By Lori Perkins
Last week I was a speaker at a disaffiliated chapter of Romance Writers of America where one of the pieces of advice I gave was to look beyond the romance genre to see what was going on in other genres and in publishing in general. This is one of those stories.
Last week, best-selling fantasy author Brandon Sanderson (who was chosen by Robert Jordan’s widow to complete the Wheel of Times series posthumously) announced without fanfare that he had written four “secret” novels during the pandemic and that he was offering them directly to his fans via Kickstarter. In three hours he had raised the $1 million that he had earmarked as his Kickstarter goal. In 24 hours, he had raised over $15 million. As of this writing, he has raised $27 million and the Kickstarter campaign doesn’t end until April 1st.
Sanderson is offering an array of products from just ebooks to print and lavish special editions, as well as gift boxes and author doo-dads. According to various press reports, the average Sanderson fan is pledging $240. These books are all to come out within a year, which, of course, is much faster than the normal trade publisher.
Sanderson also made it clear that he isn’t abandoning his traditional publishers. He says he wrote the books as a gift to his wife, who insisted he share them with the world, and he then realized they connected to his existing fantasy universe, although one is said to be very different than anything else he has ever written. He also said he wanted to do this to challenge Amazon’s hold on the publishing industry and experience what it would be like working directly with and for his fans. And he can do this because he already has a 30-person staff.
Of course, this is the biggest Kickstarter deal ever (and still growing), which has already beat a $20 million smartwatch campaign, and many pundits have raised the question of who else could do something like this throwing around the likes of James Patterson and Barack Obama (who got respective advances of $150,00 million for 17 books and $65 million). A lot of talk about white male privilege has been bandied about (these conversations do not include the Obamas), and I have to say I disagree with that as a sweeping statement. Yes, only VERY popular figures can raise this kind of Kickstarter cash but if Nora Roberts or Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian were to offer a book/gift package like this, I think the numbers would be higher than Sanderson’s.
But honestly, what I really want to see are four “secret” novels by Stacey Abrams, because I would definitely buy into that!