Getting Started Lessons From an Author Who Raised $15.4 Million in 24 Hours

Successful entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. While I’ve written about successful founders in industries ranging from high tech to apple pie, the fundraising success of Brandon Sanderson – a science fiction and fantasy author – surpasses that of all. the other founders whose stories I have told.

How? ‘Or’ What? Sanderson – who claims 20 million print, audio and electronic books sold – set out to raise $1 million to fund four new books in 30 days. He reached his goal in 35 minutes, raised $15.4 million in 24 hours, and within two days of opening his Kickstarter campaign, he raised $19 million, according to the New York Times.

How did Sam Hill Sanderson achieve this fundraising feat? Kristen McLean, executive director of business development at NPD Books, told The Times that Sanderson’s success is partly due to the time he spends at conventions and interacting directly with his fans – in 2019, he spent 111 days in such meetings. .

Granted, Sanderson’s Kickstarter didn’t sell stock in any company. Instead, like most Kickstarters, it gave contributors the opportunity to place orders for all four books. He told The Times he was offering readers a range of product options — from $50 for all four e-books to $500 for books in all sizes plus eight freebie boxes.

Sanderson also publishes with Tor (part of Macmillan Publishers) and Delacorte Press, a Penguin Random House imprint because they place his work in bookstores. The reason it self-publishes is to create an e-book industry rival for Amazon, which sells more than half of e-books sold (e-books account for about 80% of Sanderson’s sales), noted the Times.

Sanderson started a 30-person company, Dragonsteel Entertainment, to publish his e-books. His team includes “a marketing manager, concept artist, editor, and human resources manager. He also has a warehouse in Pleasant Grove, Utah, a short drive from his home,” according to the Times. .

Here are three lessons from Sanderson’s success that can help any business leader.

1. Offer an exceptional product that meets a real need.

More than anything else, entrepreneurial success depends on solving the right problem. Unless you can answer yes to these four questions, you may not be on the right track:

  • Is your company trying to solve a problem so bad that people are willing to pay for a solution?
  • Do you have the talent and passion to solve this problem?
  • Do customers perceive that your product is much better than that of competing suppliers?
  • Are customers willing to pay more for your product than it costs you to create, deliver and repair it?

Sanderson could clearly answer yes to all of these questions. People need great stories that take them out of their daily lives and immerse them in a more interesting world. Sanderson’s 20 million books sold means his work takes readers into a world so fascinating they can’t wait to spend more time in it.

If you can’t say something similar about your business, it’s time to ask yourself if you should be doing something completely different or if minor tweaks will allow you to answer yes to these four questions.

2. Build ongoing relationships with customers.

If your business solves the right problem, your customers will come back to you for more.

Here are four ideas inspired by Sanderson’s success for how to deliver new products that customers will be eager to buy:

  • Identify your company’s most rabid fans
  • Find out why they love your product and what they want next
  • Co-develop your new products with these rabid fans
  • Create a forum for your customers to share their enthusiasm for your products

3. Control your product’s value web.

If you do all of these things well, you should have tremendous bargaining power with your partners.

The key element that allows Sanderson to acquire such power is that he has a direct relationship with the final consumer of his work. This reminds us of one caveat example: Amazon’s third-party e-commerce platform that allows small sellers to sell their wares online.

This works well for Amazon because it controls all product-related customer information that these third-party sellers provide to Amazon customers. However – as in the case of all the birds reveals – giving up access to customer information gives Amazon a business opportunity: to manufacture and sell counterfeits of popular products developed by these third parties.

Sanderson does not fall into this trap. If you control the customer relationship, you must build a value network that allows you to maximize the lifetime value of your customers. Through a mix of relationships with traditional publishers and its self-publishing operation, Sanderson does just that.

The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of

Lola R. McClure