Kickstarter lab for writers: the most important thing of all

laboratory blog

This can’t be emphasized enough: you must get the word out about the Kickstarter for your book.

Once upon a time, you could simply slap anything on a crowdfunding site and people would find it, but you can’t count on that anymore. In fact, there’s a pretty clear link between how successful a project becomes and how many Facebook friends the creator has. This just goes to show that the louder you can bang your drums the more people will want to march with you.

Followers are wonderful, amazing, supportive people. Beyond determining the success or failure of a Kickstarter campaign by backing it or by helping find other backers by sharing and retweeting, they also encourage you, back you up, geek out about the things you love, and generally make your online life worth living. I’ve made many new friends since publishing, and it doesn’t seem to matter that I’ve never met some of them in person. Maybe not everyone will be as lucky as I have been with finding such quality friends online, but I am thankful for each of them every day!

When it comes to finding followers and spreading the word, nothing in human history can rival the effectiveness of the interwebs. You can (potentially) have (almost) as much reach as a big-money corporate marketing campaign, and do it all for (as little as) free. However, even though it might not cost you money, it will cost you something else: time. Be prepared to put in the quality time with your screen not just for hours a day during your campaign, but also as far in advance of your campaign as possible. A person could spend years developing her or his social media network prior to launching a Kickstarter project… and it would be time well spent.

I’ve said before that the best thing you can do for your Kickstarter campaign is to think not how soon you can launch it, but how late. This is especially important for building up the social media platform.

Before looking at some specific social media sites, here are a few different guidelines as well as some ways you might use social media to your best advantage:


Guideline #1: Make Noise.

It seems like no matter how often I post, after the event ends there’s always at least one person who says “Darn, I wish I had heard about that!” Depending on your activity levels, you should post on all your favorite sites AT LEAST four times: once before, once to announce the beginning, a reminder in the middle, and a “last day” reminder. That’s a minimum—posting four times a day is probably even better. It helps if you have some extra “news” to report along the way, such as new backer levels added or exiting breakthroughs in backer numbers or pledge amounts. This time, I’m going to run a poll to allow backers to pick the short stories that will come with the package, so that should add some excitement along the way.


Guideline #2: No Spamming.

You want to make noise, but it’s not cool to be repetitive or blatant. Too many “buy my book” posts is the quickest way to kill your following.

I read somewhere that the “correct” ratio is 1 advertising post to 3 amusing posts. I guess that works for some authors because I see many who post every hour on the hour of the day and night (using a bot, I’m sure) and exactly one in three is a sales pitch. These authors often have large followings, but I routinely unfollow anyone and everyone like that. If that means they unfollow me, fine: it’s not like a bot or a relentless marketer is going to buy my books or be my friend anyway.

bookmark back

Different Strategies for Different Networks

The world is awash in social media outlets these days. Many writers have had amazing success by establishing a presence in a new social media site early and attracting throngs of followers before the competition arrives. Of course, there have been plenty of social media failures, which means plenty of authors who have received nothing for their hours of work.

Here is a quick rundown of sites and some basic marketing strategies for each.

