Kickstarting Success or Failure

Monday’s general ‘blah’ has matured into full-fledged head cold, exacerbated by the smoke machines at the industrial music show I managed last night…and definitely not helped by the after party. Or the fact that I smacked my head into a wall in the act of sitting down, after successfully not dying during self-defense training. Do they teach self self-defense?

All that kind of pales against the main event today: the War Stories Kickstarter funded, so I have an anthology to create now! But because that’s fresh on my mind, I want to talk a little bit about the processes and stresses of Kickstarter and crowd-funding.

1.) Pretty much every religion says that God(s)(esses)(etc) helps those who help themselves, and Kickstarter is much the same way. Being prepared before you ever hit ‘launch’ is essential. Know your stretch goals, your reward levels, your updates, everything. It will save a lot of scrambling later.

2.) Ask for feedback. Talk to people who have run Kickstarters before, and run your projects past them. They’ll catch a lot of issues and point out weaknesses to you.

3.) Know your subject. Are you doing something that’s going to just hit all the right buttons, like Geek Love? Or something that will potentially ostracize the majority of the potential audience? War Stories was like that. We heard accusations of xenophobia, Conservative bias, liberal bias, anti-feminism, pro-feminism (as a bad thing), and more, from both sides of the aisle. We left a lot of money on the table because we flat-out said we wanted to do something provocative and new, but we knew that and spent a lot of time talking about and addressing it.

4.) Talk. Throw yourself out there. Get on podcasts, blogs, news sites, anything you can, but be sure you spread yourself out over the course of the Kickstarter.

5.) Be grateful. Engage, talk to, thank, interact with your backers.

6.) Budget time every day to deal with your Kickstarter every day. Go through your backers, check what levels are most popular, and make sure there aren’t any questions in the comments section that need to be answered. At the end of the Kickstarter, budget some time to push through the last couple of days. Use that extra excitement as an excuse to post a little more often.

7.) Budget time after the Kickstarter, to take some time off from the promotional grind. Let your backers know that you’re going to be gone for a while, and then just sit back and get out of the madhouse of constant promotion. Don’t let the momentum die off, just enough time to take a deep breath.

8.) Know your needs and limits. Every project is unique. For Geek Love, we were only doing as many books as our backers pre-ordered. War Stories will be available for sale long-term through our publisher though, so it’s a totally different sort of push. People can wait for the reviews to come out to make their decision. That means we don’t get as much money, but also that the project has a longer life.

9.) Deadlines deadlines deadlines. Don’t set hard and fast deadlines unless you know you can hit them, but don’t just say ‘hey, it will happen when it happens’. Give your backers an idea of when to expect things, and then stay in touch with them so they feel connected and engaged.

10.) Know your audience…and your money. Kickstarter is, in a way, the ultimate in social media roulette. You’ve got plenty of opportunities, but you have to leverage them, too. Your reach is a complicated algorithm of social capital, reach, professional history, reputation, project, and half a dozen other things. Some creators have a few hundred dollars available to them, others have a few hundred thousand. So spend time researching projects similar to yours, and pay attention to whether their creators are fan favorites or completely unknown.

11.) Prepare for success, be ready for failure. The odds are against you. Most Kickstarter projects fail, so every single success is against the odds. I’ve been fortunate, and every project I’ve been involved with–as project lead or advisor–has succeeded, but that’s entirely because of hard work, luck, and knowing the audience the project would appeal to. Youth boxing gives the kids self-defense skills and confidence to conquer any challenge!

So, there’s that. I can’t tell you how to create a successful project. I am more cognizant than ever of how amazing my friends are, and how lucky I am. Tomorrow, I’m going to spend part of the day talking to Andrew about the next steps of the project, and then I’m going to take a couple of days off of promotional things. Beer and football with my boyfriend and his buddies on Monday, maybe, and my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class later in the week. Stuff away from the computer, you know?

Oh, yeah, that’s the other thing: just admit now that you’ll just be sitting in front of the computer and compulsively hitting ‘refresh’ for however many days the thing is running. So lay in supplies, and plan for carpal tunnel, insomnia, and weight gain.

