What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing  

Crowdfunded publishing

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Note from Jane: Today’s post is by guest Matt Kaye, who started his career in traditional publishing (Avalon, Wiley, FSG) and then spent the past four years at Amazon. He recently joined Inkshares, a crowdfunded book publisher, in large part due to his interest in how crowdfunding might positively impact the publishing landscape. I asked him to explain the basics of crowdfunded publishing as well as the difference among various crowdfunding opportunities.

As if deciding between self-publishing and traditional publishing wasn’t confusing enough for writers, you can now find publishing models that borrow elements from each. An example is crowdfunded publishing, an option that is growing in popularity.

Why Crowdfunding?

An obvious reason to crowdfund is to cover your cost of hiring professional editors, designers, and marketers to publish a quality book, while maintaining creative control. But for me, the most exciting thing about crowdfunding is the direct engagement between readers and writers.

Eric Ries described his decision to crowdfund as “an experiment designed to see how I can collaborate with all of you [the readers] as part of the research process for my next book.” Bringing passionate readers along for the publishing ride creates deeper fans and stronger advocates—and (ideally) grows the overall number of books sold.

Crowdfunding Options

If you decide to crowdfund your book, the next step is to figure out which platform is right for you. The options fall into two main camps:

  1. Fundraising platforms that help you connect with your audience
  2. Full-service book publishers that use crowdfunding to decide what to publish

Both camps provide direct reader engagement, so the decision comes down to your publishing goals. If you prefer to control every aspect of the publishing process yourself, and maximize your profits, then fundraising platforms are your best bet. If distribution into bookstores and editorial, production, and marketing support appeal to you, then the full-service publisher model may serve you well.

Fundraising Platforms

These platforms provide tools for you to raise money to publish your book and take a small cut of what you raise. You’re then responsible for finding and hiring the professional services you need (editors, designers, printers, marketers, etc). Here are the biggest ones you’ve probably heard of.

Kickstarter: Kickstarter is the most popular crowdfunding platform for creative projects, including publishing. While an open platform, they review projects before launch to ensure they’re in line with their rules. They take 5% of funds collected, in addition to 3-5% payment processing fees. If the project doesn’t meet its goal, the funds are returned to supporters.

Indiegogo: Indiegogo is a fundraising platform for any idea, not just creative projects. While they feature book projects, they don’t have a designated “publishing” category like Kickstarter. They also have no review process before projects go live. They offer an option for campaign creators to keep any money raised (4% fee if the goal is hit, 9% if not), or a 5% fee for the Kickstarter approach. They also have a 3-5% payment processing fee.

Publishizer: Publishizer is also devoted exclusively to books. They plan to offer a feature that distributes successfully crowdfunded books to traditional publishers, but haven’t launched it yet. They charge a 5% fee on funds raised.

Book Publishers That Use Crowdfunding

Like fundraising platforms, these companies offer tools to raise funds to publish your book, but their role doesn’t end there. They are also full-service publishers, using those funds to pay for editorial, design, marketing, and an initial print run. They then work with a distribution partner like a traditional publisher would, to sell books into physical bookstores in addition to online retailers. They only make money when books sell.

Inkshares (my employer): Inkshares acts as a traditional publisher once books succeed in their funding goals. We use Girl Friday Productions for editorial and production services, R.R. Donnelly for printing the initial print run, Ingram for national physical and digital distribution into bookstores and other retailers, and a team of marketers to generate awareness. We have a rewards system (Inkshares Credits) for readers who refer books to friends or help fund books that go on to sell thousands of copies. We pay authors 50% of gross revenue on physical books and 70% of gross revenue on digital books. Authors grant Inkshares nonexclusive rights, meaning an author can publish elsewhere if they so choose.

Unbound: Unbound reviews all submissions before launching a crowdfunding campaign for a book. After a pledge goal is met, Unbound also acts as a traditional publisher, offering editorial, design, printing, marketing and traditional publicity, and distribution services. They are based out of the UK, with UK physical distribution into bookstores through Penguin Random House UK. They pay authors 50% of net profit on all books sold. According to their terms, they “usually own the worldwide or English language rights, but this can vary on a project by project basis as this can be negotiated in the contract.”

Take time to explore these sites and what they offer, just as you would if you were deciding between traditional publishers. They each have a different feel, different benefits, and a different approach for presenting your work and connecting with readers.

