The crowdfunding platform Kickstarter marked a milestone in 2016, reaching $100 million raised for publishing projects since its launch in 2009. Last year, Kickstarter was also the subject of an academic study on its growing economic impact, it opened its platform to creators from three new territories, and it added two innovative features designed to support organizers with new tech tools and resources to engage potential donors.
Although the number of Kickstarter publishing projects and the amount of money raised for those projects declined slightly in 2016 compared to 2015, the platform helped raise millions of dollars to support an array of unconventional titles. Last year, 32.6% of the 5,617 general publishing projects launched met their pledge goals and were funded, and the category totaled almost $20,543,000 in pledges (down from $22 million raised in 2015). Of the 1,087 projects launched in comics, 58.7% met their funding goals, raising almost $12,561,000 in pledges (down from $13 million in 2015). In journalism, 17.5% of projects met their funding goals, with almost $1,963,000 in pledges (down from $2.8 million in 2015).
Margot Atwell, newly appointed director of publishing at Kickstarter (a category that includes general publishing, comics, and journalism), was quick to make note of a 2016 study released by the University of Pennsylvania that credits the platform with creating more than 300,000 full and part-time jobs. The study, by Ethan Mollick, also reports that Kickstarter has been directly involved in creating nearly 9,000 new companies and nonprofit organizations. Mollick found that Kickstarter is responsible for generating $5.3 billion in economic impact for its creators and their communities.
More specific to publishing, Atwell emphasized that the study shows that “more people are working as writers, copy editors, and designers on books produced using Kickstarter.”
Atwell is particularly excited about Kickstarter’s growing potential to address “the lack of diversity in publishing.” She noted: “Kickstarter has the power to help support and elevate voices underrepresented in mainstream publishing, whether it’s queer organizers, people of color or people from different regions other than New York. Readers who don’t see themselves in mainstream publishing are coming to Kickstarter to get support for their storytelling.”
Aspiring authors in three new territories can now make use of Kickstarter: the company opened its platform to creators from Hong Kong, Mexico, and Singapore last year. Although anyone can donate money to a Kickstarter campaign, only those in a limited number of regions can create new campaigns.
Kickstarter also launched two new features in 2016: Kickstarter Live and the Creative Independent. Kickstarter Live gives campaign organizers the ability to stream live video via their Kickstarter home pages. Organizers can hold face-to-face video sessions with their backers and discuss their projects, processes, and goals. Atwell said organizers can publicize their sessions in advance and archive them for use afterward.
She described the Creative Independent as an editorial site that is backed by Kickstarter but run by an independent editorial team. CI, she said, is focused on helping Kickstarter organizers by “understanding and celebrating the creative process” through interviews with a wide range of artists. The Creative Independent is focused on the creative process rather than the output, Atwell explained. “It’s not about a specific book or funding a book tour. It’s a holistic look at the creative process.”
Correction: in an earlier version of this story a quote on diversity by Ms. Atwell left out her mention of people of color, which has been restored.