Last year was a big one for publishing on Kickstarter. The Web site is the most popular crowdfunding online destination, with 1,666 projects successfully funded in the publishing category, and a total of $11,057,252 pledged. In addition, $8,482,598 was raised for comics, which are listed as a separate category. Altogether, $19.5 million was raised for publishing-related projects.
However, with only 29.6% of the 5,634 projects launched receiving full funding, publishing still had the second-lowest success rate of any category at Kickstarter. Only the fashion category had a lower success rate (26.1%). Site-wide, projects succeed at a rate of 43.6%.
Still, the popularity of the publishing category increased drastically last year. Although year-by-year figures for the last three years are not available, publishing has seen $18.76 million in total pledges dating back to Kickstarter’s April 2009 launch. Last year alone saw more money pledged than was given in total between the launch of the service and the end of 2011.
What sort of projects are getting funded? Not all relate to printed books. Kickstarter takes a wide view of publishing and includes electronic publishing, podcasts, radio shows, and Web sites in that category. Nine projects were funded last year above the $100,000 level:
• a “chooseable path” (choose your own adventure) book version of Hamlet by Ryan North (Dinosaur Comics) raised $580,905;
• fantasy artists Larry Elmore and Brom were pledged $299,914 and $235,319, respectively, for art retrospective books;
• the latest business book by interactive marketing guru Seth Godin raised $287,342;
• a public radio show/podcast on design and architecture was pledged $170,477;
• a news podcast from an NPR correspondent was pledged $100,724;
• a long-form journalism Web site/magazine hybrid fronted by reporters from the Atlantic and the Guardian was pledged $140,201;
• a picture book about being a new parent by Web cartoonist Ryan Sohmer raised $133,750;
• a book of photos and essays from celebrity atheists was pledged $103,538.
As is normally the case with Kickstarter, most of the highly funded projects came from creators with existing track records, though not all are working in their usual mediums.
Many projects did not raise vast amounts of money. The average amount raised by successful publishing projects in 2012 was $6,637. Over $4.25 million was pledged to projects that didn’t meet their goals in 2012, and the average amount raised by a failed project was approximately $1,075.
With less than one-third of publishing projects succeeding, Kickstarter is not an automatic win for an independent author with an idea—books can fail for a number of reasons. Sometimes the project’s dollar goal is unrealistically high. Promotion is always a worry. Established creators do well because they already have communications channels with their fan bases, and they’re more likely to know of specific media venues that match their products. The 46% success rate of the comics category is partially due to the better defined communication networks and dedicated Web sites in the comics fan community.
While properly executing a Kickstarter project may take a little more skill than is apparent at first glance, the site is on pace to fund nearly 140 publishing projects each month and it’s no longer uncommon for a project to raise more than $50,000. The real question is, will there be a saturation point for Kickstarter, and, if so, how many projects can it support in a year?