  • Facebook. I try to keep my personal Facebook account for people I actually know, which means that for me it definitely gives me the highest percentage of backers-to-friends out there. Aside from announcing the project, some other things you might do here include changing your profile pic and banner to show that you’re doing a Kickstarter, creating an “event” and inviting everyone, and creating a page for the book or for you as an author and inviting everyone to like it.
  • Facebook page. This is a good way to meet with people on Facebook who aren’t your personal friends. If you don’t have one you should consider setting one up immediately and inviting every single one of your friends to start. Don’t post the same things to your wall and your page because that means your friends may see it twice, but you can use it as a place to post interesting article and fun memes that are tangentially related to the genre or subject of your book.
  • This is a small-business marketer’s dream, because it allows you a chance to reach infinite people. Some writers like to follow almost indiscriminately in hopes of getting others to follow them back (and some even use software to do this automatically). I used to, but now I regret it because I have a lot of non-human post-bots cluttering up my timeline. In any case, start months if not years before you launch and post as regularly as possible. I find it hard to keep up, but try to post at least once a day and much more often if possible. The average lifespan of a tweet is probably half an hour, so unless you’re posting consistently and at different times of the day you won’t be likely to reach all your followers.
  • Email list. If you’ve got one, this is the time to make it count! Email still seems to most people like the most direct form of communication (short of text messages), so it’s not a bad idea to carry a clipboard with you and encourage everyone you meet to sign up for your newsletter.
  • Dust off those photoshop or GIMP skills and make yourself some pictures you can post here. The nice thing is that it re-posts to Facebook and Tumbler (as well as Twitter, but it only displays a link rather than the whole picture) so you can kill several birds with one jpg.
  • Although not a social media site of its own, Hootsuite (as well as several other apps and sites like and tweetdeck) can help you organize and schedule posts that will appear on multiple sites at once. It will also feed your message streams into one app, so it can truly be one-stop shopping if that’s what you want.
  • Snapchat. Snapchat allows you to make posts that will disappear 30 seconds after the recipient opens them. This seems to be the popular site with the kids right now because it gives them the illusion of privacy (their parents can’t read the messages, but they don’t seem to know that marketing algorithms still can). Due to the short lifespan of posts and the one-to-one friend format, Snapchat seems useless as a marketing tool to anyone except paid advertisements, so if you figure out how to make this work for book promotions let me know.
  • Blog. I’m probably going to get some hate for killing this sacred cow, but I think blogs are passé. There was a time when people were amazed and delighted that someone was adding WORDS to the INTERNET (can you believe it!) but now there are too many words out there to digest in ten lifespans, so unless you have some powerful content that will draw people in, you might do just as well with a Facebook page. Still, it certainly can’t hurt, especially because most blog platforms allow instant re-posts to other social media outlets.

If you can make videos for Youtube, rate content for reddit, or do whatever it is people do on Tumblr, then ride those ponies as far as they can go! I’d love to hear your strategies in a comment right here on this post or on Facebook or Twitter.

Kickstarter lab for writers: stretch goals

laboratory blog

If backers want to get their hands on your project then they will be motivated to increase their pledge, boost the signal, and spread the word… up until it hits the funding goal. Then they’re guaranteed what they ordered, and their work is done. But you can keep the momentum going through the magic of stretch goals!

Stretch goals are an unofficial part of Kickstarter but many, many campaigns use them to great effect. The idea is simple: if you hit a certain number of supporters or dollars beyond the minimum, then you’ll add something extra to the project.

Of course, most projects that get funded do so by only a small margin, so stretch goals may never become important. Still, it’s a good idea to think about them ahead of time because you wouldn’t want to miss out on the potential momentum they can create in certain situations.

The best stretch rewards are those that improve the product for everyone. If all your backers have some stake in getting to the next stretch goal, then they’ll be more motivated to help find other backers or even raise their own pledge levels.

Some stretch goal ideas include:

  • Extra Content. This bonus is probably the writer’s best friend, because you can add your short stories. If you offer them electronically rather than on paper, there will be minimal or no production cost. If you have several short stories to put together into a paper anthology, it will have an even a wider appeal. For my first Kickstarter, I did an anthology called THREE WEEKS BEFORE DOOMSDAY, and I made it a limited edition collector’s item that readers can only get directly from me and not through stores. This worked well.
  • Bonus Art. If you have the ability to create alternate covers or extra interior illustrations, then those could make great stretch goals. If not, with very little effort you can transform your cover image into a desktop screen or some other easily-emailed perk. See my previous post on ways to design the visuals for your project.
  • New reward option. Many project offer a new backer level and/or add-on. You might consider setting this to trigger if the project funding has reached a critical mass where it would be worth ordering the minimum amount of a certain item. Beware that most people aren’t going to be motivated to get you to the next level just for some coffee mug or t-shirt that they would have to pay for anyway. If you’re going to have a new add-on, make sure it’s something totally awesome that they wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.

It’s important to plan several stretch goals in advance, although you can always keep a few hidden to reveal at a dramatic moment part way through the campaign.

For my experiment this time around, I decided to have two tracks of stretch goals, one for total money raised and one for total backers pledged. I anticipate that this will work because this project basically offers two main products (the new novel and an audio book of the original novel). For the backer’s track, I will start reaching those goals before the project is funded, but that’s okay because I’m hoping to use that to create excitement and encourage backers to boost the signal.

