How much to self-publish?
March 12, 2015 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Is this a dishonest way to raise money?

Someone I know wrote a memoir, it was rejected by many publishers, and she decided to self-publish. Although by no means poor, this person started a kickstarter campaign to finance her self-publishing efforts. She has now amassed almost six thousand dollars, I believe from very gullible people who think she will advance a cause they believe in with her book. This is almost twice what she initially said she needed. To me this seems an excessive amount of money, but I don't really know what it usually costs to self-publish, so am asking wiser folks here to enlighten me.
posted by mermayd to Writing & Language (22 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I don't think so, no. It may be a little groady and classless, but she's using the site exactly as it's meant to be used.

It sounds like you just really don't like this person, think her book and/or cause is crappy, and resent her for raising money when (by your perception, which may not be accurate) she could afford not to. My advice is to stop talking to this person and letting them take up space in your brain, and forget about this forever.
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:03 PM on March 12, 2015 [11 favorites]

It's only dishonest if she does not give the backers the book promised them.
posted by Sophont at 4:04 PM on March 12, 2015 [18 favorites]

Kickstarter funds aren't just free money - everyone who donates probably expects a reward, and the reward costs money too. If she needed 3k to cover initial printing costs to make 1000 books (a complete made up number) but 2000 people wanted a copy, then she's just selling books at that point, not fundraising exactly. It's fuzzier than that because she could theoretically take the money and never fulfill the rewards, but assuming she intends to (and most authors very much do want to put books in readers' hands) then there's nothing necessarily dishonest here.
posted by restless_nomad at 4:05 PM on March 12, 2015 [3 favorites]

Yeah that's the designed use of kickstarter. I guess unless she knowingly lied in the kickstarter to tell people she was going to do something she has no intention of doing? But raising money on kickstarter for self-publishing a book is basically what it's for.
posted by brainmouse at 4:05 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Although by no means poor, this person started a kickstarter campaign to finance her self-publishing efforts.

Her being "by no means poor" in no way disqualifies her from using kickstarter. It is irrelevant. Your framing sounds like you have a poverty mentality relationship to money and you feel personally bitter towards this person for some reason.

This is almost twice what she initially said she needed. To me this seems an excessive amount of money,

Plenty of kickstarter campaigns do better than the initial goal. This usually entails providing more than initially promised as well. My understanding is that it is okay to actually make money on it -- to have money leftover after you did the thing the funding was supposed to cover.
posted by Michele in California at 4:12 PM on March 12, 2015 [10 favorites]

Pefectly legit.

Besides, authors/editors/etc deserve to be paid, and it can cost as much money as you feel necessary to market and promote your book.
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:12 PM on March 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

I don't really know what it usually costs to self-publish, so am asking wiser folks here to enlighten me.

There's no real answer to this question. Printing a book costs a certain amount per copy, in addition to any up-front costs. The amount per book depends on the format, page count, choice of materials and binding, etc. It could be as little as $1 for a crappy black-and-white booklet, or it could be tens of times higher for a hardback photo book on acid-free glossy paper. And if you get more sales/pre-orders/backers, you can afford to print that many more copies.
posted by mbrubeck at 4:16 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think ithe morality depends on if she's purposefully misleading them or they're making their own assumptions.
posted by bleep at 4:19 PM on March 12, 2015

Best answer: Almost everyone on kickstarter is raising money for dumb ideas, let it go.
posted by bradbane at 4:24 PM on March 12, 2015 [14 favorites]

Is this a dishonest way to raise money?

Does she lie in the Kickstarter? If yes, then yes, it is dishonest. If no, then no, it is not dishonest.

I don't really know what it usually costs to self-publish

This is irrelevant to honesty. There's no expectation on Kickstarter that project creators make no profit from their projects. In fact, there's actually the opposite - you'll notice a lot of projects explicitly indicate their expected profit margin.

I'd feel guilty myself getting "more" than I said I needed.

Kickstarter is not a charity.
posted by saeculorum at 4:41 PM on March 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

Have you ever written a book? Six thousand dollars isn't a lot of money compared to what you put into writing a book - even a crappy one.
posted by jzb at 5:17 PM on March 12, 2015 [7 favorites]

This is what kickstarted is for.
posted by alms at 5:34 PM on March 12, 2015

QFT: Kickstarter is not a charity.

