Challenge,  Kickstarter Campaign,  publishing

Brandon Helps Us All Once Again

Brandon Sanderson’s Second Kickstarter…

Brandon’s campaign is about to break the record for the largest campaign in Kickstarter history. It is over twenty million as I start to write this and still climbing.

And he is doing this in the FICTION category with four books. Three years ago Loren Coleman and I got it in our heads that Kickstarter could be another sales-of-books source, like a bookstore for preorders.

We started a free Kickstarter for Fiction Writers place on Teachable, and Loren wrote an entire book on Crowdfunding for Fiction Writers, which is basically the bible. Our intent was to make Kickstarter pay attention more to the Fiction category like they did the gaming category.

And over three years, as more and more of us did Fiction campaigns, Kickstarter started paying more and more attention and helping us with all kinds of things.

Now, thanks to Brandon, 80-to-100-thousand new readers will know they can buy books on Kickstarter, nifty books, books ahead of publication or outside of normal publication channels.

Thanks to Brandon, the Gaming category will no longer be the place for the biggest campaign.

Kickstarter for all sizes has now officially become a great place to start the sales of your new book. Even if you get just a few hundred, or five hundred, or a thousand, it is still money and readers you didn’t have before.

There are three basic levels of fiction Kickstarter campaigns.

— The lower level where what you want is to get maybe $500 to a $1,000 in a goal, get some new readers, and get some good advertising for putting up the book preorder (after the campaign) for a month or two before it comes out. (Many writers have done two or three a year and made between $5,000 and $10,000 a year, once they get up to speed with both the writing and the structure of the campaigns.)

— Mid-level campaigns, which is what we do at WMG, are books and projects that can generate from $10,000 to $40,000. Lots of rewards, depth of goals, and a social media and fan base that can handle that level. (We did six mid-level campaigns last year, got our books out, and got out a lot of fun other stuff like workshops and such for writers and readers. We were right at $150,000 official money last year from campaigns, plus some unofficial after sales.)

— Big campaigns like what Brandon is doing. You see the big campaigns all over Kickstarter. Loren did one that ended up over four million on the gaming side. He has done small ones as well under other names that got $5,000. The big ones are dependent on brand and size of project. That takes years to build. Brandon has been working on his brand every day for twenty years now. And he’s good at it. If some of the other bigger brand writers get their heads out of their asses and give this a try, they will do big campaigns as well. They need a team to help them, though.

So I have seen over the last few days some of the funniest and stupidest comments about Brandon’s success. One person who was planning a really nice $500 campaign wrote me and said they had decided to wait to let Brandon get out of the way. Really??  That’s like saying you don’t want to publish a book because James Patterson is publishing a book. Head-shaking.

Others think Brandon is taking all the money out of the system. Really? You do realize that bookselling is a multi BILLION dollar yearly industry, and that’s just what the idiots doing the counting can count. They do not count book sales on Kickstarter or on y0ur own web site or other ways, and it is still BILLIONS OF DOLLARS in just the states. While most of us just take a sip from the giant ocean, Brandon is filling a canteen. Draining the money. Really? That’s just uninformed.

So if your petty little heart is jealous of all the hard work Brandon has done to make a campaign like this work over the last twenty years, might want to go run your head under really cold water, take a deep breath, and regain some perspective.

Brandon is proving to readers that they can find really fun and original books on Kickstarter. He is helping us all by breaking the ice.

Well, he is helping all of us with the ability to do Kickstarter campaigns and the ability to learn how to make one work and fund.

And if you think you can do it, and have the books for it, go get Loren L. Coleman’s book on Crowdfunding and he will walk you though what you need to do detail by detail.

And then do that thing I constantly tell writers to do. Study other kickstarters and support a bunch of them that look good to you to see how the system works from the reader side as well.

So thank you, Brandon!! You are helping us all.

(And scaring the hell out of traditional publishers at the same time, which just makes me giggle.)


