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Castles in the Kickstarter Air



10.17.22


There’s this huge buzz in the indie publishing world about the power of Kickstarter. Most of us authors had no idea what Kickstarter is, but we’re paying attention now. That’s because this guy (Brandon Sanderson) did something astonishing on Kickstarter. He writes lots of fantasy series and his many, MANY readers are fanatical about him.


He launched a Kickstarter. (There’s a whole vocab I’m learning with this. You don’t “do” a Kickstarter or “have” a Kickstarter; you “launch” a Kickstarter.) He told his fans that if he could raise $X from them in a month, he would…bla bla bla. I’m going to fill in the blanks, but you should know I’m not exactly sure WHAT he offered. He offered; that’s enough. So let’s say he said “If I raise $20,000 from my fans, I’ll send those fans the next four books in the series RIGHT AWAY.”


(More vocab. Those who pledge money are called backers—not investors, not buyers.)


His fans created a nation-wide frenzy over this. He raised FORTY-THREE MILLION DOLLARS on this one Kickstarter.


Um…what?


Every indie publisher blinked hard. He did WHAT, now??


New fault lines developed in the publishing world. The landscape changed. Authors who didn’t know Kickstarter from a kick stand sat up and started to pay attention.


At this point, Kickstarter itself was sitting up. Kickstarter takes between six and ten percent of all money raised from the “backers,” so suddenly discovering that novelists were now funding a new ping pong table in the break room? Yeah. They got interested.


(I imagine ALL companies in the digital space have ping pong tables in their break rooms. And bouncy-balls on which one can travel the long, sunlit hallways.)


Sherilyn Kenyon then raised a million on Kickstarter. She’s a romance author—but her love stories take place in the same genre as Brandon Sanderson. She’s fantasy. And the fantasy world has been doing well on Kickstarter for a while now. You can back comic books and board games based on video games and even indie movies. Fantasy and Kickstarter are old pals.


But it occurred to the Kickstarter brain that the single-largest-selling genre of books in the US isn’t fantasy; it’s the romance novel. And romance readers are VORACIOUS. Many of them (and I mean MANY) read a book a night, and buy the next one as soon as they’re done with the last. It occurred to Kickstarter that there’s gold in them thar hills.


They reached out to two novelists who wrote a book about how to launch a Kickstarter. (These two authors are Russell Nohelty and Monica Leonelle; I met Monica at a writer’s conference and she was wonderful; a generous font of information.) Kickstarter asked Russell and Monica to nose around the romance world and see if romance authors wanted to get in on this, and if not, WHY not.


I came across Russell asking questions on a Facebook group for indie authors and got kind of caught up in his questions. Then he made his book free to the group’s members, and I downloaded it.


Several things became immediately clear:


First, I do not have the reader base to raise a many-zero’ed number. But I could possibly raise a FEW zeros, make a larger profit on each sale (Amazon takes about 30%), and perhaps reach a new audience.


Second, the romance reading public is largely unaware of Kickstarter, so any attempt to broaden that potential would require creative marketing and some outright begging.


Third, I’d need to invest some cash into the concept, since every “backer” needs a “reward” good enough to overcome the fear of something new.


Fools rush in where angels fear to tread. So I rushed in.


My Kickstarter will launch on Nov. 1 and run for 17 days. I’m trying to raise $1,500 to pay for the art I’m having created. (It’s a curiosity of Kickstarter that if backers pledge $1,400 towards a $1,500 goal, then nobody pays a penny and the whole thing is called off. But if backers pledge $43 million towards a $1,500 goal, then we all get a new ping pong table for the break room.)


I’m very excited about the rewards I’ve got, and I’m ready to be creative in my marketing and do some outright begging. Consider this fair warning that you’ll be hearing from me in the days to come!

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