About that Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter

So Brandon’s Kickstarter ended up not just becoming the number one Kickstart of all time, but actually doubling the amount the number two Kickstarter brought in (which was for the Pebble Smartwatch). 185,000 people joined in on the project, which (seeing as how everyone bought all four books as part of the pledge) means he’s already sold 740,000 copies of his books, minimum. (Actually, I did a bit of math, just to see where things all ended up. He sold:

  • 737,156 ebooks
  • 317,368 audiobooks
  • 370,852 hardcover books
  • 305,792 swag boxes

All of them for books that haven’t been reviewed and swag that hasn’t completely been detailed. That’s remarkable by anyone’s definition of the word.

That said, Brandon himself noted that it’s not really that much compared to how well his books sell through the traditional publishing route. His best selling books can move 800,000 copies each in their first year. That’s more than 8 times as many as these books are each selling. So the idea that this is crushing the life out of traditional publishers, and that they’re all shaking in their boots, seems a little far fetched, especially when you consider that Brandon’s already indicated he’s planning on having traditional publishers have a crack at these books after the Kickstarter copies are all out in the wild.

Plus, while $41,754,153 is a lot of money, once you calculate out all the expenses of making all that stuff, it doesn’t seem quite as jaw dropping. (For example, say that all he really has to pay for are the hardcovers and the swag. He’s getting $61 for each box or book. He doesn’t have to worry about paying shipping out of that (since shipping costs are on top of the $41 million total), but he does have to pay to design them, produce them, get artwork for them, and all the things associated with that. I have no idea how much the swag will cost to make. I’m sure the books will be far less than $61, and he still gets to keep all of the profit, instead of just his regular royalty. ****EDIT: A friend pointed out that actually the shipping costs are included in that $41 million. That was $10/book for the US, $35/book for international, $10/swag box for the US, and $35/swag box for international. I don’t know of a way to know how many of the sales were international vs. US, but for the sake of argument, let’s say it was 25%. That breaks down to $16.25/shipment on average. That comes to $10,995,465 in shipping costs, which lowers his total to $30,758,688. If he’s just paying for the swag and print books, that now drops his total per box or book to $45.50/book or box. This makes the grand total of profit he’s getting significantly less.

Don’t get me wrong: I am very happy for Brandon, and I think it’s fantastic that this Kickstarter did as well as it did. If he successfully blazes a trail for people to follow, using the platform to write books and get them out to an audience, then that would be wonderful. (Many have pointed out how only Brandon could do a Kickstarter like this, since he has a slew of people who already work for him. That’s true, but if all this was digital only (ebooks or audiobooks), then many of the barriers drop away. You don’t have to store anything, for one thing. I think it would be doable for many people, though I worry many would really undercharge for what they’re trying to do. A lot of work goes into making professional level books: design and editing and artwork, for example. Sure, you could just skimp on all of those, but if Kickstarter just becomes a breeding ground for poorly executed fiction, I don’t think it’s a breeding ground that will last long.)

A lot of my friends have asked me if I’m jealous of Brandon and how successful he is. I’m not. He works his tail off doing what he loves doing, and he’s generous with his time and talents. (He’s employed many of our mutual friends, for one thing. I wonder if he needs a librarian to keep track of all of this . . . ) Life is too short to look at other people and wish you were them. My experience leads me to believe everyone has troubles, and money typically only makes those troubles grow. At the end of each day, I get to do most of the things I’d like to do. I have a nice movie room. I can buy books and board games and good food, and my family is provided for. Besides, Brandon doing well might have ripple effects for me. It helps to be friends with people with connections. For one thing, I found my agent through Brandon. My first book was published by someone I knew of because of Brandon. He’s provided me with a lot of great advice, as well as the single best movie experience of my life. I’m a big Brandon fan, and I think it’s awesome this Kickstarter did so well. (If you missed out on it and still want to get in on the action, I believe you can still make orders on the backerkit site.)

He really ought to buy each member of his old writing group a Black Lotus. Unlimited edition would be fine. 🙂

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