      • Harvey+Stanbrough

        Yup. I’ve told everyone I know to get it through the free Kickstarter campaign you guys did on Teachable. The book isn’t available through the regular sources for whatever reason. Not being critical, just trying to spread the word.

      • Nikki Bollman

        I am really struggling to find this book online. I’ve found the Kickstarter campaign for it, but if there is a way to get it there after the campaign has ended, I am not figuring it out. I’ve found a page for the book on the Storybundle site, but it isn’t in a current Storybundle. I’m finding info about it everywhere, but I just can’t find where to buy it. There is a site called that appears to have a download link, but looks kind of sketchy so I didn’t click anything. I don’t see it on Loren’s website either. Do you have a link for where it can be purchased? Thanks!

  • Filip Wiltgren

    I don’t get the haters. I posted about the campaign and got a lot of pushback about how it was going to be bad for indie writers.

    Excuse me?

    Brandon had an amazing marketing start-up video, one that others would do well in imitating.

    I got the campaign through Brandon’s original “oh, no, I’ve got to confess”-video to his mailing list, and, about three minutes in, when he does his big reveal, I thought wow, that’s amazing, this is going to be big.

    And then, when I started analyzing what he was doing, I realized that between what I was seeing, and Loren’s book, I had the structure of an entire campaign, served up on a platter.

    Now I just hope I can prepare it all before Brandon’s Kickstarter finishes so I can get on its coattails.

    Because this is a big thing for indies, like when Zombiecide and Kingdom Death smashed the records for board games and made Kickstarter the place to launch your game – it will be the same with books, now that the doors are open!

    • dwsmith

      No hurry, Filip. Brandon has smashed down the doors and they are open. Same as happened in games. Loren and I had a number of discussions over the last few years about how we were waiting for a big gun to come in and really show the world and readers that Kickstarter and other places like it could be sales platforms for books at huge numbers. Never expected it to break all records and even do better than the big game franchises. Now that is cool.

  • James+Palmer

    Well said, Dean. I’ve seen those posts too, from sour grapes pettiness to the snarky “never heard of him” posts. A rising tide lifts all boats.

  • William Seymour

    I’ve seen those comments and worse. I’ve been watching the Kickstarter from the beginning. Talking with fellow writers I find it disheartening to hear all the negative comments toward it. Though the one that I couldn’t believe was:

    Why wouldn’t he sell the book to a publisher, don’t they pay him millions?

    I think neurons in my brain stopped firing after that.

    I’m personally excited. Both for his success and the first thing that comes to my mind is:

    How can I do that?

    I just don’t understand the thought process that looks at one person’s success as a detriment to their own. I’d love it if all my favorite authors did special edition hard covers for their books. I might be broke after, but it’s great time to be a reader and a writer.

    • dwsmith

      Publishers have to be just scared to death at this. And we can’t be Brandon with his twenty years of building fan support and readership, but we each can be ourselves and Kickstarter now has become a way to get our books out to readers, give our fans special stuff as well. Small, medium, or massive, doesn’t matter. It helps each of us because now readers know they can get nifty new books on Kickstarter.

      And we do campaigns as well to help writers with workshops to help writers keep learning. But most writers can’t add things like that into a campaign. So just like you can’t exactly imitate what we do at WMG and what Brandon does, you can find your own way and own stuff for your fans. And start building.

  • T Thorn Coyle

    I love Sanderson’s relationship with his readers. He is so generous with them and keeps finding ways to connect.

    Can’t spend his usual 100 days of travel a year to go meet them because of Covid? He started doing weekly YouTube check ins for fans, planned his own conference on his terms (that people can attend in person or virtually, with perks at every turn)… and had time to write 5 extra books that he’s now Kickstarting in a way that tailors to his fans.

    I love it. Kudos to him. And good for all of us.

  • Cheryl

    “He is helping us all by breaking the ice.” — Rather neatly bypassing the “need” for traditional publishing, agents, etc. etc., yes? And behemoths like Amazon, as well.

