You might already know that Kickstarter has a vibrant and delightful publishing category. Illuminated books? Botanical illustrated sketchbooks? Letterpress type specimen books? Yes, please! The site has helped to launch over 45,000 publishing projects and to raise over 156 million dollars. Can it help you?
 
Maybe! Launching a project is no joke—it’s a whole lot of work—but for authors, especially authors of niche books or books rich in design elements, Kickstarter can be an excellent move.
 
Kickstarter offers a home and platform for entrepreneurial authors looking to go their own way, shorten their publication timeline, raise money for quality printing, determine a more accurate count for an initial book run, and establish a place for fans to congregate and show support.
 
However, Kickstarter should in no way be considered an “easy” route to publication. Its author-driven platform is freeing, but that’s because the author rather than a publishing team takes on fundraising and marketing responsibilities. While that work may be unavoidable (traditional publishers don’t typically invest in niche books with boutique audiences, and they frequently require, implicitly or explicitly, that authors do the heavy lifting in marketing anyways), it can be challenge, especially for the unprepared.
 
Thinking about launching a Kickstarter campaign? Consider the following:

  • Be done: Finish your manuscript. It’s hard (so hard!) to write a book. A work-in-progress not only makes campaign planning impossible, it can also act as a guillotine blade hanging over your head. If it’s difficult to write a book under regular circumstances, it’s nearly fatal to work under the pressure of having to quickly meet backers’ expectations.
  • Be prepared: Because you are the project manager for your Kickstarter campaign, you must manage production, value proposition, and fulfillment (in the figurative and practical sense). This is another great reason to build your campaign around a completed book: Rather than managing the book-writing, you can turn your attention to managing a campaign that showcases your book as a beautiful thing poised to do meaningful work out in the world.
  • Be wary of incentives: Incentives are great, but they can be an unexpected black hole in terms of time and effort. Offer them, but think hard about what you offer. If it’s not the book itself (and even if it is), every gift must be designed, purchased, organized, fulfilled, packed, and shipped to recipients. In theory, no problem! In reality, that could be 127 XS T-shirts in one of three colors to 123 different addresses; 279 M T-shirts in one of three colors to 279 different addresses; 113 L T-shirts in one of three colors to 109 addresses. And more!

 
Successful Kickstarter campaigns reward the prepared and persistent. From our perspective, it’s a platform that’s helping to diversify publishing in the form of riskier, niche-ier projects. If you’ve got one, and you’ve got the energy and passion to fuel it, get in there and kickstart it!