Kickstarter is a website for ‘funding and following creativity’. I’d never actually given the site much attention (even if I knew of one or two projects, by acquaintances, funded through the site) until – well, two days ago I stumbled onto a discussion on Kickstarter’s growing influence in the independent book world, and everyone seemed pretty positive about the service. So I decided to check it out.
Kickstarter’s core idea is simple: you post a creative project to their site, put up a description (and very often: a video), and then you set a series of pledge levels that show to the right of your project page. These levels indicate what backers get in return for specific amounts of money. For instance, this book project promises an autographed copy for $20, an 8×10 print (and book!) for $30, and an acknowledgment (plus doodle and print and book!) for $100.
The genius here is that these pledges happen before your book’s published, with absolutely no risk for all involved. Your book will be funded by the usual crowd of backers: mostly your readers, some fans and perhaps several Kickstarter community members. And if you can’t raise the minimum, your project closes, the page disappears, and nobody need pay up.
There have been a number of striking book projects done through Kickstarter. Craig Mod, for instance, has published a run of handcrafted, silkscreened books with Kickstarter fundraising; Robin Sloan (of Snarkmarket fame), managed to get $13,942 to fund the writing of a novel. From his project page:
I’m writing a book: a detective story set halfway between San Francisco and the internet. And the more people who reserve a copy, the better each one will be!
I’m beginning to think that Kickstarter (and websites like it, that I assume will appear in the future) are going to play a prominent role in independent publishing – maybe in one or two years, but certainly for a long time to come. And how can they not? It makes perfect economic sense for both reader and writer. If a writer has to earn the privilege of getting paid for his work, then this model delights in that exchange, and rewards the avid reader. (Imagine: being able to chip in, for your favourite author! How fulfilling! How incredible!)
But I also find it very cool – the very idea that you can help support your favourite writers as they produce and publish good books – books you already love, because you’re reading them online. This idea is wonderful, I think, and brilliant, and so befitting of the kind of closeness the Internet is able to afford its readers; its writers.
Digression: there’s actually a space right now for a service that enables closer reader-writer relationships – the kind of relationships that encourage a ‘you fund me, I’ll make good books for you’ ethos. Current solutions are good, but things can be, and will be, much better, given the right technical backbone. My bet is that Kickstarter has the seed of this in its model. All that remains is to think about this and tease it out a little.
I’ll be looking for a few Kickstarter authors to come write on Novelr in the future – in particular the ones who have successfully funded the publication (and sometimes even the writing) of their books. In the meantime, I’d recommend that you consider Kickstarter for funding. And maybe not for large, $10,000 runs, but it seems perfectly fair to begin with a small print of carefully-bound books, shipped to a loyal pool of delighted readers.
Oh, and a random thought: perhaps – as more web fiction writers stumble onto the idea of publishing with Kickstarter, we’ll begin to see an increasing number of links on Novelr to their respective project pages. Which I look forward to, and – I suppose – can only be a good thing.