10 of the Best Crowdfunded Literary Projects: International

A few days ago, The Guardian reported on “Kickstarting a books revolution: the literary crowdfunding boom”

From the successful "Dictionary of the Revolution" project.
From the successful “Dictionary of the Revolution” project.

As part of the report, they picked a “ten best” literary crowdfunding campaigns, which represent some of the biggest-ticket literary fundraising campaigns (the McSweeney’s $257K campaign, the $1m+ “Reading Rainbow” fundraiser, Crown Business’s $500K kickstarter) as well as a few smaller, quirkier projects (including a self-published illustrated work about black cats). Most of them are based in, and center on, the US or UK.

These campaigns are mostly ultra-successful campaigns among many, many crowdfunding projects that fizzled. Of course we can’t list all the projects that fizzled, but it’s good to look at a wider range of what’s possible on a smaller scale.

The successful campaigns on the Guardian list share a few characteristics: large networks, good explanation of where the money’s going, decent (to fabulous) perks, and a lot of hard outreach work. The same is true of the far more international, less high-ticket list below.

So, ArabLit’s list:

10 of the best crowdfunded literary projects (of translated literature or international literary spaces)


Translating Pow Pow Press

This Montreal-based publisher raised $24,301 CAD from 410 backers to translate their comics from French to English. Campaign successfully funded.

A Bird is Not a Stone

One of my favorite success stories: A collection of Palestinian poetry translated into the languages of Scotland. Clearly relying on more than two dozen poets to do the translation — all with their individual networks — didn’t hurt. The project raised £3,540 with 118 backers. Campaign successfully funded.

Settled Wanderers

Poet Sam Berkson traveled to the Western Sahara to gather and co-translate poetry. 51 backers pledged £1,346. Campaign successfully funded.

Clarkesworld: Chinese Science Fiction Translation Project

A successful magazine reaches out into translation of Chinese sci fi; 473 backers pledged $12,835 to this project. Campaign successfully funded.

>>Collections and compilations

Walls of Freedom: The Book on Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution

This cooperative art-book project between Germany and Egypt successfully raised $46,575 from 746 people. Campaign successfully funded. 

Dictionary of the Revolution

Through one-on-one interviews, leaping off from particular hot-button words, “A Dictionary of the Revolution makes space for viewpoints that are no longer represented in the media or in the Egyptian public. The book and archive preserve the memory of a moment in Egyptian history when many voices could be heard.” The Dictionary of the Revolution project raised $3,664 USD with 68 backers. Campaign successfully funded.


“The Arab”: A New Play by Sylvia Khoury

Manhattan Reperatory Theatre set a small, realistic goal — $850 — to help them stage “The Arab,” and they raised $870USD from 21 people. Campaign successfully funded.

BuSSy: A Place For Untold Gender Stories in Egypt

The controversial Egyptian theatre group BuSSy needs their own space and source of independent funding. They’re attempting to raise a very ambitious $70,000 and have thus far raised $1,399 from 31 people. Campaign in progress.

>>Cultural spaces:

Alkindy Literary Space

This space for books and literary events in Tripoli, Lebanon managed to meet its goal of raising $25,000 with 220 backers. Campaign successfully funded.

Al-Saeh Library

After the al-Saeh Library bookshop of Tripoli, Lebanon — the second-largest in the country — was burned down, funders from around the world got together to help Ibrahim Sarrouj rebuild it; 306 funders helped make the $35,000 goal. Campaign successfully funded.

For those who might want to take the plunge:

How to crowdfund your translation