Kickstart THIS

I was going to write about something completely different today, but then JoshVision posted this blog entry announcing the launch of his book on Kickstarter, and I can’t stop thinking about anything else. My mind is blown. I’m having braingasms.

Kickstarter is a site where you can post a project–usually one in progress–and seek funding from friends, family, and strangers. You set a goal, and if you don’t reach that goal, nobody pays a dime.

The coolest part about Kickstarter is that it allows you to customize ways to thank people for giving to your project. For example, if you’re seeking funding to sail across the country in a hot air balloon, you might offer people who contribute at the $25 level some special photos from the trip. This sets it apart from most other websites–there’s always a cool project on Kickstarter to check out, and people find really cool ways to thank their backers.

I started thinking about Kickstarter as a way to not just fund a project, but also sell variations of a completed project, when I saw Robin Sloan’s Kickstarter entry. Robin, a blogger with a decent audience but no published novels to his name, decided to write a novella in a month and seek funding during that time. I interviewed Robin for a featurette in the innovation book I’m writing, and he explained that the funding wasn’t paying his bills or stuffing his pockets, but rather every penny was going into making the books he sold on Kickstarter as cool as possible. I’m really looking forward to getting my book in the mail, as I’m sure it’s going to different than any other book I’ve read.

That brings me back to Josh’s project. When I was getting excited about Robin’s project, I sent a link over to Josh, who at the time was wrapping up his short-story collection, In Search of Monsters. I encouraged Josh to post on Kickstarter, and so he proposed the project to them, was accepted, and brainstormed some iterations of giving levels.

Check out the result on Kickstarter by clicking this link and then come back to read why I’m so excited about this.

That brings me to today. I’m not only excited because Josh used some of my ideas (the $19 level and the $49 level), but also because Josh has created an incredible platform for spreading the word about his book. I’ll say it right here: This is the coolest way to sell a book experience, ever.

Josh has done two specific things very well:

  1. He has created a built-in platform for sharing his work beyond point-of-purchase. The most expensive three levels are there for people to share Josh’s work with other people. Because that’s the whole point for an emerging author: You’re trying to build an audience. Instead of just selling individual books, why not sell book packages like Josh does.
  2. He has created a unique story behind the book itself. Check out the last level, the choose-your-own adventure level. That’s just cool. And look at the level I created, the $19 special edition. It includes commentary preceding every short story about how Josh thought of the story and what aspects of the story are “true.” That one is perfect for writers who are curious about the creative process. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other level I thought of, the $49 level. Have you ever shared a short story collection with a friend but preempted the gift by saying, “Stories 1, 2, and 9 are awesome, but the rest are only so-so”? Not with the $49 level. With that level you get a signed special edition of the book along with 3 “mini” copies of the book that only include your favorite stories. That way you can recommend them with friends without a disclaimer.

Could all of this be done without Kickstarter? Sure. Any author could make a website and feature different giving levels. But Kickstarter shows each potential buyer how many other people are interested in the project–people want to read what other people are reading.

Also, Kickstarter is one of the first uniquely browseable websites I’ve seen in a long time. Most websites I go to once, subscribe to the feed, and then never visit again. But I truly enjoy looking around on Kickstarter to see what types of projects are on there and the types of incentives for buying into those projects. Thus Kickstarter is a great hub for random browsing and discovery.

Even if you have no intention of contributing to Josh’s project, I think what he’s put together here is certainly worth sharing. Send a link to your writer and entrepreneur friends. This is a platform to take quite seriously.