Seth Godin had runaway success with the KickStarter project for his book. His stated goal was $40,000, but the project reached that goal in little over two hours of its launch. The total, at last check, stands at $256,691 with two more weeks to go. Likely it will go on to add few more thousands before the final date.
What does this success tell every aspiring writer who wants to use KickStarter as a way to self-publish their books?
According to Godin,
“What this shows is that if you build a tribe, you can use it to calmly build a publishing career that doesn’t involve a roulette wheel experience where you only have a week to succeed.”
Godin neglects the fact that he is a popular published author, speaker, Idea Man and most importantly someone with thousands of loyal followers (who seem to have remarkable cognitive similarity). It is not a surprise that his first KickStarter project, launched through his extremely popular blog as marketing channel, became a tremendous success. He can thumb his nose at publishers seeking to control what we get to read.
His success is irrelevant to the rest of us. Godin got the causation backwards. If you are already popular, have a sucessful publishing career, built an online following then you can translate that power to any channel. Not the other way.
What is the base rate of success on KickStarter? According to their statistics page, 1,617 of 62,032 total projects reached their goal of $20K to $99K (picked this range to line up with the $40K target Godin set for his project). That is 2.6% of all projects secure funding that is big enough to provide career income to the author.
But wait, that is the average across all projects. As an aspiring author who wants to “calmly” build a publishing career you should look at the success rate for Publishing projects. For this category the number drops to 1.5%.
If you are not Seth Godin and you started a KickStarter Publishing project today, your chances of making your $20K-$99K target is no more than 1.5%.
Getting successful funding for one book is one thing, turning that into a career is another. The chances go down quickly for repeat successes.
Finally let us not forget the fallacy of composition in his argument. These are early days for KickStarter. Just because they showed up (first) some may get successful, but will that extend to every new author trying to make a career through KickStarter? As Thomas Sowell, succinctly put it,
If one person stands up in a stadium, she can see better than others. But if everyone stands up …