered up. That makes sense: I’m a writer, the people supporting this are my readers, so of course they’d like extra stories. I write fast, so a short story is a reasonably time-effective reward to offer.

Worst Reward Idea: My worst reward idea, hands down, was the Unique Kickstarter-Patrons-Only Calendars. For two reasons, as it turned out. First–or the one I discovered first, anyway–is that it didn’t appear to be an exciting rollover point for people. Short stories garnered faaaaar more enthusiasm. So that’s important to know.

Second, though, and actually far more relevant than the popularity angle is the cost-ineffectiveness. I knew standard 11×17″ calendars would be too expensive, even if I was ordering a couple hundred of them, but it turned out (and I didn’t look this up beforehand, bad me) that 7×11″ calendars aren’t noticeably cheaper than the big ones. So I have learned to, for pity’s sake, do all the due diligence for cost effectiveness ahead of time next time, and, er, if I’m going to do calendars again, make them a high-end buy in bonus, like the handful of them that went to patrons who bought in at $250+, rather than an “everybody who buys in at $30 or more gets one”.

While calendars are probably not something everybody’s likely to try to put together, the principle stands: if it’s something that has a high cost point, only include it at the high end of the buy-ins. Learn from me on this one.

A Mistake I Made: When I went into the “No Dominion” campaign I only intended to write 1 extra short story. This made the higher end rollover points of “if we break $15K I’ll write another novella!” seem pretty reasonable. But then during hte course of the campaign I became overwhelmed with excitement and ended up throwing freebies and things out, with a total of I think 5 short stories and 3 chapters of a book I haven’t written.

You can see how this starts becoming not-cost-effective. The *smart* thing to do would have been say “And at $15K we will have something REALLY NIFTY! But you have to get us there, or almost there, before I’ll tell you what it is!”

As it happens, I’ve ended up with 3 novellas*, 5 short stories, & 3 chapters of a book I haven’t written to serve up. Subtract $2K for Amazon fees, $5K for limited edition print run fees, and $1K for calendars (and hoping to God that shipping will come out of that $8K), well, that leaves me with about $12.5K, which isn’t a *bad* rate for 3 novellas, 5 short stories & 3 chapters of a book that doesn’t exist, but it’s not a *great* rate either. So in case of success beyond wildest dreams, make certain to have your rewards set up at a level that is not, you know. Insane.

*Although I did say if it broke $30K and earned the book that doesn’t exist, that there would either be a total of 3 novellas, or one novella and one novel, because I was not proposing to write 3 novellas and a novel. And now “No Dominion” has lurched into novel-length territory and I’m not sure if I’ve covered my ass there or not, really…