Crowdfunding, and Kickstarter in particular, continue to make inroads in book publishing, providing financing for everything from one-off projects to support for entire lists.
Kickstarter’s general publishing category is managed by Maris Kreizman, who’s been on the job just a few months, along with Margot Atwell, while the comics category is managed by Jamie Tanner, a published cartoonist. PW recently spoke with Kreizman and Tanner, who outlined how they work to assist campaign organizers; they also discussed the growth and impact of crowdfunding on publishing.
Kreizman is a former editor at the Free Press and is the former editorial director at Nook Press, B&N’s self-publishing channel. She’s also got a book coming from Macmillan’s Flatiron Books imprint in 2014. While she has not personally run a Kickstarter campaign, she said, “I have a lot of ideas about how to do it; a publishing Kickstarter campaign doesn’t have to be a book, it can be an author’s tour or an event.” She added, “People are really empowered now to try self-publishing and create their own stuff.”
She’s right. In 2013, there were just under 6,000 publishing projects launched on Kickstarter, with $22.2 million pledged (compared to 5,634 such projects with $15.3 million in pledges in 2012). Overall, the publishing category has a 32% success rate. In comics, which is treated as a separate Kickstarter category, 1,401 projects launched and the category generated $12.5 million in pledges in 2013. The prior year, there were 1,170 comics projects launched and $9.2 million in pledges. Comics projects on Kickstarter have a success rate of nearly 50%.
Kreizman said her job is “to look at every publishing campaign, magazine, and book.” Indeed, she noted that, because the platform is so automated, it’s important to let creators know that “a human being looks over every project” and to “reach out to the publishing community.” Kreizman will attend BookExpo America in New York in late May and the Brooklyn Book Festival in the fall, and she has other speaking engagements slated for the year, at which she will offer tips and encouragement to campaign organizers and receive feedback directly from the publishing and self-publishing communities.
“Everyone has a different idea about how to use [Kickstarter] in publishing,” Kreisman said. She pointed to Fantagraphics Books, an indie comics publisher that launched a successful campaign at the end of 2013 and raised $220,000 to fund its entire spring 2014 list of nearly 40 titles—an unprecedented use of the platform. “I’d love to see more small presses and literary magazines do the same thing,” Kreisman said.
Tanner, whose graphic novel The Aviary (AdHouse Books) was nominated for an Eisner Award in 2008, has managed a successful Kickstarter campaign (raising $7,555 in 2009 to self-publish a new graphic novel), and, much like Kreizman, he said his job is “to be a resource, to help creators with their campaigns.” He also noted that a big part of his job is outreach (he was heading to the Toronto Comic Arts Festival earlier this month).
The comics category has the fourth highest success rate on Kickstarter, behind dance (70%), theater (64%), and music (55%). “The comics community got [Kickstarter] right away,” Tanner said, also citing the Fantagraphics campaign. “The broader publishing community is catching up. Kickstarter is a tool.” He added that the high success rate of comics projects also “demonstrates that people still love print.” Indeed, “setting up a [Kickstarter comics] project, offering rewards and a delivery date, is very much like any conventional comics publishing project,” he explained.
This year, Kickstarter has introduced more subcategories to help connect users with projects that interest them—publishing added YA and academic subcategories, among others; comics added anthologies, graphic novels, and Web comics. Kreizman and Tanner both urged organizers to keep their rewards simple: “You don’t need T-shirts and tote bags; people just want what you’re making,” Kreizman said. And while there are “best practices” for launching a Kickstarter campaign, Tanner encourages organizers “to do some weird dream project that they may not believe has an audience,” asking, “Why not?”
Kreizman said Kickstarter is working on “new tools for organizers” and she urges them to “create books they wouldn’t have done otherwise.” She added, “I love to talk about people who want to start their own presses. Consolidation [in the book industry] has led to people looking for new ways to publish. We’ve only scratched the surface of what we can do here at Kickstarter.”