What are the 5 most-funded Kickstarter books?
Kickstarting books and publishing projects has been gaining popularity recently, as a means to offset the costs associated with self-publishing, especially for ambitious ventures and special editions. In fact, the popularity has grown so much that the publishing space has quickly become one of the top categories on Kickstarter.
Today, Ginger is looking at the five biggest Kickstarter publishing campaigns of all time, and trying to glean some insights and inspiration from what they’ve done. However, it is important to keep in mind that these projects represent exceptional outliers, and their success seem more like lottery wins than the typical experience most authors will have. Even so, Kickstarter offers a platform that many authors can use to reach their far more modest fundraising goals, allowing them to embark on innovative projects with minimal risk. The result can be financial rewards for the author, and unique experiences and non-traditional book formats for their readers.
A short while ago, we spoke to Kickstarter’s Head of Publishing, Oriana Leckert on the Fully Booked podcast, and so perhaps now is a good time to examine the five most-funded book-based Kickstarters of all time, to see if we can glean anything from their success and apply it to our own writing projects.
Funded: $41.8 million
Fantasy and science fiction author Brandon Sanderson flew past his $1 million funding goal within hours of launching his Kickstarter, and the project ultimately saw over 185,000 backers pledge close to $42 million dollars for the chance to see Sanderson’s four “surprise” books hit the shelves. This makes Sanderson’s project not just the most well funded book project of all time, but the most well funded Kickstarter ever, across all categories. As of this writing, the next highest only raised half as much money and it was for the Pebble Smart watches.
We go into all the reasons Sanderson is so popular (and thus why his project was so successful) in this blog post – but to quickly recap, it was his eager audience of die-hard fans who brought Sanderson’s Kickstarter to life; showing that almost anything is possible if you focus on connecting with your readers and providing them with what they love about your writing.
Funded $6.8 million
Remarkably enough, the second-most funded publishing Kickstarter of all-time is also one launched by Brandon Sanderson – this time in order to fund the production of a beautiful, leather-bound edition of his novel The Way of Kings to celebrate the tenth anniversary of its publication.
This is the sixth of Sanderson’s books that will be receiving this treatment – the novel being split into two parts and presented to backers pledging $200 or more with a dark blue bonded leather cover, hubbed spine, and two-color foiled stamping. With Sanderson’s signature on each copy, these are likely to become instant collectables – as have the previous books in the series, which now regularly sell on eBay for twice or three times what backers are pledging for their original copy.
Once again, this Kickstarter seems driven by Sanderson’s passionate core audience of fans; but it also demonstrates how limited, special editions of products can become valuable treasures if you’re able to actually bring them to reality.
Funded $1.5 million
Fantasy Fiction is far from the only project to receive funding on Kickstarter – as demonstrated by the incredible success of Headstamp Publishing’s crowdfunding campaign to produce a beautiful photographic guide to the handguns of China used during the first half of the 20th century.
Writing to a niche is often described as the secret to self-publishing success, and there’s no niche more passionate than American gun-lovers. Headstamp Publishing had already achieved success by crowdfunding the publication of two other titles – Chassepot to FAMAS: French Military Rifles, 1866–2016 and Thorneycroft to SA80: British Bullpup Firearms, 1901 – 2020 – and this time blew past their previous funding record of $800,000 in a matter of days.
The secret to the success of this project might have a lot to do with the author – popular YouTuber Ian McCollum, who runs an incredibly successful gun history channel called Forgotten Weapons. With his fanbase to leverage, it’s easy to see why a seemingly niche book quickly became one of Kickstarter’s most-funded publishing projects.
Funded $1.5 million
If you’ve got a teenage boy living in your house, you’ve probably heard of the SCP. A fictional universe created by thousands of contributors, SCP stands for Secure Contain Protect – the acronym used by a shadowy fictional organization that rounds up and catalogues dangerous paranormal entities and objects.
Independent publisher ParaBooks found an eager audience for a full-color art book dedicated to the weird and unsettling creatures of the SCP universe, and funded the original hardcover through Kickstarter. Now, they’re back to fund a brand-new paperback edition of the book; this time with new content and an improved page design.
If you’ve ever explored the online presence of The SCP Foundation – from a Wikipedia catalogue of creatures and entities, to comic books, videos, and more – you might understand why this project got its backing so easily. It’s delivering a product that fans are absolutely voracious for; and filling the void left by the fact that the SCP universe lacks an independent copyright, dissuading mainstream publishers from supporting it.
Authors with an eye for the macabre and their ear to the ground for what’s trending on the Internet could find similar success by exploring the SCP universe – and there are clearly many fans willing to open their wallets to support them!
Funded $1.03 million
#1 New York Times bestselling author Sherrilyn Kenyon has won over legions of fans with her Shadows of Fire and Dark-Hunter Novels – so much so that her most devoted followers describe themselves as “Paladins” like the characters from her books. With over 80 full-length novels reaching the New York Times listing, and paperbacks printed over 70 million times worldwide, it’s difficult to understate the impact this Georgia-born author has had in the genres of urban fantasy and paranormal romance.
Sherrilyn turned to Kickstarter to crowd-fund the reissue of her Dark-Hunter novels Acheron and Styxx in a special double-edition hardback. She leveraged crowdfunding because her publisher refused to pay for the printing of these books – somewhat ironic since signed copies of the original hardcovers now sell for as much as $2,000 on eBay!
While Kenyon might lack the instant name-awareness of authors like Stephen King or Lee Child, her passionate fans can be found all over the world – and together they quickly supported Kenyon’s campaign to bring this new addition of her beloved books to print. It just goes to show what’s possible when you invest in creating connections with your readers; and offer them a way to support you beyond just buying your newest books.
The incredible success of these Kickstarter projects demonstrates what an incredible opportunity crowdfunding offers for authors and creators with an established fanbase. It’s a great way to bring weird, wacky, or unexpected publishing projects to reality – and a great way for fans and supporters to feel like they’re able to support their favorite creators beyond just buying their books.
With printed books still one of the more challenging areas for self-published authors to navigate, it’s reassuring to see that other writers have found success through crowdfunding – and perhaps more and more independent authors will start experimenting with crowdfunding as new and successful projects like these come to light.