There’s no such thing as announcing the presentation of a fat book to make other writers grumble in protest, whether it’s the grand prize winners. Michelle and Barack Obama, who struck a staggering $65 million deal for two books in 2017 Or such hateful figures as right-wing agitators Milo Yiannopoulos, his relatively modest $250,000 contract with Simon & Schuster It caused enough uproar that the book was eventually canceled earlier that same year.
But today’s announcement of that fictional novelist Brandon Sanderson Kickstarter Campaign To fund the publication of a series of four books It has exceeded $20.8 million Becoming the platform’s richest project to date presents an unusual challenge to critics about how to publish books of values. Conservatives can complain that the overwhelming liberal industry has grossly overestimated Obama’s popularity and progressives can complain that a company like Simon and Schuster has shown poor judgment in promoting and covering the pockets of trolls like Yiannopoulous. But in Sanderson’s case, there’s no guard to blame.
Literary writers have long bemoaned the amount of money and promotional resources that publishers pour into books by celebrities, politicians, and authors of model-form business novels. Recently, industry critics have called on publishers to invest in more titles for authors of diverse identities. Since Sanderson’s Kickstarter has made headlines, there has been, unsurprisingly, some grumbling on social media about whether this commercially successful author really needs that kind of money. “Today is a really good day to support your favorite author who hasn’t earned $18M in the last few days,” he wrote on Twitter. Fictional novelist Natanya Barron. Others were frustrated that he is a straight white Mormon man who benefits from such generosity: “There are a lot of excellent diverse SFFs out there,” Critic Alex Brown tweeted“And you are intent on giving this man millions of dollars.”
But it’s hard to deal with a man who sells his books directly to people who really want to read them. Sanderson of course wouldn’t have such a large following without the benefit of years of traditional publishing, with the full resources of a traditional publishing house and its distribution networks. (He wouldn’t have gotten that either if it hadn’t reliably satisfied his readers.) That $23.3 million wouldn’t go as far as the old advances, since Sanderson would have to print, store, and ship the books himself. , along with gift boxes and special collector’s editions purchased by many of the project’s subscribers. It is, of course, a huge pile of money, but it is not unprecedented: Dell paid Ken Follett the same amount for two books throughout 1990 While Penguin paid a famous $50 million advance to the Follet’s Century trilogy in 2008. Therefore, Follett did not have to do anything but write.
A famous novelist like Sanderson may suffer a slight loss in the process, compared to what he would encounter if he released these books through his current publisher, Tor. But Sanderson is interested enough in the business side of book publishing to give that experience a try, anytime Paper shortageAnd the container ship disasters, and other supply-side headaches, to boot. Most authors of any identity or level of literary achievement are not interested in such a project. And not every author is one whose fans are willing to pay more for swag and fancier-print books with more covers. This project and its success are unique to Sanderson himself, and his track record with his fans.
There may be a handful of authors – Neil Gaiman and George R. R. Martin come to mind – who can come up with something similar. There are authors who sell more books, like James Patterson or Diana Gabaldon, but their fan base doesn’t care much about collectibles. And it’s entirely possible that there are still other writers so unfamiliar with me with such adamantly devoted fan bases that they’d probably look towards Sanderson’s $22 million and think, “I can beat that.” But I suspect it’s nothing more than a handful.
The challenge for publishers is to provide readers with a variety of books from a more diverse group of authors so that everyone can find more books to appreciate. It’s another thing to berate readers for their enthusiastic support of an author who genuinely loves his work because there are authors and books that you consider more worthy – for whatever reason. People don’t enjoy books just because others tell them they should. And if I’m one of those allegedly superior authors, I’m not sure I’d like to see my own work in the role of eating spinach against Sanderson’s French fries. Writers always seem to find a way to mislead each other’s successes, but the case against Sanderson and his fans is based on sheer fantasy.