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How Does Web3 Book Crowdfunding Work?

Meet Sarah, a passionate novelist who has been working on her WIP for years. She’s finally ready to bring her story to life, but literary agents won’t give her the time of day, and she’s broke and cannot afford even the cover design of her manuscript. 

She opts for crowdfunding the book and see if she can offset the self-publishing costs with help from her backers.

But wait – two weeks have passed, and she has only collected the meager amount of $50 of her overall goal of $1,000. People don’t trust that she can deliver her promised rewards because she’s a first-time author with barely any social media. 

So, Sarah opted for a Web3 crowdfunding program where her backers are guaranteed rewards as soon as the milestones are achieved. It seems like the smart contracts deliver these automatically to her backers by airdropping them the NFTs of her promised illustrations and special chapters.

It takes her a while, but Sarah achieves her goal of $1,000 and manages to get her novel published both in Web2 and Web3. Is this even reality

Well, it can be. 

Here’s our primer on how an NFT book crowdfunding works, and how you as a Web3 author can benefit from it:

What is Book Crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding involves publicly raising funds to develop a book project, usually because the creator cannot incur the costs themselves. Crowdfunding only happens in book self-publishing, as traditional publishers almost invariably take care of the associated costs of publishing the book.

Not all crowdfunded books have to be novels or even high-content books altogether: short story collections, poem collections, and even many low-content books like journals can and have been crowdfunded.

Even in Web2, crowdfunding was practically an unknown concept until 2021 to 2022. It all became an answer to how expensive it really is to self-publish your book.

Sure, you can, “technically”, self-publish your book on Amazon KDP, IngramSpark, Lulu, and others at no cost, and start making money from your copies.

But in practice, you’d be lucky to sell more than 10 copies through this method, if you don’t pay for any additional services or are skilled enough to perform them on your own.

At the very list, you’d need:

A cover designer ($200 to $1,000)

If you use free cover design services like Amazon KDP’s cover creator, well… not to throw any shade at them but the covers look dreadfully ugly. 

Even the most on-a-budget self-published books pay for a professional cover designer because that’s the most important detail to attract readers and convey the essence of your book. 

Even designers prefer to outsource their covers to other people, as a book cover designer has to understand the author’s specific niche and the cover designs trending there. This one’s not a service just everyone can do.

Interior Design & Formatting ($100 to $500)

Without a properly formatted interior, the book will be unreadable. People will literally return it to the store or digital marketplace if they cannot read it, so you’d likely have to outsource this to an interior designer or do the formatting yourself.

Some people can format the interior layout of their book for print and digital format through YouTube tutorials, but not everyone has the time nor the tech savviness to wing it on their own, so they’d rather outsource. 

Printing costs ($100 to $1,000+)

If you choose to print physical copies and forgo a print-on-demand format, then you’d need to incur these on your own. 

Obviously, this depends on how many physical copies you print and the printing costs of your book, but expect to pay no less than $100 even on the low end for a handful dozen of copies.

Marketing and promotion ($200 to $1,000+)

Even on the low end, a self-programmed book marketing strategy that extends beyond shamelessly self-promoting on X writer’s lifts, Facebook groups, and Instagram stories will cost you money. 

Paying for Facebook or Instagram ads is the most popular way marketing strategy these days, especially for authors who don’t like showing their face on camera, but most of them will cost at minimum $20 per day, and its recommended to start paid ad campaigns at leat two weeks before the release date. Add that to a spreadsheet and you’ll soon notice a bill of $200+ on ad spend alone.

So, go for crowdfunding instead. 

You get to focus on what you love, and eventually, you’ll get the funds to outsource the things that you can’t do on your own. Hooray for crowdfunding!

Web3 Book Crowdfunding Removes Barriers

Sike.

If only it were that easy. Because even for that, you need to invest some level of money. You need to attract people to your crowdfunding listing, and that usually involves a modest level of clout, high-quality illustrations, or at the very least the cover design (which already costs a hefty fee), some level of marketing, and shameless self-promotion.

Covering many of these costs is precisely why an author would want to crowdfund their projects, but it seems like they’d still have to pay for them anyway to even stand out from other competing crowdfunding projects.

Why Crowdfunding in Web3 and not Web3?

At a glance, Web3 crowdfunding doesn’t seem too different than doing so on Web2. In fact, there seems to be little reason to do so, at least until closer inspection. 

The first issue with Web2 crowdfunding is the lack of a secondary market for crowdfunding rewards, making the whole process feel more like a donation to the writer rather than a partially reciprocal effort. Nothing wrong with donations, but then the process might as well be renamed to “GoFundMe”.  

Once a crowdfunding campaign ends, backers have practically no options for trading or selling their rewards, especially if it’s a novel author or one without a big following. 

Why would someone who doesn’t know this author care about a limited edition copy or an illustration if it has no intrinsic value? 

This makes it really challenging for a backer to liquidate their rewards if they want to, and even if they won’t admit it, it also makes them less interested in investing in something they can’t ever get anything out of, besides the book.

On the other hand, Web3 crowdfunding rewards are tokenized. Even if you can’t do anything with the token right now, the author’s work could be appreciated in a year, and you might be able to sell the NFT easier on an NFT book marketplace than you can sell a signed copy on Amazon or eBay.

NFT Book Crowdfunding Changes The Game

And that’s why Web3 crowdfunding has the possibility of offering backers more attractive rewards than traditional crowdfunding: tokenized assets are much more tangible than promises.

In traditional crowdfunding, you promise backers rewards in exchange for them helping your book out. These rewards could be limited edition copies or illustrations, but most of the time these have to be delivered if, and once, the target milestone for the crowdfunding is met, the whole self-publishing process (which can take months) is fulfilled, and then the author has time to send out the rewards.

But through NFTs, authors can tokenize part of the book’s content from the get-go as their milestones are met. They don’t risk piracy, thanks to Blockchain technology’s tamper-free properties.

Thus, an author of the book to be crowdfunded can tokenize a specific chapter, illustration, or even individual pages and offer the sale of these tokens as part of their crowdfunding campaign.

This can offer the audience something tangible, or at least the guarantee that they’ll be given these benefits through the binding smart contracts in case the writer cannot deliver them immediately.

Crowdfunding Can Lead To Mismanagement

Another issue with some crowdfunding platforms is how they lack robust mechanisms to verify the legitimacy of projects or simply ensure that funds are used properly. Sometimes, a project creator can mismanage the resources, as happened with the Throne War MMO videogame, Crowfall.

Backers were offered all sorts of perks when the game went live for several years, but the game underwent a development hell, misdelivered, and suddenly all backers were wondering why they invested money in a game that was dead on arrival due to lack of marketing funds. 

And it’s not like the same thing can’t happen with NFTs. It would be comical to pretend that rug-pull scams similar to these crowdfunding fiascos don’t happen all the time in Web3.

The advantage here is in properly programmed smart contracts. This, in a Web3 crowdfunding campaign, could be used to ensure that these rewards are delivered automatically as soon as the milestones are met.

Thus, if backers are promised a special NFT illustration once 1000 tokens are sold, then they’ll be airdropped said NFTs automatically as soon as that milestone is achieved.

So, the possibility of these automatic rewards that don’t depend on the creator as much as Web2 crowdfunding rewards do can make it come off as more trustworthy in the long run.

Web3 Book Crowdfunding Offers Phygital Rewards

Another commonly cited reward of higher levels of Web2 crowdfunding is a signed and numbered hardback book, or recognition of the backer by adding their name to the book’s backmatter.

Detractors of NFT books often cite the reliance on the Web3 digital medium and how it cannot be linked to physical assets in real time, but this isn’t entirely true.

Web3 crowdfunding programs can allow the project creator to reward their backers and token holders with both the NFT digital, signed and numbered copy and also deliver an equivalent hardback version at their physical location. 

Web3 Crowdfunding Creates a Stronger Community

Not only does a successful NFT book crowdfunding campaign get fans excited about your book, but they also get excited about the book’s journey as you deliver tokenized assets of the book to them. One of the assets could even be offering them access to your community, which could be useful if you have a platform on social media to leverage.

The Bottom Line

Web2 crowdfunding once offered a glimmer of hope for self-published authors who did not want to break the bank to fulfill their dreams, but crowdfunding platforms are overrun these days, and it’s getting harder to stand out with so many scams.

While Web3 book crowdfunding is still in relative infancy, it does offer a fresh perspective on how crowdfunding could be done while still offering tangible rewards to backers.

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