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Bodacious Success: Funding My Kickstarter Novel Project

 

 

Bodacious Success:
Funding My Kickstarter Novel Project

 

 

 

by Jonathan Fesmire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How I Learned My Lesson

A Kickstarter campaign does not run itself. Does that sound obvious? It should be, but when one looks over the amazing success of many Kickstarter projects, they seem to bring in a lot of pledge money without the creator doing much. It’s easy to get the impression that Kickstarter is a bottomless treasure chest. While it’s true that some projects bring in thousands, tens of thousands, and even millions of dollars, it’s important to keep in mind that, behind each Kickstarter success are hours, weeks, and even months of tremendous work.

This article covers how I made Bodacious Creed: A Steampunk Zombie Western, the Kickstarter project for my upcoming novel, Bodacious Creed, a success.

First, though, I’ll briefly cover what I learned from my the first Kickstarter project I started, "The Occupy Chess Video Game." I thought I had a brilliant idea. People had to be into a chess game pitting the 99% against the 1%. The Occupy Wall Street movement had been huge, after all. I even planned on donating a significant amount of the sales money to Wolf-Pac, a group working to pass a constitutional amendment to end corporate person-hood. (Note that this would not have included backer money, as funds received through Kickstarter are for projects, not charity.)

I had created each piece already, so I had already done a lot of work. My first mistake, though, was asking for too much. Many video game projects command some pretty huge donations, so I thought $25,000 seemed reasonable. In hindsight, I should have asked for considerably less. My hope was to work on the game full time, and to purchase the full version of Unity, the game development software I planned to use. I would fully sculpt and pose each piece, and, if I needed to, hire a programmer for any problems I might have getting the pieces to work with the freeware chess engine.

Anyway, with no marketing plan, the project brought in very little, and I ended it after a week or so. It had six backers, with $87 pledged. A few people believed in it, but I could see that there just weren’t enough. Even after I hired a promoter for $50 per week, the project just didn’t get the attention it needed. The term “epic failure” came to mind.

I tested the waters, and the idea I thought was so great did not excite the public. I also learned that if I was ever going to have a successful Kickstarter, I would need to learn the ins and outs of setting up a project, crafting great rewards, and promoting it to the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Bodacious Creed?

I mentioned that I modeled the figures for the chess set. Well, I’m also a fairly skilled 3D modeler.

Shortly after I walked away from the chess video game, my master’s thesis came to mind. I have an MFA in Animation and Visual Effects from Academy of Art University, specializing in 3D modeling. The end product of a master’s thesis in my field is a working demo reel, and a demo reel is a short video that showcases an artist’s skills.

Rather than creating unrelated models, graduate students are asked to come up with a setting, back story, and characters, machines, or environments that fit. So, I came up with a U.S. Marshal in an alternate wild west, one making great breakthroughs in steampunk technology. The protagonist, U.S. Marshal Robert Creed, aka Bodacious Creed, was killed and brought back, much like Frankenstein’s monster, with new robotic and surgical techniques by a brothel madam who was also, in secret, an accomplished inventor. It was fun, a bit twisted, and kept me engaged all through the project.

Also, I really, really wanted to write a novel about it.

So, in June, 2013, a year and a half after graduating from AAU, I realized that it was time to write that book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kickstarter Makes Sense for Novels

I wanted to publish Bodacious Creed on my own terms, to make it affordable to readers, and to generate some publicity for it. The old publication model (which is very much still the norm) was to write a book, submit it, and hope that it would be discovered in what editors call “the slush pile.” Writers, take note: if you submit fiction to a major publisher without an agent, that’s where your manuscript will end up. It can take a year or more to write a book, and they call it “slush.”

This model is so ingrained in some people’s minds that someone actually responded to one of my posts by saying that funding a novel through Kickstarter was unethical! Don’t you know that you have to write your book and be at the mercy of agents and publishers? The old argument is that publishing houses serve as quality control, and only publish the good stuff. Any reader can tell you that’s nonsense. Many great novels are rejected by numerous publishers, and many “professionally” published books are rubbish.

