If you already have a publishing career,like Seth Godin does, you likely will also be successful on KickStarter

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 …

Fallacies of Cure-All Popular Prescriptions

Every Guru has his prophecy (some have more than one). The one cure all we must adopt because it and it alone can help our sorry state of affairs.  We are told to focus on

–           remarkable products

–           astonishing stories

–          impeccable service

–          0 defections,

–          customer engagement

It is hard not to fall in love with these claims because they sound so acceptable and plausible.  Even if there are no benefits in the short run we are told that these have long term effect on stocks.

There are at least three major fallacies in all such broad recommendations (these are my nomenclatures)

Infinite Resources or Zero Opportunity Cost Fallacy: We only have limited resources but have many demands on these. If not, we do not need to make any choices. Any benefit from  a method ignores that the resources invested on this method have alternative uses. For instance, what is the cost of striving for 0% customer defection? Could you be investing it in new product or new market development?

Infinite Marginal Benefit Fallacy: Any action you take can only deliver limited marginal benefit.  Depending on where your business is and the market you play in you may see no benefit at all. Proponents of popular recommendations overestimate the benefits from their methods. They predict infinite benefit from doing just more of this one action regardless of where your business is.

Isolation Fallacy: You are not the only player, there are many other players in the game and their moves are not taken into consideration. The claims ignore that the same methods are available to all the players and even so they need not play by any of your assumptions or model of the world.

For instance, BestBuy has been the darling of customer service and social media Gurus. It had twelpforce, engaged its customers with online reviews, provides truly great service. All those methods came to naught when it guessed wrong about the product mix, pricing and consumer behavior. Their customers, quite rationally, went to the store to learn about the products and ordered online, right from the store.

This is not to say there is no marginal benefit to adopting any such recommended practices but you need to be aware of these fallacies before investing your product and marketing dollars.

Verifying the obvious may show it isn’t true.

Do you practice evidence based management?