publishing business


The big news in the book world this week was Brandon Sanderson’s Kickstarter campaign that basically broke the Internet and Kickstarter. The last I heard, he’d raised more than 20 million dollars in only a few days. He announced that he’d written four extra books during the pandemic, during the time he usually would have been traveling to book events and conventions. Now he’s offering these books at various tiers, from e-book to a subscription box with monthly stuff and special hardcover editions of the books. This has had a lot of authors (and publishers, I’m sure) considering the possibilities.

I haven’t tried doing any kind of crowdfunding because the fulfillment would be time consuming. When I publish a book, I just send it to the booksellers, and they take care of getting it to readers. With a Kickstarter, I’d have to buy the books and then mail them out. Sanderson has an infrastructure and staff for this sort of thing (and likely will use a fulfillment house to actually put the boxes together and send them out). I doubt I’d sell enough to make a fulfillment house worthwhile, and I don’t really want to spend my evenings filling and labeling boxes. Doing a Kickstarter takes either time or money. I wouldn’t rake in that kind of money, and I don’t really have the time. For the release of one of the Enchanted, Inc. books, I did a mailing to a list of targeted booksellers, introducing the series and sending some bookmarks they could hand out to customers. I don’t think there were more than 50 on the list, and just printing, signing, and folding the letters and stuffing and labeling the envelopes took me at least a week of evenings. For the release of Rebel Mechanics, the publisher sold it to a subscription box, so I had to sign 700 book plates to put in those books, and that took me days.

I can’t even imagine the workload that would come with selling enough things to raise millions. In my PR days, I worked on the launch of the cellular network now known as Verizon. Back then, a “cell phone” was something expensive that businessmen used to make important calls. They were launching a different kind of network (digital) that would be used for everyday things, so the launch event was a pizza party. The executive would make the first call on the network to order pizza. The invitations to the press and VIPs were sent in pizza boxes, and our staff got to spend a weekend putting those packages together. (I did not get pizza. I had to work in the company’s PR office that day so their PR people could go to the event. And then there was a bomb threat at their headquarters, so I spent most of the day standing in the parking lot after they evacuated the building. This is one of the reasons I write books now instead.)

I also haven’t tried to do any other kind of crowdfunding thing, like Patreon. I can’t get 300 people to subscribe to my newsletter for free, so I can’t imagine getting anyone to pay any kind of monthly fee, and I have no idea what I’d offer to subscribers. I can’t come up with something to put in a newsletter most of the time, and my fiction writing goes into my books. It seems that my fan base just wants to read books. They don’t subscribe to newsletters or do social media, or anything like that, so the best use of my time is writing. Not that I could write four extra books of the length Sanderson writes. I wrote three short books last year and just about burned out (though I don’t know how much of that was the writing itself, what I was writing, or the general state of the world and having almost no social interaction).

So, don’t be looking for a Kickstarter from me. But buying my books would be nice. Ideally, I could get back into traditional publishing and have a publisher deal with all the business stuff so I wouldn’t even have the up-front expenses, but they don’t really want me, so I guess I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and hope it works.


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