I also wanted to do something visual and interesting, so I decided to illustrate my stretch goals as if the pledges are filling up flasks. As we hit stretch goals, I’ll fill them in with color to show progress:

stretch goalsWe’ll see if these two stretch goal tracks complement each other or get in each other’s way. That’s why I’m calling this blog a laboratory—you get to see the results of my experiment!


Kickstarter lab for writers: press that button!

laboratory blog

It’s launch day!!!

That day has now come. I have worked out my backer rewards, built my page, and provided plenty of social media support. Yet, somehow, I’m still nervous about hitting that button. Pre-game butterflies in the stomach, I suppose.

Will GHOST STORM be funded? Will it fail and make me look like a fool? There’s only one way to tell.

The Kickstarter project is now a go! Check it out. The video, filmed by the great filmmaker Andy Gill, is worth a look all by itself!

ks intro tile

Kickstarter lab for writers: getting feedback

laboratory blog

So now you’ve figured out your rewards, backer levels, and page design for the Kickstarter campaign for your novel. Are you ready to hit that button? Not so fast!

Most writers know it’s a fool’s errand to put a book on the market without first having shown it to friends and/or editors. The same goes for your Kickstarter project. Aside from finding those spell-check ninjas that seem to slip in and place typos into paragraphs you already read six times, a fresh set of eyes can find new ideas and new avenues.

I previewed my project to several people and each of them had something different and valuable to say. I made sure to ask a mix of Kickstarter project veterans, experienced backers, and also crowdfunding noobs just to make sure I would get all possible perspectives.

Usually, the people you ask will have something specific to say, but it’s always good to prompt them for best results. Here are some questions I suggest you ask:

  • What’s the first thing that catches your eye?
  • What looks bad?
  • If you were going to back it now, what level would you pick?
  • What is confusing or unclear?

My project for GHOST STORM certainly would not be what it is without some very valuable feedback. In particular, I’d like to thank Jeff Combos,  Jim Cook, Andy Gill, Eloy Lasanta, Katie Tower, and Tom Tullis for their insight!

Kickstarter lab for writers: when to push the button

laboratory blog

My advice about Kickstarter campaigns is not to think about how soon you can launch it but how late you can launch it. It seems no matter how far out I put the launch date, it always come rushing in before I’m entirely prepared—probably because nobody can ever be entirely prepared.

That day is almost at hand. I have worked out my backer rewards, built my page, and provided plenty of social media support. Yet, somehow, hitting that button is always a nerve-wracking prospect.

Will GHOST STORM be funded? Will it fail and make me look like a fool? There’s only one way to tell.

The Kickstarter project is very soon to launch! In the meantime, check out the preview:

ks intro tile

Kickstarter lab for writers: making your video

laboratory blog

I was lucky enough to get to work with Andy Gill, the great surrealist filmmaker of his generation. This time, he even gave me special effects! Here’s the world-premier!

If you only get one feature right on your Kickstarter page, make it the video. Most people will watch it rather than reading the rest of your page, and you can post it to Youtube and other sites for added coverage. I can’t stress enough how important it is.

What do I know about video production? Not much. I can tell you that the simple “talking head” video is better than nothing, but it’s not great. Spend some time brainstorming to come up with an idea that is more fun to watch while at the same time gives viewers a feel for your novel. It usually doesn’t hurt to be quirky if you’ve got it in you, so don’t write off those bizarre ideas until you’ve thought them through.


Basic outline

I find it’s best to go in this order

  1. Overview of the project
  2. Why I need Kickstarter support
  3. Expand on the book’s content
  4. Toss a few examples of stretch goals and/or add-ons
  5. End with a final statement of thanks for support.

That’s it. Don’t over-complicate it. Even if you do something fancy, like re-enacting scenes from your novel, make sure it stays focused on the project basics. If you want to film the whole movie, then put the link on your page, but make the Kickstarter video a video on its own.

Oh, and if you want a little music? Check out for some cheap creative commons music you can use.


Keep it short

If you can say just as much in half the time it’s twice as good. Sub-2 minutes is better than sub-3 minutes, provided you don’t have to cut out anything crucial. Many people will only watch for the first 30 seconds, so place your most important ideas as close to the beginning as possible.

Many phones can now record and even edit a video, but for better sound quality and superior editing options, you might want to consult a professional or at least someone with advanced equipment. You might be able to hire a pro, a semi-pro, or a passionate amateur for only a few hundred, which is a good bargain considering that it will boost your campaign by demonstrating your commitment to quality.