Wonderbook Winners and Select Comments

We had a great turnout for the Wonderbook contest last month, and I’m happy to announce our three winners: Sarah Hendrix, Dylan Fogle, and Connie (we still need your full details—check your email).

Sarah Hendrix:
I’m currently running back and forth between the Oasis of Malaise, the Fortress of Distractions and the Bridge of Certainty. Although I think I left my muse at the Desert of Pointless Writing and Writing… I am nearing the completion of this draft and am ready to spend quite a bit of time exploring the Lake of Endless Revisions.

Dylan Fogle:
I seem to be perpetually stuck at the Start. Always on the verge of going. But somehow getting stuck in not doing it.

I can’t start because of an Encounter With Self-Doubt :)

While the contest winners were chosen randomly, I would have loved to give prizes for the most imaginative answers. Here’s a small selection that were submitted (you can read them all at the bottom of the contest page—and you should, because there’s far more than can be included here).

Did you know: if you scuba dive deep into the Lake of Endless Revision, you can access a system of submerged caves that you eventually exit right near the loops of procrastination? Yeah, I found that out by accident.

Annie Thompson
I am in a turnabout between encounter with self doubt and fortress of distractions. It seems that every time I wade through one, I find myself right in the middle of the other!

Daemon Hoskin
I laid siege to the Fortress of Distractions, won the battle, stormed the gates and locked myself in. From the arrow slits, I watch the line of figures marching towards the True Ending, and just when I am about to lower the drawbridge and ride out – ooh shiny!

Dave Versace
I’m definitely on the plains of distraction, but I think maybe these bites I picked up in my various encounters with self-doubt are beginning to fester.

I thought I’d made it from the Loops of Procrastination to the Desert of Pointless Writing and Writing, but instead realized yesterday that I was somewhere in the Plains of False Inspiration. The Story shook off my hand, dove into the ground ,and disappeared. Looking off to the west, I see the same blasted Loops of Procrastination and I have…um…dusting to do. And the pantry to reorganize. And I should fold all the laundry. Also knit another five pairs of socks. Then there’s the music to learn. Piles of papers to be sorted. The tack room’s a mess. I need to get back to riding the bike, but the refrigerator has gunk in the vegetable drawers…maybe a nap is in order.

I’ve been swimming in the Lake of Endless Revisions for a few weeks now. Someone please send a boat to fetch me!

I’m stranded on the Lost Coast of Shipwrecked Endings. Please–someone send a map that includes the correct ending and a lovely rum drink inside a coconut.

Stephanie Bogart
Two suits of tragedy in action
Beguile blocks the Bridge of Certainty
Keeping purpose from gaining traction
A hollowed voice echoes through eternity
Chastising for the infraction
Another day gone to ignored opportunity
A creation so near to satisfaction
Maybe a Wonderbook filled with diversity
Will lead me out of The Fortress of Distraction.

Took me all day but, this is what floated around my head after I saw the map. However, this is the first time I have actually spent any time writing anything for the past month. I thank you for the inspiration.

You can find out more about Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction here at the official site. I’ve had the book for a couple of weeks now and it truly is beautiful, and full of great information. Every writer should have a copy, and should give a copy the budding writers in their life.

NaNoWriMo: Not Just for Amateurs

It’s that time of year again! When we find ourselves inundated with a bunch of non-writers deciding they can write! And will turn the publishing world upside-down with how awful everything is! Or something. I’ve never been particularly clear over the hand-wringing that surrounds NaNoWriMo, where it appears to be open season on any amateur writer who decides to bang out a rough draft in a month. (Special reprieve given to the agents and publishers who receive a flood of queries in December for these unedited projects — y’all deserve to gripe about that.)

For those unaware, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, wherein participants take on the challenge to produce 50,000 words of new content over the month of November. It’s described as “a month of literary abandon” and it pretty well is. 50K in four weeks is fairly impressive, but in order to make it happen many people typically wind up writing garbage. That’s all right. That’s sort of the point. Just let go and write words.

