Challenge,  publishing

Changes In Publishing

A Glimpse of a Future

As many of you know, I have been around and working in publishing and fiction writing professionally since 1987. Sold my first two short stories in 1974. Over the years, I have watched publishing change numbers of times.

I knew the distribution collapse of the 1990s, caused by Safeway and invoicing, would alter publishing forever. And it did.

And I watched as the Kindle changed everything in publishing and created the indie movement which is now the major part of publishing (even though traditional writers and publishers don’t want to think so.)

And I have watched and wondered how this pandemic was going to change bookstores and the traditional distribution system. And it is changing it, driving more and more sales online, both for electronic and paper editions as months go by without bookstores open, for the most part, and paper book distribution slow and sometimes non-existent. Jury is still way, way out on the outcome of that.

But then three days ago an event happened almost exactly the same as an event that changed the gaming industry. Brandon Sanderson put on Kickstarter a leather edition of a 10 year old book. And in three days the campaign is just under 5 million dollars.  With 18,000 backers or so.

Here is some reality. The campaign in 28 more days will settle around 8 million. Then in after-sale market Brandon will make at least another 2 million. At least.

Now understand, this 10 million he will make is for a ten-year-old book put in beautiful leather edition. That is the focus of the campaign. He is offering lots of other cool stuff for fans. But the focus is the leather edition of the old book.

Some Points…

Gaming is the number one earning area on Kickstarter by far. Since 2012, when a single gaming project raised over a million in the first 24 hours. Loren Coleman and I have been wondering that if buyers looking for a new and interesting game automatically check out Kickstarter, why couldn’t readers be trained to look on Kickstarter for new and interesting books and book projects?

But like gaming, we knew the Fiction category on Kickstarer would need a project to explode to let the fans and readers know that Kickstarter is a place to go for new and fun books.

Brandon just did that.

And for the rest of us doing fiction projects of all sizes and shapes, that is huge. I can’t even begin to describe how much what Brandon is doing making millions will help other writers brave enough to try a campaign make money as well.

It will take years for the fiction category on Kickstarter to grow as more and more writers try campaigns, and more fiction campaigns explode, but at least now Kickstarter knows the category is there and that it can explode like gaming did and still does regularly. (Loren just finished a multi-million dollar gaming campaign on Kickstarter.)

And thanks to Brandon, now a lot of readers have now been trained to look a kickstarter.

It is a start. A possible major change into the future.

Another Point…

Will all campaigns make that kind of money? Oh, heavens, no. Some are designed to make a few hundred. Kris and I are always happy when the ones we do go past a few thousand. Sullivan has been doing $50,000 to $100,000 Kickstarters regularly in fiction for his new books, and he just did one offering only a slipcase as the focus.

Anything is possible in the fiction category.

But now Kickstarter has proven to be a place where writers can make money, especially indie writers. Loren and I and a few others already knew that, but most writers did not. So this will train the writers as well.

Yet Another Point…

What Brandon is doing is causing traditional publishers to shake more than the Covid pandemic.  The ability of Brandon to do this is because he understands a certain level of contracts and kept the license for the “hardback limited edition.”

Those of you who took the Magic Bakery, understand that on its face, that right would seem to be a very small slice of the pie. And those of you in the Licensing Transition classes, this is a reason Kris and I scream so much about holding your copyright because you just never know.

But why is traditional publishing worried? Remember the monster deal Scalzi got for 10 million for ten novels over ten years, or something like that? Brandon is getting that for a reprint hardback edition on one book and he didn’t have to write a new word. He just used his license, his IP, that he controlled. And offered something cool to his fans.

What smart bestseller now would think of giving a book away for the money that traditional publishers can now offer when fans can offer you a lot more? And you get to hold all the rights for the rest of the copyright.

Yet Another Point…

Kickstarter is a place to build fans. Fans who are buying your books and enjoying them. And you are giving them fun extra stuff, and maybe signatures, and who knows what else. And you can keep the updated and they get something directly from you in the mail. Pretty cool.

Wrapping This Up…

On the Best Practices for Kickstarter for Fiction Writers, I will be posting a bunch of stuff there as soon as I get done with a complete deep dive of what Brandon is doing. (It’s a free thing.) Loren and I will keep adding to it, but it you do go there, read Loren’s document of best practices.

I think, without a doubt, we saw a change start this week in the future of publishing. A great change for writers and writers who love to control our own work.

Kickstarter is not the only crowd-funding sight by far.

And imagine if Brandon or someone like him set up a Patreon page. (Maybe he already has one, don’t honestly know. I do know he has an active online store for his stuff on his web site.)

Money flows to the writer, always has. And it really flows to the writers who are not afraid to use the modern ways of reaching fans and readers.

The publishing world, it keeps on changing. The key is to keep up.



  • Jim Wilbourne

    I’d love to see deep dives into how indie authors do it. I’m not sure Brandon’s campaign is a great case study for many of us. Not only can he do things 99% of authors can’t, but he also has a larger audience than 99% of us and, really, could have funded chewed bubble gum. I’m a huge fan of his work, but I have a hard time comparing what he does to anything that I do. Keep us updated!

  • Eric Edstrom

    And Way of Kings is just book one this series. Fans and collectors will be lining up for the Kickstarter for book 2 when he does the 10 year anniversary edition for it. And then for book 3, and then book 4 . . .

  • Xenophon


    Sorry to be pedantic here, but when you wrote: “Now understand, this 10 million he will make is for…” in the post above, surely you meant “…this 10 million he will gross is for…”. I’m certain you know the difference, and were merely writing quickly. But emphasizing that difference may be important for some of your less-business-savvy readers.

    (Another Dean IRL)