Brandon’s Kickstarter

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From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

The conversation started about 10 hours after Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter went live. That’s when the press noticed that a writer made millions in the space of a few hours—without the help of any major publishing house.

Brandon’s own fans are doing this. I’m writing this post about 3 days after the Kickstarter went live. Sometime in the last 24 hours, this Kickstarter campaign became the largest campaign ever held on Kickstarter.

It only took two days to see the panic in the company town newspaper (The New York Times):

But self-publishing on the scale Sanderson is proposing is an enormously complicated proposition. Fundamentally, most authors want to write books, not run a publishing house.

Books require editors, designers and lawyers. Someone has to register the ISBN number and file for copyright. Someone else has to proofread the manuscript, then proofread it again. Printing thousands of copies of physical books, then storing and distributing them, is expensive and onerous.

It’s as if the past 12 years hadn’t happened at all. As if there weren’t hundreds of freelance copy editors and designers. As if registering for an ISBN is hard. As if hiring a lawyer is even harder. (And really, who wants a lawyer who works for the tiny salaries paid by a publishing company? That lawyer is clearly not ambitious or maybe even a great lawyer.)

But, you see, Brandon has a company (how lucky for him!) and that’ll enable him to do this. Sigh.

Two days.

It’s long enough for the press to pick up the story, but not long enough for them to understand it. Most of them never will, just like they haven’t understood publishing for decades. (If ever.)

It’s also long enough for the stupid to have started. On Twitter, Brandon had an entire thread and it was filled with stupid.

I was going to have a Kickstarter this week, but he sucked all the air out of the room.

What? It would be a great time to run a publishing Kickstarter campaign. Readers are crawling all over Kickstarter right now.

He’s only getting this money because he’s a privileged white guy.

Um, anyone can do a Kickstarter. And while there is a great argument to be made about white privilege and traditional publishing (y’know, that thing promoted by that company paper, The New York Times), platforms like Kickstarter and the various ebook companies don’t care what anyone looks like. BIPOC have the same access that Brandon does.

Why is he so successful here?

Because Brandon has tended his fannish garden. In other words, he cultivated his fans. He has a lot of them. He has worked with them, promoting items to them and giving them free stuff for more than a decade.

Much more important than that, though, is this: his readers love his work.

You might not love Brandon’s work but think about it this way:

Take Brandon’s name off this and insert the name of your very favorite writer, the one whose books you buy no questions asked.

Then imagine that writer just told you that he’s written four books that you can get in special editions or early or in totally cool ways and not through the usual publishing channels.

You’d run, not walk, to plunk down your $40  and get four novels in 2023. Be honest. You would. (Or your teenage self would, if you’re too cool to have a favorite these days.)

Brandon has that kind of fanbase. But here’s what the press and the jealous people on Twitter are missing.

Brandon beat the record on Kickstarter in three days. (He has most of a month left to go, as I write this.) Within three days, his Kickstarter was $21.8 million. At that point, only 90,020 people had backed the Kickstarter.

Yes, I said “only.”

Because his novels have sold 20 million copies, according to that company paper, The New York Times. Of course, the Times isn’t telling us how many copies each individual novel has sold, but let’s say that Brandon has a million readers who never miss a book.

That means that only 9% of his regular readers have ponied up the money on Kickstarter.

Only 9% in three days.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

14 thoughts on “Brandon’s Kickstarter”

    • Good one.

      This caught my eye:

      “Brandon Sanderson has a whole team working on this project. Dragonsteel Entertainment is a publishing company with 30 team members who are experts on design, production, shipping logistics, and more. So even though this project can be seen as an author self-publishing his work, it’s more like an experienced independent book publisher bringing this to life—one that’s particularly familiar with Brandon Sanderson’s work and fanbase, and is totally dedicated to making this project great. ”

      So, he’ll be grossing north of a million per employee.
      Doesn’t sound like he’ll be needing tradpub for much, if anything.
      When tbey come to him next there had better be a lot of zeroes on the payday loan check.

      • I think what’s really relevant is can he get paper copies of his books into bookstores. Bookstores are less relevant than ever, but without them you don’t have complete coverage. Really, “independent” bookstores are the last thing holding back the success of actually independent writers.

