Brandon Sanderson Levels Up

Fantasy author unleashes four novels for fans on an all-time successful Kickstarter

Nerds enjoy the work of author Brandon Sanderson. Most of his novels exist within a magical realm known as the Cosmere, though he also writes for kids, and completed The Wheel of Time series after Robert Jordan’s death. He unfurls stories at the pace of a madman and/or Stephen King, yet also finds time to teach writing classes, host livestreams, and generate steady content for his YouTube channel. By utilizing this savvy yet super sincere marketing strategy, Sanderson manages to come across more like an affable dungeon master than the ruling king of high fantasy fiction, and his followers live for it. This week, he leveled up his promotional showmanship with a Kickstarter event that became the platform’s second-most successful campaign ever, raising $15 million…during its first day.

The fanfare started sneakily, as Sanderson alarmed fans by alluding to an upcoming big announcement. On March 1st, he dropped a YouTube video ominously titled, “It’s Time to Come Clean.” Over the course of 16 minutes, he recounts the way 2020 closures impacted his life. Being forced to stay at home changed the man. Bereft of book tours and conventions, while facing untold hours of free time, he secretly wrote a novel to give to his wife. But the lockdown was long, and the storyteller grew restless. Before long, he produced a second secret tome. Then a third. Unable to stop his urges, it wasn’t long until a fourth and fifth followed.

That’s right, while the rest of us were binging TV, hoarding toilet paper, and baking bread, Brandon Sanderson maintained his usual writing timeline while simultaneously dashing off five entirely unrelated novels. He admits three take place in the Cosmere, one is something different (whatever that means), and the fifth was written for his kids. And naturally, what can one do with a few thousand pages of extra writing other than offer it up on Kickstarter?

The campaign tiers demonstrate how deeply Sanderson understands his fans. At the most basic level, supporters can subscribe to receive a new, unknown novel during each quarter of 2023 as an ebook, audiobook, or hardcover. If that’s not enough, though, diehards can opt for the mystery box offering, which provides the quarterly novel drops along with monthly merch crates stuffed with limited edition goodies related to Sanderson’s literary worlds. Prices range from $40 for the ebooks alone on up to $500 (plus $120 shipping) for all the versions of the books plus the swag, whatever best delights each dork’s personal preferences and wallet.

The lead up, unveiling, and Kickstarter rollout feel particularly delightful in this age of bot targeted marketing and brand pandering. Publishers yearn to intrigue readers while enticing them to drop cash, but seem unable to attempt anything beyond feeble book club stamps from Reese Witherspoon and Oprah. The printed word is ever on the decline, yet here is a dude who spends his days thinking about swords and magic utilizing all the advances of the modern age to excite bibliophiles while simultaneously stuffing his coffers.

While Brandon Sanderson used his lockdown to churn content, most of us spent that time absorbing it, and this successful launch proves there’s an eager legion of fans ready to purchase books, especially from an author who offers quality content and goofy aw-shucks self-awareness. Top marketers, take note. The king of high fantasy just might be ruling over you, too.

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Paula Shaffer

Paula Shaffer has worked on shows for a variety of networks including ABC, Hulu, A&E, HGTV, and WeTV. Her family zom-com script, Chompers, was a selected work of the Stowe Story Labs Feature Campus in 2021, and a 2022 semi-finalist in the Emerging Screenwriters contest, which led to placement on the Coverfly Red List.

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