Do Real Publishers Use Kickstarter?

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The always-smart Christopher Butcher has posted some thoughts about professional publishers using Kickstarter. He’s referring to Digital Manga, which is putting out works by Osamu Tezuka using the crowdfunding site. They started by bringing Swallowing the Earth back into print, then listed a new license, Barbara (not a book previously published by them). Their newest effort is Unico, a color children’s series. Chris has collected a set of his thoughts on the topic, of which these are only a few. (Some of the ones I skipped quoting are the more positive ones, too.)

– It is disconcerting to see what should be a well-invested professional publisher need to take 380 preorders before a book is published. It’s only 380 pre-orders, that’s not a huge amount, but that is presented as the crux upon which the project will happen, or not. It is incredibly disconcerting as someone who is worked in the publishing industry in which this publisher operates for the past 16 years. It is disconcerting as a fan of Osamu Tezuka.

– I feel it speaks to a lack of confidence in the product, and a lack of confidence in the publisher to see a return in their investment of licensing this property, or has been hinted, “these properties”. …

– The basic acts of publishing are printing and promotion. If you are a publisher but you can’t print or promote, are you still a publisher? Some very smart people say yes, and I’m honestly not sure, because you’re unable to fulfill your basic roles and are counting on others to do that, and that’s where my conflict is. …

– I have no doubt that the future is going to continue to change the definition of “publishing” a great deal, and this is likely one such change. But it’s a change and it’s worth talking about and considering, rather than dismissing it as a new iteration of “pre-selling” or “pre-orders” or whatever.

Like Chris, I question how responsible this tactic is. It’s working for them, but if a publisher doesn’t even have the cash to cover printing bills, as they said in the Swallowing the Earth case, then what value are they providing? I don’t have much to add beyond that — this post is really just a way of saying, “Yeah, what he said, we should be talking about this.”

Update: The July 2012 issue of Wired has an interesting short piece (not online at this time) praising Kickstarter as a venue for amateur inventors, hobbyists who don’t want to quit their day jobs. A key quote:

Since Kickstarter doesn’t offer equity, it attracts a different kind of funder, a person who’s more like the inventor — compelled by enthusiasm and curiosity. These funders don’t expect anything financial in return — the way Kickstarter is currently set up, they can’t. Rather, they’re looking only for the satisfaction of being associated with an idea in its infancy and watching it comes to fruition.


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