If you’ve heard of crowdfunding, then you’ve probably heard of Brandon Sanderson.

Aside from authoring wildly popular books and series like Mistborn and The Stormlight Archive, Sanderson and his company Dragonsteel Entertainment have become most known for having run the #1 most funded crowdfunding project of all time – a project launched in 2022 that stunned Sanderson fans with a surprise release of four secret novels he wrote during the previous two years of the pandemic.

In March of this year, Sanderson and team returned to crowdfunding with their first follow-up campaign on BackerKit: Words of Radiance Leatherbound.

Much like The Way of Kings, Sanderson’s first crowdfunding project, the Words of Radiance campaign headlined with the 10-year anniversary leather bound rerelease of Words of Radiance, originally published in 2014 and the second installment in The Stormlight Archive series. But in true Sanderson fashion, the campaign also came with a surprise announcement of a “New Secret Project” – the title of which was later revealed to be Isles of the Emberdark.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson makes history 🏆

The campaign closed at the end of March and raised a whopping $23,756,818 in funding with the support of 102,089 backers, making Words of Radiance Leatherbound:

    • #2 Most funded crowdfunding project of all time
    • #2 Most engaged backer community of any crowdfunding campaign
    • #3 Highest number of backers of any crowdfunding campaign

brandon sanderson quote backerkit

“We hit 23 million which is more than I had guessed for this. We only had two books this time, and we did more than half when we had four books, so that’s pretty incredible.”  Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson now claims the top #1 and top #2 ranking on the crowdfunding charts for most funded with Words of Radiance securing the #2 spot in both categories – second only to Sanderson’s penultimate project Surprise! Four Secret Novels (2022).

In addition, Words of Radiance takes the #1 spot for most engaged backer community, racking up a total of 10,416 comments on the project – 31% more comments generated than Surprise! Four Secret Novels which had previously held the record.

Missed the campaign? Say the words here >> Words of Radiance Leatherbound Pre-order Store

Words of Radiance broke additional records in other categories, including:

Brandon Sanderson beats Day 1 record on BackerKit - Instagram video thumbnail

    • #1 Fastest to reach $10m in crowdfunding: Sanderson’s 2022 campaign held this record,reaching $10m in under 10 hours – a record Words of Radiance shattered by over half the time, raising $10m in just under 4 hours. That’s a funding rate of $41k pledged per minute.
    • #1 Biggest Day-1 total in crowdfunding (first 12 hours): Sanderson’s 2022 campaign held the Day-1 total record of 13,047,944 as reported by Kicktraq, a total which was raised in the first 12 hours of that campaign. Sanderson beat and once again set a new record withWords of Radiance, which surpassed that total in just under 10 hours, subsequently reaching $13,657,708.89 within the first 12 hours. Watch the moment Sanderson and team crossed that threshold and celebrated the milestone with their fans.

Aside from setting crowdfunding industry records, Words of Radiance made BackerKit history and now holds the titles for:

    • #1 Most funded campaign on BackerKit
    • #1 Highest backer count on BackerKit
    • #1 Longest Backer Train on BackerKit: Upon the second it launched, Words of Radiance began the longest recorded chain of non-stop consecutive pledges that lasted 4 days 14 hours 47 mins and 58,758 backers long.
    • #1 Longest Overtime Mode on BackerKit: At BackerKit, every project has a chance to tip into Overtime Mode if a final Backer Train starts in the final minutes of the campaign and extends when the Backer Train stops. When Words of Radiance went into Overtime Mode, the campaign extended past its original end time by nearly a day and a half – 33 hours and 33 minutes – wherein 3,601 backers raised an additional $543,410.

Words of Radiance also topped some of Brandon Sanderson’s personal bests as a crowdfunding creator:

    • #1 Fastest funded project for Brandon Sanderson and Dragonsteel Entertainment: Words of Radiance reached its $2m funding goal in only 12 minutes and 8 seconds – 2.75x faster than Surprise! Four Secret Novels took to reach its lower $1m funding goal.
    • #1 Most engaged backer community for any project by Brandon Sanderson and Dragonsteel Entertainment

Brandon Sanderson and BackerKit: A partnership years in the making 🤝

These impressive numbers only tell part of the story of this historic campaign – a story that actually began in 2020 when Sanderson ran his first crowdfunding project.

“We’ve already had a great relationship with BackerKit, using their Pledge Manager to fulfill our last two campaigns,” said the Dragonsteel team. “Once BackerKit launched their crowdfunding platform, we felt a streamlined process on the same platform would provide the best experience for our fans. And BackerKit has done a great job innovating their platform to bring our vision for the campaign to life!”

Across those first two massive projects, BackerKit fulfilled over 200k pledges and also raised millions in additional funding through post-campaign add-ons.

Why BackerKit? Why did we move to BackerKit this time? 

“We really liked working with BackerKit. They’ve got some excellent, excellent software – the best we’ve encountered – and it made our life way, way easier.”

Brandon Sanderson

“Everything that went through BackerKit last time was just the easiest it could be,” said Sanderson. “And so we enjoy working with them and so we’ve moved over there because one of our main reasons for doing this is because of how much easier their software makes attempting something like this, where we’re going to be shipping out tens-of-thousands – last time it was hundreds-of-thousands of books – so we really appreciate the work they’ve done behind the scenes.”

