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My strength as a journalist has always been coming up with story and project ideas. When I worked in newspapers I struggled to find time to bring these ideas to fruition. Now that I freelance I struggle to find funding.
Porter Fox recently released his book “Deep: The story of skiing and the future of snow.” The book chronicles the history of skiing and the impact climate change is having on snow and the ski industry. It wasn’t just the topic that intrigued me. Fox, the features editor for Powder magazine, has also been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Believer, Outside, Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure, Narrative, The Literary Review and Third Coast, among others. Yet instead of going a traditional publishing route, friends created a publishing company to expedite the process and print the book. They paid Fox an advance to cover his costs for two years of reporting, but they turned to Kickstarter to help with the print costs and raised almost $29,000. More people are turning to crowd-funding projects, but not everyone is successful.
Fox made time for a quick interview during his book tour to talk about why and how to crowd-fund a project. Below is some of what he shared. For more information and complete rules and guidelines for using Kickstarter, visit www.kickstarter.com.
Why did you decide to crowd-fund this project?
I’ve done a lot of fundraising and I’ve used Kickstarter before. I used it to fund a re-launch of Nowhere magazine (a travel magazine). It’s a great discovery website. People read about your project even if they don’t fund it. If you get picked to be featured you can get a lot of hits. We got featured as a staff pick and got 4 million hits on our page in one day. Wherever we go people, already know the name of the book and what it’s about, even if they didn’t personally contribute to its funding. We also made sure to put the statistics on snow and ice and climate change high up on the page. So even if people just clicked to glance at it and didn’t give to the project they might learn a little bit more about what is happening.
How did you make your project stand-out from the others?
It’s all about the project. It has to be a good project and have a good message. It can’t just be “I want to go on a trip around the world.” The video has to be very well produced and have a great message and be engaging. It also is about the promotion of the page. If you have a good project and a good video, you then have to do a tremendous amount of social media and web and email campaigns. If you are doing a four week funding project, plan on at least four hours a day of promoting it. A lot of people think it’s just free money. There is no free money. It takes a lot of work.
How did you decide when to launch your Kickstarter campaign? (The website requires a deadline between one and 60 days to meet the funding goal).
About a third of the way through the book project we decided to do it. At first we thought of it just as a marketing thing and then we realized we also had to pay this exorbitant print bill. It’s great to time a fundraising project near when it physically launches or when you are releasing a book because of all the momentum.
Projects must have a funding goal on Kickstarter and if they don’t reach the goal, none of the backers are charged. How did you decide on your goal?
We got an estimate from the printer. You have to be reasonable. You don’t want to set a goal too high and then not hit it.
Would you use Kickstarter again for a future project?
Oh yeah. I don’t waste my time writing grants anymore. Kickstarter is 100 percent based on merit. And each person gives individually. If you do a good job you’ll get money. If you are lazy, you won’t get funded. And that’s how it should be. I’ve seen below-average projects get hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants because they have a great grant writer or an inside track with the organization. With Kickstarter you just have to have a good project and do a good job with it. ♦
— “Ask an Expert,” is a new feature in Outdoors Unlimited. Interviews are conducted by Outdoors Unlimited editor Kelsey Dayton. Please send your craft-related questions, or names of experts you’d like to hear from to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask an Expert: Porter Fox on crowd-funding your next project