Crowdsource funding for your work

Now that the “age of self-publishing” is being heralded for both long-form journalists and book authors, the question of self-funding, so to speak, is on more and more writers’ minds. The ability to publish and market one’s work, using platforms like Amazon’s Kindle Singles or Apple’s iBookstore, can be freeing, once the piece is complete. But getting it to that point can also be a challenge, as funding to cover the sometimes substantial expenses of investigative, long-term projects is harder and harder to come by (though opportunities do pop up here and there).

So why not go straight to your audience?

A few sites have popped up that help individuals raise funds for their projects through crowdsourcing. The 10,000 Words blog recently featured one such service, targeted specifically at photojournalists, called Photographers submit proposals and budgets for their project, which are reviewed by a “panel of advisors.” When a project is accepted, it appears on the site and visitors to the site can start funding it in amounts as low as $10. Like other sites, such as Kickstarter, the project only receives the funds if it meets it target by a pre-set deadline. A unique feature of the model, though, is that a funder who provides more than 50% of a project’s budget can get first publication rights. From the site’s How It Works page:

Interested media can acquire first publication rights in their market by funding up to 50% of a project. The money raised on is meant for expenses only; it is up to the photojournalist to negotiate a publication fee.
Backers will have the first, exclusive viewing of a finished project for 4 days before the photographer can show the work elsewhere.
Photographers whose projects are funded through keep the full rights and control over their images.

Also of note: “ may display finished projects on its homepage,” which makes it sound like they get first publication rights, in addition to the 15% cut they take from the funds raised. So, the model’s not a total dream for freelance photojournalists, but, depending on the project, it could open up previously closed doors for some.

Besides Kickstarter, which supports projects ranging from documentary films to comic books to open-source flashlights, freelance writers can check out IndieGoGo — which hosts a similarly wide variety of projects, including journalistic endeavours — or ChipIn, which uses a widget you embed on your homepage or blog or social networking profile to gather funds, instead of hosting profiles of projects looking for funding on its own site. For people who don’t have a page of their own, ChipIn will create a simple page at a dedicated URL. You may have already heard of Spot.Us, since it is exclusively focused on funding journalistic projects. Like, it partners with media organizations to get stories published after they’re funded. When it comes time to publish, their model is a little different, though (see video below and the site’s About page).

These sites might not be freelancers’ first choices, due to some obvious drawbacks: there’s no guarantee that all your hard work promoting the project will gain it the funding it needs, and you’re sharing your ideas publicly before you get a chance to work on them. But we’re curious to know how often the model works. Have you tried crowdsourcing funding, or do you know anyone who has? The sites listed about posts their success stories, of course, but we’d like to hear some non-promotional tales about your experiences with crowdsourcing funding for your work in the comments.

Posted on July 5, 2011 at 11:42 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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