Why I don’t like Kickstarters

As a general rule, gamebook authors fall into two camps: those who use Kickstarters to fund their books, and those who don’t.

So far, I’ve fallen into the latter category. Each time I’ve created a book, I haven’t earned a single penny on it until after it’s been published.

This has obvious downsides.

Firstly, it’s a pretty risky strategy. A lot of time and energy goes into creating a book, and when I released The Altimer it felt like a very likely outcome that literally nobody would buy a copy – I still feel a bit of surprise, a sprinkle of excitement and a tonne of gratitude every time someone does.

Secondly, it often needs a financial investment, so the option feels closed off to some people. I do all my own designing and formatting, and have either illustrated my own books or sourced images that are out of copyright, so that hasn’t been that much of a barrier for me, but I know gamebook authors who are still operating at a loss through having paid illustrators, cover designers, proofreaders, typesetters, etc which they still haven’t made back on sales.

Crowdfunding provides a solution.

I’ve just embarked on a project with an illustrator, which is incredibly exciting for me, and illustrators typically want to be paid for their work (why wouldn’t they?). But if the price they want to charge is more than I’m ever going to make on the book, apart from feeling like I’ve given the world a pleasant gift, it doesn’t make much sense to take that risk.

Kickstarter gives the perfect opportunity to pre-sell the book, funding the illustrations so protecting me from that risk, getting them paid, and ultimately helping readers get hold of a book they want. Win-win-win.

But I’ve found that I have a natural inclination away from Kickstarter projects, for two reasons.


For a start, my first few interactions with Kickstarter projects screamed ENTITLED MILLENNIAL louder than anything else. I think the first one I saw included a phrase along the lines of “I’ve always believed I was made for bigger things, please make my dream come true!”

As much as it’s lovely to know I could make someone’s dream come true, as a reader I tend to buy books I think I’ll like, rather than donate money to people who seem nice.

Wow, that sounds unkind.

I suppose what I’m saying is that in my mind, a Kickstarter project is different from a JustGiving page. It’s not a charity donation, it’s a transaction in which I’m buying a future product I expect I’ll love.


I’m not the world’s biggest collector, so I tend to buy books purely so I can read them. As a result, the offer to invest £45 in a hardback version of a book that’s going to go on sale as a paperback for less than £10 feels like it’s punishing the biggest fans! It just feels odd to me – as an author, I’d much rather thank those that help make the book a reality with a reduced price rather than inflate it.

On top of that, the risk then moves away from the author and onto those biggest fans, which just feels wrong. The failed Kickstarter projects out there aren’t pleasant sights. As an author I can naturally see the attraction, but I’m really uncomfortable with it. I have a very big pile of unfinished projects, which have taken up my own resources, and that feels like a much fairer consequence – I made the bad choices, and I’m paying for them.

But I still might run one…one day

In spite of all of my prejudice, I recognise that producing something exceptionally beautiful and creative requires an upfront investment, and I don’t have the luxury of limitless wealth (yet – Escape From Portsrood Forest is ripe for a film adaptation). So I may swallow my pride at that point. But I won’t be happy about it (joking, of course, but you understand I’ve got to keep up appearances).

The truth is, I have bought into Kickstarter projects, and so my bias away from them is clearly not universal. Those I’ve joined I felt did things better than the bad examples have, and if I ever go down that road I hope I do too.