Crowdfunding: How Community Backing Is Making a Splash in Publishing

The ambition to write a book is shared among many people. Though the process of getting a manuscript accepted and ultimately published is challenging, there are alternatives to sending your manuscript to New York. As the publishing industry continues to grow and change, new forms of publishing begin to take place. Crowdfunding is taking the publishing industry by storm, proving to be the next big shift in the way we think about publishing books.

Crowdfunding platforms like Indiegogo and Kickstarter started gaining prominence in the early 2010’s. These websites are community based and allow people to pledge money to projects. Crowdfunding is particularly popular in publishing because it allows authors and publishers alike to propose projects to be funded. It works like this: A project is announced on the website with an initial monetary goal to be funded. Project creators will create pitches, videos, or explanations and plans for their project. Project creators create incentives or “perks” to encourage higher levels of donation and provide updates on the project. Some sites, like Kickstarter, are all-or-nothing and only allow the creator to collect money if their goal has been reached. Projects from community art to clothing design to movies can be found on crowdfunding sites.

From a publishing perspective, crowdfunding has a lot of benefits. For indie authors, it allows them to self-publish books. For publishers, it mitigates the risk involved with publishing a book that they’re not sure will sell. It allows publishers to gauge interest in a particular project and anticipate demand, and it creates its own word-of-mouth publicity. Projects are easily shared to potential backers over social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Once a project is fully funded, publishers receive money up front, making it easy to cover the cost of publishing a book. As crowdfunding continues to permeate publishing, industry-specific competitors to sites like Kickstarter have begun to gain prominence. Sites like Publaunch and Unbound allow allow authors to turn an idea into reality.

In 2016, publishing made its mark on crowdfunding. A children’s book called Rebel Girls made history when backers pledged over a million dollars. As backers began to pledge much more than authors Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo’s initial goal of forty thousand dollars, they began to offer more perks with the book, like posters and stickers. Rebel Girls exemplifies how community interest in a particular project can yield great results. In this case, a children’s book for middle grade girls with stories about one hundred famous women found a great deal of success after its intended audience enthusiastically backed it.

Crowdfunding poses an interesting dynamic. Instead of letting the traditional gatekeepers of large publishing houses decide what gets published, why not let the people decide what they want to read? As crowdfunding gains more traction in publishing, it makes way for more creativity, diversity, and risk-taking in the books we publish.

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