        • The only thing holding Indies out of tbe non-chain bookstores is the bookstore owners, the same as libraries. Any indie can get pbooks listed on Ingram if tbey do tbeir homework. Problem is getting the bookstores to want them.

          Sanderson has enough of a name that a mailing will get the stores to order.

          That said, those stores constitute less than 5% of the market and at most Indie sales levels might not move a book a month. Anybody smaller than Sanderson isn’t going to see enough of a return to justify trying to get “complete” coverage.

          In the business world there are some customers that are more trouble than they’re worth (c.f., the accounts Amazon closes, kicking out the shoppers). The same is true about distribution channels, especially those that over order and then return the merchandise.

          • …In the business world there are some customers that are more trouble than they’re worth (c.f., the accounts Amazon closes, kicking out the shoppers). The same is true about distribution channels, especially those that over order and then return the merchandise.

            Yep. Accepting returns and offering a 55% discount on POD paperbacks is a non-starter for me.

  1. D**n

    pledged of $1,000,000 goal
    124,885 backers
    15 Days left

    It has slowed but I bet it hits $30 million.

  2. I actually thought authors were going to use crowdfunding in lieu of advances a long time ago. At least indie authors anyway, but I figured trad authors would jump in the pool, too.

    I’m not surprised Sanderson is in this particular pool, though. Just because he did start Dragonsteel Entertainment even while tradpubbed. It was a clue he intended to take control of his own career. And I thought the “Entertainment” part of his company name signaled he might branch into other media, e.g., games and video adaptations.

    While I never got into Sanderson’s books, he still strikes me as one of the writers worth learning from on the business side. I’d love to read a post-mortem of his campaign when it’s all said and done. Even if he runs into road bumps or potholes he’s still positioned to provide useful lessons about his experience. That’s a book of his I would definitely put down money to read.

    In another thread someone posted about Scalzi, who KKR alludes to in the OP. This is a good time to start separating sheep from goats as it were: Scalzi has never once said anything insightful or relevant to indie writers. He couldn’t even do the basic math for this 13 book deal; when indies were saying they wouldn’t go tradpub for less than 7 figures, he was doing only 6 figures per book. There’s little point in taking notice of him and his egregiously graceless “hot takes.”

    • Scalzi was part of the handwringing tradpub mob screaming over Amazon switching to per reads payouts on KU because they didn’t bother to read the details before getting scandalized. They thoight it applied to them and they’d lose major portions of their income from folks who never finish their books.

      Pretty much a member of the Sue Grafton tradpub kool aid klub.
      An exemplar of what not to do.

      • Yep. He’s the ditz in those informercials featuring people who are oddly inept at simple tasks until they get a hold of the Newfangled Gadget for only $19.99. On the business side he’s not useful at all.

        On the craft side, he appropriated someone else’s story. And there appears to be little fan art for his stories, as opposed to Sanderson, who at least moves artists to draw his characters and settings. There’s just no “there” there.

        • I’m actually surprised he hasn’t appropriated other Piper stories or maybe Farmer’s GREEN ODYSSEY. Lots of other good 50’s-60’s stories that have fallen out of copyright he could plunder.

  3. People are voting tbeir wallets.

    I’m not surprised an author kickstarter is this successful: as KKR says it is somewhat overdue. I am, however, mildly surprised (and pleasantly so) that it is coming from tbe SF&F field and specifically the high fantasy segment, which is something of an acquired taste and a bit more demanding of newcomers than many other segments.

    I see this as a very good sign for others willing to follow in his footsteps as even 0.1% ($20K) of his success would please many authors. We’re not talking of mana from heaven here; research, homework, and competence is still required to pull off a successful campaign, but given the miniscule advances tradpub is offering many genres, kickstarter looks very viable as a launch pad for a project for *established* midlisters.

    May he prosper and serve as exemplar for many more.

  4. I’ve read a couple of his books and they are not my cup of tea.


    I’m glad to see his success and wish him the best of luck with his project.

    • I haven’t, and can’t say, but I will say that there are people online who are commenting on his KS that really really like them.

  5. It’s as if the past 12 years hadn’t happened at all.

    When the opposition is making mistakes, just get out of the way, don’t tell them, and enjoy the show.

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