Using Kickstarter to Publish Your Book

I’ve come across just about everything you can think of when it comes to books on WordPress. One of the posts that seems to persist is writers asking for help via Kickstarter to publish their book. I was one of them. I thought it would be a good way for me to get people interested in my book and to make it better in the process. I haven’t read any Kickstarter campaign pages in a long time, but I wanted to use mine for the things that you’d expect like editing and cover design.

But now I’m really thinking of Kickstarter’s place in publishing and I have some thoughts on it. Sure there are plenty of successful publishing projects on the site, but should it be used as often as it is? I don’t know. It’s nice to help someone get their book out in the world, but in using Kickstarter to deliver that assistance one has no idea what he/she is getting involved with. You likely aren’t beta reading the book. You have no idea how well the author writes. You don’t know much of anything outside of the campaign page. And those are a problem.

I’m not sure I’d be comfortable helping fund any book project. I know, I know. I tried funding mine on the site, but I didn’t know anything. And when I really think about it it’s just not a good bet. Other creative projects are different. Someone trying to fund an independent album can refer you back to song covers they’ve released. Someone trying to fund a short film project can also refer you back to previous work. And even artists can do the same. But I’ve found that many using Kickstarter for a book project have never actually written a book.

What do you think of aspiring authors using Kickstarter to publish their book?

PS: I’ve received two guest posts that I know I’ll be using next week. Which means I need three more. I’m not waiting for people to decide what they’re writing about. All you have to do is let me know you’re interested in guest posting and I’ll send you an invite. I’ll refer you back to this post to see what I’m looking for.

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34 thoughts on “Using Kickstarter to Publish Your Book

  1. I’m not familiar with Kick Starter, but I’m a firm believer that a website/software program can’t really edit. The rules are too absolute, while language is not. You need a “person” to proofread and edit your book. That’s what I do, and I never disappoint. Machines just can’t relate to inconsistencies, descriptions and sentence structure that doesn’t quite make it, clarity, and smooth readability. I’m always available for free questions/assistance, and I’m flexible with my rates. Don’t be afraid of the dreaded editor. We’re not so bad.

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    • Oh. Kickstarter is a crowdfunding website for all kinds of projects. It’s not editing software.

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      • Ah, I’ve heard of those. Most authors I personally know that have tried them have had very little or no results, but that’s just what I’ve heard. Not my experience. I’ll go look at it.

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      • I think it’s tough for writing projects to succeed on these websites because they’re not as glamorous as some others.

        And to your other comment, a post I’ve wanted to write is why writers need editors. But I have no experience with editors. Maybe something with your editing hat on would be great? But I won’t tell you what to write about. I’ll send the invite.

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      • Thanks. I’m a speaker, teacher, and mentor on this subject. I appreciate you getting the information out to other writers. I enjoy helping authors just starting out.

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      • Perfect. You’re obviously more qualified than I am. I already sent the invite to your email.

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  2. I’ve never used Kickstarter for anything, but I know it does work well to get a project off the ground when you’ve got 0 dollars to make it happen yourself. I think the best way to make it work for publishing is to get a following beforehand, let people see your writing ability in free short stories or something. But definitely provide SOMETHING so the people helping to kickstart your publishing endeavours will know what they’re getting themselves into, y’know?

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  3. I definitely believe in apprenticeships for writing, but I’m not sure how to go about it. I’ve been writing fanfiction for years, and I might consider asking my fanfiction followers to support me in writing something original, if I still had followers after a year out of writing.
    Random projects are less likely to be funded than those done by someone who has an active following of people who know and enjoy their writing, I suppose. It’s probably self-fulfilling.

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    • I’m not sure what you mean by apprenticeships for writing. Like…apprenticeships usually involve you working under the supervision of an expert for an extended period of time, right? How can you do that with writing? I don’t think you can really be taught how to write well. I don’t know.

      As for crowdfunding to publish a book…most people have no following on their social media, writer or not. But I definitely think those who have a good size following start out at an advantage. To a point.

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      • I’ve heard of fanfiction, particularly, be described as an apprenticeship because it’s so communal and you can get really strong feedback from it. You can’t be taught, but you can develop really fast through a community like that. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a really interesting one to look into, especially with the gift culture and the aversion to accepting pay.

