Crowdsource Your Self-Publishing Project without Asking for Money

Today’s guest post is by blogger/author Dana Sitar, giving indie authors some tips on how to fund and find support for the publishing of their books.

You want to self-publish, but the numbers you’re hearing from experts are a little intimidating. Can you afford to produce a quality book without the backing of a publisher or thousands of fans?

Kickstarting your indie project is all the rage these days, and with good reason; allowing fans and readers to elect your next projects by funding them is a perfect way to ensure you’re creating exactly what they want next. But don’t get swept away by this trend—crowdfunding (asking for money) isn’t the only way to tap into your audience for support.

Just What Is Crowdsourcing?

Crowdsourcing (hiring or sourcing services from your audience) is all about getting your readers involved in the process—without asking for money. If you have a modest-sized audience, asking them for money may not be the most effective use of your time with them. You won’t raise enough funds, and you’ll waste valuable community-building effort on raising money. Engaging your loyal followers through crowdsourcing will be far more valuable to your self-published project than the bit of money you might squeeze out of them.

Rather than asking your supporters for money to fund the services you need to publish a book, why not ask them to provide the services? Tap into your audience to find the publishing and marketing skills you don’t possess: book cover design, producing a book trailer video, flyer or poster design, social media marketing, website design, etc.

Here’s What I Did

To publish my last book, A Writer’s Bucket List, I DIY’d a lot of tasks. As a publisher/authorpreneur, I’ve had to acquire skills like web design, HTML and CSS editing, Photoshop, social media marketing, copywriting, video editing, and more. But I knew I needed a second (or more) set of eyes for editing and proofreading the book—you simply can’t DIY an objective look at your manuscript!

I had to stay thrifty, but I know that editing is the number-one service you shouldn’t skimp on. I decided to source editing I could afford from my audience—I put out the call to my email list and hired three great editors who were willing to do the work for a small fee and the credit and experience, plus had a couple of writer friends insist they could look over the manuscript for free.

Before you scoff at this, remember: There was a time when I worked for free, and you probably have too. I trusted my skills at the time, but knew I needed some experience before I could get better paid work. I put that same faith into the DIY Writers who helped with Bucket List, and I received invaluable feedback that helped the manuscript shine.

Involving my audience in the production and promotion of my book wasn’t about getting services for free; it was about the incredible engagement that happens because readers are so excited about and invested in the book. Connecting with readers this way has proven to be one of my most effective tools for author platform building.

Where Can You Use Your Audience’s Skills?

Your approach will vary depending on your audience and industry. I write guides for writers, so my audience is a great place to mine proofreaders and editors. If you write fiction, you could turn to readers for input on the story, since they are the ones you’re writing it for.

Throughout the process of writing and publishing your book, you’ll want a little help or a second opinion—copyediting, proofreading, cover design, marketing materials, etc. Before you turn to strangers at 99designs or Craigslist for affordable services, consider your own audience, and reap double the benefits: Find quality services for your book, and engage your audience in a personal, unique way!

Consider reaching out to your blog readers, newsletter subscribers, Twitter followers, and Facebook friends on your next self-published book to:

  • source affordable copyediting and proofreading from skilled but new editors.
  • source a cover designer, or receive input on your DIY cover design.
  • offer a free copy of your book to beta readers for feedback.
  • source affordable marketing help, like producing a book trailer or designing and distributing posters and fliers.
  • pull together a launch team to help you promote your book during the first week or two.

When you have an engaged audience, even if it’s small, you can also have fun with social marketing to stay connected and spread the word. Host a blog hop or Twitter chat, share tweetables, or launch a Facebook group to gain exposure for your book, plus start a conversation with readers who love your work.

When you’re ready to take the next step, by all means, up your budget and spring for professional services! But for an early self-published book, your audience is an invaluable tool. Crowdsourcing services from them will not only make self-publishing affordable; it will also allow you to forge a deeper connection and draw them into your project like nothing else can.


Dana Sitar is a freelance blogger, author, and entrepreneur with a mission to guide you in the pursuit of happiness through writing. She shares resources, tips, and tools for writers in search of a path through DIY Writing at her website.

Photo Credit for featured image (top): marissa cap via Compfight cc

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    1. So happy to hear that, Jessica! You’re not alone; there are a lot of awesome authors seeking to self-publish and intimidated by the costs they believe they’ll have to pay. Crowdsourcing is a fun and rewarding alternative!

