Ginger Black Blog

The Wisdom of Crowds

Julia Thum - Thursday, April 20, 2017

This blog about crowd funding originally appeared in the book review blog, BaattyAboutBooks.

I had never heard of crowdfunding until we embarked on the path to publication for Riverside Lane.  Now, having raised £9,000 through Kickstarter, I cannot believe this egalitarian, democratic form of publishing passed me by for so long.  I write with Gaynor Pengelly under the pen name Ginger Black and we crowdfunded our first novel, Riverside Lane, published by Momentum Books

Having  dreamed up and co-written a novel, honed our social media skills and developed the Ginger Black brand, our friends and family already thought we were ambitious, but few understood the most challenging of all projects was yet to come; that of setting up and running a successful crowdfunding campaign.  Indeed, hardly any knew what crowdfunding was,  and therewith stood our first problem. 

Stripped down to the bare essentials, crowdfunding our novel involved asking friends, family, colleagues and contacts to pre-order our book.  Most understood this and wanted to help, but once online were bamboozled by jargon.  They were not ‘buying’ but ‘pledging’,   the novel  we had spoken about for so long - wasn’t  a ‘book’ but a ‘project’ for which, instead of a purchase price, they were offered an escalating menu of ‘pledging options’ ranging from  £10 for a paperback to £1,500 for ten hardbacks, launch tickets and rights to our first born children.  Then, like a sponsorship form (but less altruistic) , there was the potential embarrassment of putting their name to the lowest level, ‘pledge’ a measly tenner beside a neighbour’s very public £200.  Or the awkward option of anonymity, risking the assumption they hadn’t joined the fun at all.  From our end, we rode the emotional rollercoaster of friends and colleagues from decades ago reaching out with kind words and pledges-a-plenty and some nearest and dearest avoiding it like an embarrassing plague.  For me, this was the hardest part and I was most grateful to have Gaynor by my side.  Together we smiled through the promise of pledges from friends and family who did not understand that, ‘beneath the bonnet’ of the campaign, we were privy to every penny pledged…..or not pledged as the case may be.

There are two of us so double the contacts, but with £9,000 to raise address books were never going to be enough.  We spread the word through our website and social media and, as Riverside Lane is set in Bray where we live, involved local press and businesses as well as leafletting residents.  And all the while, like a digital thermometer, the funding gradually crept up.

Crowdfunding platforms vary, but Kickstarter pledges are only called in if the target is reached.  We nearly fell short, but a last minute interview with the wonderful Anne Diamond on BBC Berkshire generated the last few pledges we needed and Riverside Lane was on the map.  There was a hardback, a party for pledgers, and the paperback launches this month.

It was a marathon, but worth the effort.  We feel proud of our achievement, learnt a lot along the way and have a beautiful book for our troubles.  Now we’re half way through our second novel for which we hope the path to publication will be straight-forward, but that depends how Riverside Lane sells, so all novelists, our fate still relies on the wisdom of crowds.  They haven’t let us down so far. 

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