The Hidden Benefit of Crowdfunding

Let me tell you a story (you might want some tissues on hand). Starting in 2012 I spent a year as a Mary Kay consultant selling cosmetics (good times, I learned a lot of valuable stuff). The Mary Kay culture emphasizes empowerment, belief in yourself, and working for positive change. So, there I was, a new Mary Kay rep, looking for people to empower with makeup, and giving free facials to anyone who would have me. Unfortunately, most people wanting free facials were people who couldn’t afford the product.

There was this one lady I did a group facial for who lived in a very poor part of town. Walking up to the door I knew I wasn’t going to sell anything. I didn’t want to do the party. It would be a waste of my time and resources. But I had faith that I was there for a reason, and I loved to bring smiles to people’s faces, even if it didn’t make me a cent. So I knocked.

Stepping inside, my heart sank further. The kitchen table was covered in trash, dirty dishes, and cat food. The floor was covered in dirt, moldy bits of who knew what, and other less savory things. The whole apartment reeked of cigarette smoke. But with a smile, the hostess swept everything off the table and onto the floor, so I set up.

I did my makeup routine with the hostess, her mother (who was so high she tried to eat the product instead of put it on her face) and her boyfriend (yes, makeup too). It was not fun, but it was worth it, because I’d never seen any group of people smile so much. Afterwards I talked to the hostess about becoming a Mary Kay consultant because she loved what I did and wanted to do it too. We exchanged contact information and I left. I didn’t sell anything.

We met a few times after to talk about Mary Kay. She wanted to do it because it gave her a sense of worth and empowerment, but she had no money to start. One day, I got a tearful phone call from her: she’d woken up to find her mother dead, probably from drug overdose. I went to her house and held her as she cried. Apparently they’d moved there recently from somewhere else and she had no friends or family to turn to. Because she had no money, her mother was going to be put in a poor man’s grave.

I didn’t bother wondering about society’s failings, who’s fault it was, or what five steps she needed to fix herself. Her mother had died, and her body would soon be dumped into an unknown grave. So using a crowdfunding website, I set up a fund to have her mother cremated (her choice). Within a few days, we’d raised $1600, and my friend was able to lay her mother, the only person who’d always loved her, to rest.

I was profoundly changed by that experience, and started looking at the world through new eyes. Not only was I reminded to be thankful for all my blessings, but I myself was blessed with the opportunity to help someone else in such a profound way. If it weren’t for crowdfunding websites, there is no way we could have done it. But through this technology, we reached hundreds of people who were eager to help and could spare a few dollars for a good cause.

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Since then I’ve had a great respect for crowdfunding. I’ve helped others by contributing to everything from lawyer fees in a custody battle, to creating a unique fantasy card game, helping a south Asian village destroyed by flooding, and producing an audiobook. Crowdfunding projects provide me a reminder not to hoard what I have, but to be generous. They offer a small but tangible way in which I can help, and actually see the direct result. With crowdfunding, a group of people can easily gather and say “you know what, we are going to make this happen.” It is truly an empowering technology and, despite the possibility for abuse (true for anything under the sun), I think the phenomenon of crowdfunding has changed our society, and us, for the better.

Because of my incredibly positive experience with crowdfunding, both giving and receiving, last year I took a leap of faith and ran a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to launch the first two books in my debut series. The Kickstarter was a smashing success, and the overwhelming response literally reduced me to tears of gratitude (ask my husband, he’ll tell you all about it).

Now, it is a distinctly uncomfortable thing to do, asking for money. But as I constantly remind myself, not only do my backers get amazing rewards (limited edition books, exclusive short stories, hand-made artifacts, and more!), but I’m providing people with an opportunity to be blessed through generosity. I remind myself that, no, I can’t do it on my own, nor should I try. It is naturally human, and naturally healthy, to give and receive help, to be part of a team, to have each others back. My books aren’t for me, they are for other people, and I need that constant reminder.

So once again, I am firing up the engine. But this year is different. This year, because of your generosity and love for this series, I am empowered. I believe in these books and my calling to write quality fiction to change the world in a positive way, so I’m no longer afraid of failing. I know I can’t, because the only way to fail is to give up. I might have given up on myself, once, a long time ago. But I could never give up on you, on my readers, on my fans, on my family and friends who have fought with me every step of the way. With your help, Books 3 & 4 of the Lily Singer Adventures are going to be an even smashing-ly-er success than the first two, and Lily, Sebastian, and the ever snarky Sir Kipling, will continue to delight children and adults alike with their magical adventures.

So here it is, Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Books 3 & 4 Kickstarter campaign. It is live, and the discount early bird rewards are going fast, so hustle over if you want any worms!

Even if you aren’t sure this project is for you, spreading the word is extremely helpful. Word of mouth is the best way to gain visibility, and a simple tweet or Facebook post could make a huge difference! Thank you so much lending me your attention. I hope my stories make you laugh, smile, and inspire you to make a difference in our beautiful world.