Kickstarter lab for writers: pick your add-ons

laboratory blog

Many Kickstarter campaigns offer special goodie like a shirt or extra content that you can only get here and now. You don’t need add-on items, but if you choose to have some then you should make sure they enhance or connect to your book in some way.

Coming from the game industry, I found it much harder to come up with good add-ons for a novel than for an RPG or a board game. Games usually have lots of artwork to spin off into really cool bonus items like special character sheets, art books, or special game tokens. Nevertheless, a project creator can get good ideas from the thriving world of crowdfunding for games.

If you want to see a great example of a Kickstarter for a game supplement, check out anything being offered by Fat Dragon Games. (You might want to go to Kickstarter and search for Tom Tullis, who is the original Sad Fat Dragon and Dorito Master.) Fat Dragon’s Kickstarters never fail to go supernova and a big reason is because they offer great options to enhance the basic offering in a way that fits each backer’s needs.

But that’s for a game. What can you do for a novel? Here are some ideas:


Glorify the backers

Offering to put a backer’s name in the credits is a wonderful way to honor your supporters and it only means adding one extra page to your novel.

A more dramatic option is to offer high-level backers the option to name characters after themselves. This is a tough one for me, because I’m usually very particular about character names. Also, I find I can’t just jam in an unnecessary character without disrupting the pace of the story, so each of the namable characters must be important in some way. With GHOST STORM, I’m offering naming rights for four characters, so my backers will get some good choices.

ghost storm 300


Do whatever you can do to make your Kickstarter novel or add-on feel rare or unique. Signing and personalizing a novel is a great bonus that will help you connect to readers in a very powerful way. You might also consider an alternative cover or hardcover copies. Check the costs before you jump in, though: your print service may charge a fee each time you switch the cover image and/or you may need to pay significantly more for hardcover.

A cheaper alternative is to design a cool sticker (perhaps with a version of your cover art). Then you can print and stamp unique numbers on the stickers for each book. If people know they’re getting a limited edition, they’ll want it more.

Let them live the adventure

If you can find some way to allow your readers to feel like they’re part of your book, you will win at Kickstarter.

For my Kickstarter campaign for THE NON-ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, I offered items that were important to the characters in the novel, namely lab coats emblazoned with the Institute logo and diplomas with their choice of major (Ph.D.s in “Mind Control” and “Death Rays” were popular choices). Thanks to Jeff Combos, creator of HOLLOW EARTH EXPEDITION, for the idea of diplomas!


“Live the adventure” items might not be feasible for every book: I doubt it would be cost-effective to create special swords or suits of armor for your fantasy novel, but wands might work. So might a map or a packet of letters from your book’s characters. You could even print the letters on special paper to look old-timey and thus lend it the feeling of greater authenticity. You’ll have to use your imagination, but, hey, imagination is exactly what authors are good at, right?


Extra material

This category is often the author’s friend, because most of us have short stories waiting in line to get out of our brains. Now’s the time to open that door and let them free! Not only do short stories make great side-perks guaranteed to interest the people who buy your book, they also make excellent stretch-goals to keep up the momentum when and if your campaign hits its basic goal. (More on stretch goals in a future post.)


Get crafty

Maybe you have a knack for knitting or you thrive on 3D printing. Handicrafts, drawings, and all other forms of art made by the author make attractive bonuses. Beware of quantities! If you promise something that you can’t mass-produce, consider setting a limit on that reward level. Otherwise, if your Kickstarter explodes, you may end up weaving baskets or hot-gluing magnets for the rest of your natural life.

This time, I’m gambling on some 3D printed hazard symbol jewelry. It’s designed and produced by a high school tech club. (And they’ll probably spend all their earnings on robots and video equipment– kids these days!)



T-shirts, mugs, posters, bookmarks, and so forth make great swag, but they might not be the best ways to motivate backers. One thing I considered for my GHOST STORM Kickstarter was a skin for the backs of phones or laptops. Aside from costing too much, I just didn’t think there would be too many people out there who wanted stickers for their phones, with or without the Mad Science Institute logo on it. Most people I know don’t really need more t-shirts or coffee mugs, either. That’s not to say they would hate to have them, but I kind of doubt it’s going to get anyone to bump up to a higher pledge level. True, I’m offering mouse pads and t-shirts as add-ons because they’re neat and people like them, but I think when my supply runs out I won’t re-order.


