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ysabetwordsmith in crowdfunding

People Who Boost the Signal in Crowdfunding

The LiveJournal Spotlight last month raised an interesting question about agents and promoters in crowdfunding.  Traditional publication in most media comes with someone to promote your work for you.  Crowdfunding generally entails promoting your own work.  However, not everyone is comfortable with self-promotion; many creators feel awkward or embarrassed about asking people for money.  Fortunately the crowdfunding community is well supplied with fans doing word-of-mouth advertising.  So let's discuss our options here ...

1) Learn how to promote your own work gracefully.  If you feel awkward about promoting your work, that can spill over onto your audience and drive people away.  If you find methods that feel good to you, though, that tends to attract viewers in a more positive way.  For a detailed exploration of this, see "Un-Slimy Marketing" in the Three Micahs series.

2) Get someone else(s) to promote your work for you.  It's often easier to enthuse about someone else's work than your own work.  Plus, some folks just happen to do this sort of thing really well.  This is why mainstream markets have agents, promotion departments, gallery owners, etc.  Most crowdfunding projects have at least some fans who generate word-of-mouth advertising.  If you're not comfortable promoting your own work, you can expand on this area instead.

Conventional publishing comes with a lot of services that fall on the creator in crowdfunding.  This has led to the rise of freelance editors, illustrators, web designers, and other folks who work with creators to do things that person may not have the time or skills to do personally.  There's no reason we can't add promotion to the list of services available.

As mentioned above, most projects already have some folks who provide word-of-mouth advertising.  This is an excellent way to support a project when you don't have much if any money to contribute.  You can make a big difference just by boosting the signal and driving traffic to your favorite projects.  We may call these folks promoters, barkers, linkers, or something else.  Promoters do things like linking to your project's updates, posting about it on Twitter, encouraging people to come give you prompts, etc.  Agents are a bit more proactive -- they'll go out and find opportunities for you, such as scheduling interviews or pitching your latest completed issue to a hardcopy publisher.

In crowdfunding, people may use cash or barter to get what they want.  Barter is especially useful because it lets people trade skill for skill in a talent-rich but often cash-poor community.  Here, people tend to want  each other's skills.  If you're a creator, the people frequenting your project love it; and if you're an enthusiastic barker, your creator friends love what you do for them.  Creators, consider what you could do to encourage people to promote your project for you.  For instance, you might reveal sections of writing or stages of a sketch in exchange for linkbacks.  You might create locked perk-posts especially for your barkers.  You might make a private arrangement with someone to echo all your update posts on a service that you don't use personally, in exchange for letting them design a recurring bit character for a series.  Barkers, if you know that you have a lively audience following your recommendations, consider approaching your favorite creator(s) to make the arrangement a little more formal.  Look at the kinds of perks already offered in a project to get ideas about what you could ask for and probably get in exchange for your word-of-mouth advertising.

Bear in mind that this works best when people are genuinely enthused about the work.  Conventional marketing often involves pimping stuff that you only care about because someone pays you.  Crowdfunding is all about supporting projects you love.  So, creators should be looking among their fans for people with promotional skills, or looking at a list of promising barkers to see who might like their project.  Barkers should focus on projects they really care about and want to see succeed.  If you're looking for new projects to promote, let folks know your tastes so they can recommend things you will probably enjoy.

I play both sides of this game.  As a creator, I have readers who promote the Poetry Fishbowl by linking to its prompt calls and/or individual poems.  I tried out the idea of offering a linkback perk (each linkback revealed a new verse in an epic poem) and people loved that.  As a supporter, there are several projects where I link to just about every post I see; and of course I support crowdfunding in general so there are many random recommendations as well.  My blog audience has learned my tastes over time, and while different people are interested in different topics that I cover, I'm generally good at directing some amount of traffic wherever I point a link.  I also review favorite projects on sites that archive reviews.  Overall, I encourage people to connect and help each other cover the crowdfunding stuff that needs to be done.  You don't need to do everything yourself if you have a good network of friends with different skills.

Creators: How do you feel about promoting your own work?  What methods do you use?  Do you have fans who provide word-of-mouth advertising for your project(s)?  If so, what if anything do you give them as perks?

Supporters: How do you help promote your favorite project(s)?  Are you looking for new ones to promote, and if so, what kind?  What type of perks encourage you to promote a project?