I ran a Kickstarter for a goofy pirate serial and asked for $5,000, though I did substantially better in the end. Here's my post laying out the costs of my project in terms of time vs. money. And the second part covering my goal overrun.

For what it's worth, printing around 20 books in hard cover and shipping them (largely internationally) to fulfill Kickstarter rewards is going to cost me about $2000 when it's finally done (probably late this month), 12 cover illustrations cost roughly $2000, and editing was another $700 because friend rates. That's not counting money I spent on postcards and postage as my Kickstarter thank-you.

All said and done I'm walking away with about $3000 as profit, or to put it more accurately, as a wage for my time spent working on, publishing, and promoting the project. Just because I'm the project owner doesn't mean my time isn't worth something; that's time I can't spend on other paying work, and I'd never in a million years expect my designers, editors, and other associates to work for free. So why should I?
posted by Andrhia at 5:36 PM on March 12, 2015 [19 favorites]

Six grand is frankly a bargain to self-publish. People desperate to be published will pay much, much more than that for professional editing and marketing skills, illustrations/cover design, printing, shipping, sales and promotion.

But that's not really your question. No, Kickstarter is not a dishonest way to earn money. Whether your acquaintance follows through is another matter, but if you didn't give any money towards the project, it's not really your business.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:32 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Kickstarter prominently posts the amount of money any project has earned and its goal amount. It's 100% up to the donors whether they want to donate beyond the asking amount of any project. It would be misuse if the group being funded didn't give out the premiums offered to donors, but realistically people can give as much money as they want to support the projects they want.
posted by bendy at 7:44 PM on March 12, 2015

This actually sounds more legit than vanity publishing (although not by much). It'd only be fraud if 1) she publishes flat-out slander or libel, or 2) she says in her Kickstarter that she's going to give her backers something tangible and then she doesn't.

Instead, all she's doing is asking, "give me money so I can do a thing". No one is under any obligation to do so, and if they do they are doing so willingly. there are plenty of other situations where someone who already has money asks for more to do a thing, and also plenty of cases where even traditionally-published books are attempting to advance a cause and don't. So there isn't much case for fraud here. Maybe cases for "caveat emptor," but that's it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:23 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Another thing to think about here is the print run. The smaller the print run, the more expensive per book it tends to be. So if she wants 300 books, it might still be the most cost-effective to order a run of 1000. When you add in shipping, then even if you imagine she does the book design and any publicity and wrote the book, she still might not make a buck.

Put another way, I know a few comics publishers and the joke amongst them is: Do you know how you make a million in comics? Start with two million!

Small publishing is usually a labor of love.
posted by feets at 8:54 PM on March 12, 2015

Kickstarter is as much a marketing platform as a fundraising platform. Funding a project via Kickstarter is used as a way to connect with your audience and build a fanbase around your product/project. Since people will be getting what they paid for, there's nothing dishonest about it and it can in fact provide backers with a sense of connection to the project creator that they find valuable.

It's also a great way to validate that your audience is what you hope it is — she could have self published then discovered that in fact nobody wanted her book. She'd be out the dough with not much to show. Pre-funding the project on Kickstarter means the work to self-publish is worth it.
posted by wemayfreeze at 9:26 PM on March 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Although by no means poor,

Kickstarter isn't just about raising the money, though. It's about raising awareness in your project, discerning if there's adequate interest to attempt to even get a project off the ground (so as not to waste money), and inviting others to participate in a community way that adds value to the final product. As others have mentioned, this is pretty above-board.
posted by SpacemanStix at 9:50 PM on March 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

She's pre-selling her book (which is something that legit publishers to) via Kickstarter. This isn't shady in the least.
posted by third word on a random page at 12:36 AM on March 13, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the information. It seems I was woefully ignorant of kickstarter. I should have done more research, and not used the word "dishonest". Kinda sorry I asked.
posted by mermayd at 2:59 AM on March 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Don't be sorry, you were asking out of a good place.

And self-publishing has had a little bit of a murky reputation in the past, too - the "vanity press" kind of thing is what most people used to think of it as. But ebooks and e-publishers have changed things around a lot and it's a whole new thing.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:31 AM on March 13, 2015 [3 favorites]

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