A bestselling young adult fantasy author for almost two decades, Cassandra Clare has long been associated with sky-high numbers. Since the author broke onto the YA scene with City of Bones in 2007, the launch title of her Mortal Instruments series, Clare’s books (most published by McElderry Books) have been translated into 43 languages and have sold more than 40 million copies worldwide. And Clare recently saw some more big numbers on November 28, the final day of her month-long Seasons of Shadowhunters Kickstarter campaign to help bring her latest projects to life. With 8,774 backers pledging $1,158,224, Clare handily surpassed her goal of raising $950,000, making hers the highest-grossing Kickstarter campaign to date launched by a YA author.
The seeds of Seasons of Shadowhunters were sown during the pandemic, when, Clare recalled, “Authors felt disconnected from readers, and I began writing some shorter works—stories and novellas—and posted them online in my weekly newsletter and on Tumblr. My publisher wanted me to take the material down, and I understood why—it’s difficult to publish something as a book when it’s free online, but I did not want to do that.” In the meantime, fans began clamoring for physical copies of the works Clare was posting online, especially installments of a story set in the Shadowhunters universe, Secrets of Blackthorn Hall.
“It occurred to me that crowdsourcing would be a good way to get that novel and my other recent projects published,” Clare added. “And it would give me a chance to update the Shadowhunters art and add new descriptions and trivia about the characters.” After consulting with her agent, New Leaf Literary & Media president Joanna Volpe, the author explored Kickstarter as a resource to fund her projects, lined up an editor and a graphic designer, and hired illustrator Cassandra Jean and cover artist Jenny Zemanek.
Volpe underscored a key advantage that this crowdsourcing platform afforded Clare: the liberty to publish her writing in limited editions targeted to her dedicated fans rather than a wider audience. “Cassie has a very devout fan base, and her readers love collectible, beautiful hardcovers, with gilded edges, satin ribbons, and printed endpapers,” Volpe said. “Using Kickstarter, she has total control over all design decisions and can cater to her most loyal readers.”
What’s in the Pipeline
To that end, Clare selected books representing a mix of familiar and new content as incentives for contributing to her Kickstarter campaign. Due in individual shipments arriving between March 2024 and January 2025 are Secrets of Blackthorn Hall, a stamped hardcover illustrated in full color by Cassandra Jean; An Illustrated History of Notable Shadowhunters and Denizens of Downworld, illustrated by Jean; One Must Always Be Careful of Books: Four Novellas, a compilation of new Shadowhunter stories; Better in Black: Tales of Romance: Ten Short Stories, which rounds up new stories starring an array of Shadowhunter couples (and comes with a complimentary slipcase that can hold this book and the three previously mentioned titles); and a hardcover journal containing scenes and characters from the Shadowhunters series, illustrated by Charlie Bowater. Zemanek created the covers for all the volumes. Clare has partnered with TopatoCo to handle production, printing, packing, and distribution of the books.
Volpe expressed confidence that the books Clare created for her Kickstarter campaign will eventually have new life in the trade, as paperbacks, ebooks, or audiobooks. “We’ve had conversations with some potential partners in the trade, and I think for sure it is going to happen,” the agent said. New Leaf Literary & Media is handling licensing and sub rights for the campaign’s titles.
For now, the author has no shortage of book projects to keep her occupied. She is currently finishing The Ragpicker King, her second Sword Catchers title for adult readers. She is also writing The Wicked Powers, her final Shadowhunters trilogy, as well as a new YA book—her first that is not a Shadowhunter story—which is a “portal fantasy” whose title has yet to be announced.
Clare, who confessed to being initially hesitant about launching her Kickstarter initiative, said that she is gratified by its success. “I learned a lot from this experience, and I would definitely do it again,” she noted. “And I would be very excited if this campaign turned out as a way to get these books into bookstores.”