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How Authors, Booksellers, Archivists Are Crowdsourcing Funding Online

• Websites like Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and Invested.in are helping artistic entrepreneurs raise money for new projects.

• Here, we look at three book-related projects — a comic book, an online library, and a new bookstore — to see if they succeeded in getting the money they needed.

By Rachel Aydt

Kickstarter: “A New Way to Fund & Follow Creativity”, which was founded in April of 2009, is an online fundraising tool that has raised over $15,000,000 for various creative projects. The numbers continue to impress: 200,000 self-anointed patrons have donated seed money for everything ranging from independent films to decorating a front yard as the “Journey to the Center of the Earth” for Halloween, to launching a LGBT-friendly independent book store. More than 3,000 projects have met their goals and raised enough capital to get going. The founders of Kickstarter are Brooklyn-based Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen. “It’s amazing when you give creative people a space what can happen,” said Strickler.

The book world is benefiting from a large faction of this enthusiastic grassroots patronage. Virtual communities of donors are lifting from the dark original comic books and graphic novels, children’s books, travel and photography journals, quirky online academic libraries, and even brick-and mortar-bookstores. Some of the projects that turn toward these fundraising platforms have had no luck finding traditional publishers — or small business loans — in this economy, either for financial reasons or the unique niches that much of the work falls under. Websites like Kickstarter.com, Indiegogo.com, and

Maria Rosenblum and her husband Brian Katz are independent filmmakers who decided it would be interesting to take one of their on-screen protagonists from the screen and put her in a comic book Neutron Girl. Rather than seek a traditional publisher, they decided to fund it themselves using Kickstarter.

“We were already developing the book so we could bring it to the New York Comic Con. When we were faced with the task of supporting our family, paying our bills, and funding this little operation, we almost panicked,” said Katz. Donations were slow going but steady. “Honestly, I thought more friends and family would support the endeavor. It makes us wonder what they really think of us [kidding]. Half of our backers are from strangers! Thank goodness for them.” They ultimately raised $5,287 from 97 backers by October 9, just in time for the debut at Comic Con last month.

Some of the projects are so eclectic it’s hard to imagine them being funded outside of a university without extreme bursts of grant writing, and yet they attempt to raise funds this way as well. For example, Amanda Patchin of Boise, Idaho was trying to raise $20,000 so she can compile a library of known books that C.S. Lewis owned and read in his lifetime. “There is some good theoretical scholarship being published on Lewis, but the sort of concrete literary excavation that will tie our notions of him and his writing back to reality needs more attention,” said Patchin. “I hope that Lewis fans would use this as a portal to expand their personal reading habits and that scholars will use it to deepen their insights into Lewis’s writing.” Still, despite her commitment, she only managed to $745 from 17 backers and failed to reach her goal.

Alternately, Boneshaker Books in Minneapolis, Minnesota, surpassed their goal of $5,000 (they raised $5,450 from 57 backers), meaning that there will now be a new “radical and progressive” volunteer-run bookstore/café in the land of 10,000 lakes. A part of their success may have been an especially innovative incentive for donating. “Among our most popular levels of support was our ‘Skeleton Crew’ level that allows someone to choose a book that we will stock forever. Ensuring the survival of someone’s favorite book has proven to be empowering to book lovers. People have chosen books because they love them, it changed their lives, or it defines them in some way,” said project manager Maggie Ludlow.

Their other soon-to-be fulfilled dream was to have a place to house a Women’s Prison Book Project, which will provide much needed literature to female inmates across the nation. Their ultimate goal is even loftier. Says Ludlow, “Boneshaker Books aims to preserve independent bookstores by documenting a procedure so that others can use it as a model to replicate and improve on, offering access to politics and social issues that are often marginalized . . . We feel great about the support we’ve received so far!”

DISCUSS: Did You Catch “Seduction,” Episode 1 of Amateur Thursdays?

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2 Comments

  1. Mike
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

    I used Invested.in and LOVED it for a charity type of project I did. I saw that a comic book series was funded through there too.

  2. J. Wandres
    Posted November 6, 2010 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Would liked to have read this four years ago when I was researching my book. However the article would have been better if it discussed payback methods to investors, and fees and charges ,if any to the web site owners.

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