Synopsis: Anyone interested in startups, fundraising and alternative finance should devour every last scrap of knowledge available. There is much to learn, and that’s where books about crowdfunding come in. All of these best crowdfunding books are worth reading for anyone wanting to raise money online!
The 15 Best Crowdfunding Books
Crowdfunding comes in many different forms – there is crowdfunding for pre-ordered products, crowdfunding for startups, and crowdfunding for social impact.
But one thing that all forms of crowdfunding have in common is that most people have very little experience with it. Crowdfunding isn’t something that you do every day – most campaigns are doing it for the very first time, and may very well never do it again. It isn’t like sales, or social media, where experience can be built up over time with repeated practice. With crowdfunding, you get one shot – so everything must be done right, first time.
Luckily, you do not need to fly blind. You don’t need to make your own mistakes – you can learn from the mistakes of others. This is where the best crowdfunding books come in. They collect the wisdom accumulated from past crowdfunding campaigns, and show readers how to do it right. All the best crowdfunding books in this list feature careful research from their respective authors. Together, they contain extremely valuable knowledge that every crowdfunder ought to take advantage of.
“A successful campaign can lead to more interest from media, commercial partners, and consumers. Some companies have reported significant increases in revenue due to exposure from their offers bringing on board loyal shareholder advocates.”
Equity crowdfunding is very different to the kind of “rewards crowdfunding” offered by sites like Kickstarter. Instead of offering pre-ordered products in exchange for the cash, equity crowdfunding enables investors to gain a share in the startup raising funds. This allows the company to raise larger amounts money than are typically possible with Kickstarter campaigns. My book features interviews with 20 startups and growing companies from all over the world, 12 market-leading equity crowdfunding platforms, and a host of other experts to provide a complete picture of how a startup should approach equity crowdfunding – from whether it is a good idea in the first place, to choosing the right platform, to generating momentum pre-offer, to marketing, and keeping your new investors happy once the campaign is over.
“The reality: Kickstarter is not a something-for-nothing community. While yes, you can raise funds on the platform, you must also ship out ‘perks’ or ‘rewards’. You must have a high-quality prototype, and you must have a compelling vision for the future.”
Salvador Briggman is the mastermind behind Crowdcrux, a website dedicated to all forms of crowdfunding – but particularly rewards crowdfunding. His podcast is a must-listen for anyone wanting to get into the rewards crowdfunding space – he gets the most successful campaigns on the show and asks them exactly how they raised all that money. The resulting advice is solid gold for potential Kickstarter campaigns. The Kickstarter Launch Formula collects the best advice from all his experience and presents it here in one of the best crowdfunding books dedicated to Kickstarter. I loved the chapter on “How To Make A Prototype”, which is a topic that a lot of other books skip over. Making a prototype is absolutely fundamental to getting people on board, as it powerfully demonstrates your ability to execute on your plans.
A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide
“When you research megaprojects, dig under the surface a bit before drawing any conclusions. Read the project updates, poke around for a postmortem or lessons-learned post, look into past or future projects to see how their creators’ methods changed over time, and so on. Megaprojects are often successful despite their flaws and deviations from best practices, and it’s up to you to distinguish how they deviated and the resulting impact.”
This book is quite different from the other best crowdfunding books because the author, Jamey Stegmaier, has actually conducted several campaigns himself. The vast majority of other crowdfunding books are written by advisors, who have startups and funding projects as clients. Most crowdfunders don’t bother to put their experience down on paper after their campaign is done, but this is exactly what Stegmaier has done in A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide. It has been forged through real, hard experience running seven successful Kickstarter projects, which have collectively raised more than a million dollars. The book focuses a lot on community-building, which is something which will be valuable long after the project is over. The name of one of his chapters tells it all “Backers Are Individuals, Not Numbers” – a great thing for every marketer or company owner to remind themselves.
The Crowdfunding Bible
Scott Steinberg & Rusel DeMaria
“Until recently, a relatively small number of very wealthy individuals held the purse strings of the creative world. Venture capitalists and angels were the gatekeepers to Silicon Valley, and they were quite selective. Innovation and creativity yearned for realization, and countless opportunities and ideas were lost forever – but out of the need for innovation came innovation itself. Just as the PC brought computers to the masses, so too does crowdfunding put finding innovation in the hands of, well… the crowd.”
The first section of this short, easy-to-digest guide takes the time to explain “what is crowdfunding”, the advantages and disadvantages versus other funding methods. Then, the authors break down who should consider crowdfunding into a 20-point checklist. Insights into the various crowdfunding platforms go well beyond just Kickstarter and Indiegogo, showing information and fees for twelve different platforms. All in all, The Crowdfunding Bible is one of the best crowdfunding books for being so methodical – it is full of bullet-points and numbered lists of exactly what to do, and in what order.