Is Crowdfunded Publishing the Future?

If you’re tired of new trends coming along claiming to “reinvent” publishing, know that crowdfunding isn’t anything new. As Unbound author Paul Kingsnorth described, “The idea of funding books by subscriptions is actually something that was very popular in the 18th century. We’re really going back to a time before we had big, central publishers who were able to give writers big advances, and using the web to attract readers to a project.”

In a landscape that can feel increasingly polarized between self-publishing and traditional publishing, my hope is that the crowdfunding option adopts some of the best traits from both sides—that it can be democratic, open, and financially lucrative for authors while also inviting the participation of a broad community of booksellers, publishing professionals, and readers.

Do you have experience with crowdfunding? What happened? Or what questions do you have about crowdfunded models? Let us know in the comments.

Posted in Getting Published, Guest Post and tagged , , , .

Matt has worked in the world of books for over a decade. After receiving a BA in English from UC Berkeley in 2004 he started in publishing by marketing books for Avalon, Jossey-Bass/Wiley, and then Farrar, Straus & Giroux as their Senior Publicist until 2009. Matt went on to receive his MBA from Columbia Business School in 2011. After business school Matt joined Amazon, where he was primarily a Senior Product Manager on their books team until 2015.

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Kickstarter no longer reviews projects.

Matt Kaye

Hi there, I’m not sure if something has changed, but currently Kickstarter is reviewing projects: https://www.kickstarter.com/help/faq/creator+questions#faq_62972

Mark Watkins

Having just launched a Kickstarter yesterday (a book discovery engine: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/51424615/the-hawaii-project-find-your-perfect-beach-book) I can confirm they are reviewing projects (and I got some helpful feedback from them) – unless you qualify for the Launch Now. Either way I think you’re better off asking for a review, so you don’t run afoul of any issues.

Ed Gray

We did a Kickstarter last fall to generate awareness for our new imprint, Aisle Seat Books, which publishes Movie Length Tales, prose books that read like the spec screenplays upon which they are based. Dime novels for the 21st century, if you will. The Kickstarter was a success: We hit 140% of our $10K goal. We’re already planning the next one.

Matt Kaye

Congratulations Ed! Hitting (and exceeding) a funding goal is no easy task. Well done on your accomplishment, and best of luck on your next project.


How are these services different from traditional vanity presses? Historically the author writes a check to pay for the editing and publication of a book. In this scenario the author launches a crowdfunding effort, which if successful, is to pay for editing and publication services? As an author (book not done yet so perhaps I shouldn’t use that term) who put together a successful crowdfunding campaign, I would add the idea that you will get some visibility/funding from the platform you choose IF that platform gets a lot of traffic/visibility. I used Kickstarter, and got 8% of my funding from… Read more »

Matt Kaye

Hi Alexis, thanks for the comment. With the Inkshares and Unbound model we operate like any traditional publisher, meaning we have a marketing team and a distributor that sells books into bookstores. That’s certainly achievable through other means, it just requires some research to ensure that what will happen for your book meets your publishing goals. And excellent point about traffic. Each platform is different. As part of the research process I would recommend looking across platforms to find examples of similar books that have successfully hit their crowdfunding goal. That may indicate a shared readership that could also find… Read more »


As an Indie I don’t understand the rationale behind this model at all. A traditional publisher will pay the author an advance and a royalty, however small. Plus the publisher pays for the entire cost of publishing. Thus, an author may not earn much money but they will not be out of pocket either. Contrast this to the scenario with the crowdfunding publisher. Here, it is the /author/ who is expected to crowdfund the cost of producing the book. If successful, the funds end up with the publisher to pay for the cost of editing, cover design, printing etc. However… Read more »

Alexis Radcliff

You forgot to mention the Patreon model, which I believe can be just as viable for authors who want to put out long-running serial work on a regular basis (https://www.patreon.com/). It’s much better for someone who wants to write more episodic content on a recurring basis and is a great writer, but doesn’t want to constrain their characters to a single book or a single launch effort.

Matt Kaye

Hi Alexis, thanks for bringing up Patreon! While I was focusing on platforms that help writers publish a single book, Patreon is a wonderful model to explore for writers looking to publish on a recurring basis.