So when Sanderson decided to run the Words of Radiance campaign solely on BackerKit, we knew we had a unique opportunity to deliver Sanderson and his loyal fan base their first end-to-end crowdfunding experience – everything from pre-launch to pre-order and fulfillment would run entirely on one platform.

This presented another opportunity for us at BackerKit to apply the same product development approach and ethos we’ve carried forth since our founding:

Innovate by solving real problems alongside real creators
and test everything in real, live campaign environments.

And that’s exactly what we did. So taking inspiration from Sanderson, we’re thrilled to say…

Surprise! 3 Secret BackerKit Features 🤫

Below are some of the key features we secretly co-developed with the Sanderson team, unleashed in beta to the 100k+ backers of Words of Radiance, and which will soon be released globally on BackerKit. 

1. Follower-Exclusive Content boosts pre-launch followers and excitement

follower exclusive content screenshot image BackerKit

Brandon Sanderson may have a larger audience than the average crowdfunding creator, but he still addresses the same question all creators do ahead of each campaign:

How do I get my audience engaged and excited for my next project?

Typically, creators drum up pre-launch awareness through a series of email campaigns directing their audience to a pre-live campaign page weeks ahead of launch. We wanted to take that approach a step further and give creators like Sanderson a way to turn more page visitors into engaged campaign followers soon after landing on the page.

We unveiled Follower-Exclusive Content capabilities on the Words of Radiance Launch Party page that enabled the Dragonsteel team to offer an incentive for following the project tha their audience would find hard to resist – a weekly dose of exclusive content, videos, and discussions tailor-made for Sanderson fans.

Learn more about how Sanderson and Dragonsteel drove peak excitement months ahead of their launch date through Follower-Exclusive Content.

2. Trivia Challenges and Leaderboards keep backers engaged with friendly competition

trivia challenges and leaderboard feature screenshot Backerkit

Most crowdfunding campaigns experience a u-shaped curve in activity: traffic and funding peak at the start and end of the campaign and dip in the middle.

Many consider this to be the natural progression of a campaign, but did it have to be?

What if we kept as many backers as possible engaged throughout the campaign? Would a more enjoyable campaign make an impression on the most engaged fans?

We wanted to experiment with a new experience that would appeal to the Sanderson audience – one that could hold the attention of Sanderson fans and also tap into the wealth of material the Sanderson lexicon offers.

So through Words of Radiance, we rolled out Trivia Challenges and Leaderboards which enabled Sanderson backers to choose an “order” – representing the orders of the Knights Radiant from the Stormlight Archives – and compete against other orders through daily trivia challenges that tested fans on their mastery of Sanderson lore. Everyone can participate and correct answers contributed to their team’s final standings.

trivia challenges and leaderboards comments screenshots BackerKit

The Words of Radiance community participated right away: 73% of backers chose an order, 21% of whom participated in trivia challenges throughout the campaign. The friendly competition spurred playful chatter as members of each order rallied to dominate the leaderboard. The daily trivia kept backers coming back and the comments rolling in, contributing to the whopping 10k+ comment count for Words of Radiance.

3. Pay Over Time gives backers choice and flexibility when pledging

pay over time feature screenshot image BackerKit

Words of Radiance offered backers 8 different pledge levels ranging from $10 to $650, plus a selection of 30+ add-ons to choose from, giving backers the ability to support the campaign at any level and customize their perfect combination of reward tiers and add-ons.

Knowing the highly anticipated campaign would drive interest for the premium high-value pledge levels, we worked with the Sanderson team to offer their backers more choice when making their pledge by introducing Pay Over Time – BackerKit’s flexible pledging option that spreads pledge payments across several months for pledge amounts totaling $150 or more.

This new flexible pledging option proved popular for those who were eligible to choose it, with 16% of Words of Radiance backers that pledged $150+ electing Pay Over Time.

Pay Over Time is still in beta but will soon be available for all BackerKit creators to choose for their next project.

Sign up for our Community Newsletter to keep up with the newest BackerKit updates and releases.

A historic campaign shaping the future of crowdfunding – and publishing 💫

In his video Brandon Explains: Why Crowdfunding?, Sanderson voices a central question many have been wondering:

“Dragonsteel has been very successful in crowdfunding, and we do have the resources. So why do we continue to crowdfund?”

Sanderson goes on to share 3 main reasons:

    1. Crowdfunding is so much easier because it serves as a really exhaustive pre-order.
    2. Great software like BackerKit makes crowdfunding a lot easier.
    3. We find it a lot of fun!

And we couldn’t agree more: Crowdfunding will continue to fulfill its original mission of helping creators rally support to produce an inspired project.

But as industry-leading creators like Sanderson prove with each new campaign, crowdfunding has also evolved into a robust, viable—and for some, preferred—alternative to traditional means of production like publishing.

Sanderson’s openness to experiment and his focus on community engagement allowed us to test new ideas and push our collective ideas and expectations of what a crowdfunding campaign is and could do.

And that focus on community engagement proved successful: Even weeks after the campaign, the Dragonsteel backer community continues to share how much fun they had, how much the miss the engagement, and how they can’t wait for the next one.

Dragonsteel Community BackerKit Engagement example

We’re excited to see how the features co-developed through Words of Radiance will soon be used and undoubtedly improved upon by BackerKit creators and backers, and what new possibilities they could unlock next.

It’s been an amazing experience for all of us at BackerKit to work with Sanderson and team on this historic project, and we thank and congratulate them and all the backers who made it such a success.

Until the next one, we’ll be saying the words here. We hope you join us.

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