“You can get started without a ton of money invested in marketing and other elements of a brick and mortar business… The biggest obstacle though is reaching the target audience. They have so many choices when it comes to shopping around online. It can be too easy for your business to get lost in the shuffle. Taking actions that will kick start what your project is all about is very important. One way to do this is through the process of crowdfunding.”
Lise’s book is ideal if you are looking for a quick primer – it weighs in at just 45 pages and can be read in a single sitting. Perfect if you don’t have time to lose! As the book points out, the aim of a campaign is to create virality, and many useful tips are shared to help the reader achieve that. Chapter 4: “What Types of Projects and Ideas Work Well With Crowdfunding” should be required reading for all would-be crowdfunders, to get to the bottom of whether a project should be trying crowdfunding in the first place.
The Kickstarter Handbook
“The folks at Kickstarter like to point out that this shiny new business model for artists and entrepreneurs is in fact a sort of throwback to much earlier times. Painters have long depended on patrons to put up money in advance. Classical composers, such as Mozart and Beethoven, sometimes relied on ‘subscriptions’ similar to Kickstarter’s system, allowing them to advertise for pledges to finance concerts or printed editions of their work.”
Don Steinberg is a writer for New Yorker, GQ and Wall Street Journal. He has formed this great book through interviewing successful campaigns, and weaving it into one of the best crowdfunding books available today: a practical how-to-guide that steps potential crowdfunders through everything they need to know. The first chapter is a very well-researched piece about the history and context of Kickstarter (it is probably #1 among the best crowdfunding books in this regard) – explaining why people are so willing to give money to strangers on the Internet, when everything else has become free. Readers might want to turn to the Appendix first, to get the prelaunch worksheet – and then follow along with the rest of The Kickstarter Handbook from there.
Crowdfunding For Social Good
Devin D. Thorpe
“Crowdfunding isn’t just a new name for fundraising. It represents a modern iteration for fundraising unlike any in the past. Crowdfunding is the opposite of soliciting grants from foundations, corporations and governments. Instead, it represents your ability to access money from your network – not just the people you know, but the people known by the people you know – and so on… You’ve probably heard that with no more than six hops from friend to friend that you can reach anyone on the planet.”
None of the other best crowdfunding books have a focus on social entrepreneurship, but this is where Devin D. Thorpe’s Crowdfunding For Social Good really makes its mark. As far as I know, this is the only book on the list which actually ran a crowdfunding campaign to fund the production costs. Chapter 3 is particularly important for all crowdfunders to read (whether debt, equity or rewards). This part of the book lays out how to make a realistic plan for how to get to your funding goal, using the resources you have at your disposal.
Crowdfunding: A Guide To Raising Capital On The Internet
“In the same way that social networking changed how we allocate time, crowdfunding will change how we allocate capital. Crowdfunding, generally speaking, is simply the merger of group funding and social networking. While group funding dates back millenia, the social networking aspects of crowdfunding are quite new and are a major driving force behind this revolutionary form of financing.”
Out of this list of best crowdfunding books, this is the most statistical and analytical in nature. It is a must-read for regulators, academic researchers and financial analysts who want a very thorough picture of the entire space. Entrepreneurs may be scared off by dense-sounding chapter titles like “Current Market Dynamics” and “A Statistical View of Crowdfunding”, but valuable advice on how to run a campaign is there too. Crowdfunding: A Guide To Raising Capital On The Internet is a finance / legal focused crowdfunding book, representing a welcome change from other books which only cover the marketing side of things.
Kevin Lawton & Dan Marom
“Deep and intertwined in our humanity is a need to support and feel involvement in the kinds of projects and companies that we care about. Until the recent crowdfunding phenomenon emerged, our more centralized and intermediated capital formation and funding mechanisms scarcely recognized the social power of crowds that form affinities around any kind of mission. Crowdfunding is a natural systemic response to fill this gap, and it is an expression of our collective human will.”
The Crowdfunding Revolution is much more than a how-to guide – it is also a big-picture examination of what crowdfunding is and where it fits into the overall financial landscape. It is one of the best crowdfunding books for this kind of 10,000-foot view. Topics like intellectual property, macroeconomics, and the response of venture capital are given a full treatment. It might be a bit too heavy on theory for those who are only wanting a quick primer on how they can make crowdfunding work for them – but for those wanting the 360-degree context of crowdfunding, there is no better choice.
Crowdfunding The Next Big Thing
“An early-stage company presents many more mysteries to an investor, but once you know what to look for, you can see signs of the beginnings of a sound business and business model… Crowdfunding is an exciting new world for millions of people who live on Main Street. It holds great promises of riches, and at the same time it holds the hidden peril of losing your shirt.”
