Columns > Published on January 24th, 2017

6 Unorthodox Fundraisers For Your Self-Publishing Venture

You need money for your self-publishing project. You need it bad.

I know what you're thinking. Isn't that what Kickstarter is for?

Yeah, maybe. But it's also for people who are raising money to build a $50,000 potato salad.

Let's face it, crowdfunding is a punch line. When someone makes a $50K potato salad, when the makers of Cards Against Humanity raise $100,000 to dig a giant hole in the ground for no reason whatsoever, it's not only evidence that crowdfunding isn't as genius as we thought, it's a good reason to be down on yourself when your efforts fail. They raised $100,000 to dig a hole for NO REASON, meanwhile you can't raise 1/100th of that for your art? 

Meanwhile, something like the Ice Bucket Challenge managed to raise a ton of cash. Why? Because it was fun, simple, and it gave donors a way to do more than shovel cash at a cause.

It's time to stop simply asking for money. It's time to try something else.

.005K Fun Run 

I've done this twice now to raise money for a couple dogs who had surgeries. I've never owned a dog, but they seem to love surgeries. 

A .005K is a great way to raise awareness. Awareness of the needed funding and also awareness of how short .005K is. Seriously, it's so quick that someone could die halfway through and, if they had any momentum, their lifeless body would still finish the race.

.005K is a lot better fundraiser than a 5K, and I'll tell you why. You don't need to get permits, you don't need waivers, you don't need all that nonsense. Just a little over 16 feet of terrain (preferably outside a bar), a finishing tape, and a jar to collect entry fees. You can run .005K with a beer in your hand, no problem. You can walk .005K and finish only seconds behind the overall winner.

You don't have to do a .005K. You could do any variety of running events. A beer mile, a regular running club that collects a small fee. I bring up the idea of an athletic event to make the point that your fundraising events should stick to the KISS rule. No, not like the band KISS. Their fundraising involves merchandising that includes KISS coffins. Don't start a coffin company. No, I'm talking about the other KISS rule: Keep It Simple, Shithead. Don't get overly complicated when a simple option is just as effective. Don't host a marathon when you only need 16 feet of pavement.

Take whatever fundraising idea you have and see if you can make it simpler. You shithead.

Mini Golf Tournament

When a big time charity wants to raise some cash, they host a golf tournament. Which is smart. Want to target a bunch of old dudes with disposable income? Golf. Believe me, I've seen this firsthand. Golfers are almost all old dudes who have tons of cash to waste on $9 Michelob Ultras and $500 clubs that don't do shit. This is the perfect audience to hit up.

Inspired by big time golf tournaments, I decided to make one for the common man. Which sounds like a terrible idea at first. The common man doesn't have $150 to waste on a tournament entry fee and hates Michelob Ultras.

It took two days to raise $1,000. The lasting trauma has yet to be fully understood and researched.

What the common man DOES have is five bucks, and this gets into fundraising philosophy. 

If you're putting out a book, you need the money to print books, but you also need the crowd to buy the books. When you're fundraising, you're also promoting your book. Which is why you're better off courting 30 people to the tune of $5 apiece than you are courting 3 people for $50 apiece. 

That's why the mini golf tournament is the way to go. All you need is a couple dust pans (these are surprisingly effective, movable "holes") and those foam golf balls. Then, plan out the "holes" in your hood. I recommend areas outside of churches, alleyways, and basically anything that takes advantage of architecture and allows for several bar stops. We had a great time in an alley that was filled with broken TVs.

Give your donors an experience they won't forget, and get them hyped up about your book. And for the love of god, don't buy Michelob Ultras.


Ever heard of the band Vulfpeck? Doesn't matter.

What Vulfpeck did was pretty clever. They put up an album called Sleepify on the streaming music service Spotify. Sleepify consisted of 10, 30-second tracks of silence. Vulfpeck then encouraged their fans to play the album on a loop whenever they were sleeping.

The trick comes in because Spotify pays artists fractions of a cent for each track that's played. Vulfpeck figured that their fans could play the tracks on a loop, collect the cash, and the funds could then be used to bankroll a free tour. 

It totally worked. Vulfpeck made $20,000 before their silent album was pulled for unspecified (but easily guessed) reasons. 

