So, you think you’ve something to say about wine and you’d like to write a book. You’ve tried contacting a few publishers and you might even have attempted to find an agent. All to no avail.
Or maybe you did find a publisher who said they might be interested in your lovingly penned ode to the Unique Wines of Bluemeania – but only offered an advance of £3,000 or £4,000 to cover all your research costs and the actual writing of the book. Of course, that figure is based on 10% of the revenue from hardback sales (7% for paperbacks) and if the world were to develop a sudden interest in Bluemeania, you might get a bit more money, but the chances are pretty small. Even if your book is about a really popular region, sales tend to be disappointingly low.
Unlike many other crowdfunding sites, Kickstarter is not looking for investors into the projects on its site; it’s offering an advance chance to buy something that does not yet exist – and indeed may not ever exist unless 100% of the target set on Kickstarter has been achieved. (And if a project does fall short of its target by the date that has been set for it, the pledges are cancelled.).
So what has Kickstarter to do with wine books? Well, nine would-be authors have pitched their projects on the site; three of them got the thumbs up – a rather poorer success rate than Kickstarter’s 44% average, but still reasonably appealing odds. The projects that persuaded people to put their hands in their pockets were the Essence of Wine by Alder Yarrow of the Vinography blog and jancisrobinson.com; Jura Wine by wine travel specialist Wink Lorch and the wonderfully named Mommy’s Favourite Juice – a Children’s Book About Wine by Mike Nemeth.
The six failures were The Wine Diaries; Secrets of the Wine Whisperer; Southern France Wines & Vines; Blood & Wine; North Coast Wines; and A Wine Book Written by Winemakers. I leave it to wannabe authors to discern a pattern here.
In fact, there may not be one. It is quite possible that the three winners owe their success to the efforts of the authors; to do well on Kickstarter you have to get a lot of people to look at your project there and what you have to offer. As Arnold Waldstein rightly points out in a comment to this post, Kickstarter only offers a platform; if you don’t direct enough of the right kind of traffic to your offer, it will fail.
Alder Yarrow and Wink Lorch both listed a set of options, ranging from the cheap – Yarrow’s $10 offer of a laminated “Aroma Card” to the extravagant – his $3,500 package that included a day’s tutored tasting for six, by him in Napa, including the limo journey from San Francisco. No one took him up on this last proposal and only seven people opted for the Aroma Card. Far more – around 150 of the 183 pledgers – bought his book in print form or as an e-book. By my estimate, these sales add up to around 160 or so books which Yarrow will have to print, plus some e-book versions. His income from the campaign was $24,240, minus Kickstarter’s 5% commission (non Americans pay an additional 3-5% I understand) which compares rather well to his original target of $18,000. Wink Lorch did even better – proportionally – raising a wapping £14,076 from 376 backers, against her target of just £7,500.
of people who were sufficiently tempted
to pledge to buy them.