Kickstarter laboratory for writers

Kickstarter Laboratory for Writers

Welcome to the first installment of a short series on using Kickstarter (or any other crowdfunding system) to launch a novel.


Harsh Truth #1: 70% of Kickstarter projects fail.

Don’t become a statistic.

The frightening fact is that only about 30% of campaigns in the publishing category end up successful (according to Kickstarter’s stats at the time of this post). This number includes projects with much broader appeal, such graphic novels and cook books, which makes me certain that novels have a lower rate of success and a lower average funding total. It’s easy to set up a campaign, but much more difficult to be successful. I’ll help you steer clear of some of these traps and pitfalls.


Harsh Truth #2: Novels are more difficult

Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general seems easy at first glance. All you have to do is explain your idea and then people give you money, right? Well, it turns out that crowdfunding has a pretty steep learning curve and some serious potential dangers.

Here's an explosion for no particular reason.
Here’s an explosion for no particular reason.

Some things that you can do to dramatically increase your odds:

  • Know your goal. The majority of Kickstarter projects either barely hit their goal or they fall way, way short . If you set your target too high, people won’t bother with what looks unattainable. If you set it too low, you might find your project losing momentum as soon as it hits its mark. (More on goal setting in a future post.)
  • Provide social media support. Gone are the days (if they ever existed) of simply posting your project and coming back in a month to find out how much you made. If you want to get funded, plan on dedicating every free minute to waving your banner online during your project month, and preferably for a long time before you even get started. (More on social media in a future post.)
  • Offer something special. Why would anyone give you money now in order to wait many months to get their product? Because you’re offering something special that can only be found for a limited time. Consider personalized copies, special covers, backer names in the credits, and/or unique add-ons. (More on backer rewards in a future post)
  • Develop a catchy video. Videos are optional… but only for people who don’t care if they succeed. It’s your chance to hook a whole segment of backers in an exciting way. (More on videos in a future post)

In my experience, most novels and novelists must leap over some special hurdles beyond what other types of products and creators encounter. Those hurdles include:

  • Find good visuals. Okay, you have a great cover, but how many times can you post it on the same page? (More on eye-grabbing design in a future post)
  • Demonstrate your quality. Most people aren’t willing to invest hours in reading an unknown book, let alone spend their hard-earned greenbacks buying it the first place. Your quality must be evident at a glance as well as under scrutiny. (More on page design in a future post)
  • Convince backers of your reliability. Although many backers fail to keep this in mind, Kickstarter is an investment, and all investments carry risk. You need to convince your potential backers that you won’t let them down. (More on making your case in a future post)

My Background

I don’t claim to be the world’s greatest crowdfunding innovator, so what I intend to offer you here is a look behind the curtain so you can see what I do, learn how it works, and decide whether you want to try it yourself. Much of what I plan to do is an experiment, and that’s why I’m calling this blog series a “laboratory.” If my strategies work, then my campaign will be successful. If not, then you can still learn what to do differently.

Coming from a game designer’s background, my work with Exile Game Studio’s HOLLOW EARTH EXPEDITION opened my eyes to how powerful Kickstarter can be. I’ve also known some creators who ended up frustrated because they couldn’t get any backers besides their own mothers, and a few who got in over their heads and couldn’t deliver what they promised.

I’ve run one Kickstarter campaign (which was 380% funded) and been tangentially involved in several others. More importantly, I’m launching a Kickstarter in May of 2015 for GHOST STORM, the third and final book in the MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE series. I was successful last time, but I still have many new ideas to test this time around.

ks intro tile

I don’t claim to know all the answers to creating effective crowdfunding campaigns—not by a long shot. Instead, as I walk through the steps of launching GHOST STORM, I’m simply inviting you to my lab to see what I’ve got bubbling in the test tubes. I’ll be honest about what works and what doesn’t. If it succeeds, I’ll tell you why. If it doesn’t, you’ll be able to learn from my example.

Whatever happens, I hope you find something to help with your own crowdfunding endeavor. Be sure to subscribe to this blog so you don’t miss out!


The Med Bomb/Dye Bomb

The Med Bomb (from The Non-Zombie Apocalypse)
The Med Bomb (from The Non-Zombie Apocalypse)

This might not be the most exciting invention to look at, but this football-sized cylinder can explosively vent vapor . Nikki usually fills it with dye of various hues to flash-color just about any object (or person). In The Non-Zombie Apocalypse, it takes on an even more important role when Victor loads it up with the very last of the detergent that can kill the non-zombie parasites. Suddenly, this humble cannister becomes the Institute’s final hope!

The Non-Zombie Parasite

The Non-Zombie Parasite (from The Non-Zombie Apocalypse)
The Non-Zombie Parasite (from The Non-Zombie Apocalypse)

When it comes to my comfort zone with doodling, I’m only good with things that involve straight lines and sharp angles. That pretty much means robots. So I really took a risk with this one, because it’s all mushy and organic, just like a gigantic brain parasite should be.

In The Non-Zombie Apocalypse, these things will try to grab onto your face and then slide a tendril around your eye, up your optical nerve, and into your brain. The most terrifying thing is that some parasites can actually do this in real life. And it gets even worse when you have Blitzkrieger bikers working for the Professor deliberately trying to stuff these in people’s faces!

Robot apocalypse… delayed until further notice

At Tech Club we’ve been trying our hardest to bring about the robot apocalypse. We may still need a few upgrades.

Don’t miss out! Get 8 ebooks including The Non-Zombie Apocalypse and pay… whatever you want! Limited time only– don’t miss it on!

I Heart Books

i heart booksJoin me on February 7th 2015 for I <3 Books, a roundup of Seattle-area authors!

I’m really looking forward to meeting some local stars as well as finding some new books for my reading shelf. Since it’s a pre-Valentine’s event, we’re mixing some romance novelists in with sci-fi and fantasy authors.

Steampunk! Superheroes! Forbidden passion! There will be something for everyone. All ages welcome!

WHEN: Saturday, February 7 at 2:00pm – 9:00pm
WHERE: AFK Elixirs & Eatery 3750 E Valley Rd, Renton, Washington 98055
For more, check out the I <3 Books Facebook page!


The Big Antimatter Reactor

The Topsy Antimatter Reactor (from Mad Science Institute)
The Topsy Antimatter Reactor (from Mad Science Institute)

In the word of Mad Science Institute, the world’s largest antimatter reactor is buried far, far below the Institute headquarters called Topsy House. Some people have asked why I described it as shaped like a kettle-bell. The reason, as I tried to illustrate here, was that, like a modern nuclear reactor, it actually doesn’t run directly on the heat produced by the reaction, but rather by the steam created by the heat. In a way, that qualifies it as Steam Punk!

Science Fiction, Games, Publishing, Random Musings, and More

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