David Mark Brown

Alexis, I’ve recently checked out Patreon for just the reason you mention. I’m a serial, episodic fiction author. But I have actually concluded that Patreon is much worse of an option for such a thing due to the fact that they would continue to take a share of my profits the entire time and that fans/readers would be more connected to Patreon than to me. I’ve chosen instead to focus on a crowdfunding push upfront to help generate readers and then switch over to a WordPress site powered by Total and woocommerce in order to keep almost all of the… Read more »

Alexis Radcliff

Nope, I think that sounds quite savvy, actually. Keeping control of your own subscriber list is a great reason not to use it. I just wanted to encourage people to think outside of the box of traditional models! 🙂

David Mark Brown

Matt, I’ve recently discovered Inkshares and very much like the cut of its jib. I think you guys have some good stuff going on. I’ve been vacillating between Kickstarter and Inkshares for a project I’m doing with three other authors due to my concerns over control down the road. I’ve read through your terms, and it is the “No adverse activities” clause that concerns me. We are planning to crowdfund a hardback/collector’s edition book with full color illustrations that would feature the first three episodes of five different serials all written within the same sci-fi/fantasy universe. So we would never… Read more »

Matt Kaye

Hi David, sounds like an exciting project and thanks for considering us! I’d love to learn more to understand if we might be a good fit for you. Send an email to hello@inkshares.com and we can discuss in more detail.


I’d back that book!

Deedra Climer

Let me chime in as an Inkshares author. The difference for me between the Inkshares model and the typical vanity press model is the quality of editorial and marketing services that were available to me. Had I gone through a vanity press, I would have had to research and vet editors myself, whereas Inkshares had a cadre of already-vetted professionals for me to chose from for my team. My editor is experienced in my genre (memoir) and nationally known for her work. I don’t feel I would have been able to find that same quality were I doing it on… Read more »

Polly Letofsky

That’s great to hear, but it’s still not a “Traditional publisher”. That’s very misleading.


I know a few people who have done Kickstarter/PubSlush campaigns. All were for marketing or editing expenses. I’m trying to craft a campaign that will cover research expenses. It’s for a book in a very specific niche. There is great interest in the topic in the community that it involves – though no offers of financial backing. 😉 My question is this: don’t these campaigns work best when there is a book that is finished or nearly so? Aren’t the most successful campaigns for final expenses including marketing? I’ve been looking for examples of campaigns for research expenses for nonfiction… Read more »

Matt Kaye

While it’s common for books to be finished before the crowdfunding stage, it’s not necessary. The funds raised could go to photography, research, or illustrations in addition to editorial, design, printing, and marketing. Based on my observations, the success of a crowdfunding campaign is mostly dependent on a writer’s ability to attract readers to the project.

Here’s an example of a project that includes research as part of the overall crowdfunding goal: https://www.inkshares.com/projects/the-haida-gwaii-lesson-2

Best of luck!

Peter Lere

I am from Malaysia (in south east Asia). I have a friend who published her book with Inkshares. Inkshares sells her book internationally and sets price of her book. She is happy with this as she gets good royalties. The downside of this arrangement is that the price of the book makes it hard to sell in Malaysia. I have a large local circle, say 500 copies. Besides this circle, the primary purpose for me to write is to impact lives so I want my books to reach as many people as possible. Hence I would like my books to… Read more »

[…] Why is crowdfunding gaining popularity and what are the different platforms using it? […]

[…] Kaye on Jane FriedmanWhat You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing “As if deciding between self-publishing and traditional publishing wasn’t confusing enough […]


Disclaimer: My book is in the process of being published by Inkshares. I used the Inkshares platform to successfully crowdsource $15,000 for my first novel. Crowdsourcing, in particular, is not a free ride—the hundreds of hours I spent emailing and building networks of backers attests to that. But Inkshares also more than fulfilled its end of the bargain. And most importantly, once the fundraising was done and we had entered into the publication/distribution phase, from what I can tell from the blurbs they’ve obtained, the cover they designed, the events they’ve scheduled—all of it—my book published through Inkshares should have… Read more »

Dayle Trice

Very informative. Useful ideas for publishing authors.

