Pride, panic and publishers wanting payment – Mike’s crowdfunding crisatunity

Mike reading at WHG public library 2 cropped

nb. An abridged version of this story appears in The Spinoff.


Update October 9 – Mākaro Press publisher Mary McCallum repeatedly phoned me when I was having dinner with my whanau tonight and demanded I change the title of this story.

I hold a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism Studies and have worked as a journalist since the end of 2013. It is against the ethics of journalism to bow to bullying. However, a good journalist will occasionally let things slide to keep upset people happy.

After some reflection, I went ahead and made Mary’s suggested change. I also suggested to Mary that normal professional publishers correspond by email or post…


Pride, panic and publishers wanting payment – Mike’s crowdfunding crisatunity

by Michael Botur


Here’s the story of my crowdfunding rollercoaster from impostor syndrome to impresario…

Moneyland is a YA dystopian sci-fi novel about having the food supply interrupted and having to live off the land in suburbia. The first youngsters to have read the manuscript were impressed. The book is thrilling and it has messages about sustainability and food scarcity. Still, in early 2017, Moneylandsat unread or rejected in the slush piles of publishers around the world. Mākaro Press said after I had paid $172.50 for  the assessment of a manuscript reader (whose phone number and email address they wouldn’t provide) I might be eligible – if chosen for publication- for the following deal. They don’t like to call it hybrid publishing or vanity publishing. In the words of Mākaro Press:

“For our children’s books we publish them under our Submarine imprint (our author contribution imprint) and ask the author to pay for the cost of the print run – s/he takes most of the net returns as a result rather than the usual 10%. We print 500, which is around $3,500.”

Pretty average deal, in my opinion.

From January to July I despaired over publishers’ rejections. Then I started thinking about Hinemoana Baker’s Boosted campaign, and Dominic Hoey’s, and James Mahoney’s. I applied to run my own campaign. Boosted rang me up to talk it over. I interpreted the phone call as dare, like “Mike, do you REALLY believe in yourself?”

I supposed so. Maybe? Sorta. I took a deep breath, and a Lorazepam, and on August 15 we rolled out a 45 day campaign to raise $3000 to print some demos of the book and create a buzz around it.

Boosted suggested Dominic ‘Tourettes’ Hoey be my mentor for Moneyland. It was a great match – I’ve looked up to Dom for ten years. Moneyland launched… then crashed immediately. Two weeks into the project, I took a holiday on remote Great Barrier Island and switched off my cellphone for seven days. Before I left, I sent a Mailchimp letter to 70 people. It took hours to compose that letter. I’d shaken the tree 70 times – surely some donations were going to fall out?

A week later, I switched my phone on, convinced a tumult of donation emails would be waiting for me.

There was not a single new donation.

I was 33 percent of the way into the campaign and I’d raised just 5 percent of what I needed. I got stress migraines. I kept waking up at 3am. I went to work exhausted. I looked for a way out. I asked if I could lessen the amount I was seeking to raise. The answer was no. The whole thing was going to fail. I’d failed myself. Legendary NZ author Alan Duff responded AFTER I’d sent out my Mailchimp letter with four words of wisdom: “Resend with smaller font.”

Cheers for that, Duffy. Really helpful.

I begged a friend in public relations to help me find a corporate sponsor. A local millionaire with an interest in sustainability said he had nothing to spare. I pitied myself for a couple of days, got over it then resolved to do everything Matua Dom advised. He shared his own experience crowdfunding to get Icelandwritten. Dom told me 70 wasn’t enough people to ask. “In general 3-6 percent of people give so you need to really pull out all the stops,” he said.

Thanks, Tourettes, I thought. You could’ve told me that at the start, then I could have stayed in my shell, resenting the writing world.

I parked my self-pity and went back to Dom’s advice. You have to approach people 2 or 3 times and keep creating fresh content and news to keep going back to them with, he told me, so I spent four hours messaging people on Facebook I hadn’t spoken to in years, asking for their email addresses, buttering them up before the cringe-inducing spammy email demand for money.

I swallowed my pride. I did interviews in paper and radio. I stayed up late designing shitty handouts. I spoke to poetry crowds who didn’t care. I performed at Whangarei Library to a crowd of five. 40 percent of people in the library audience were my children; 20 percent were my wife. I did a second mailout. My best friends each put in a hundred bucks. The despair dried up. On a Thursday (Payday? Dole day?) the heavens aligned and my phone kept beeping with fresh donation messages as I drove home. I pulled over and emailed each donor my heartfelt thanks immediately. A petrol station owner from Maungatapere slipped me a hundy and wrote, “I can’t wait to see it published.”


Boosted is all about self-confidence. Identify exactly why your project is good for your artistic community, then go for it. Believe that the people you love will be there for you. Then apply at… and trust in Tourettes.