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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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