Seth Godin Uses Kickstarter To Test The Market For His Next Book (And The Results Are Good)

from the demand-proofing dept

As a few people sent in, famed author Seth Godin is doing an interesting experiment with Kickstarter, where he has teamed up with a publisher who essentially wanted to use the platform to prove there’s significant demand for Godin’s next book. Basically, if he could effectively sell pre-orders for the project to raise $40,000, then the publisher would invest in the project as well and support getting it into bookstores and putting a promotional campaign behind it. It took Godin less than three hours to surpass that goal (and then go way, way beyond it as well).


Godin makes a strong point about how the traditional process, of investing a ton of money upfront, without knowing if there’s really demand, is inherently risky for traditional publishers (and studios and labels). This is one area where a platform like Kickstarter is quite interesting beyond just the “fundraising” side of things. It can also be a tool for gauging demand for a project.

In fact, some others have been recognizing exactly that. Andy Baio recently wrote a column at Wired, in which he talks about using Kickstarter as a way to judge demand for something without having to put forth that initial capital expenditure.

Of course, once you realize that it can be a demand platform, rather than purely a funding platform, interesting possibilities open up:

As far as I can tell, nobody’s flipped it around and tried to commission a musician to play for fans. Most bands already play corporate events and private parties. If fans collectively raise the same amount of money, why not play a house show for them instead? For fans, it’d be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see an artist they love in an intimate setting. For musicians, it’d pay well without the malaise that comes from playing the Intel holiday party.

In other words, as a demand platform, Kickstarter (or others) can be used to demonstrate demand (and actual money) for something that people want to come into existence, and then people can figure out how to make it happen. That’s pretty powerful just for being different than how things have been done before.

That’s not to say that this makes sense for everything, or that there aren’t risks associated with it. Execution matters, and paying up at the demand stage can lead to disappointment if the eventual product doesn’t live up to expectations (or, worse, never actually gets made). So there’s a different kind of risk there, though one that is likely to be more distributed. There is also the risk of “failure.” A good idea that may not be explained well at this stage may not come to fruition. But, in the end, these are really just flipsides to the traditional risk taken by gatekeepers. It’s just that it’s getting moved around, and done in a way that actually decreases the overall burden of the risk, which makes it possible to create more with less overhead (a good thing for everyone!)

And, remember, we’re really only in the first few years of these types of efforts. Kickstarter, which gets most of the attention, is just three years old. Imagine where things will be 10 years from now.

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Comments on “Seth Godin Uses Kickstarter To Test The Market For His Next Book (And The Results Are Good)”

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6 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

In the past you had to eyeball something and say “gee this could work, lets make it happen and see how it goes”, today you have a powerful market gauge tool in the Kickstarter concept, it is as distributed as building up a distribution channel for sales on the assumption that “if you make it they will come and buy it”, but it has an advantage you don’t make it upfront you throw the idea on the market and see if there is interest for it, that is powerful and money saving.

Spaceman Spiff (profile) says:

Connecting with fans

My wife and I put on house concerts several times a year. We can fit 30-40 people in our basement venue. The interesting thing about this is that we get some outstanding (and famous) performers who are DELIGHTED to play to such a small group of fans, even though they can fill a stadium or major concert hall. Yes, they do this generally in their “spare” time (between major gigs), but the fact that they are willing to play for the house take of around $500 (plus CD sales), says something to me… 🙂

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Demand based platforms could be useful, as long as no one tried to game the system.

Once upon a time video game makers put out playable demos to show off their product.
This let players kick the tires before buying.
Then came the age of demo videos, where you only got to watch someone else playing the game.
Then came the ‘perfect’ demo videos where they would use a machine well beyond the specs to show off the game.
Now is the age of the rendered demo. They render scene from the game promising much more than they actually can deliver. No harm no foul in tweaking drivers or patching code for the super optimized version they use.
They often promise much more than is delivered in the end, even after the 10 patches at launch.

I think for writers, musicians, directors, etc. this could be much more valuable than trying to get a focus group to greenlight a movie. Real people putting money where their interest lie rather than picking random Romcom or Action flick at the ticket counter. Letting the interest grow over time naturally than trying to build the audience in a 2 week film junket promoting it on different shows.

It will be interesting to see if more people try out this model and see where it fits and where it doesn’t.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Using Kickstarter for a demand tool

So, instead of finding unknowns who have (in the expert opinion of, say, publishers) the ability to be the next big thing, we simply put stuff on Kickstarter, and if the person is well-known and raises a ton of money, we publish, otherwise we don’t?
So where does that leave promising new talent? We just ignore them, and hope they will go away?

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