[…] Kaye presents What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing posted at Jane […]

[…] more information comparing the different types of crowd funding here and apparently this place is pretty nifty for long term funding here. I found them very […]

Who funds someone if they have no network of supporters already? Indiegogo says they drive traffic only to campaigns they choose to feature- and those pages are invariably based on popular causes that are already making money for everyone concerned. I’ve used paid promo services to supposedly engage ‘targeted’ audiences to invite likely supporters to view and back my campaign, but it’s all rather useless so far. I’ve been swindled by folks who told me their agency could help make a visible difference in my response rates- for a price. Total spent so far = $hundreds.Total revenues generated to date:… Read more »

Olen: You’re correct—you do need some existing network to start. Here’s one post in a long series that explains: http://theartistspartner.com/2015/05/27/how-to-succeed-at-crowdfunding-day-1-backers/

Olen, I used Facebook and Blogs to tell fans about my project while it was developing about 6 months before crowdfunding. That way when I started crowdfunding they had an idea where I was going and mew I was partially done. My book about how a guitarist used crowdfunding to open a food and music venue in the Florida Keys is now complete: http://www.amazon.com/Dockside-Embrace-Crowdfunding-Realize-Dreams-ebook/dp/B017QICTNE/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8

[…] publishing follows the same process but I will be talking specifically about two different veins an author can use, depending on what they wish to achieve. One way is to use a fundraising […]

[…] Kaye, M. (2015, March 31). What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing. Jane Friedman. Retrieved November 9, 2015, from https://janefriedman.com/crowdfunded-publishing/ […]

Nikk donn

Hi! I’ve written a book and chosen a Title, I know how I would like the illustrations and how the cover will look and I see a potential market. I’m lacking funds!! Can you suggest the best route?


I just finished a book on crowdfunding entitled, Kim and Eric Embrace Crowdfunding to Realize Dreams. They used crowdfunding to launch a food and music venue in the Florida Key, Dockside Tropical Cafe, and I sued crowdfunding to get the book about them off the ground. It is available FREE for Kindle today: http://www.amazon.com/Dockside-Embrace-Crowdfunding-Realize-Dreams-ebook/dp/B017QICTNE/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top?ie=UTF8


Nikk, I used Indiegogo to launch my book. Now the book is done and published.


I’d like to know how Inkshares has a “nonexclusive” publishing right and how that impacts an author’s ability to publisher with another company? Are you stating that an author can publish via Inkshares and simultaneously publish with another company the same book? To keep track of sales does Inkshares use a different ISBN for the book they publish separate from the identical book published by a different company?

Philippe Masson

i am about to publish a book on entrepreneurial leadership. It will be published in French by Editions Eyrolles (paperback and digital format) and I have an English manuscript, for which I would like to find a publisher and use crowdfunding as a marketing tool.
Any advice?

Jane Friedman

[…] Kaye, Matt. (2015, March 31). What You Need to Know About Crowdfunded Publishing. Retrieved from: Jane Friedman       https://janefriedman.com/crowdfunded-publishing/ […]

Hi Jane,

I just read your great article and have a question. For Inkshare you mention that the author will receive 50% on royalties. But did the author receive a part on the pre-ordered books? Or all the fund from the campaigns are used by Inkshare to publish?
For example, the campain is a success but afterwards only two copy of the book are sold (excluding pre-order) . Will the author receive only royalties on those 2 books or also on the pre-ordered ones?

Jane Friedman

I’m not sure, Olivier. You’d need to ask Inkshares, but my assumption is that you’d receive a share of all sales regardless of when they happen.

C. Abbott

I think Unbound and maybe others misuse the word “pledge”, which I believe means a promise. You have to pay immediately. I paid for a book (and extras) last January which has still not reached its target, and I am told when (if) it does, publication will take another year. I would be willing to pay, say, 25% deposit and the rest when the book is out, but otherwise I am never “pledging” again. I feel negative about the entire experience. It wasn’t even obvious that I will get my money back if the target isn’t reached, though I have… Read more »


I’m looking for a crowdsourcing platform to market my novel. It’s edited, polished, formatted, and, except for the in-progress audio production, ready to go. I want to tap into the minds of marketers to find innovative ways of putting my title out there to the right audience and generate buzz and sales. Suggestions?

Peter Shianna

Inkshares pays the author nothing until its $15,000 threshold is met. Is the author liable for the difference between $15,000 and the actual money raised?