This is 2013, a time full of publication possibilities. I decided to turn the paradigm on its head. Now, as stated in the Bodacious Creed Kickstarter video, I have written and published books before. Not only is writing Bodacious Creed something I can (and will) accomplish, it’s something I’m thoroughly excited about. So, armed with a solid background and great characters, and with my history of seeing large projects through, I launched Bodacious Creed: A Steampunk Zombie Western to fund the publication of the book. The other big advantage of doing it this way was that I could start building an audience about a year before publication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Description, Rewards, and Funding Needed

Due to the difficulties I faced with the chess project, I was determined to do this one differently. I looked up advice on the Web, and while most of it was helpful, it also seemed lacking. I couldn’t afford to hire another promoter, but I could afford a book. I looked into what books on Kickstarter were available, and discovered The Kickstarter Handbook by Dan Steinberg.

I read it with enthusiasm, taking notes and thinking about how I could present my new project. This is an amazing book. While I hope this account of how I created and marketed Bodacious Creed: A Steampunk Zombie Western will help others, I highly recommend The Kickstarter Handbook if you want to learn more.

The first step was to write about the project, to introduce it to the world. That came easily enough for me. I typed up the first draft right on Kickstarter. I’ve written enough that I knew I needed to draw readers in while explaining the project clearly. It answers the questions “What is this project about? What will the final product be? What’s special about it? How is the creator qualified to complete it? How much of the project has he completed so far?” and “How did he come up with the financial goal?”

In your own crowdfunding projects, answer the important questions in your description, and make it an interesting, fun read.

The next step was figuring out backer rewards. People love getting Kickstarter rewards, and some even treat it like a catalog where they can order things that don’t even exist yet. With that in mind, I aimed to offer compelling rewards worth the money pledged. Rewards need to be related to the project. That means the product itself should be offered at as low a reward level as possible.

For mine, backers at the $10 level got (well, will get, when it’s ready) a digital copy of the novel, and at the $20 level, the trade paperback. I made sure that there was a good reward at the $1 level, and you should as well. While a backer can always pledge $1, some project creators ignore this level. What if someone can pledge only $1 now, but will tell everyone he knows about your project and will buy copies once it’s available? Shouldn’t you make that person feel valuable, and offer a reward?

So, once the rewards were created, I made a spreadsheet to help me calculate the minimum amount of funding I would need, to make sure I wasn’t in the red, even in the worst case. I won’t go into details on this, as it’s complicated. The Kickstarter Handbook covers it in detail and provides a sample spreadsheet you can—and I did—adapt. Basically, it allowed me to figure in fixed costs, reward costs, Kickstarter and Amazon’s take, and how much funding the project would need based on all these factors.

It turned out that, if every backer pledged at the $20 level—the reward level that would cost the most to fulfill—I would need $2,000. So, that’s how I came up with the $2,000 I asked for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Project Video

Next, I made the project video. I started by writing a script and revising it several times. I then recorded the audio, one paragraph at a time, using my webcam. With each paragraph in a separate file, I could easily redo sections of the recording if I wanted to change the script. I arranged these in Adobe After Effects.

Fortunately, Bodacious Creed already had a two-year history as my thesis and 3D modeling demo reel. I had concept art by Joshua J. Stewart (who will be doing an illustration for the novel, thanks to the project reaching its first stretch goal), my completed 3D models, scenes from my reel, the extensive blog I kept about Bodacious Creed, and more. I had plenty of graphics to choose from, and I used many in the final video presentation. I worked them together to go with the audio, then uploaded the final result to Kickstarter.

Going against the advice of The Kickstarter Handbook, I did not include video of myself. Since I do occasional voice-over work, I felt comfortable recording the audio. I would have been fine in front of the camera, too, but I did not want to record myself sitting at my boring old desk in my boring old apartment, and there was no convenient time to have a friend record me outside. So, I went faceless, and let the audio and project images sell the idea. Would my appearance in the video have brought in more backers? I don’t know, but the project was a success.