How many should you make?

The right add-ons can help sell your books, but if you find that you have to use your books to sell your add-ons then stop and ask yourself what kind of business you want to be in. I wouldn’t recommend having more than one or two different things for your first Kickstarter campaign.

Offering your previous novels, however, is a knockout idea and can help you grab new readers who find this project and want to start from the beginning. Be sure to include offers for everything you’ve published.

Here’s what I’m offering as add-ons for the GHOST STORM Kickstarter:


Kickstarter lab for writers: design your page

laboratory blog

Here’s another problem particular to novelists on Kickstarter: they have a lot of text to offer but not much else.

You need to be able to grab the attention of a backer at a glance, but text requires more attention than many backers are willing to give. You can take two graphic novels, open them to any page, and anyone can see the difference from across the room. With novels, all you see is, in the immortal words of Hamlet, “words, words, words.”

A great project page should hook readers before they read a single word, and that means getting visual. It can be challenging to even imagine what it should look like, so the first step is to check out other Kickstarter projects for ideas.

If you want to start with a great example, check out one of my favorite graphic novels, The Adventures of the 19XX. The creator, Paul Roman Martinez, always sets up his Kickstarter graphic novel projects with a distinctive and killer look, and it’s no coincidence that he’s grossed the better part of a hundred thousand dollars over the past few years with his various projects.

But Martinez has an advantage: he’s an artist, so he knows how to create and manipulate art. Most novelists have only their cover image to work with, and you can’t milk that forever. So what’s an author to do?


Get Artistic

I wish I could say I planned it from the beginning, but I just got a little lucky—and I define luck as when chance meets preparation. I decided early on to invest in a copy of Photoshop (way back before it was subscription-based). Then I got Photoshop: the Missing Manual by Lesa Snider, which I highly recommend for the Photoshop noob (and I’m sure there are other good intro books out there, too). For a year, every morning at breakfast I would read a page or two and occasionally I would try to use what I was learning to do something for fun—strictly high-brow, original material like pasting a friend’s face on Pamela Anderson’s body.

You’d be surprised at how easy it is to do some impressive things, and often you don’t need to go to the expense of Photoshop if you don’t want to (more on that below). I had planned to use these skills for creating cover art for my book—which I did—but when the chance to illustrate my Kickstarter page met the preparation of my limited Photoshop skills, I had created some good luck for myself.


Get ‘Er Done

There are several options for making art for your Kickstarter.

Hire someone to do it for you:  $$$$ , Time x 1

The easiest way may grant the best results, but it will also cost the most. A professional graphic designer will be able to make some killer images for you, but be ready to shell out as much money as you did for your cover—and that might not be worth it, especially if this is your first campaign. You might be able to get a good deal if you find an art student or a talented amateur looking to prove him- or herself, so it pays to network and ask your friends (besides, asking around helps raise awareness of your project).


Learn Photoshop $ or $$$, Time x 4

If you happen to have a copy of Photoshop, even an old one, this is probably the best way to go. Alternately, You might keep it cheap by doing a subscription for just a month, although a month is probably not enough time to learn the skills you will want. (Also, you may become addicted to the fun and power of image manipulation!) You can learn it like I did, self-taught with a big manual, or you can probably find a class at a local community college that will help get you into the action most quickly. If you think you’ll be manipulating images often (for covers or other reasons), then this is probably what you want.


Learn GIMP $, Time x 4

There’s a free image manipulation program called GIMP (Graphic Image Manipulation Program) that can do almost everything you’re likely to need from Photoshop. It’s a bit more limited and clunky to use—but did I mention that it’s FREE? You will need to teach yourself, but there are ample online tutorials and videos. If you are just dipping your toe in the image-management game, this is definitely the place to start.

Even with all the technical skills, you may still find it difficult to equal an artist’s insight into colors and design. So, now we go back to the beginning of this post: check out successful campaigns and see what works for them.

If you want to start with a good one, check out the Adventures of the 19XX: Shining Skull.  It’s simple, easy to read, and showcases the items beautifully. Incidentally, if you missed the Kickstarter for the new 19XX book, you can still pre-order.

