Through the Crusade for Art blog, we are focused on educating photographers about best practices and sharing practical information to help move careers forward and connect audiences to photography. It is often helpful to hear from photographers who are right in the thick of things, and so we bring another installment of our series called Developing. This is a follow-up from Rachel Minn Lee's first Developing story in the middle of her crowd-funding effort for a photographic e-book. The campaign was successful, and I was curious how her projected costs for the project compared to her actual costs and what parts of the process were successful and which could have been handled differently.

Project Background

I came up with the idea to make a collection of stories about the fragile moments of the everyday Marseille after visiting it the second time and falling in love all over again with the wild, windblown naturescapes. I photographed the scenes before me the best I could and started to work on this project early 2014. Because of the language barrier and lack of prior publishing experience, I decided to create an e-book of photographs to help build momentum for the written story project and help me reach those whose stories should be told. The crowdfunding effort for My Everyday Marseille: The Film Photographs, a charming little photobook accompanied with illustrations, an interactive, illustrated map, and voice descriptions in French/ English and French/Mandarin, was born.

I began making the e-book eight months ago. The targeted amount raised was SGD 1,500 (around USD 1200). I felt that this was the bare minimum needed to get the project started and I could self-fund the additional expenses.

So how much did I actually spend on making the e-book?

My projected vs. real expenses for the project were as follows:

E-BOOK DESIGN

Projected: $500 (US $400) to the e-book Designer, Illustrator and Graphic Artist

1. E-book design - several mobile-ready versions (android, iphone and kindle devices), found in two translations (English / French and French / Mandarin)

2. Interactive map, illustrated

3. Illustrations for every chapter openings and insertions of charming images descriptive of Marseille

4. Graphic design of logo and book cover 

Actual spend: $1600 (US $1280)

TRANSLATION

Projected: $300 (US$240) for translation and related costs

1. Translator fees, professional translation from the original English descriptions + a short story into French.

2. Editing and basic proofreading

Actual spend: $650 (US $520) 

AURAL ELEMENTS

Projected: $310

1. Recording of sound for all sessions using 4 voice artists: 2 French, 1 English, 1 Mandarin.

2. Sound technician to cut all the audio into usable clips.

Actual spend: $485 (US $388)

LANDING PAGE or WEBSITE

Projected: $120 (US $96)

Actual spend: $120 (US $96)

DISTRIBUTION

Projected: $380 (US $304)

Actual spend: $248 (US $199)

ADDITIONAL COSTS

Business license to self-publish $65 (US $52)

Total spend $3168 (US $2533), exceeded crowd-funding amount by more than 50%.

Was it easy to run a crowd-funding campaign for a creative project? 

This was my first-ever time running a crowd-funding campaign, and I tried my best holding on to a day job and working on the campaign on weeknights. For two weeks prior to the campaign I tried to be a social media influencer, tweeting and sending many, many messages to my business and personal contacts. I also tried to reach people who were active in the topics of travel photography, travel bloggers, analogue photography and Marseille located platforms. I created a short video and made a website prior to the campaign. Being a non-techie person, I found this extremely challenging to do.

The total duration for the crowd-funding effort was 50 days and I reached the 100% target in 25 days, half of the time. 

Potential challenges to the crowd-funding effort:

1. I was not already 'known' as a photographer/author, never having exhibited or made headlines, so I did not have advocates or supporters who already knew and loved my work.

2. Time constraints - working in the daytime meant that I had the short evening hours (between reaching home and heading to sleep) to make the campaign work. For a month I made the 7 pm to midnight hours priority for my campaign. This discipline meant that I would have to be hermit-like at least for the month of the campaign. Well, it worked!

What worked:

Asking people to pledge just 1% worked really well. The minimum sum to pledge was $5 - the price of a cup of coffee here, and many business contacts felt they could part with this amount to support a creative project. From the time it hit 60%, many personal friends were on standby to help me to hit the target. There were many last minute supporters as well - when I posted on Facebook the day the effort reached 90%, many chipped in to help it cross the mark!

What could have worked:

I did not manage to have enough time to reach the 4000 contacts I had on my business contact network, on LinkedIn. I wished to know if the vast network on LinkedIn could help, or if it was not useful at all. Out of the 360 personal notes I sent, there were hardly any replies. However, I had entrepreneurs and startup founders who wanted to help, did, and networked and met me, these types of connections in my network were more useful. For the social media efforts, I created a google+ account and started being active on Twitter only in the weeks leading up to the campaign. I only managed to skim the surface of this usage, but I also discovered many great sites and online supporters who are film photography lovers.

At the end, I was motivated to make my creative project a reality and to publish it by the end of 2014. I'm glad that I could accomplish this, and hope to find a creative project for 2015.

Rachel Minn Lee is a native of Singapore who loves the savage beauty of mountains and seas. Using the medium of 35 mm film, this film photography enthusiast aims to capture the human intersections in known and unknown places, arousing a sense of nostalgia for the fragile moments of everyday life.

Rachel Minn Lee's first book, My Everyday Marseille: The Film Photographs is available at leading e-bookstores. Read the background story on www.myeverydaymarseille.com

Comment