  • Denise Gaskins

    Loren’s book on Crowdfunding is fantastic!

    [But Reader Beware: Check the author’s name before you buy. There’s another book for authors that’s specifically about Kickstarter, but they push a really hard-sell method that (to me at least) comes across like a high-pressure used-car salesman.]

    And I highly recommend the free Kickstarter course you guys have put together. It helped me get more than 50% of my book sales coming from *outside* Amazon. Thank you both!

  • Mihnea+Manduteanu

    Yeah mind blowing what Brandon was able to do. And the kicker is, he could even not have written those 4 books yet. He’s sending them next year, one each trimester. This could also be one of the more brilliant publicity stunts ever. He got 20 mil and he might not even have written those books yet. Just genius.
    And as you say, well deserved. Just like you, dude put a lot, and i mean A LOT of efforts in helping people write. Sharing his own secrets of the craft. I am talking his writing class at BYU, he put it online for free, he has that podcast that’s been running for 10 years.
    And yes, he build his brand and it brought him here.
    So glad a fiction writer now has the most succesful Kickstarted ever.

  • Vera Soroka

    i donated for the ebooks so I look forward to that. In his video, the one thing he said was he could write what he wanted. I smiled at that and today when he sent out his email for an update on reaching the 20 mil. He said:

    “Yet, I can’t help but think that something huge has just changed. Not just for me, but for publishing as a whole.”

    I smiled at that.

    • dwsmith

      Not a donation, Vera. You bought the books just like you would have bought them from an online bookstore. And yes, publishing just made a change. Brandon is correct in my opinion.

  • Eli Jones

    So much of the negative comments I’ve seen about this campaign are just buried in writing myths. My favorite has been “no one can write 4 books in 2 years!”

    The swag box/ monthly loot box reward is inspired. I’ve never seen that before with a book Kickstarter, and the brand of Brandon Sanderson or the production values for the hardbacks, it really sets this apart as some New Thinking about how to do this.

  • Michael W Lucas

    I just finished shipping everything for my book’s Kickstarter. I’ll do it again, but there’s a weird thing I noticed.

    Usually I write and release. This time, I put the book up for preorder so that backers could get their print books before the rest of the world. I just got my IS sales reports, and the preorders for this book were an order of magnitude higher than my usual initial sales of a book. This kickstarted book was even outside any of my usual genres.

    I suspect that Kickstarter’s social nature helps feed word of mouth.

    • dwsmith

      Yup, a campaign is great advertising that boosts Preorders between the campaign and the books release. We have noticed that as well.

  • Suzan Harden

    I got the notice about Sanderson’s current Kickstarter from Kickstarter itself because I’ve backed a lot of of writers over the last couple of years. I was fascinated by the whole secret books and swag boxes idea, and I watched campaign over the last four days because I was intrigued how it would play out compared to his last campaign.

    I really don’t get the sour grapes either. Sanderson, Dean, Loren, etc., have been showing me what’s possible, and I’m so excited! I may not be able to do everything I want to do RIGHT NOW, but I’m rearranging my five-year plan. I’m thinking a little bit like a fangirl and considering what would my own readers love to see.

    And the licensing possibilities are endless!

  • Nathan Haines

    The neat thing was that I watched the video, and when he said he wrote a novel in secret, I thought “Well of course he did.” And then when he pulled out a second one, I laughed. But my eyes did get wide at 5 of them.

    And I thought to myself, “Well, I know the math on writing speed. This was super smart of him.” And *then* he mentioned the Kickstarter. And I thought, “Books already written, giant event that his rabid fans will love… this is a guaranteed success for him. It probably funded immediately.”

    I did *not* expect to jump over and see he’d already hit 12.8 million dollars. I thought, “Kickstarter is going to buy themselves a yacht.”