But there are a lot of haters. Every year, a flood of criticism citing NaNoWriMo as the end of literature, as some sort of ploy to convince anyone they can be a professional writer so long as they can bang out 50K in 30 days. And surely these collected works of hastily-written thinly-veiled fanfic will flood the market, drowning out all the “real” writers who dedicate their life to the craft. Or something.

Personally? I support it. If people are having fun with writing for thirty days, who am I to hate all over that? I know that there exists those people who believe that what they’ve written during NaNoWriMo deserves to be shared with the world, without taking even a moment to pass a critical eye over what has been written — but I’ve never met those people. Most everybody I’ve spoken to sees NaNoWriMo as a way to bang out an idea and see what happens. Nothing serious, but with the potential for something serious to come out of it.

I support it. In fact, I’m going to participate this year.

Every writer has their own method of getting their work done. Some people outline extensively, attacking every problem before it can possibly arise while writing, until the only work remaining is prose. Some people feel burdened by an outline, and need the freedom of the blank page to get their work done. Some are slow and meticulous, writing 100 words a day and editing them into submission. Some are fast and sloppy, leaving the editing for a later date. And some people write differently for every project, having no set method to how they get their work done.

In this vein, I see NaNoWriMo as another tool in our writing arsenal. There’s a hopeful energy surrounding it, a bit of cheerleading internal to the community that can be helpful, depending on what kind of writer you are. I’m giving it a whirl because it’s another potential tool and I like to experiment and try new things. I’ll use it as long as it’s working for me, and discard it when it’s not serving my craft. Just like anything else I might try in order to write a good book.

So November is going to be National Novel Writing Month. And then December is likely to be National Oh God What Have I Gotten Myself Into Month. Happy writing!

Win Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction

As a writer, your journey to the end of the story is a long, tortuous one, fraught with problems—procrastination, distractions, self doubt. These dangers are countless, and unimaginable.

That is, until now.

Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction shows you all of that and more, through the use of wonderful, whimsical, and sometimes just plain weird imagery. In partnership with Jeff VanderMeer, we at BookLife Now are offering an exclusive look from Wonderbook: a map of this journey. So we ask you—where are YOU on the journey to the end of the story? Look at the image below and tell us where you fall. Answer in the comments area and you’ll be registered to win print copies of both Wonderbook and Booklifenow – three winners will be selected randomly, just add your comment below.*


Of course we’re all writers here, too, and a few of us (unable to join in on this contest), offer our own glimpses:

Caroline Ratajski: I’ve emerged from the Plains of False Inspiration and I am currently stumbling along the border of Desert of Pointless Writing and Encounter With Self-Doubt.

Jaym Gates: I’m somewhere between the Oasis of Malaise and the Fortress of Distractions. I have the book, and it’s probably a decent book, but I have too many other things that need to be done, and no real energy to get back into momentum.

Bear Weiter: With my current novel, I really wallowed in the Plains of False Inspiration for a long time—everything and anything that came to me that seemed special, unique, was considered and explored. It took more time than I had expected to wade through there and get past it. Now I’m mostly working around the Fortress of Distractions, but that’s pretty standard for me—that one I know well, and battle often enough that we’ve almost become friends. Not quite, but almost.

Update: Jeff says “I’ll throw in a couple of extra things into the winner’s packages.” He has refused to elaborate, but free books, free postage, and extra stuff?! You definitely want this.

*Because this is a contest, a few quick notes. You must be 18 or older to enter—I know, that sucks, but it simplifies things legally. If you’re under 18, get one of your parents to enter for you. Three winners will be selected at random from all of the posted comments—we reserve the right to not approve your comment for spamming or inappropriateness (rudeness, tastelessness, and excessive profanity all fit in here). If you post a comment and use a bogus email address (yeah, I said bogus), you get nothing! No purchase is necessary to win—and we’re not selling anything anyway. Postage will be taken care of, but it may take a while for the books to arrive should you live outside of the US. The contest is open through October.