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Some Thoughts on How I Crowdfunded The Translation Of My Book Iceland: A Stormy Motorcycle Adventure Into German
Written by
Sherrie McCarthy
January 2015
Written by
Sherrie McCarthy
January 2015

This past Spring I successfully ran a crowdfunding project to get my book, Iceland: A Stormy Motorcycle Adventure, translated from English into German. I do believe the end result was more out of luck rather than a well thought out and successful campaign. So if you are thinking about crowdfunding your own book or creative project, read on for some of my thoughts on the entire project as well as some lessons learned.

Some Background To The Project

Our translator is a new translator looking to build his body of work. As such he quoted us a low price on the cost of the translation. When we compared his work to the other samples we received from other more established translators we found he was almost as good and way cheaper. He would do the entire work for 600 Euro. As we (myself and my partner Patrick, who helps out in someway on every book and at times co-authors them), wanted to make sure that we reached our goal we thought a low price for the same quality meant a much higher chance of reaching our goal. So we posted our project on Startnext (a German crowdfunding platform) and left the amount needed at 600. Any amount we made over the 600 we would use for professional editors/giving the extra profits direct to Robert, as he was doing the work for a rock bottom fee.

Choosing a small financial goal seemed like a good idea at the time. After all a small amount of money must be easier to raise than a large amount – right?

As we learned, not necessarily.

To run a successful campaign requires a large amount of effort. Ideally you have the idea and begin to promote and develop interest in your project months before you go live with the actual crowdfunding campaign.

To me, the amount of 600 Euro seemed so low that it did not require the extra effort. We were so wrong. Asking people to part with their hard earned money is asking them to part with it. No matter if you are asking 300 people for 2 Euro or 3000. They want to know that the money is going to something they feel is worth it.

The other obstacle faced with such a low goal was one I had not anticipated. Due to the fact that 600 seemed like a low goal, I did not feel like it was worth the effort of putting a lot of promotional effort in. It was a combination of feeling it should not be too hard to hit 600 and that there were so many other things I could be doing with my time. Things like writing or promoting books that were ready for purchase right away. Things that might result in the 600 anyway. Or even if not, if I made 300 that month I got to keep it, whereas with a crowdfunding project I would only see the payout if we made our goal. Anything less is returned to the supporters.

In the end, the fact that we got funded was more a fluke. Right up until the last minute we only had 50 Euro of our total goal of 600. The weekend before the campaign was due to close Patrick had a radio interview to promote his book Fernweh and to talk about travelling the world by motorcycle. Happily, the interviewer was just as happy to devote part of the program to our journey through Iceland and the campaign to get our book translated.

Did the radio plug make that big of a difference? We have no idea.

One donor swooped in last minute and donated 600 Euro, pushing our final total up to 650 Euro. We still do not know who this person is. They never requested a single one of the thank you incentives. We wrote them to thank them and never heard a thing back. Not a request for a package or why they wanted to give us the 600 Euro. Was it because they heard it on the radio? We do not know. We just know that neither of the 3 of us know the donor in question. So it was not a family or friend who wanted the project to go ahead.

The main thing is we were successful, but it may have had a lot more to do with luck!

Iceland was never an easy ride

But it was always an amazing one!

So would I do it again?

Absolutely. We are looking into crowdfunding the documentary of our trip through Iceland.

Some key things we will be implementing this time around:

We are working with someone we know and trust and has a solid reputation as a graphic designer and film editor.

We are already planning the campaign that will be launched on a crowdfunding platform in 3 – 4 months time. AFTER we have done the building of a community to support the project and to build awareness around it. And since this one will be a highly professional project we are going to be looking for thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. And this is not to suggest that the Iceland book was never meant to be a professional product. But the price was one based on a new translator and no extra funds for professional formatting. The content might be solid, but the book was still one done by an individual rather than a publishing house. The sale price will reflect that. Under 5 dollars as opposed to 10 or more for an e-book. The work on the Iceland documentary is with an individual who does this for a living. This is not a building of his brand. He will do the work for a fair price, but not a low price. And that is ok as the end result will reflect that.

Also, somehow aiming for thousands and failing does not seem like the same waste of time that trying for 600 and potentially failing did.

And I think that is where I fell short in the Iceland translation campaign. I didn't feel like the effort required to reach out and do the promotion required would be worth it no matter what the outcome of the campaign. And that was not something I had anticipated as a potential problem. Promoting would still get my name and my books out there, I really thought I was ready to do it. But with my daughter under a year and a half and not in daycare at the time, that combined with no family living in the country let alone the city, my time was precious. I had two days a week where the babysitter came for 3 hours.Those 6 hours encompassed all the time I was to have to myself for the week. To do all my writing, book promoting and self care. Somehow each time the babysitter arrived, doing the promotion required for the Iceland campaign seemed like more effort than it was worth. I  wanted to spend that time writing new things.

And in the end, for my sanity, that really was more important. I needed that time to write. I was a happier mother and partner for getting it. To have spent it otherwise was not a good idea. Perhaps now that she is in daycare it would be different. But at the time it was not. I needed to write and not promote.

So am I suggesting that you should only crowdfund if you're looking for big money?

Absolutely not.

I am saying that you should set a financial goal that is not only achievable but makes the entire venture worth it no matter what the final outcome will be. And assess the time you have to devote to making the project worth it beforehand. Crowdfunding can be a fantastic option. But it is not necessarily an easy one.

A version of this post appeared on my blog www.sherriemccarthy.com in September.

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