Is crowdfunding, using sites such as Kickstarter a viable alternative for self-publishers?
Crowdfunding is not top of mind for most self-publishing authors, who generally concentrate on Amazon KDP, Createspace, Lulu, Smashwords and Draft2Digital distribution to generate ebook and book sales.
However, many authors are finding success through crowdfunding for publishing.
Kickstarter has announced that over the last seven years, $100,000,000 has been raised for publishing projects. Some of the statistics are quite staggering.
Kickstarter Publishing Statistics (28 April 2009 — 10 August 2016)
Amount pledged: $100,000,000
Projects launched: 33,009
Projects successfully funded: 9,660
Creators who have launched more than one successfully funded Publishing project: 608
Successfully funded creators who have backed at least one other project: 6,414
Number of backers: 1,226,438
Number of countries/territories those backers have come from: 211
Number of times they have pledged to a project: 1,673,631
Number of publishing projects supported by the backer who has pledged to more publishing projects than anyone else: 364
While not all projects reach fruition, a little under 30% of launched projects have raised enough money to fund their publishing projects. That is not a bad ratio of success.
However, the breakdown of projects by category shows that publishing is a wide field.
A breakdown of projects by sub-category:
Academic: 660 projects launched
Anthologies: 231 projects launched
Art Books: 2,103 projects launched
Calendars: 198 projects launched
Children’s Books: 5,349 projects launched
Fiction: 8,009 projects launched
Literary Journals: 195 projects launched
Nonfiction: 7,170 projects launched
Periodicals: 1,129 projects launched
Poetry: 1,189 projects launched
Publishing: 5,020 projects launched
Radio & Podcasts: 778 projects launched
Translations: 116 projects launched
Young Adult: 607 projects launched
Zines: 255 projects launched
What is missing from all this good news data is, of course, the ratio of success between launched and fully funded projects by each individual category. Unfortunately, Kickstarter didn’t provide this statistic.
Can you succeed with crowdfunding?
From the data, it would seem that a little less than one project in three gains full funding, but I would hesitate in concluding that this ratio holds true for fiction projects. The success stories quoted below by Kickstarter tend to highlight children’s books, anthologies, translations and illustrated works.
Independent publishers are looking to Kickstarter to gauge interest, experiment, connect directly with readers, and create beautiful books with high production values. Examples include Restless Books’ expertly illustrated edition of Don Quixote, Copper Canyon Press’s edition of recently discovered, previously unpublished poems by internationally beloved poet, Pablo Neruda, and the gorgeous hardcover editions of John Crowley’s new translation of The Chemical Wedding, published by Kelly Link’s and Gavin Grant’s Small Beer Press.
Traditional publishing wisdom says anthologies don’t sell, but on Kickstarter the anthology sub-category has the highest success rate in the Publishing category (65%), raising more than $1.2 million. Two great examples are Fresh Romance— a romance comics anthology, and Gigantic Worlds — an anthology of sci-fi flash fiction.
Children’s Books have been a particularly bright spot. Titles like The Octicorn, Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Augie and the Green Knight, The Princess Who Saved Herself, and The Wonderful World of Creatures and Code have become part of bedtime routines at homes around the world.
Should you investigate crowdfunding for publishing?
Of course, as any option is worth considering. I would recommend that you read the Kickstarter Basics as a starting point, and then do more research on the viability of crowdfunding for your publishing goals, as well as investigating the many other crowdfunding platforms on the Internet.