How I Raised Over $10,000 in 21 Days to Self-Publish My First Book

self publish first book

On June 8th of 2014 I launched the pre-order campaign for my first book, Content Warfare, on the Publishizer crowdfunding platform.

My goal for the pre-order campaign was to raise $10,000 to pay for the expenses of producing the most professional self-published hardcover book possible.

Twenty-one days later, my book project hit the $10,000 goal, breaking the previous funding record on Publishizer by two days.

This is called “Audience Activation” and it’s key to how I successfully crowdfunded the Content Warfare book.


Why is a professionally published hardcover book important?

Why would I spend the time, effort and money to professionally self-publishing a hardcover book when throwing together an eBook of blog posts and uploading to Amazon may sell the same number of copies?

The answer is simple, I feel responsible to the Content Warriors that show up day-in-day-out to support my work.

It’s a distillation of over two years of conversations on the Content Warfare Podcast.

Two years of interviewing the Internet’s most prolific content creators and extracting their secrets to winning the battle for attention online.

My audience deserves more than a thrown together eBook. They deserve something tangible, something they can hold in their hand and be proud of, like I am when I re-read my physical copy of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Crush It for the 17th time (That book still gets me jacked up every time I read it).

A responsibility to be authentic, transparent and honest in our work, to constantly push ourselves to do better work and to consider the value of every piece of content we produce.

The minute we lose that sense of responsibility, we lose our audience.

The hardcover copy of Content Warfare if my way of thank you.

Crowdfunding and Self-Publishing

When I first decided to use a crowdfunding platform to self-publish Content Warfare, the idea was met with a bit of pushback and criticism.

“Isn’t crowdfunding just a money grab?”

“If your idea is so great, why not just pay the upfront costs yourself?”

“If your book is worth publishing, why not use a traditional publisher?”


I’m going to address the self-publishing criticisms first. The idea that somehow a self-published book is intrinsically a lesser quality product, solely because it’s self-published, is preposterous. The work of authors like James Altucher and Kamal Ravikant have completely destroyed this notion.

If you need further proof let the fantastic Joanna Penn blow your mind.

Self-published books are only as good as the authors (and team of professionals supporting that author) that write them. Just like traditionally published books.

It’s time to move on.


Definition: Crowdfunding is the collection of finance from backers—the “crowd”—to fund an initiative.

It’s really that simple. It’s not a money grab. It’s not a cop-out.

Crowdfunding is an incredibly difficult and time-consuming process by which projects are validated and audiences are activated.

This is what Natalie Sisson did when she crowdfunded her first book and it became an Amazon #1 bestseller.

I knew that successfully crowdfunding Content Warfare would mean two things:

  1. The idea had legs.
  2. There was an audience for the book willing to spend money.

This is why we crowdfund a project, not just to raise money (though money is important) but to validate the idea and activate the audience who potentially resonates with the idea.

How to Successfully Crowdfund Any Project

Here are the three steps to successfully crowdfunding any project:

  1. Build the audience.
  2. Activate the audience.
  3. Empower the audience.

There are tons of tactics and tricks for crowdfunding, all of them fall under one of these three steps.

1) Build the Audience

You must build an audience of true believers, (even a small audience), before you can expect anyone to support your crowdfunding project. There are many reasons that a crowdfunding campaign can fail, but from my experience, the number one reason is lack of audience.

Here are a few activities to build an audience prior to your crowdfunding campaign launch:

It goes without saying that you must do these things with good intentions. Your audience must trust you or they’re not really your audience.

2) Activate the Audience

Once you’ve built an audience that trusts you and is anticipating the start of your crowdfunding campaign, you’re now ready to launch. The success or failure of your crowdfunding campaign will come out of your ability to drive your pre-existing audience to the campaign, not random people who find your campaign page.

Here are a few activities to activate your audience once your crowdfunding campaign has launched:

Make sure you remind your audience of the special bonuses they receive after contributing because they allowed you to market your campaign to them directly.

3) Empower the Audience

Any growth hacker worth their salt would tell you, once your audience has contributed to your campaign, its imperative you provide them with ways to share your campaign with their own audience. This is how your campaign goes viral. It’s the frosting on your crowdfunding cake.

Here are a few activities to empower your audience to share your crowdfunding campaign:

The important thing is to make these shareable items valuable and worthwhile for your audience share, easy to share and branded with a URL pointing to your crowdfunding campaign.

The Rub

Crowdfunding is a nerve-racking and stressful process, but done right it can jumpstart the success of your project or product unlike any other launch process that exists.

It was humbling to receive the support I did for the Content Warfare book (to be released in September of 2014). It took me a long time to build the audience that made the Content Warfare crowdfunding campaign a success. They are a testament to the power of building an audience right way.

If you missed out on pre-ordering the Content Warfare book, you can download a free chapter here and be notified of it’s release in September.

I’d like to give special thanks to:

Thank you and Good luck,

I am Ryan Hanley

Your Turn

What questions do you have about the process outlined above or crowdfunding in general? What would you add or subtract from the crowdfunding process described above?

Share in the comments below…

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