Why Mr Bingo just broke publishing

The front cover of the Mr Bingo’s Hate Mail.

The illustrator Mr Bingo’s Kickstarter campaign for his Hate Mail project that finished last week set a new record for a UK book crowdfunding campaign and in the process re-wrote the rules of the publishing industry. He raised an amazing £135,146 from 3,732 backers. The really significant detail here is not the six figure sum, but the number of backers — 3732.

The target for Mr Bingo’s campaign was 35k, even allowing for the extra costs that success will have brought him, let’s estimate these to be a further £35K, then he still will have made £65k. If he had sold 3732 books via a traditional publisher his income from royalties would have been no more than £6K. This is a gigantic difference in potential earnings — the traditional publishing model just cannot compete.

The key message is this…

For anyone with a sizable social media following (Mr Bingo is most active on Twitter where he has 30k followers) crowdfunding needs to be the primary focus of your publishing plans otherwise you are throwing away the majority of your earnings. Agents take note! Authors take note! YouTubers take note! Publishers watch out!

Notes

  1. Traditional publishing will take someone that is willing to pay £500 and sell them a book for £18.99 or less. Crowdfunding, with its multiple offerings at different price points, is great at extracting the highest amount of money each customer is willing to spend. The average pledge for Mr Bingo was £32 (actually slightly less than the average pledge on Unbound) far, far higher than the price of an actual book.
  2. Mr Bingo, like all crowdfunders, also now has the emails and addresses of 3772 fans that he can go back to with his next project. This is hugely valuable and something that traditional publishing cannot offer.
  3. Mr Bingo is not an anomaly. Similar significant sums have been raised by many of our projects at Unbound including Letters of Note, Lists of Note, On the Menu and Terrible Games.
  4. A final thought. I can envisage a time when agents separate crowdfunding rights in a contract in the same way they do with other sub rights like translation or TV and film.

Mathew Clayton is the Head of Publishing at Unbound. We are halfway between Kickstarter and a traditional publisher. We crowdfund our books but then also edit, print and distribute them in bookshops (through a joint venture with Penguin Random House) and share the profits with our authors. We have published (or are about to) books by Raymond Briggs, Jonathan Meades, Julie Burchill, Stuart Ashens, Robert Llwelleyn, Matthew Herbert, Shaun Usher and Paul Kingsnorth. If you have a book that you think would be right for Unbound please email me mathew at unbound dot co dot uk

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