    And the work’s done. Right now he’s at $22.5 million dollars pledged. If he cut things off now, in SIX WEEKS he’ll have 20.9 million dollars in his bank account. He’s not getting that from any publisher, and if he did, it’d be spread out over 3 or 4 years. I don’t know (or care) how he spends his money, but there’s no way that isn’t job security for himself and his dedicated, hardworking team for years and years. That has to be worth it just in and of itself.

    Yeah, it’s not all profit. Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of work. But the entire campaign looks nice, clean, and simple. And that’s a sign to me that he and his team took the time to put in a lot of work preparing everything and planning it out. By the way, in his video, basically everywhere, he takes great pains to mention his team.

    This massive success couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. I’m thrilled for him. And the only selfish thought I had was that I can study this and see how it works and adapt it for myself. Sanderson’s a true professional, and so generous with his fans and other writers. Just like most scifi/fantasy writers I’ve had the pleasure of talking to.

    Maybe jealous authors should start by studying and copying *that*.

  • Janet Oakley

    I got the notice about Brandon’s amazing figures from Jane Friedman on Twitter. Congrats to him. Though it’s not a genre I generally read, his campaign was well thought out. I’m grateful for the workshop on Kickstarter you did two years ago emphasizing the importance of studying the campaigns you suggest and the need to be realistic about rewards and meeting goals. My campaign for an audiobook for one of my novels was successful and as result, the outstanding narrator I was able to hire has led to awards and over 110 reviews. My campaign was for a 1/3 of the cost, but again realistic as no one knew me. In the 1 1/2 years the audiobook has been out, I’ve had a great CHIRP campaign that garnered in a week a good portion of the cost of production. It continues to sell well on many distribution platforms. The sequel (also a successsful Kickstarter campaign) goes into production next week. All the other rewards for the recent Kickstarter campaign were fulfilled within 2 weeks after meeting goal. The audiobook is the final piece for those who pledged for it. It will be out in April as promised. In the meantime, I stay in touch with updates.

    • dwsmith

      Janet, you did great campaigns and are about the only author I know of who made an audio book campaign work. Most authors can’t fund audio book campaigns because the audience for audio books is so small compared to regular ebooks and paper. So well done. But folks, don’t do campaigns focused on audio books. 9 out of 10 don’t fund sadly.

  • Jeremy Bouma

    What a shot across the bow this campaign is for the industry—and a shot in the arm of encouragement for writers—who have eyes to see and ears to hear!

    My eyes were open to the possibilities of using Kickstarter a month ago with my first small campaign ($300). Funded in a day and was able to raise almost 250% of the funds—funding everything to launch a new supernatural PI series and then some. What a facinating learning experience it was—and FUN! So fun that re-jigged my production pipeline for the year to launch 2 more titles using Kickstarter. Will be using this model with all new launches.

    One of the more interesting things I learned when organizing my backer data is that 40% wanted to join my list—which means they weren’t ON my fan list to begin with! Not sure if they were existing fans coming from Facebook or other means, but my hunch is several came through Kickstarter itself, especially since several bought box set add-ons—which is pretty cool! Can only imagine that propsect of attracting new fans will increase after this Sanderson project.

    Among the other asinine comments I’ve seen about doing Kickstarter projects is “Well, then you’ve got to fulfill all those pledges—think of all that work!” (on top of the “I tried that once and *only* made $500” *eyeroll*)

    No, bucko. I *get* to fulfill all those pledges! It’s an honor to pass along my stories personally. And what a joy it was sending out my fulfillment email yesterday with early backer rewards on top of the new book itself and other add-ons.

    Thanks for all the encouragement and experience you’ve offered in this realm of publishing the past years. Really looking forward to launching Kickstarter Number Two in May!


  • Jon Auerbach

    I got the Kickstarter notification email about the campaign launch before I even watched Brandon’s YouTube announcment video and backed without even reading most of the campaign page. Brandon’s campaign shows what’s possible when you have put the time in to build a loyal and engaged fanbase. He’s also motivated to get my butt in gear so I can finish my next book and launch it later this year on Kickstarter.