Publishing is a growing and ever changing industry. As recently stated in an Amazon letter to its authors, paperbacks revolutionized the book industry many moons ago, and then came the eBook revolution, and most recently the self-publishing craze. I believe the rise of crowdfunded publishing is the latest improvement to the industry.
“What in the world is crowdfunding?” you ask. The quick oversimplified answer is, “You make it happen.” You choose a project you like and you help fund it. The result; exciting new projects that might never see the light of day otherwise, come to life and provide big payoffs to those who support the project. Crowdfunding brings you the reader and the author into a team like never before.
There are many websites that can be used to raise money for causes, events, organizations, and products. But one in particular has gained a lot of attention in recent years, its called KickStarter, and to me it stands above the rest. Creators post projects with numerous support levels that are directly related to a reward. For example in my KickStarter someone can fund $35 and receive eBooks of all three titles in Sages of Darkness, cool digital art from the series, and they become immortalized with their name in the acknowledgements of each book. Or they can fund $4000 (Yes that says 4 with three zeros) and I’ll write a book about them as the main character (Plus they get a whole lot of other cool stuff.) You see in crowdfunding, the author or artist, needs to motivate you the reader to fund the project, so we dangle all sorts of ‘once in a lifetime exclusive opportunities’ in front of you, as well as the simple ‘just get the product’ rewards. The key is to have something for everyone and to dazzle those who want to get something very unique in return.
What crowdfunding is doing, is allowing projects to release that might otherwise get rejected by a publisher or label because they are too costly or the audience isn’t large enough. But when an author goes right to their fans and their friends, amazing things can happen quickly. For example Andrew Peterson launched a KickStarter to finish his Wingfeather Saga last year after WaterBrook ended the series after just two of the five books were released. Andrew set his goal at $14,000 to finish a fourth and final book and ended up raising $118,188. He blew everyone, including his own expectations away, and set a record on KickStarter.
I asked Andrew why he chose KickStarter as the platform to fund the book and he said, “When it came to publishing this last book I thought it would be a fun opportunity to raise some extra funds in order to go out with a bang. That meant a fancy hardback edition, tons of illustrations, a fold-out map, an audiobook, that sort of thing.” And ‘out with a bang’ they went, with nearly $120,000 raised, they were able to add a whole lot of awesome stretch goals (more on those later.)
Andrew agrees, KickStarter is about the reader and the author co-creating the project. “This Kickstarter thing gave the readers a chance to express their encouragement and to interact with me as the author. It was wonderful,” adds Andrew. And Andrew has worked hard to show his gratitude and fulfill his commitment to the backers. He explains, “One of the perks for backers was a signed set of all four books; that meant I had to sign about 6,000 books in two weeks.” Still he’ll tell you it was well worth it, “I’ve cried quite a few happy tears in the last month.”
Another KickStarter just successfully concluded for Enclave Publishing (Formerly Marcher Lord Press) by Steve Laube. Enclave turned to KickStarter with very specific goals in mind, “We needed a way to allow our readers to pre-order the new books since, at the time, the online outlets did not provide that service. Ironically the last day of the campaign a major online retailer announced they are now offering a pre-order service! In addition we were looking for a way to announce the new books and create anticipation. Kickstarter seemed to be a good method for that type of marketing.” I myself backed this project to see what it was all about and for $20 landed ebooks of their five latest releases, plus helped get more Christian fiction into the marketplace. Crowdfunding brings on the euphoric, “We did it!” feeling and that’s something most of us can appreciate, like the end of an awesome book.
The great news is, if you go to fund a project, but they don’t reach their goal, no money exchanges hands. You keep your funds, and the author goes on to find another way. But when a project meets its goal, and begins to exceed those goals, the creator usually starts to add stretch goals. These promise more perks for the supporters when they reach higher funding levels. For example, though my goal is just $6,000, I have a stretch goal at $20,000 that says, “I will give a digital download of the audiobook for HowlSage at no extra cost.” Andrew had a stretch goal to write an original song for the series at $110,000 which his supporters reached, and he did indeed write.
I myself faced a similar situation as Andrew with a trilogy I was writing. The first book HowlSage was released, but the publisher ended their fiction imprint and the second and third book never saw the light of day. Yet I get emails, comments on my website, and am always asked at book signings, “Where is BlizzardSage.” After hearing of Andrew Peterson’s success as well as a $55,000 Potato Salad KickStarter, I decided to give it a try.
The awesome news is that the Sages of Darkness KickStarter was successfully funded at $5,120 and so all three books; HowlSage, BlizzardSage, and CrimsonSage will be released. I’m honored and delighted to finally be able to complete the original trilogy. I also look forward to launching another KickStarter in the near future.