Thursday, July 26, 2012

But is it the future of publishing?

I’m taking a short break from the dark fiction series for a couple of weeks, in part because I’m out of town next week, and in part because what I want to talk about today has something of a deadline.

Before I get to the main topic of the post, a few things.

1) Guess what I did on Tuesday night.

I met Sarah.

Yes, our Sarah. She was down in San Diego on vacation with family and she took a night away to meet me for coffee. We talked books and writing the entire time. It was fantastic, and she’s just as sweet and wonderful as in person as online.

So that’s two Prosers I met in two months. Anyone else want to come to San Diego? :D The weather’s gorgeous, and we have zoos and delicious bakeries……

2) NPR is running a poll of the top 100 YA books of all time. They have a list of about 250 up on their website (which seems like not that many to me). There are a few glaring omissions (discussed here), but a few good ones. Some of the easiest votes for me were The Last Unicorn, Howl’s Moving Castle, the Song of the Lioness series, To Kill a Mockingbird, the Dark is Rising series, and the Abhorsen series.
On to the main topic!


In case you haven’t heard, kickstarter is a crowd-funding source. Basically, you put together a project, and ask people for money in exchange for rewards.

For example, take this project I discovered today. The organizers want to launch a satellite into space – with 100 student science projects on board. Each project has to fit in a ping pong ball. The project is free for students. I think it’s an amazing thing, for a child to know that something of theirs has been to space, and to see the results of that experiment.

If you want to support the project, you pick a pledge level, anywhere from $1 to $3,500. For pledge levels of $10 and above, you get a reward – for $10, for example, you get to send a business card message into space. For $50, you get a photograph of your name (with others, on a business card), in space. I think that’s worth $50, but I need to buy groceries, so it’s not happening.

Kickstarter works wonderfully for some types of projects. For music, it’s allowing some musicians to raise funding for creating albums and promotion. Amanda Palmer raised over a million dollars for her upcoming album. Insane, no? With so much music going online and out of record stores, it makes sense that new sources of funding could become very popular for music.

So could this apply to the publishing industry? There are some similarities – writers and musicians can put their work up for free (or a small price) on the internet, but have to contend with everyone else who’s doing the same thing. I think Kickstarter could be a great thing for an author who’s self-published a few books and has gained a loyal following, but who needs an advertising budget to make it to the next level.

There are caveats, of course. With Kickstarter, if you don’t reach 100 percent of your funding goal, you get no money. If you don’t have enough supporters, or you ask for too much money, you might lose it all. And you’re competing against a whole other group of people who are looking to catch the eyes of funders.

One brand new middle grade writer was wildly successful with his project. I forgot to back it in time, but I hope I can find a few of the books once they're finished. 

From the description of the project:

11 year old Ada has a problem: her governess, Miss Coverlet, has quit her job to go get married (a dumb idea if ever there was one, if you ask Ada) and her new tutor Percy ("Peebs") is a total drip. She'd rather be left to her own devices – literally – inventing things and solving math problems and ignoring people altogether.
She's also forced to study alongside the imaginative girlie-girl Mary, who's always going on about romance and exotic travels. Fortunately, Mary's appetite for adventure leads her to propose the two girls open a detective agency, and when an heiress shows up with a case about a missing diamond, it's the perfect puzzle to coax Ada out of her shell.
This is the made up story about two very real girls – Ada, the world's first computer programmer, and Mary, the world's first science fiction author – caught up in a steampunk world of hot-air balloons and steam engines, jewel thieves and mechanical contraptions. For readers 8-12.

Doesn't that sound lovely?

The author has a page on his blog giving tips on successful Kickstarter projects. 

I'm also excited about this project.

I've wanted to be a part of Clockwork Phoenix for a long time (it's edited by Mike Allen!), but I never seem to have a story ready when the anthology opens. The other things I love about this project is that whatever they make over their goal goes toward paying the authors pro rates.

Mostly, I love Kickstarter because it's a wonderful feeling to back talented creators and scientists and artists. Maybe I would do something like this someday, but it's a long way off so far.

What do you think? Do you like the idea of crowdsourcing your next novel?


  1. I had never heard of Kickstarter before today. What a cool concept! I love the idea of raising funds for publication this way. The all or nothing aspect is a little scary, but exciting, too. One thing that hit me was how intensely personal your relationship with your readers must be in this environment. The idea of selling to a publisher is pretty anonymous because as the writer your job ends when you hand over the final draft. To put yourself out there, asking for support directly from your fan base (or potential fan base) has to be tough. What a rush it must be when you hit that dollar mark and realize people stepped up to help you achieve your goal. I'm sure I'll be surfing Kickstarter all week now.

    Have a safe trip!

    1. Trisha, I've given way too much of my money to Kickstarter lately! There's so much cool stuff on there.

      That's a good point about the intensely personal aspect. But it could also be a very big selling point for fans of an author, as some people seem to regard the novel writing process as a mystery (though that's probably changing in the digital age).

  2. I've never heard of Kickstarter before either. I think it's a great idea. As with all avenues to publishing, "crowdsourcing" seems overwhelming to me. But since everything seems equally overwhelming, this is definitely something I'm going to look into.

    1. There are a few other such platforms out there, including one whose name I can't remember. In that case, apparently if you don't meet your goals, you only get a portion of the proceeds. Better than nothing, but I wonder if the all or nothing idea is almost more of an incentive for people to donate.

  3. Very interesting.

    I've never heard of Kickstart before. What happens to the money if you don't reach your goal? What happens if you raise money for something and get the money, but its not enough or you are unable to finish the project for whatever reason?

    These answers are probably answered on their website. I guess I'll have to check it out. :)

    1. They don't charge the pledgers until the project ends. So if you don't make your goal, there's no money that's yet been debited. Not sure about the latter question though.


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