It's not that hard to get your music on Spotify. And while Spotify seems to have caught on to the idea of the silent tracks, who's to say you can't create some tracks with audio, or a spoken word album, and get that up there? All your fans have to do at that point is stream your music while they sleep. Maybe at a very low volume or with headphones plugged in if you're not, uh, super talented. A single person streaming your album all night should result in approximately a $7 donation. Get one person to do this for a week and you've made $50. 

Same thing applies to YouTube. Make a set of videos, put them up in a playlist and enable ads. Then just ask your fans to stream the playlist.

I'm almost positive that me suggesting this violates terms of use. But I'm a rebel that way, Dottie.

The beauty here is that you make it incredibly easy for people to help you out. They don't have to show up somewhere, they don't have to put in cash. All they have to do is click a couple things on the computer and BAM, you're rich(ish). 

Done right, if you put the FUN in fundraiser (yes, I went there), your funds, and your audience, will grow.

Suffer The Children

A high school in Illinois wanted to raise $1,000. How'd they do it? Between every class period, Justin Bieber's "Baby" played over the intercom, and this continued until the fundraising goal was met. Which meant each student in the school would hear "Baby" something like eight times every day.

It took two days to raise $1,000. The lasting trauma has yet to be fully understood and researched.

The thing about needs that aren't yours, it's easy for other people to forget about them. You need to remind people of what you need. If you have a need, then create a way for people to suffer with you until that need is fulfilled.

Post obnoxious political crap online until you reach your fundraising goal. Post pictures of weird diseases. Hey, if you do a podcast, you could rip off that Illinois high school. Promise that you'll be covering "Baby" in every episode until your goals are reached. 

This one is tricky because it involves having something like a captive audience. But if you've got that audience, don't be afraid to make them squirm just a little bit. "Oh, is it annoying you that I put a picture of a hated political figure in the middle of every blog for no reason? Because it's annoying ME that I don't have the cash to publish my book. Seems like we could figure out a way to remedy this situation..."

Craigslist Gigs

Okay, a job is out of the question because jobs are for dorks. But how about a one-time gig here and there?

I found this one with almost no searching at all!

I am looking for a younger attractive female to help me out with household tasks and to provide nice conversation. I am looking for someone who can work in the late afternoon into evenings or on Saturdays. You would mostly do cooking, baking, and clean the kitchen but there could be other household tasks if you were open to it. It would be a bonus if you wore revealing clothing, sexy outfit, lingerie, bra & panties, or even less. If interested, message me with the days and times you are available to work and tell me why you would be the perfect person for this job.

On closer inspection, all Craigslist gigs involve sex stuff or carpentry, and carpentry may or may not be a clever disguise for sex stuff. And if you were doing sex stuff, you wouldn't need my help funding your work.

Gaming For Dollars

Many a gamer has raised cash by marathoning video games. Usually, this is for charity, so if you go this route, you might consider going 50/50 with your favorite charity, be it a donkey shelter, homeless horse fund, whatever.

I bring this up for two reasons: One, as writers, we're often trying to fund ourselves in writerly ways. Which is cool, but sometimes we may miss out on options that appeal to non-writers. Two, the idea of giving as part of getting. There's a wisdom to the idea that the people who give the most also have the most. It doesn't ALWAYS work that way, but think about it like this: if you give a lot and end up with a lot, there's your proof. If you give a lot and don't get a lot, you still gave a lot.

Other Advice

The Biggest Pitfall

It's easy to spend more money throwing your event or doing your stunt than you actually derive from it. So keep the costs very, very low. Ask yourself over and over, "Can I make this equally fun without spending as much?"

The Biggest Advantage

If your crowdfunding effort fails, you walk away with nothing. If you rent out of a theater for the screening of your favorite terrible movie, and if you don't make any money on it, you still had a damn good time. So did your donors. And when your donors have a good time, they show up for the next thing. They bring friends.

Done right, if you put the FUN in fundraiser (yes, I went there), your funds, and your audience, will grow.

About the author

Peter Derk lives, writes, and works in Colorado. Buy him a drink and he'll talk books all day.  Buy him two and he'll be happy to tell you about the horrors of being responsible for a public restroom.

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