Know Your Audience – A Kickstarter Case Study

Here’s an example of the power of an author’s fandom.

Author Brandon Sanderson has a Kickstarter campaign running to fund the production of commemorative leatherbound volumes of The Way of Kings, the first novel in The Stormlight Archive fantasy series, to celebrate its tenth anniversary.

His goal was $250,000.

With 23 days left to go as of the time I’m writing this, the campaign has received $5.3 million dollars in pledges.

Now that’s an enthusiastic fan base!

I have to admit that when I saw information about the Kickstarter in Sanderson’s newsletter, I didn’t click through to it. I’m not someone who collects special editions.

But then I heard the host of a writer’s podcast mention that he’d blown past his goal. (I see from the Kickstarter page that he met his goal in three minutes!) But she also commented on how gorgeous the books are and how this proves that producing physical products for fans can be profitable.

I think the success needs to be broken down a bit to understand why it’s so successful.

First, Sanderson writes books that a lot of people love. Including me.

Second, he knows his fans. He’s previously released speciality leatherbound volumes for other ten-year anniversaries, so he already has proof that his audience wants these special editions.

Third, the regular edition of The Way of Kings has fantastic illustrations and there will be additional illustrations in this commemorative edition.

Fourth, he’s going high quality. These are blue leather books, with gold embossing and lovingly drawn, color illustrations. As I mentioned, I don’t collect books, but these are such a feast for the eyes that if I had the money, I’d be very tempted to sign up.

Fifth, he’s acknowledging the doorstopper size of the original book and splitting this special edition into two volumes. Not only does it look classy to have two books in a leather slipcase, but holding the original book in all of its bulky glory hurt my wrists. No one wants sore wrists with a commemorative edition. So hooray for two volumes!

Overall, he’s offering a high-quality collector’s edition. Obviously, his fans love this idea. I think other fantasy writers could do something similar and probably do well.

If I tried this with my romantic thrillers? No. The harsher tone of my books would clash with the elegant leather binding.

The lesson? It’s one authors are told all the time. From the moment you conceive of your next story idea to the moment you start marketing your book, there’s one key rule to success. You must know your audience.

Some day I hope to understand my audience as well as Brandon Sanderson knows his, so that I can provide them with extras that they, specifically, will love and treasure.

What about you? Do you buy collectible editions or other special items for the books you love? If yes, what types of items? What genre of book are they for?