I also used music by Kevin McLeod at http://www.incompetech.com. If you ever need free music for a project, visit this site. McLeod has a huge range of pieces and styles. Anyone can use them, royalty free. You must give him credit, but once you’ve used a few of his tunes, you’ll start recognizing them in videos all over the Internet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submitting the Project

With the project created and explained, the rewards chosen, the budget calculated, and the video uploaded, it was time to submit the project to Kickstarter for approval. As long as a project meets Kickstarter’s guidelines, it will be approved, and though they ask creators to wait a week or so, often projects are approved within a day. So, the day after I submitted my project, Bodacious Creed: A Steampunk Zombie Western was ready to launch!

Still, I waited. This was the time to research my marketing options, and to start building early buzz. I finished reading The Kickstarter Handbook, and compiled a list of blogs and periodicals to contact.

Honestly, I did most of my promoting on Facebook. Other social networks just don’t compare. With its huge groups and like pages, one post can easily reach thousands of readers. I joined groups related to steampunk, horror, zombies, and the Wild West, and liked similar fan pages.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Launch

On July 9, 2013, at 2:30 p.m., I looked over my project and thought, “Yes, it’s time. Here we go!” I pressed the launch button, and started in on the real work.

While many recommend giving a project 30 days, I set mine for 31, making the ending day August 9. I was very excited, and announced the launch on my personal Facebook page as well as the Bodacious Creed fan page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marketing

Marketing on Facebook meant getting the word out without sounding like I was begging for money. The subtext of each posts was, “Check out this cool thing I made. You’ll like it!” I just hoped people would like it enough to become a part of it, and thankfully, they did. I didn’t say, “Please become a backer,” or “I need your money to make this a reality.” The most sales-like thing I said, to my recollection, was “I invite you to be a part of this,” and “Check out the cool rewards!” And why not? The rewards were cool.

It did mean posting, a lot, but not spamming any particular group. I wasn’t perfect at this. Also, Facebook doesn’t like a person posting quickly to many different groups and pages. For nearly two weeks, I was unable to post to any of my liked pages, right in the middle of my campaign, because Facebook thought I was spamming. I suggest picking a few fan pages with many members, and posting to those.

I had to be respectful of group rules, of course, and if I accidental broke a one, I would listen to the feedback and pull the post.

I received mostly positive feedback. The Bodacious Creed Facebook fan page slowly grew, most people who responded loved the idea, and backers pledged steadily.

I also took to Twitter for the first time in a long time. Finally understanding what hashtags are for, I was able to add them to my tweets, expanding my audience. Some of the tags I used included #Kickstarter, #steampunk, #zombies, #wildwest, #oldwest, and #horror. I suppose I should have thrown in #undead and #cyborg, but I didn’t think of those at the time. My mind was on getting the word out as much as possible without becoming too much of an annoyance.

While Facebook and Twitter were my best marketing tools, I realized that one strong news article could potentially bring in many backers. I contacted six or seven periodicals. A few of these were in the Orange area, where I live now, and a few in Santa Cruz county, where I’m from. The Watsonville Register Pajaronian picked up the story, interviewed me, and gave it a terrific write-up in their entertainment section. The other papers either did not respond or responded too late, but if I hadn’t tried, I would have received no newspaper press.

I contacted dozens of steampunk, horror, western, and science fiction blogs, and was included in three. The StarShipSofa podcast featured an audio ad that I recorded. The Leonardoverse blog, by author Leonardo Ramirez, covered the project, and I was interviewed by Scooter Carlyle for her blog, Cowgirl Contemporary Fantasy. Whenever Bodacious Creed received any press, I posted a link to the publication.

