Kickstart This Book! What I Learned About Crowdsourced Publishing

This post, by Clinton Kabler, originally appeared on Paid Content on 3/16/13.

Last fall, Book Riot successfully funded a Kickstarter campaign to publish a book. But it was grueling and not very financially rewarding. Here’s what you need to keep in mind if you decide to publish via Kickstarter.

So, you want to Kickstart a book? In August 2012, our company Book Riot successfully funded a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign for ”Start Here: Read Your Way Into 25 Amazing Authors,” a survey of works from a wide range of genres, from classics to contemporary fiction to comics(you can buy it here!). It was a learning experience, and one that Book Riot will certainly repeat.

That said, lest anyone think crowdsourcing is the path to instant publishing fame, dust off your business, promotion, and logistics skills and read on for our experience. The bottom line is that you better prepare to get scrappy.

Step 1: The Business

One of the primary advantages of Kickstarter is that it provides a platform to test the viability of a project with nominal upfront cost – the marketer in me loves this. But more than testing viability, Kickstarter also gives you the freedom to offer intangible rewards that aren’t easily monetized through traditional or self-published avenues. However, it all costs. And unlike a traditionally published project, there is no imprint with deep pockets to cover cost overruns: it all falls on you. So, budget.

To start, determine your rewards. Will you just distribute an ebook? What about a printed edition? Decide what they will cost in dollars and assign a value to your effort (don’t forget your effort!). We chose to do both print and digital to provide additional reward tiers and got a quote from Book Baby for both (we aren’t affiliated with them, and other companies offer similar services). Their digital conversion services were $249, and they agreed to print and fulfill 500 paperback copies for just under $6,000. (Having recently experienced a USPS station in Brooklyn, I’m glad we paid them to send the paperbacks to our backers.)

Kickstarter emphasizes keeping the rewards to the product, and we included a couple of “related” rewards. In retrospect, they didn’t add much value, and they ate margin. The extra rewards sound fancy, but backers aren’t backing the project for the fancy rewards. They are backing the project for the project.

Our project took the form of an anthology, so we had chapters written by multiple people. This required attorneys’ fees to secure the legal rights to what they submitted to the tune of nearly $1,500. And then we paid the people who weren’t employees of Book Riot to write the chapters for another $2,550.


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