  1. That was a great way of getting people to help make your project a reality. But don’t rule out funding by sites like Kickstarter or indegogo! My base was small as well, but I successfully funded two of my own projects through Kickstarter, and have advised several others (all successful so far) To be sure, doing a Kickstarter campaign is a ton of work before, during and after, and you would be well advised to do your homework and have as much of the project done, and your target backers scoped out and ready to contact before you start the clock ticking.
    Well done on your project. One of the benefits of both this way of doing things is building an engaged support group that continues to be part of your circle. (I’m glad to be part of yours!)

    1. Thanks, Anne 🙂 Happy to have connected with you through this launch, too! I definitely haven’t ruled out Kickstarter as a possibility for future projects, and I’ll turn to you first for advice if I do.

  2. What a great idea! I’ve heard crowdsourcing mentioned, but couldn’t figure out the nuts and bolts of it. I have a mystery just coming out on Amazon (The Domino Deaths). I got Beta readers, but wanted further input because, quite frankly, doing the multiple rounds of editing takes all the profit out of a book that was a long time building. I figured it would be cheaper to do a short test run than to xerograph half a dozen copies and ship them all over the landscape. I’ve got 2 more books in the works, so I’ll give crowdsourcing a whirl. Thanks for the brilliant post.

    1. Thank you, Helen 🙂 As a pro herself, Susanne can probably offer you tips on the best route to take to ensure you get the most out of your editing services to avoid losing all your profits.

      I’ll admit you sacrifice some of the expertise gained with experience when you hire novice editors, but for my purposes, the community-building benefits of involving my audience in the book’s production far outweighed any drawbacks.

  3. Thanks for the great idea!

    Some of this applies to people who might be preparing to submit manuscripts for traditional publishing too. The more polished before an agent or publisher sees it, the better!

  4. Thank you for the heart inspiring “keep on keeping on” thread of your message. Great ideas in this article for just “gettin’ on with the stuff you do after the book is done” I am not so intimidated as before. Heck, it all sounds like fun.

  5. C.S., this post totally rocks. I used this approach with splendid results for my recently released book, The Heart and Craft of Writing Compelling Description. I recommend it without reservation and teach it to students in self-publishing classes. I’m adding your post to my resource list. You do NOT have to invest your retirement fund to self, indie, author or artisnal (whatever tern you prefer) publish a book! But you do have to be willing to pay it forward when the next project comes along.

  6. Bravo! One of the best posts I’ve read in a long while on any self-pub blog or website. One of the biggest things that has peeved me about the evolution of the indie self-publication route is the false competition between indies (besides all the phony self-promotion). I see that many are now assembling themselves into co-ops and collectives, but then they turn right around and snub newbies through “standards”. I think it’s funny how the whole movement started as a rage against gatekeepers, but now the indie authors (many self-appointed) are now the gatekeepers. Indies need to embrace each other and help one another. Proofreading and help with editing can easily be done without the need for thousands of dollars. Self-publishing has always been a favorite market for exploiters. Indies need to get involved with each other and make sure self-pub stays “honest”. Oh yeah, now all those “useless” English degrees are starting to look not so useless anymore.

  7. This is one of the most surprising subjects in the writing field that I have discovered. Thank you. It is obvious and sensible to utilize your talents and the talents of your writing friends and followers to assist others, and to attract others to your efforts. It won’t always be total success, of course, but any assistance one acquires or offers will be beneficial. I am going to spread the word about Dana’s blog through a writers group to which I belong. I hope they, too, review this intelligent posting.

  8. This is a great post and I also enjoyed reading the replies. I have for many years thought that if only authors could help each other more, particularly with the all important editing/proofreading, we would be doing ourselves and each other a well-deserved favour. While it’s hard to find the time to edit someone else’s work while writing one’s own book, for example, even editing their first chapter can be extremely helpful, particularly for newer authors. It’s not uncommon for writing ‘mistakes’ to be systemic, so early warning can be useful – as it has been with my books. Also, the all-important first chapter can benefit from feedback on plot, structure, readability, whether the characters are interesting, and whether the reader might be likely to keep reading 🙂 One issue I have found, though, is the difference between American and British English, which can hinder editing at first, but I believe this difficulty can be overcome (I’m Australian).

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