Monthly Archives: September 2010

Kickstarter – a New Model for Indie Publishing

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.

Craig Mod's Art Space Tokyo
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.

Backing Up Your Digital Writing

This isn’t related to web fiction, but I’d thought I’d share a little tip I use to keep my writing secure – regardless of whatever terrible things that may happen to my primary computer. I was on Twitter today, and writer Zoe Whitten posted a couple of tweets on how her machine crashed on her, and with it – two months of writing lost in temporary hell.

There are two things to remember here. The first is that – if you’re reading Novelr, it’s very likely that you already do most of your writing on your computer. The second thing, worth remembering, is the simple truth that computers are fragile creatures and should always be treated with the assumption that something, somewhere, would go catastrophically wrong; that your work is always at risk of vanishing, and if you so forget about your computer or lose it or drop it or have your board fry itself or have your hard disc spin to death – any of these things may happen at any given time, sending your writing straight to a unknowable purgatory.

It pays, of course, to have backups. If you’re on a Mac, get SuperDuper!. But backups aren’t ideal when you’re writing and your computer crashes and you just want to get back to work: they’re a hassle to do, and it takes quite a bit of discipline to backup on a regular basis.

The simplest solution to this is to get Dropbox.
Screen shot 2010-09-02 at 1.55.12 AM.png
Dropbox gives you a little folder into which you dump the files you want to save. And when it’s connected to the Internet, Dropbox syncs your files with all the other computers you have with Dropbox installed. (Plus they give you a web interface to download and use those files, should the need ever arise.)

See the value in this? I use Dropbox as the holding space for whatever document I’m currently working on. I keep backups of my whole hard disc, of course, but if my computer fails or if I’m away I get to download and work on my working drafts – either through the web interface, or via the selection of mobile devices currently supported by Dropbox (i.e.: Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry).

There are other uses, naturally. Some of my friends drag and drop .pdf ebooks into their Dropboxes, for reading on the train. Others use Dropbox to share pictures with friends. And if you have your writing organized in a different part of your computer, just follow these steps to have Dropbox sync those folders too.

Dropbox is great as a storage trick, for the few documents you want to protect the most. It’s small, it’s simple, it’s easy-to-use, and (best of all!) it’s absolutely free of charge. Get it at, set it up, and then get back to writing today.

  •    William Gibson on Google:
    Science fiction never imagined Google, but it certainly imagined computers that would advise us what to do. HAL 9000, in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” will forever come to mind, his advice, we assume, eminently reliable — before his malfunction. But HAL was a discrete entity, a genie in a bottle, something we imagined owning or being assigned. Google is a distributed entity, a two-way membrane, a game-changing tool on the order of the equally handy flint hand ax, with which we chop our way through the very densest thickets of information. Google is all of those things, and a very large and powerful corporation to boot.
    Well written, and a fascinating (if detached!) look at the Google we take for granted. #