Finding Funding: Writing in a Kickstarter World

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.

Origin of the Stick.gif

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 Stickand 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


15 thoughts on “Finding Funding: Writing in a Kickstarter World

  1. Kristin, an interesting post and I had considered writing one on exactly this topic. In many ways crowdfunding is the new big thing and used successfully by some writers but I would be at a loss to go about it. It seems either you need a good cause and / or something to give away. Some writers have held auctions to raise money and the winner’s name is one of the characters. I’m not surprised that only 1 in 6 journalism ones reached their targets. Many thanks for sharing and I’ll be reading your comments with interest to see if anyone has used crowdfunding and with what success.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Annika! I’m certainly interested in hearing more of your thoughts on the subject if you ever decide to do a full post on it. The questions of value and reach are such important ones for crowdfunding. (But knowing that doesn’t make it an easy thing to accomplish.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There are also book specific crowdfunding sites like Unbound, Publishizer and Inkshares, deliberately focused on books. For me personally, Inkshares sounded good until they switched to 10 year exclusive, irrevocable contract. They also did a bit of bait and switch with an anthology that won their contest (refusing to publish it after 6 months on very weak grounds) so I’m steering clear of them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I imagine so! The most successful ones I know of are webcomics that self-pubbed. Though considering how much money was pledged, I doubt it all went into self-publishing. I suspect some of them also use the money for continued website maintenance and living fees.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve supported a few successful projects on kickstarter but they were working with an established base. Defying Doomsday, an anthology released last year that I have a story in, successfully raised funds through kickstarter for paying authors, cover designer, editing etc and the finished product is beautiful. They were able to produce hardcover, soft cover and ebook versions of the anthology. But they were an independent publisher with several publishing successes in speculative fiction. I’ve also supported a horror magazine, an indie film & a few others. When the product is quality, and the people behind the project have established successes (however small) I think it can work. For an individual starting out, I think the chances are slim unless you have a handful of supporters with big networks to help them out.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I think crowd funding is a useful tool, but I think it also requires more prep from the author. In the absence of a big publisher to vouch for the story, it falls to the author to find other ways of convincing readers to give them a chance.
    I would make the case that the advantage writing has over other possible kickstarters is the low cost of materials, and the ease with which it can be distributed, so I would propone giving away smaller pieces of writing, through blogs and other mediums, use that to build up a demand, and build up a platform and demand, before venturing onto something like Kickstarter or another self publishing mechanism.

    Liked by 1 person

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