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!

About Sechin Tower

Sechin Tower is a teacher, game developer, and author of MAD SCIENCE INSTITUTE, a novel of creatures, calamities, and college matriculation. He lives in Seattle, Washington.
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