I wanted to take that idea and run, and I had some doodles of my own (nowhere near his quality) so at first I aped his example, right down to a similar color scheme:


But then my video guy, Andy Gill, suggested that I make the blueprints blue. It takes a genius to see the obvious. So, a few more tweaks gave me this:


Design professional I ain’t, but I don’t think you need to be one to come up with a decent Kickstarter layout that’s more than text. Yes, it took me hours to pin these images down the way I wanted them while a real pro could have done it in a few minutes, but I had fun along the way and honed my Photoshop skills in the process.

For the full effect, check out the preview of the Ghost Storm Kickstarter! This project won’t go live until May, but you, gentle reader, can see the preview and leave me some comments about the design.

Got some design tips? I’d love to hear about them in the comments here, or on Facebook or Twitter.

Kickstarter lab for writers: setting reward levels

laboratory blog

Any Madison Avenue mad man/ mad woman will tell you that selecting the right price-point can maximize profits. The same goes with the Kickstarter campaign for your novel.

I’m guessing there are more schools of thought for pricing than there are transistors in my phone (that’s a lot), but in the spirit of the laboratory experiment I’ll share with you the strategies I’m using and later I’ll edit this post to evaluate how they worked.


A Ladder, Not a Cliff

The most important thing is that you offer evenly spread-out reward prices. If you have too many reward levels within a few dollars of each other, it will look like a jumble and people might shrug their shoulders and walk away. Likewise, you should avoid huge jumps: I might have $40 in my pocket that I’m willing to spend, but if the only options are $20 or $100 then you’re not likely to get the right amount from me. Each pledge level should be like a rung of the ladder, evenly spaced and logical in their layout.

The critical thing is that whatever level a backer selects, s/he should be tempted to go up to the next level. For a novel, this means you should try to space them out by $15 to $25 dollars (so your reward levels might go $10, $20, $40, $60, etc). After the $75 or $100 mark, you can jump up by bigger increments because the high-end backers probably already know what they want to spend.


End in 0 or 9?

We all know that $9.99 is essentially the same as $10.00, yet year after year consumer shopping habits prove that psychology trumps logic. Yet Kickstarter seems to have a tradition of ending prices in 5 or 0—I don’t know why. Maybe project creators should jump on the 9 bandwagon (and many do).

I’m experimenting with this in a few different levels: I had originally set the “Creature Feature” level to $60 and the “Mad Doctor” level to $70, but I knocked a dollar off each. I kept the other pledge levels at nice round numbers, and I’ll compare the patterns of backers on this campaign to my last Kickstarter to see if there is a greater percentage of pledges at these levels. Of course, lots of factors will influence this, but it’s worth a buck for a chance to find out.


The Value Level

If you have a level you would prefer your backers to select—perhaps because it holds a higher profit margin for you or perhaps because you simply think it’s your most awesome stuff—then you might want to consider this strategy. First, price the desired level attractively and consider ending in a “9” even if your other prices are round numbers. Then, for the next level, bump it up 5 or 10 dollars even if the reward isn’t that much better—maybe especially if the reward isn’t that much better.

The idea is that potential backers will look over the options and decide that they’re getting a much better deal with the reward level you want them to pick (and they probably are). It’s a controversial tactic, but some very successful Kickstarter creators swear by it.


The Low-Level Pledge

Should you have a $1 pledge level or not? One school of thought is that you’re going to get a bunch of backers that you might not otherwise get, and those backers might increase their pledges later, bring in friends, or back future projects. On the other hand, it might draw backers away from higher-level pledges. Who’s right? Nobody knows. Last time I had 8 backers at the $1 level. This time, I have no $1 level but I have a $5 level—if I get 2 backers at that level, I’ll know it was worth switching up. Furthermore, if people see that they get one short story (plus stretch goals) for $5 and a whole eBook novel (plus stretch goals) for $10, they might bump up to the $10 level. I’ll let you know how it goes!


Pre-determined rewards FTW

Sure, anybody can pledge at any amount, but almost 100% of my backers pick one of the pre-determined levels and I’d bet it’s the same for everyone. Pricing them right and using an advertiser’s arsenal of psychological tricks can mean the difference between soaring high and falling short.

If you have any other strategies or schools of thought about pricing rewards, please leave them in the comments or post them to me on Facebook or Twitter. I’d love to hear them!