I made sure not to post to each group and fan page every day. I usually waited four or five days before I would post on a particular page again. However, I found so many relevant Facebook pages that I was still sharing the latest Bodacious Creed news to a good twenty pages or so, daily. When posting for the second, third, or forth time to a page, I had to make a judgment call. Should I make a brand new post, or share my new information in a comment on my previous one? Also, each follow-up acted as an update. So, I would write something like, "My Kickstarter project, 'Bodacious Creed: A Steampunk Zombie Western,' is now 87% funded. Head over to the page to see what the excitement's about!" There was always new information to share.

The funding for most Kickstarter projects follows a U shape, a reversed bell curve. An initial rush of backers comes in when the project is fresh. Funding slows in the middle, and there are some days where no one pledges. Then, in the last week to last few days, funding really picks up.

If you have a project that is over 50% funded with just days to go, don't despair. Something like 90% of projects that reach 50% at any time during the funding period get to 100%. People jump in to make it happen, including the creators. It’s critical to keep marketing the project.

Once your project is up, your focus needs to be on getting the right crowd to visit your campaign. It becomes a full time job. I’m a freelance writer, editor, and artist, but between July 9 and August 9, 2013, I was able to work just a minimal amount on client projects. Fortunately, I didn’t have very many at that time. That means I made less money than I could have. That was made up for by the fact that I will be able to fund my new book’s publication. Of course, I’m not suggesting that you quit your day job. However, expect to spend your free time promoting your project!

Getting to the end of a successful campaign feels great. I actually watched the seconds count down at the end of my campaign, excited that my project had raised $2,325, when my goal was $2,000. It even reached its first stretch goal, to have a full, one page illustration by my concept artist, Joshua J. Stewart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Success

What happened next? Kickstarter sent me a congratulations email, which also said that the funds would be in my Amazon Payments account within two weeks. The truth is, they were there in about a week. One thing that I suspect happens with every campaign, but that you don’t hear about much, is that a few credit cards won’t go through. For Bodacious Creed, $100 of the funding could not be collected. (Don’t worry, backers! You all earned that Joshua J. Stuart illustration in the finished book, even though this technically dropped the funds beneath the first stretch-goal line. I wouldn’t take that away from you!) That’s why it’s a good idea, when you fill out your spreadsheet, for the calculations to come out so you have some money in the excess funds box. I believe mine came out to about $100.

With the money in your Amazon Payments account, your project is officially funded! You can keep the money there, transfer it to your bank account, or do a bit of both. I ordered a keyboard for my tablet (for just $20!) so that I could work on the novel outside the house, and a few books to help me with the novel. These included two books that are out of print, though they came to me, from the Amazon merchants selling them, in new condition. These are The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the Wild West, and The Fiction Writer’s Silent Partner.

That about wraps this up! I hope this article gave you an idea of what to do, and what to expect, when launching your own Kickstarter campaign. About 43% of Kickstarter projects get their funding. You can greatly increase your chances by following the guidelines here. Again, if you want to go even deeper into the how-tos of Kickstarter, I recommend "The Kickstarter Handbook."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visit the Creedverse

It is now July, 2016, and Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western is nearly done and polished. Look for it on Amazon in November this year!

Meanwhile, enjoy the first prequel story to Bodacious Creed for free.

The Obstructed Engine introduces important characters like the brothel madam and secret inventor, Anna Lynn Boyd, Jonathan Johns, the town handyman, who happens to know a martial art or two, and the weird technology they believe can cheat death.

You could be reading that story within minutes!

 

Get it for free here: http://bit.ly/steamscribe

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Bodacious Success: Funding My Kickstarter Novel Project

In July 2013, I launched a Kickstarter project for my novel, Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western. It was a huge success with many excited about the book, even though I hadn't started writing it yet! Now, the novel is nearly complete and polished, my beta readers love it, and it's due out in November, 2016. This short book covers not only what I did, but methods you can use to launch a successful Kickstarter yourself!

  • Author: Jonathan Fesmire
  • Published: 2016-07-18 11:40:08
  • Words: 3308
Bodacious Success: Funding My Kickstarter Novel Project Bodacious Success: Funding My Kickstarter Novel Project