Gary Spirer’s perspective is that crowdfunding is all about convincing the public that their campaign is “The Next Big Thing” (hence the title). Crowdfunding The Next Big Thing covers both rewards crowdfunding and equity crowdfunding (the latter with an American perspective). One of the highlights of the book is a quite interesting section in Chapter 3 about exactly how to come up with great ideas – advice which is useful for entrepreneurs at any stage – and whether they are crowdfunding or not.
Hacking Kickstarter, Indiegogo
Patrice Williams Marks
“Those direct, compressed connections between strangers is where she created her own unique ‘ART OF ASKING’. How else did she accomplish the ‘art?’ After concerts, she and her bandmates would stay to connect with the audience. Before the show, she invited other artists, musicians, to set up outside of the gigs. They’d pass the hat, then join her on stage. That’s how she created her community… It’s all about the connections forged prior to your project launch. If you have that base, they will carry you across the threshold and you will surpass your original goal.”
This book is a series of tips and templates that any crowdfunder will find useful – not just those on Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The cautionary advice over about not launching until a campaign has all their “ducks in a row” should be taken to heart, and anyone can benefit from the instructions around creating a media list, a press release, and emails. Updated and expanded for 2017, this book will show you how not to be one of the 65%+ crowdfunding campaigns that fails!
“Experienced Wall Street hands believe that equity crowdfunding has little utility. They believe that while some small amounts of money will flow to help startup companies, the opportunity will be very limited. This sort of small-minded thinking misses the true opportunity offered by this innovative funding model. Equity crowdfunding is the single largest marketing opportunity for local businesses to transform mere customers into loyal owners.”
Jonathan’s equity crowdfunding tome was definitely one of the best crowdfunding books when I was doing the research for my own book back in 2016. It emphasizes the relationship-building aspect of equity crowdfunding. He convincingly argues that people are not primarily investing into equity crowdfunding projects because of financial returns, but rather to be a part of something bigger than themselves: in the book’s words, equity crowdfunding investors “will forever blur the distinction between customer and owner”. Readers are also given practical insights into how a company ought to communicate with their new investors on an ongoing basis, choosing a funding portal, and advantages of equity crowdfunding over venture capital.
The Crowdfunding Handbook
“Historically, the pool of available capital from friends and family has been extremely limited for most entrepreneurs, and the success of these offerings often depended on who your friends and family were. If they were rich or well-connected, you were more likely than not to get the capital you needed to launch your business. If your friends and family were poor, well… But that is about to change. In a big way.”
This equity crowdfunding book has been written with American readers firmly in mind, as it features detailed information about the JOBS Act, Title III Crowdfunding, and other laws and regulations specifically relevant to raising capital in the United States of America. It all reflects the background of the author, a practicing US lawyer who represents entrepreneurs and small business owners. But The Crowdfunding Handbook is much more than a dry legal text – Ennico also handles the evolution of crowdfunding (chapter 2), marketing (chapter 6), and equity crowdfunding from the investor’s perspective (chapter 10). Even readers from outside the US can find value in those chapters, while for American equity crowdfunders, the whole book is indispensible.
“Crowdsourcers need to stir up interest, passion and desire in potential buyers before that product or project even exists. They are asking people to buy into a dream. And they’re asking from a place of vulnerability. Crowdsourcers stand in front of people and say, ‘I need your help to make my dream come true. Join me.’ That takes enormous courage.”
Ariel Hyatt’s strong background in marketing shines through in Crowdstart. One of the best examples comes in Chapter 3, where readers are stepped through getting to know their crowd. When dealing with online fundraising (or any kind of internet marketing), it is all-too-easy to think solely in terms of numbers – subscribers, views, dollars – but all of those figures are generated by real people. Ariel encourages readers to think of questions like “what activities and hobbies do they like?”, “what do they do for entertainment?”, and “where do they go on vacation?”. Then, the campaign should focus on these common themes. When you start your campaign by tailoring your messaging to this community, everything becomes so much easier.
“Raising money through one of the many online platforms can take your business to the next level but it is not the biggest benefit to crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is really about building a sense of community around a product or idea. It is about crowdsourcing your passion and building a crowd around your business.”
Joseph Hogue’s book skips the history of crowdfunding – instead, it is one of the best crowdfunding books for getting right into how to do it. Hogue goes into detail, including how long to allow to allow for preparing a campaign (at least three months) and how long the campaign itself should last (30 – 45 days), and setting up social media, email lists, and websites to reference your campaign. There is also very valuable advice around looking for comparable past campaigns and learning from them – including reaching out to the campaigns and talking to them directly… as Hogue says: “If you are shy about reaching out and talking to strangers, put this book down and forget about crowdfunding.”