Kickstarter lab for writers: interview with Aaron de Orive

laboratory blog

Aaron de Orive is a talented writer who’s penned everything from video games to table top RPGs. In 2013 he garnered 120% funding for Blade Singer, an MG fantasy novel he co-wrote with Martha Wells. I recently had the chance to ask him a few questions about how he earned his success.


What can you tell us about Blade Singer?

Blade Singer is a middle-grade fantasy novel co-written with author Martha Wells. Here is a blurb about the story:
Sure, Manny Boreaux wanted to escape his real world problems. But being trapped in the body of a goblin pickpocket wasn’t what he had in mind. Still, it’s kind of cool to be able to move like a spider monkey and go invisible. Unless you happen to work for an evil witch and her vicious gang of cutthroats. If they find out who he really is, they’ll turn him into minced pies!
Can Manny fool his fellow thieves long enough to find some allies? Can he thwart the witch’s scheme to assassinate a young king and ignite a terrible war? And will he ever find a way home?

Why did you decide to launch Blade Singer on Kickstarter?

I believed in the story and was very proud of the work we had done. I resolved that even if publishers decided to pass on the book, I’d find a way to get it to an audience. Kickstarter proved to be the right choice in that regard.

Your campaign was impressively successful. What was the key to your success?

I’m not sure if there was any specific factor, but having a Nebula Award nominated co-author was pretty instrumental in the novel’s success. Martha’s amazing track record as a fantasy author definitely attracted a lot of attention.
We also did a really fun video. An attention-grabbing video is pretty important to the success of any Kickstarter and we were incredibly lucky to have the help of a couple of talented filmmakers. If you haven’t seen the video, you should check it out:

Is there anything you would do differently next time?

I’d try to come up with more compelling stretch goals. You have to be careful about what you promise, especially if the rewards are things you must package up and mail off. Those costs can quickly add up. Looking for more rewards that can be delivered electronically is a really good idea.
I’d also try and get other authors involved, meaning that if the Kickstarter hit a certain level of funding, I’d try and offer new ebooks from fellow authors. Getting two or three books instead of one would be great. Of course that’s assuming I could get other known authors to offer a new ebook as a stretch goal for my novel. That’s much easier said than done.

Have you been involved in any other crowdfunding projects?

I haven’t but I’ve been considering a new Kickstarter for a series of fully voiced narratives, which are a cross between a radio play and an audible book. Most of my writing experience has been as a screenwriter, and as most screenwriters can tell you that means I have a folder full of screenplays that will likely never see production. Making movies is very expensive, but something like a radio drama is more doable. Not to mention that I have a ton of friends who love doing voice-work. That’s where I’m focusing my attentions next.

Do you think it’s harder or easier to crowdfund novels compared to other kinds of projects? What makes it harder or easier?

That’s a great question. The most successful Kickstarters I’ve seen have been for games, both tabletop roleplaying games and video games. I think there is a thriving community for these types of games and I think they’ve learned to look at Kickstarter as the place where new indie games are being produced.
Novel campaigns are usually lower dollar than games but there are many more people trying to Kickstart their novels so the risk is higher (of finding a quality product). If you’re an unknown author, people will be much more cautious about pledging to your campaign. You must find a way to entice the backers.

Do you have any tips for success for authors launching their novels on Kickstarter?

Have a great, fun video that clearly explains why people should take a chance on your novel. Keep it sweet and to the point. Show your passion for the project but also your professionalism. Don’t come across as someone who has never written a novel and is offering their first attempt (even if that’s true).
Humility from an unknown author is not something that is likely to impress. Backers like confidence, intelligence, and wit, so try and show as much of that as you can. The better your video, the better you’re likely to do. Oh and put up a section (a chapter) of the novel for backers to read. Let them see your writing style and know what they’re going to be backing.

 Would you battle a six-legged tiger using a wooden spoon or be dipped in honey and buried up to the neck in an ant hive? I’m asking for a friend.

Yes to the first and hell no the second. And your friend sounds like a fascinating individual.

What projects are you working on now? What should Aaron de Orive fans be looking for?

These full-voiced narratives will be the next project I’ll be hopefully bringing to Kickstarter. If all goes well, we may have our campaign up by the Fall of 2015. I may also be involved in an RPG Kickstarter but that one is on the back-burner until the right team can be assembled.


Thank you, Aaron de Orive!

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

%d bloggers like this: