My Crowdfunding Success Story
Duncan Lockerbie is a successful crowdfunder, have reached target for his start-up business Tapsalteerie – A Scots language poetry publisher. Here he shares his story about how and why he used crowdfunding, and what it means for the future of his business.
I’d had the idea to start my own publishing company for a couple of years, but I was never quite sure exactly how to get the project off the ground. I knew I needed money first of all. I also knew the usual ways that businesses get start-up funding weren’t really open to me. Who would want to fund a poetry publisher? More to the point, who would want to fund a publisher specialising in a language other than English? Poetry publishing isn’t exactly a money-spinning activity at the best of times, even more so in the relatively obscure world of Scots language writing.
I had got to hear of crowdfunding through a number of different sources. If you spend any time at all on the internet (and I certainly do that) it’s pretty hard not to hear about it. I even went to a crowdfunding workshop in Aberdeen. The more I thought about it, the more that crowdfunding seemed like the best way to go. It would help me raise the money I needed, it would raise some publicity for Tapsalteerie before I even started the company, and I felt I had a project that people would want to donate to.
So I duly had a go. I set my funding target low, the absolute minimum I required, so as to have the best chance possible of actually reaching the target. I made a video – at the crowdfunding workshop we were told in no uncertain terms that a video is a necessity – despite my total lack of experience of being in front of a camera. I wrote a piece about my project, came up with an affordable reward structure and stuck it all up online. Then I tweeted and facebooked the hell out of it, passing it round all my friends, contacts in the world of Scots writing and whoever else I could possibly think of.
Miraculously, somehow, it worked. Within three weeks I had passed my target. I was stammygastered. I had honestly thought I would struggle to reach the target in two months, which was the closing date I had set to begin with. People who I hadn’t seen in years donated; it was really nice to reconnect with them. There was also support from unexpected sources – a well-known Scottish author being amongst them.
So how did I manage to get on so well? After having thought about it a bit, I’ve come up with a few explanations. Importantly, you should never underestimate the goodwill of friends and family. That sent me a long way to my target. It has to be said though that I would never have received such a large amount of goodwill if I didn’t have such a strong project behind me.
There were three aspects of the project that I think appealed to people. Firstly, I was setting up a business. I made it clear that after this initial fund-raising it was going to be a self-sustaining, self-financing business. All I needed was a start. Secondly, my business had some cultural and social value. Not only was I starting a new poetry publisher, but I was starting one that would aim to support and develop the Scots language, which has been gradually disappearing over the last three hundred years. There was also the art connection - I aim to work with young artists on each publication, especially those recently out of art school and looking to make a name for themselves. Thirdly, the money raised would be used specifically to print and publish our first poetry pamphlet. This is a tangible result that people could see and own. It would also be our poet’s first ever publication, helping him make a start on his publishing career.
These three aspects all came together to make the project something that people felt was worth getting behind.
So now the crowdfunding has been successful I can get on with the task of actually running a publishing company – obviously the main reason for doing it in the first place. It might seem unnecessary to have to say that, but when you’re involved in the campaign it sort of takes over and what you’re going to do afterwards almost gets forgotten.
As I didn’t have to put up the funds for the first publication, everything earned through sales can go straight back into the business. This means I should have enough to fund at least one, maybe two further pamphlets. I’ve already got them planned out, though the company itself is still at a delicate stage. If I choose the next projects wisely they’ll sell well, which puts me on a very sound financial footing for the future. If I don’t choose well they might lose money, and pretty quickly I’ll be back to square one. More established publishers can afford to absorb losses if one of their publications doesn’t do as well as hoped. This isn’t the case with me, but I’m pretty convinced that the poet I’ve got involved with for the next pamphlet is good enough to find a strong readership for his work, just as I was convinced that crowdfunding was worth a go.
The eventual plan is to build up from doing poetry pamphlets to producing full-length poetry books, as well as fiction and other forms of writing, in all three languages of Scotland – English, Gaelic and Scots. Crowdfunding was a wonderful experience; it’s given me the confidence to think that I can achieve what I set out to do, it’s shown that people are behind my project and willing to help out, and it gave me a way of raising money when other avenues were an impossibility.
I would really encourage anybody to give crowdfunding a go. You won’t lose anything trying, and you might be surprised, like me, by how well you get on. You don’t need any specialist equipment apart from a computer, the internet and a little bit of gumption. I filmed my video using my girlfriend’s iPad mini, balanced precariously on a dodgy wooden stepladder (we didn’t have anything else suitable for making it stand up at the right height for filming) with a large concrete brick for support. I downloaded some freeware video editing software and I was away.
I’d also like to give a good word for Bloom. They were really helpful, supportive (they were tweeting about me all the time, it seemed) and provided a very easy to use platform for it all to happen on. Thanks to them I’ve managed to get my business off the ground. I’m totally delighted.