Published: March 2, 2015

If you are writing a non-fiction book, it may be hard to find a Canadian publisher who will give you enough money to research and write your book. Advances have plummeted; publishers are reluctant to fork over a big chunk of money when a Canadian non-fiction book may only sell 3,000 to 5,000 books.

As Westwood literary agent Hilary McMahon told The Globe and Mail‘s book editor this week, it’s tough out there.

So what should you do? Give up? Of course not.

Why don’t you think like a documentary film producer, and go out and find the money for your book. You could consider looking for a major sponsor — a company or a foundation with an interest in your topic. You could give your sponsor a gracious thank you at the beginning of your book.

There’s another option. To raise money, you could also try crowdfunding via IndieGoGo or Kickstarter. But how do you do this effectively?

I asked documentary filmmaker Alison Armstrong for her tips. Alison is in the final stages of making a riveting documentary that asks a tough question: Can we forgive a teenage murderer? Alison has spent years filming The Guy With The Knife, but last year she realized she needed money to edit and finish the movie.

So she appealed for money on Kickstarter. Alison wrote a great pitch, created a brief but compelling trailer for the movie, launched a Twitter outreach, and then kicked off a 40-day campaign to raise over $50,000.00 — with offers of DVD downloads, T-shirts, tickets to the movie premiers and even dinner with the director.

Once the campaign started, the pressure was on: If she didn’t hit the target in time, the money would be returned to donors, and Alison would get nothing.

She did it. Alison raised $53,000.00 from over 200 donors, enough to finish her film.

It was a major fundraising campaign. It turned out that the key to raising $50,000 comes from old-fashioned fundraising: Get friends and supporters to call and write people to ask them to contribute.

This takes time. If you are contemplating a crowdfunding campaign for your book, you should organize your team two months before the actual campaign starts, Alison says. Then, once the money is pledged, write thank you notes. Alison wrote so many notes to contributors that by the end of the campaign, she could barely hold a pen.

No matter. This spring, Alison will finish her film. She’s taking it to a film festival in the U.S. where she will talk to potential buyers from the U.S. and around the world.

Her story should be an inspiration for non-fiction writers.

If you have a nonfiction book that you believe should be published, don’t despair if you can’t find a publisher with enough money to fund your project. Take matters into your own hands. Find the money — from an organization that cares about your topic or from the crowd.

Once you have written your manuscript, you can approach a traditional publisher, or you can talk to us at Barlow Book Publishing about how we can get your book on the shelves of bookstores across Canada.

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