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« Snark and fear | Main | Reflections on today's Kickstarter »

This might work (my new book)

I’ll need your help with this one. [And you came through, big time! The goal is already reached, in less than three hours. Thank you. The Kickstarter is open for another four weeks, and there are plenty of rewards still--check it out.]

My new book launches today--but you won’t be able to read it until January.

Let me explain:

Books take a long time to invent, produce, ship and go on sale. Almost all of that work happens on faith, and it’s then followed by a frenzy of promotion and anxiety, as the publisher and author try to find out if there’s actually desire for the book. Activating the tribe at the end of the process is nerve-wracking and inefficient. For the reader, it’s annoying to hear about a book 32 times from a panicked author who has her back against the wall, and then in every media outlet you turn to.

As part of my 25-year quest to find a better way to make and promote books, I’m launching a hybrid experiment today. The idea is to do it in public, and to use widely available tools that can be emulated by other authors and other publishers if it works.

The problem with traditional publishing is that you do all the work and take all the risk before you find out if the audience is ready and willing to buy the book. And you have only a few days to go from “it’s new” to “it’s over.”

I think there’s a new way to think about this, a hybrid of old and new, one that activates true fans and makes it easy to spread the idea through the tribe and beyond.

It starts with a Kickstarter* page. A lot of the details of what I’m describing are on that page, so feel free to check it out when we’re done here.

A successful Kickstart is great (Amanda Palmer is our hero), but what happens after that? How do you take the buzz and connection and scale it?

My idea: Kickstart + bookstore + ebooks.

The publisher (my key to the bookstore) is only willing to go ahead with the rest of the plan if my Kickstarter works. No Kickstarter, no distribution, the stakes are high. (As you saw at the Domino Project, the ebook part is easy now, but the bookstore is still critical to reach the many readers who find and buy books in stores).

If the Kickstarter works, then all the funders will get to read the book before anyone else, plus there are bonuses and previews and special editions. A few weeks after the early funders (that would be you) get to read it, the book will be available to book buyers for purchase the traditional way (wherever fine books are sold in the US, including digital readers). Of course, the Kickstarter funders get a better price, get it first and get unique bonuses, plus the pleasure of being in early--and knowing that they made it happen. The only way this book becomes real is if my readers get behind it now.

By using Kickstarter early in the process, we eliminate book publisher/bookseller skepticism and create the excitement they need to actually stock and promote the book. Those books you see stacked up by the front window at the bookstore? That’s not an accident. That’s a promotion planned months in advance, based almost entirely on how optimistic the publisher is about a book’s prospects.

So that’s the idea--a way that any author with a following can divide the publishing process into three pieces--get the true fans on board early, give them something to talk about just before the book is in stores, and then use online and offline bookstores to do what they do best and distribute far and wide. It moves the power in the process to where it belongs--to motivated readers and their authors.

It's not easy to build a following, and it takes time, but I hope you'll help me show authors and publishers that it's worth it. Here's a short link you can share: http://kck.st/KvkY4h

I’ll update you four times in the next four weeks about how we’re doing. Thank you for helping me make this work, and for publishing your own great idea as soon as you are ready.

* [Three Kickstarter details:

  1. Kickstarter is a free website that allows artists to give their fans a chance to show their interest in a new project.
  2. Kickstarter doesn’t charge you (or me) a thing unless the project meets its minimum. After that, you're charged for what you pledged and you are guaranteed to get the reward you signed up for.
  3. This is the rare Kickstarter where there’s not an unlimited inventory of rewards--every item is limited. When a reward is gone, it's gone.]

Thank you for your help.

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