Last July, Seattle-based tech journalist Glen Fleishman posted on BoingBoing about his latest project: a book. In it was supposed to be tips and advice gleaned from numerous interviews with people who've succeeded and failed in the crowdsourcing space. The book was meant to be a resource on how to plan and execute crowdfunding projects. Now you'd think that someone who wrote a book about crowdfunding would find success himself raising money for his project...right?
Well, not exactly.
In what could possibly be the best use of the word irony on the Internet: a book about crowdfunding only gathers $3k in support, falling well short of its $35,000 goal.
Where could he have gone wrong? Mr. Fleishman pitched his book as follows:
My book, Crowdfunding: A Guide to What Works and Why, will cover planning a project, carrying it through its funding phase, and fulfilling goals by offering a combination of case studies of successful (and unsuccessful) projects and detailed, specific guidance on each phase. Accompanying the book will be extensive video interviews with people and groups that figured out the knack of making crowdfunding work for them.
So far so good...
You can back the project to get access to video and blog entries as I post them and prepare the book; to get a DRM-free ebook, a softcover print edition, or a limited-edition hardcover print edition; and to have me come and present on-site to a group about the best approach to audience-backed projects.
My beef with the whole thing is not so much that he's offering a hardcover print edition (really?). Rather, I'm perplexed that he's charging for content one can easily find on the Internet. One could argue that if Mr. Fleishman is genuinely interested in sharing his fascination for crowdfunding, why not start a blog and put those journalistic chops to good use...for free? The fact that he's charging a fee for content strikes me as a bit pretentious. A cursory Google search for "crowdsourcing blogs" yields sites that offer up precious advice on the subject...for free.
Now the content is rather sound, and Mr. Fleishman lists his credentials as a writer to numerous publications like BoingBoing, TechCrunch and The Economist (all fairly reputable publications). His book offers actual interviews from people who've been there and done that. Mr. Fleishman mentions how he's spent a lot of time (2 years) gathering this information. This is content he can actually charge money for.
There's just one small problem: he has no audience. No prior following. Nobody who will flock to his project (outside of close friends and supporters). Or to be more accurate, he didn't do his research. Fleishman made the mistake of not figuring out who may want to buy his book. He didn't realize his audience wanted a tangible product and a few articles written by him about crowdfunding did not constitute an introduction to the book. People were very hesitant to put their money in a book they had no idea what it would be like.
Think about it, bloggers earn their reputation by delivering content that interests their audience. Then if they're famous enough, they publish a book. We only need to look at bloggers like Bakerella (who became famous for her cake pops before a publisher picked her up) that you establish your online presence first then start finding ways to "milk the cow" so to speak. The reverse (success, then the blog) doesn't happen very often.
In all fairness to Mr. Fleishman, he did admit that the project was flawed in some areas and plans to revisit it in the future. My hope is that one day he does continue the project, because it has the potential to be a valuable resource for anyone and everyone interested in crowdfunding. But if the lack of updates from his blog and Twitter feed are any indication, it may take months before he comes back to revive it all.
Bonus: XKCD delivers with a jarringly accurate comic about Kickstarter (which is probably describing 70% of the projects on right now).