Successful publishing campaigns on Kickstarter raised nearly $22 million in 2014, despite a change that removed journalism projects from the publishing category. Publishing of all kinds—including comics and journalism—continues to grow on the crowdfunding platform, said Kickstarter publishing manager Margot Atwell, who is kicking off 2015 by launching Gutpunch Press, her own publishing house, with a Kickstarter-funded book project.
One of two publishing managers on Kickstarter (comics publishing is a separate category, with its own manager), Atwell said that in 2014 the publishing category had 2,064 successful campaigns, out of 7,050 projects launched (a 28% success rate), raising $21.9 million in pledges. Despite the removal of journalism, publishing pledges were close to the $22.9 million the category raised in 2013. Now its own, separate category, journalism produced 158 successful campaigns out of the 950 launched (a 17% success rate), raising $1.8 million.
In 2014, the comics publishing category raised $9.7 million (down from $12.5 million in 2013) from 825 successful campaigns out of the 1,582 campaigns launched, for a success rate of 52%.
A publishing veteran—before Kickstarter she worked for seven years at the indie house Beaufort Books, rising from managing editor to publisher—Atwell is not your conventional administrator. She also happens to skate for the Manhattan Mayhem of Gotham Girls Roller Derby, a fast-growing contemporary version of classic roller derby. Atwell has skated for eight years in the serious, hard-hitting amateur sport (her skating name is Em Dash). In 2011, she cofounded DerbyLife.com, a news and information website about the sport and the league. Now she’s launching Gutpunch Press (“Our books hit you hard”) with plans to release three books in 2015. To help start the company, in late 2014 Atwell used Kickstarter to raise $9,183 to fund a trade paperback collection about the sport’s history, with personal stories and coaching information. Derby Life: A Crash Course in the Incredible Sport of Roller Derby is being written by Atwell and will be released in the summer. “It’s the book I would have wanted when I first got into the sport,” she said. “Information about gear, injuries, competition, mental toughness—how to skate, hit people, and then go home and make dinner.”
Gutpunch Press will also publish two books by Zak Zyz: Survival Mode, a sci-fi novella, and Lemon, Maybe & the Electric Lady (a working title), noir fiction about superheroes. Neither title is being backed by a Kickstarter, although Atwell said she will use campaigns in the future for specific projects. Both books will be released in print and digital (Survival Mode may debut as an e-book); print distribution is still to be determined, and Atwell said she’s in the process of hiring a fellow Gotham Girls skater as a freelance editor to work on Derby Life.
“There are so many new tools to publish without the massive capital investment you needed in the past,” she said. Atwell also credited the Derby Life Kickstarter for giving her the confidence to set up Gutpunch Press. She said that the “all or nothing” nature of running a Kickstarter campaign—if a campaign does not reach its stated goal, the project is not funded—was “a better crash-course in marketing than seven years running a publishing company.”