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Ryan North’s To Be Or Not To Be smashes Kickstarter record [Updated]

Illustration from "To Be Or Not To Be," by Anthony Clark

As the final hours tick down on the Kickstarter campaign for To Be Or Not To Be, cartoonist Ryan North’s Choose Your Own Adventure-style take on Hamlet has raised more than $481,000 — that’s 2,405 percent of its $20,000 goal — easily breaking the crowdfunding platform’s record for most successful book project.

As we reported last month, To Be Or Not To Be will allow (adult!) readers to be one of numerous characters from William Shakespeare’s play, including the ghost of Hamlet’s father. “Also,” the Kickstarter page offers, “unlike Shakespeare I didn’t skip over the pirate scene in Hamlet. You get to fight PIRATES. With SWORDS.  And yes OF COURSE you can choose which body part you cut off. Why would you write a book where you can’t do that is my question.” What’s more, North enlisted an all-star roster of artists — ranging from Kate Beaton and Kazu Kibuishi to Vera Brosgol and Dustin Harbin — to illustrate the prose book.

In an article this morning on Wired.com examining the blockbuster success of the campaign, North notes, “No [publisher] would drop hundreds of thousands of dollars on getting this book made because you don’t know if the audience will show up for it, and you have to front all these costs. The better you want to make the book, the riskier it gets. But with Kickstarter, we know the audience is there when we make these decisions.”

Talking with Laura Hudson, Tom Helleberg of New York University Press predicts, “It probably won’t be long until Kickstarter (or something similar) completely replaces the slush pile and agents when it comes to filtering submissions. Then presses are going to have to figure out how on Earth they are going to attract successful authors who are effectively earning 100 percent royalties on self-produced projects.”

Update (11 a.m. PT): Since this post was published, an additional $20,595 was pledged to the project, bringing the tally to more than a half-million dollars. Eighteen hours remain in the campaign.

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Kickstart My Art | Ryan North’s chooseable-path version of Hamlet

Ryan North’s (Dinosaur Comics, Adventure Time) Kickstarter for his illustrated prose book, To Be or Not To Be is way past being fully funded with 24 days still to go, so this isn’t a plea for action so much as it is a public service announcement. Because, dude …

North is putting together something that he can’t call Choose-Your-Own-Adventure for legal reasons, but totally is, only it’s for grown-ups, based on Hamlet, allows you to play as various characters including the ghost, and is illustrated by an insane line-up of artists like Kate Beaton, Chip Zdarsky, Chris Hastings, David Malki, Dustin Harbin, Jim Zubkavich, Kazu Kibuishi, Ray Fawkes, Vera Brosgol. … Seriously, I’m going to embarrass myself by leaving someone awesome out and the list is loooong. Check out the Kickstarter page for the full scoop.

$15 gets you a PDF copy, but $20 gets U.S. residents the PDF and a paperback copy too. Backers outside the U.S. are asked for a $30 pledge to cover shipping costs. And of course there are other goodies for pledging more.

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