A Year in the Life: Week Four

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Writing: A not particularly impressive 18K or so, I think, but I’ve finished NO DOMINION, AKA The Novella That Wouldn’t End. At, get this, 60,438 words, I don’t think anybody’s going to be calling it a novella any more. o.O

Up next: Revisions on a short story, a chapter of the graphic novel script I’m working on, and then, starting around the 5th of March, a death march (or Death March, I suppose) toward 100K on the unwritten novel that’s due April 15. Oi!

Work That Isn’t Writing: I’ve finally gotten my crowdfunding experiences written up, and I want to make them a part of the YitL blog posts here. Onward!

Crowdfunding: what is it?
Crowdfunding is the modern era’s answer to the artistic patrons of yesteryear. Instead of having a single wildly wealthy patron, right now, thanks to the Internet, artists are discovering an audience willing to chip in small amounts that add up to buying art that wouldn’t exist without them. It’s hugely exciting, and I’ve run a number of crowdfunded projects over the past few years. The most recent one was the above-mentioned NO DOMINION, run as a Kickstarter campaign. I want to share my experiences, in the hope that they’ll be useful not just for writers, but perhaps artists across the board.

What’s Kickstarter?
Kickstarter.com is a crowdfunding site run in association with Amazon (vs, say, Paypal). You put your project out there, set a financial goal, and see if you can raise the money. If you fail nobody loses anything. If you succeed, you get paid up front. Amazon/Kickstarter take about 10% of the proceeds as their fees.

What would be a reasonable amount to set as initial goal?
For me, this depends on anticipated wordcount, but the “if you don’t make goal” bit is the kicker.

For “No Dominion”, which I planned as a novella, I set my initial goal at $4000. I chose that number because I’ve sold 3 novellas in the past, and was paid approximately $3K, $3500 and $4K for them. So I’d been going to split it down the middle for “No Dominion” and ask for $3500, but then I jumped the gun and got Kyle Cassidy to do the cover art photo shoot, so I went ahead and rolled the cost of that into the campaign, thus setting the dollar amount at $4K, and setting the novella price point as a whole for the campaign at $4K.

Tim Pratt set a $6K goal for his novel-length Kickstarter. I suspect I would do around the same, probably topping out around $7500 for an anticipated, say, 80K novel, because the *idea* here is to get the cash in the door, so it’s counter-productive to aim super high and not make it. It’s a question of what’s the minimum bearable to make for your work, but one of the positive sides about crowdfunding is it frees you to do something you really want to do, and that may be worth taking a little less cash in hand.

How long does one run this thing?
Kickstarter itself suggests 30 days, because there’s pretty inevitably a trough in the middle. I ran “No Dominion” for 45 days and will do that for any other Kickstarters I run, because 45 days is pretty likely to mean everybody who might want to buy in is going to have a paycheck in that time. 30 days can miss out on people who only get paid monthly, and that can make a difference.

What’s with this video one does?
I think the video is God’s way of being cruel to writers. Honestly, for mine, I wrote a 45 second speech, practiced it a bunch of times, then set up my phone to record me and recorded it about twenty times until I had one where I hadn’t embarrassed myself stumbling over the words. I was very proud of myself for managing to put a fade out at the beginning and maybe the end. Regardless of the approach, keep it short, because people lose interest fast. Under 60 seconds is genuinely fine.

Assuming it makes the goal, when does payment come in, all at once or in chunks?
All at once. Amazon takes approximately 2 weeks to process it, and then it’s all yours. This is a totally bizarre concept for writers: the entire advance up front. This is also why you’d better be pretty goddamned sure you’re going to do the project.

And how does one disseminate the rewards?
For writers, your major reward is of course your novel/short stories/etc, which you would *think* Kickstarter would allow you to attach to the patron email lists they automatically create for you. For some bizarre reason they don’t allow epub/mobi/pdf/doc attachments, though I’ve suggested it to them (and if, say, everybody reading this would like to go suggest it to them too, Kickstarter’s contact link is at the bottom of any given page).

I do not yet know if you can attach such files to the finalized mailing list that they suggest you create, because I haven’t gotten that far yet. At the moment, I’m providing links to a password-protected Tumblr page for rewards, and have taken their Excel files to create a mailing list which I’ll end up using at the end of it all if I can’t attach an e-pub file of some sort.

Other rewards of a physical nature are sent to addresses which you can collect via the above-mentioned finalized mailing list they suggest doing shortly before you’re ready to send everything out.

Except for international patrons, shipping appears to be assumed to be included in the patronage reward level, so bear that in mind when setting reward levels.

Are there deadlines for writing/producing these?
Only those you set yourself. Probably adding an extra month to any deadline you think you might actually make is smart. She said, having not done that. 🙂

More next time!

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9 comments to A Year in the Life: Week Four

  • Catie, I adore Kickstarter. It is so easy to find likeminded people and produce a product (novella, novel, non-fic projcet, rpg) and as you said, if you fail, it is not the end of the world. I am thrilled at how No Dominion did for you. Which was $20,000+

  • Thanks for the in-depth look at Kickstarter, Catie. I’ve seen a number of projects funded this way and it’s been great to witness (and contribute to) the artist/writer’s success. I’ve also seen IndieGoGo being used as an alternative – pretty much the same principle.

  • Echoing Laura and Faith, thanks for the information on Kickstarter. Very interesting stuff. It definitely has me thinking. I have a couple of projects that might lend themselves to crowdfunding; I just need to get up the nerve to give it a try.

  • I’ve thought about trying Kickstarter for a possible self-pub project or two, but don’t know if I know enough friends/acquaintances to spread word or would be interested in donating. All proceeds would end up going to purchasing editing, art, and probably layout, for the piece, as well as the creation of swag. I have an idea or two how to garner possible interest, but I haven’t really thought too much into it. And I’d have to come up with rewards. And mostly, the project would end up being used to gain further interest, and perhaps a fan base for the future, of which at the moment I have very little.

  • Mikaela

    Interesting post, Catie. Nothing new since I am a Wordwarrer but reading it gave me an idea what to do about the Magi CIS. So, um, thank you for that. ( I think.)

  • Very informative, Catie! Thanks for the heads up on how Kickstarter works.

  • The rundown of your kickstarter experience was pretty useful. I’m seeing this being done more and more… I think this is a pretty exciting way of changing the publishing paradigm in a way that’s most useful to authors.

  • Crowd funding seems a little like a chicken and egg problem in many ways. To get the funding in a reliable way you need to have a reputation / fans (or be extra good at promo) but to get a reputation and fans you need to have work out for people to be a fan of.

    So Catie, you set your funding goal as your advance? Or are you spending that money entirely on editing, formatting, art and so forth with the goal of selling copies through Amazon / Smashwords etc..?

  • I’ve never actually contributed to a Kickstater campaign because my wife got pregnant at about the time I found the site- something about kids makes you a lot more broke than you used to be- but I’ve wanted to contribute to any number of them and I’m really happy for you the No Dominion did so well. If you ever decide to run a project that involves a physical print run drop me a line. I’ll give you the names of a couple of printers who do good work at much more reasonable prices than the POD presses and the ones that advertise to self-publishers.