Friday, 23 April 2010

A Story Of Unconventional Publishing

A couple of weeks ago I read an article on Signal Vs Noise about two people who were self-publishing books. The first book had an interesting story behind it. It had sold out of it’s initial print run, however the publisher wanted to release the next edition as a cheap paperback. As the book contained numerous maps, illustrations and had been designed as a hardback, the author was reluctant to release it this way. Instead he decided to purchase the worldwide publishing rights, so that he could reprint as it was originally intended.

I followed a link to get more details about the project and ended up on Kickstarter. The idea of Kickstarter is quite simple; creators post projects with a minimum amount of money to be raised before the project will go ahead. They also offer various rewards for individual pledges above certain thresholds. In this case, due to the expense of printing a high quality physical book, the minimum pledge total was set at $15,000. Normally the creator would have to get this money from a bank, venture capitalist or publisher in exchange for a share of the profits, or at least interest payments. With Kickstarter the middleman is cut out, the customers put up the money, all of which goes to fund the project.


I love books, so I was blown away when I saw the photos of the first edition of Art Space Tokyo. From the silk screened cloth cover, to the impeccably set glossy pages, I knew I wanted a copy. I might not be terribly knowledgeable about art (far less Japanese art) and I have never been to Japan. At this point, even the prospect of going to Japan is a vague thought for the future, rather than a firm plan. So based on the subject matter of the book, I knew that justifying the purchase was not going to be easy.

I loved the idea of someone self-publishing to maintain the integrity of a book and I loved the idea of using Kickstarter to raise the money, however I couldn't quite bring myself to order a book I only had a tangential interest in. The average book I buy is around $20, so spending $65 on Art Space Tokyo seemed a little excessive. I read the Kickstarter page a few times, looking for an excuse to stump up the cash for the book, but it wasn’t until I realised who the author was that I knew I had to back the project.

Just after I finished my Books Vs E-Readers series of posts, I came across an article on Books In The Age Of The iPad. In an eloquent way it laid out the primary problems with e-book readers and the instances where physical books would still be the medium of choice for reading. It was presented in a very well designed manner, with custom diagrams to illustrate key points. Even the webpage containing the article supported the points being made. I also discovered that the author had written the best product review I have ever seen on the web: GF1 Field Test - 16 Days In The Himalayas. The review was interesting, engaging and presented in a very different way to most product reviews. The quality of the content and design of both of these web pages made the decision to back Art Space Tokyo obvious, so I pledged $66.

The interesting thing about Kickstarter is that the backers are almost as invested in the project as the creator. As a backer I want the project to go ahead, so I checked in regularly to see how the pledge total was progressing. After 15 days of hitting ctrl+r on the Kickstarter website and watching the total steadily rise, finally it broke the minimum funding. There are still 8 days before the deadline and because the minimum amount has been achieved the book is definitely getting made. Right now I am debating whether to increase my pledge to $100 so that I can get my name in the credits ... I think it would be really cool to have my name in a book. Unfortunately I am not sure if ‘being cool to have my name in a book’ is worth an extra $34. Thoughts?

The book is scheduled to be printed next month and dispatched in June, so not too long to wait. Check out the Kickstarter Page.

[746 Words]


  1. Paying an extra $34 to have your name in trh credits is totally worth it!!

    P.s. as for posting problems...the only problem I see is that you didn't tell us who the author is, although I know I can find out when i visit the links I think it should still be included here.

    Everything else looked good to me mate!

  2. Done! (added $34 so my name will be in the book)

    Looks like they'll hit $20k (the original goal was $15k) before the end too, i'm pretty stoked.

    Thanks for the feedback, i really appreciate you taking the time to read and comment. I think i included the authors name and a link to his twitter in the post at some point, i must have edited it out and forgotten to include it elsewhere.

    As i mentioned in the followup post, i'm not really that happy with the writing overall. After a couple of re-readings, i think its mostly around the narrative, i don't think i fully conveyed how personally involved i feel both with the project and this method of funding publishing. I'm also not sure if it flows very well, there are some choppy paragraph transitions. There are also some awkward/ambiguous sentences that i didn't notice at the time but bug me now. At first i was tempted to go back and re-edit it, but i think i will leave it as is so i can hopefully see some progress going forward.

    On the upside when i was trying to decide on what to write, i developed some other post ideas, one of which i will write up for this week.