Kickstarter, the crowdfunding venture that allows individuals to donate money to support a variety of projects, marked a milestone last week, recording more than $100 million in pledges to general-publishing projects since it launched in 2009.
Publishing categories on Kickstarter include general publishing (which can include nonfiction, fiction, and podcasts), comics, and journalism. Margot Atwell, community manager for publishing on Kickstarter, cited several trends that she said indicate the platform’s growing impact on the current publishing marketplace.
Traditional independent publishers, she said, use the service to fund individual books. Others—like comics publisher IDW’s new imprint, It’s Alive, which uses Kickstarter to fund new editions of out-of-print graphic novels—have based their business models around crowdfunding. Still other indies, she said, are using Kickstarter to raise the funds needed to produce books with high production values.
Anthologies, she said, which traditional publishers sometimes avoid for fear of low sales, are thriving as a Kickstarter subcategory, with a 65% success rate, raising more than $1.2 million. In addition, Kickstarter has been key in supporting diversity in publishing, providing funding for projects aimed at “people of color and the queer community that aren’t always reflected in the mainstream culture,” Atwell said.
Looking back at 2015, Kickstarter’s general-publishing category raised $22.2 million in pledges (up from $21.6 million in 2014), with 26% of the 7,530 projects being successfully funded. (In 2014, the general-publishing category had a 28% success rate on 7,276 projects launched.) Comics campaigns raised a little more than $13 million in pledges (up from $9.5 million pledged in 2014), with 52% of the 1,916 projects launched in 2015 being successful, compared to a success rate of 52% of 1,577 projects in 2014. Pledges to journalism projects also rose in 2015, raising $2.8 million (up from $1.9 million in 2014), with 17% of the 1,448 projects launched successfully funded (compared to a 19% success rate in 2014, on 924 projects launched).
Atwell offered examples of the trends she noted earlier, including independent publisher Copper Canyon, which raised $103,000 to publish The Lost Poems of Pablo Neruda, and indie house Restless Books, which raised just more than $20,000 to publish a deluxe 400th-anniversary edition of Don Quixote. Citing diversity, Atwell pointed to the science fiction magazine Lightspeed, which raised more than $51,000 on Kickstarter to publish a special issue, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Science Fiction, and Beyond: A Queer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Comics Anthology raised more than $79,000 on Kickstarter. And Atwell also pointed to the creators of Black, a 120-page graphic novel about a world in which only African-Americans have superpowers; nearly $92,000 was raised to publish the book.
Atwell is also the publisher and founder of Gutpunch Press, an independent house she launched in 2015 that uses Kickstarter to fund selected projects. She said, “Its very heartening to see the impact Kickstarter has had on diversity. Kickstarter has been a force for good and a channel for creators to bring their dreams into reality.”