Readers and writers are living in a crowdfunded world. Where once publishers oversaw which books came into print now writers just need to convince potential readers to support them. Writers suddenly have more opportunities, but they are restricted by the market as well.
Kickstarter is one of the largest venues for crowdfunding publishing projects. In 2016, Kickstarter surpassed $100 million given to publishing projects. Several projects have achieved massive success by appealing to potential readers. These backers raised over $1.2 million to fund a reprint of the online comic The Order of the Stick, and backers pledged over $5.4 million to resurrect the children’s reading program Reading Rainbow with LeVar Burton. Of course these projects already had supporters who wanted to read their materials. The bulk of writing projects listed in the “Publishing” section of Kickstarter are less successful and are written by relatively unknown authors. A cursory glance shows that many projects have been backed by zero people. In other cases, a small number of people, most of whom seem to be friends or family of the author, help fund the projects.
New authors can benefit a great deal from crowdfunding. They can put the money they receive towards paying for an editor or purchasing a fantastically designed cover. However it can also be difficult for these same writers to find financial backers. Without an already existing audience, who could authors convince to act as their patrons? For upcoming writers, social media only goes so far. According to Publishers Weekly, in 2016, less than 1 in 3 general publishing projects on Kickstarter met their pledge goals, and in the journalism category, that number dropped to a little more than 1 in 6.
Though Kickstarter is an interesting funding platform, I can’t see myself using it any time in the near future. However, I also have very little experience with crowdfunding; I’ve never helped pay for another project, so I am likely more leery of the system than many of my peers. With that in mind, I’m interested in hearing from all of you. Have you supported a Kickstarter project in the past, or have you had a Kickstarter project of your own? Did the experience give you what you were hoping to find?
Is crowdfunding the future of publishing?
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Suw Charman-Anderson, “Million Dollar Book Proves Kickstarter Model, Now Authors Just Need Reach”, Forbes, 20 February 2012, http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/02/20/million-dollar-book-proves-kickstarter-model-now-authors-just-need-the-reach/#350ea3616cd6
Calvin Reid, “Kickstarter Hits $100 Million Mark for Publishing, Adds New Countries, New Tools in 2016”, Publishers Weekly, 3 February 2017, http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/72704-kickstarter-hits-100-million-mark-for-publishing-projects.html