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Why Kickstarter is the Place to Be For Writers – and Why You’ll Profit From It!

Banner Piles of MoneyTLDR: The increasing popularity of Kickstarter is a death-knell for traditional publishing, but great news for writers, both new and established, who’ll get access to better-paying and faster publishing options.

People, especially new(ish) writers, keep complaining that Brandon Sanderson’s kickstarter is going to hurt writers, publishers, and book-loving aliens from Mars.

I’ve seen arguments that it will make publishers less willing to pay writers, less willing to gamble on new writers, and less willing to publish non-best-selling books.

That’s great news!

Check this: the big trad publishers are dying. Have been for the past 30 years, and it accelerated as online shopping accelerated.

Trad publishers live because they controlled the traditional channels, i.e. the way books got from the printer to the bookstore via distributors.

With books reaching readers outside of the traditional chain, that’s a blow for trad publishers.

It’s also an opportunity for writers to either become author-entrepreneurs (read self-publish) or sign with a small/indie press. It’s also great for indie presses, as they now have ways to get their books to readers that aren’t dependent on things that require huge, up-front investments like large print runs.

It also increases the revenue writers get. A traditional publishing contract is for 5-15% of publisher’s net sales. That means 5-15% of the 40-60% publishers get after distributor discounts (and let me remind you that a lot of publishers now act as/own/are owned by their own distributors – and make sure to give themselves very generous discounts, all at the expense of the writer.)

So a new(ish) writer would have a paperback sell for $10 to get $0.20. And if you got a $1000 dollar advance, that would mean needing to sell 5000 books in order to earn out. With no backing from the publisher, who will print 2000 books and break even around the 500 unit mark. (Unit = book.)

Now, writers can go the Kickstarter route, where the average cost of a ebook (with almost ZERO unit cost!) is $5-$10, and the average buy-in from readers is $25-$40 (I’m using Russel Nohelty‘s numbers, check out his book on the subject.)

And the writer gets to keep 90% of that (100% – 5% kickstarter fees – 5% transaction fees), less any VAT.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter isn’t the first to make bank, but it’s so big that even the mainstream news outlets (i.e. not book-tok or other specialized new) are taking note, and that’s a lot of free marketing for the platform.

This is just like when (tabletop) games made it to Kickstarter a few years back, and needed a couple of big hits to draw an audience, and now most new games are first Kickstarted, then (maybe) distributed through traditional channels.

That’s what’s happening to book. Brandon is opening doors to other authors.

But wait, Filip, I hear you say. Doesn’t that mean that it will all go belly up the way KDP and Amazon when? Everyone will join the party and new and/or small(ish) writers will become invisible, turning everything into a pay-to-play arena?


Because there’s a big difference between Amazon (or any other retailer) and Kickstarter: Kickstarter is limited time only.

That is, you set up your Kickstarter, and it runs for a few weeks – and then it ends.

All those old Kickstarters aren’t competing with the ones running today. They’ve done their thing, and readers can’t get books from them. Instead, anyone checking Kickstarter for new books will get a limited selection of what is active right now.

And that means that visibility isn’t muddled by huge backlists.

And, if that isn’t enough, Kickstarter is a platform that is very pro-creator focused. It means that you need to offer something new, not just the same-old, same-old. And you need to be fronted by the creator, not the publisher/distributor/seller.

All those things fall back to one conclusion: with increasing Kickstarter popularity, we will see more power, and more money, going toward writers.

And if you don’t want to do the work yourself, you’ll be able to sign with a small, Kickstarter specific, press that will help you for a share of the (much higher) incomes.

That, my friends, is the wave of the future!

Luck and Persistence!

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