Home » Self-Publishing, Seth Godin » Does Kickstarter work as a platform for books?

Does Kickstarter work as a platform for books?

1 January 2013

From Seth Godin:

THE THEORY: The hardest part of book publishing is getting the first 10,000 copies of a book read. After that, the book either resonates or it doesn’t. It’s talked about, handed from person to person, used as an example in a book group–or it’s not. Sure, you can add more hype, but at that point, you’re pushing water uphill. I’ve always focused on how my books do their second month on sale, not the first month. The first month is a testament to the author’s ability to self promote, which is far less interesting.

THE TACTIC: Kickstarter seems custom made to solve the 10,000 copy problem. The author with a tribe can reach out to her readers, activate them and make an offer: if enough of you agree to buy this book today, I’ll write it and send it to you just before a publisher puts it on sale…

. . . .

IN PRACTICE: The Kickstarter platform is a bit of a nightmare for the independent author. I’m not sure I could find the intestinal fortitude to use it again. There are significant structural flaws in the way information is collected and used that virtually guarantee that 5% of the readers who use it will end up disappointed or need a lot of handholding. What should be consistent and coordinated ends up failing at both. And the cost of fulfillment and international shipping is high enough that it’s likely no money will be made (which is fine if the other elements fall into place).

The good news is that the enthusiasm and support that early adopters bring to the table is extraordinary. This is an untapped human need, and people (some people, anyway) really enjoy the role of patron and early supporter.

Link to the rest at The Domino Project

Self-Publishing, Seth Godin

17 Comments to “Does Kickstarter work as a platform for books?”

  1. I never understood the appeal to pushing out a book via Kickstarter. If I had a following capable of pushing my Kickstarter campaign to 10,000 copies, why not just save myself the hassle, write the book, and offer it for sale to those 10,000 readers through regular POD fulfillment channels.

    Now, if it were an art book that wouldn’t be feasible as POD, I could see that, but for fiction? Why bother? Is it just because all the cool kids are doing it?

    • I used Kickstarter for the print release of one of my ebooks because I couldn’t afford to commission the interior artwork or copyediting on my own. I can make professional looking covers out of stock art, but it just doesn’t compare with what a few hundred bucks can get from a capable artist.

  2. There is a small segment of the writing populace for which I think it does work… namely online webfiction authors.

    In this sense they operate more like webcomics creators. Their samples are available already online and are “Complete” and simply ready for another step in the publication process (i.e., conversion to print).

    I’ve known of a few that had modest goals but met them successfully:
    Meilin Miranda (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/meilinmiranda/son-in-sorrow)

    and MCA Hogarth

    Exceptions to the rule likely since both have been around in our small webfiction community for years.

    But definitely worth watching.

    As for whether their success can be replicated by others, it’s hard to say.

  3. I knew someone without a “tribe” who used it to create a novel.
    AFAIC she should have indie published it digitally then taken the $ made (if it wasn’t good enough to make money that way then how does having a paperback make it more readable?), improved the cover/whatever and createspaced it. Or go whole hog and Lightning Source it so you can waste time and effort trying to get it into dying bookstores.
    To ask others to contribute what amounted to $4000 to do what I do basically 100% on my own for my time, effort and maybe a stock photo, it just seems wrong to me. Even if they were rich people who could afford the investment/loss for the jollies of it.

    • The reason to do a paperback is because 75% of the reading audience reads paperbacks, as opposed to 25% of that reads ebooks. But I’d definitely just go POD like CreateSpace or LS.

      • I have paperbacks of a number of my books and I don’t see that the sales are greater than digital sales in any exciting fashion. I also have a large print version of one because those are reportedly needed and in demand, so of course that book has never sold 1 copy.

        • They’re not *greater* than your digital sales. But are you selling them? That’s money you made because you have a paperback.

          The greater percentage of people who buy paperbacks may very well be offset by the smaller percentage of that group willing to buy from indie authors. It’s possible, I haven’t seen any data on that. That said, since you have apparently sold paperback versions, doesn’t that contribute to your overall audience?

          • They’re not *greater* than your digital sales. But are you selling them? That’s money you made because you have a paperback.

            Not necessarily true. Some of those sales may have been to people who prefer the paperback, but would have bought the ebook anyway if no paperback had been available. If your per-unit profit is higher on ebooks, such a sale represents money lost by releasing the paperback.

            What percentage of anyone’s paperback sales fall into that category remains in question. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to gather data about something like that.

  4. Yes, they sell but I am not sure it was worth all the work that went into formatting them to be completely honest.

    • Hm. I hadn’t actually considered that part of it, and that’s fair. I’m planning to release my novel as a trade paperback this month (on CreateSpace), and formatting has legitimately been a pain in the neck to work through. However, I figure as soon as I get it out the door I can use it as a template for future paperbacks. That’s how it worked with ebooks, too. The initial formatting was a pain, but as soon as I got a format that worked I saved the basic structure and styles as a template, and now I use that over and over again.

      • Ditto for me.

        In my initial struggles with e-book formatting, I was tearing my hair out. I found it very difficult and frustrating. BUT I did eventually figure it out, and the whole e-publishing process is relatively painless now.

        I just approved the final proof (after an equally wild struggle with InDesign and its results on CreateSpace) for my first print edition yesterday. All in all, I wrestled for many weeks to get to this point. BUT my second print edition book (already through one proof and close to final form) was easier. I expect the third to be easier yet.

    • I formatted the interior of my last book Escape from Communism using CreateSpace template. Actually not the complete template, just the margin settings for that size book. It worked great. Before using the template I did the following: I copied the text from Word into a Notepad.txt, and then copied the content back into a new Word document. The last step, I formatted the titles, quotes, chapters, etc. It seems like a lot of hassle, but it works. Once all this is done I copied the clean manuscript text into the template for the respective size book, reviewed, adjusted and voila! A few hours of work instead of paying $300.

  5. SF author Tobias Buckell posted an essay a few weeks ago about his expereince with Kickstarter.


    Crowd-sourcing is definitely an “it depends” type of deal. From what I’ve seen, if you’ve got a core audience already, you CAN make it work.

  6. I admit I find the “bit of a nightmare” part rather puzzling. I used Kickstarter to put out print editions of three novels and one audiobook edition and as long as you’re organized and keep on top of things it’s no more difficult to manage than any other project with multiple dependencies. And there’s nothing like it for raising capital, which is useful if you want to pay your contractors. 🙂

    • I agree, MCA. I carefully planned a Kickstarter and executed it, hit the goal and it was OK. Godin ran a very cynical Kickstarter and actually gave the whole concept a bad name.

      It was obvious when it came out that he had not thought anything through and had not done any research or consulted with successful projects. Anyone who did any research at all would tell you about the overseas shipping issue. And he was offering piles of hardcovers!

      Godin does have one thing right: you need to have a large tribe to work it. I had a wealthy tribe and made my $$ goals but did not have it go viral as I’d hoped.

      Would I do it again? Yes, probably but I would do it for the tribe: donation would equal what they would buy anyway plus include limited edition stuff.

      That raises the question, why do it at all? And the answer is, to provide buzz. The money works out like getting an interest free loan.

      Peace, Seeley

      • Seeley, would you mind me asking a few questions?
        Can I see a link to the Kickstarter? I would love to look at your pitch and comments you received.

        Also, do you have a sense of “how big” this tribe ought to be? I’ve been trying hard to grow my online presence (serializing) but have no idea if I’m anywhere near a point where I should even consider a Kickstarter to bring something to print. thx!

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