All any aspiring fantasy writer is talking about now is Brandon Sanderson’s wildly successful Kickstarter for his Secret Novels, scheduled to arrive in supporters’ inboxes in 2023. I have to admit that even I am a little jealous of his success
First, I think we should take notes not by whether or not we like Sanderson or his writing, or how much money he is receiving (his company Dragonsteel Entertainment is after the fees and business expenses), or put ourselves in the mindset that we cannot replicate his success because we are not Brandon Sanderson. Obviously, there are established writers who can’t do it, and probably we probably can’t replicate his success to that degree.
As writers we should look at his business and marketing strategies objectively to see why it was a success and what we can take away from it.
1. Content is King: Sanderson not only produces books regularly but also podcasts with other writers and is now a YouTuber. He is creating educational content and also posts movie and show reviews that will drive traffic from people who would never have followed him otherwise. By collaborating with other writers, he also grows his own following as other fandoms discover him. It also works vice versa.
2. Social Media: Sanderson and his team figured out what works on social. He effectively trolled everyone by posting a “need to come clean” sad video, driving up interest, and then turning what many though was a sad video into an emotional high. Call it clickbait but it works. He also is very active on reddit and constantly communicates with his fans to create superfans. He and his team also connected with booktubers to set up the announcement after spending considerable time making connections with them (ie Daniel Greene). Spend time learning how to use social media and build your platform.
3. Established trust: by producing content and following through on his promises to create good content over the past 15 or so years his fandom has come to trust him. They trust that he will fulfill his promises for content and to fulfill the Kickstarter rewards.
4. Start Small: Sanderson used a smaller project to test the capabilities of his team. Kickstarter and other funded projects are logistically challenging not only to create the content, but to fulfill it. Writers who have little experience in printing, shipping, Excel or CRM list management and project fulfillment should brush up on those skills or add people to their teams who can do it. Crowd-funded projects that are not fulfilled will likely not be funded for the next one.
5. Connections: Don’t work in a creative vacuum—word-of-mouth campaigns and social media are not successful without creating meaningful connections. This is true in the working world, and it certainly is in the creative world. By supporting other writers in your circle, you too will benefit when you help them become successful.
We too can start small and work our way up using the same techniques if we want to replicate even a portion of his success.