Crowdfunding Your Book Project

Jul 2, 2012 | Profit

Last week, under the headline of “Giving Book Readers a Say,” the Wall Street Journal described Seth Godin’s foray into crowdfunding. Here are the key paragraphs.

“Seth Godin, the best-selling business author who jettisoned his longtime publisher Portfolio in August 2010 in favor of selling his books directly to his readers, is now returning to Portfolio and will publish three new titles in January.

But Mr. Godin, a marketing iconoclast known for titles like “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable,” is taking an unorthodox path. A champion of new approaches to business, Mr. Godin decided to test online whether readers would be interested in his new books before the works actually hit the shelves, a decision that he says could make publishing and selling books considerably less risky in the future”

Seth’s method of reducing the risk was to test his concept for a possible new book, The Icarus Deception, by using a site called Kickstarter, one of the top crowdfunding sites. There, he described the project and asked for people to vote with their dollars. If he got pledges for $40,000, Seth would do the project.

As PaidContent reported, “Seth Godin’s Kickstarter campaign for new book beats $40k goal in 3.5 hours.” As of this morning, in fact, there are pledges of more than $250,000 with fourteen days still to go. That response does two things. It tells Seth’s publisher that there’s enough interest in the project to go ahead and, I assume, it provides the equivalent of a publishing advance.

But, what if you’re not Seth Godin with his well-earned worldwide fame? Then consider the case of Horace Dediu and his Critical Path project.

“The Critical Path” is the name of Horace’s podcast. He describes it this way.

“Critical Path is a talk show contemplating the causality of success and failure in mobile computing. Using Apple as a lens to look at both telecom and traditional computing markets, we try to understand what it means to be great.”

Horace is not successful on the scale of a Seth Godin, but who is? He does produce a podcast that a lot of people listen to. Some of them asked him to create a print version. That would require transcribing the podcasts, editing them, and adding features to make the final product more helpful. That takes work and money.

So Horace set up a Kickstarter project called “The Critical Path: The First Year.” He had a modest goal of $3000. He raised pledges of $29,377 from 831 people.

These two experiences illustrate two things that crowdfunding can do for your book project. You can discover and demonstrate the fact of interest and you can obtain a cash advance to help you get started. We don’t have enough experience with this yet to know what happens if you don’t deliver as promised.

There’s another benefit, too. You may discover that you’re the only one interested in the subject of your book. If that happens, you can mend your broken heart while you pursue other, more productive activities.

Take a good look at this. If you’re thinking about a book, this could be part of the way you get the project done.