        And if you don’t have a following, you probably don’t stand a chance of crowd-funding successfully. You have to have a crowd to draw your funds from, essentially.

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      • I’ve never read or written fanfiction and probably never will. It’s just not something I’m interested in. And I still don’t see that as an apprenticeship.

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      • I have written for over a decade, starting when I was 13, and I started out dabbling on my own, then got into the community and started getting really good feedback. As I got better I started hanging out with more experienced, often published, writers, who gave me even better feedback, and then a beta reader who pressed me to understand what I was writing and how it could be better.
        It is, I think, as close to an apprenticeship as you can get in writing.

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      • But you’re just describing the writing community as a whole. Feedback. Criticism. Advice. None of that is exclusive to fanfiction.

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      • The way the fanfiction community is set up is better structured for it, or was in the past before Tumblr arrived and screwed it up. There’s some really interesting academic work been done on the reciprocal nature of fanfiction, which didn’t really exist in original fiction because of the expected monetisation of original fiction. Once people start trying to monetise fanfiction, the community starts fracturing and the feedback gets weaker, because it’s no longer a reciprocation for the work, but becomes a service that other members of the community are paying for.

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  4. I have been using Ginger and love it as my grammar is just “fair” at most. It is free and gives me more options in creativity. Take a look and see what you think 🙂

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  5. I like Kickstarter, but I agree that it’s a bizarre platform for book projects. As you said, there are rarely writing samples/credentials listed. Yeah, I know it costs money to get a nice cover designed, a professional editor, or maybe for a Createspace promotional package/something similar. You might even buy a few paperbacks off a vanity press to sell in person. But otherwise, how much money does it really *cost* to publish an indpendent book? Whenever people ask for more than $1500 or so, I get suspicious. I’ve seen people ask for up to $5000 or more. Really? Does this person actually think they’re going to sell at least $5000 worth of product? And is there no possible way for them to do it cheaper?

    Films cost money because of equipment, labor, location rentals – god, it would be easier to list the things you DON’T have to buy for a film. Kickstarters for new technology/gadgets obviously require tens of thousands of dollars because manufacturing is expensive. Costs for those projects are all UNAVOIDABLE, but you could literally release an independent book for free if you edited it yourself, designed the cover yourself, and released it ebook-only.

    Sure, it’s rare for most people to do all those things. Most independent authors will need to put some amount of money into their work. But I wish more of them would think about return-on-investment, especially when that investment is done with other peoples’ money.

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    • I was going to write my own comment in direct reply to John, but actually you’ve said exactly what I was going to say. I can see that Kickstarter might be an attractive endeavour for projects which require significant up-front capital, but self-publishing a book can cost very little or even nothing. Even stuff like editing, cover design etc can be done quite cheaply if you shop around – Fiverr etc. By far the biggest – and least avoidable – cost is in time rather than money – and if you don’t put in the time the book will suck and doesn’t deserve funding anyway.

      As an unknown writer, my biggest problem is lack of exposure and sales. If that could be solved with a few hundred dollars, tell me how and I’d do it anyway.

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      • Yup! Writing a book is ultimately a one-person job, and time/effort is the biggest expense. I was actually gonna mention ELance and fiverr too, as well as your friendly neighborhood WordPress community 🙂 I’ve met plenty of people on here who are willing to beta for free or cheap.

        Paying high dollar for those services is ultimately a rip off unless you have a guaranteed way to sell books (which no one does). A first time author – one who actually sees their publishing as a business venture and not just a side hobby – should try to wing it as cheaply as possible in order to maximize their profit. When their sales start rising with subsequent books, then maybe they can funnel those profits into fancier services.

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  6. Kickstarter can work … I did it myself … but you do present a good point in that you do need something to start with. I didn’t hit Kickstarter until I had books written, the money was for art, publishing costs, that sort of thing, so I had product and proof of concept. I don’t think it’d be a good thing to use for something you don’t have started or well-under way.

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  7. Starring this post so that I may sit and read this and the comments in full. Thanks!

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