Seth Godin made waves today when, he launched a Kickstarter Campaign for his new book, The Icarus Deception. The goal was to raise $40,000 over the next month or so - which basically amounts to pre-ordering the book, since backers will get copies of it for their support - and Godin was able to meet that goal within a few hours. As I write, he's raised nearly $200,000.
Why is he doing this? Well, according to the posting on Kickstarter, "If this Kickstarter campaign reaches the minimum, then the publisher has agreed to launch a major retail campaign to introduce the book to readers in bookstores. They'll also publish V is for Vulnerable (an illustrated ABC book) as well as a smaller, significantly-abridged version of the bonus 'big' book. The Kickstarter will be officially on, and if you're a backer, you will get the rewards you chose. First and cheaper."
If Godin had failed to raise the money, no one would be out any money and the book would not have been published. Godin himself called this an experiment in publishing, which basically works to gauge reader interest in a book before a publisher has even agreed to publish it. In many ways, it's the market research publishers have never bothered to do in the past.
Of course, one has to wonder how a plan like this might work for someone who wasn't already a bestselling author, and the creator of Squidoo.com, one of the web's top sites. Godin told Forbes.com, "Kickstarter eliminates the risk that publishers and booksellers face. They have limited resources and limited shelf space and Kickstarter is proof to them that something is going to work." Sure, but is it really a risk to publish one of Godin's books?
What would happen if the average Joe tried this same approach with that great American novel he's got squirreled away at the bottom of his desk drawer? According to book editor and EContent columnist Peggy Hageman, "Well, getting money this way could ensure the author more control over a project. If you're doing it in conjunction with the publisher, well, it could give you a bigger budget to work with, more cash for marketing/advertising, more bells and whistles in the physical production of the book or ebook, maybe added video, that sort of thing." But she also remains skeptical that the average writer would be able to duplicate this kind of success through Kickstarter. She says, "Without that network though, like so many things in life, no one's going to know about it to invest in it."