Friday, September 11, 2020

My First Kickstarter Experience



In the Beginning
I started this in January of 2020. Kickstarter promoted their 2nd annual Zine Quest. I remember reading about the first one, but didn't get my shit together quick enough to take advantage of it. I mean Zine Quest is built specifically for someone like myself. A small game publisher with help from friends with little to no money having a time of it. I'd never attempted a Kickstarter. I'm always looking for different ways to share my stuff. But Kickstarter was intimidating. It had brought larger and more popular publishers to their knees. I'm not talking about the scammers, the folks that honestly wanted to write a gaming book and get it out into the public. I told Ivy what I planned and she helped me get my head wrapped around the process. 

The Concept
I dug up a concept I wanted to develop a few years back, Hunters in Death. I wanted to flesh out a hex crawl with an array of adventures that were discovered more then hooked into. Because these adventures shared an area with the other adventures there were connections. Also, during travels there were hints, some subtle, some obvious, of a nasty evil that lurked in the Komor Forest. The idea of the big bad was present through out, but not fully realized until their source was discovered. 

Getting My Art Guy
When Zine Quest 2 reared its head I jumped in with with the idea of Hunters in Death. I already had the setting mostly written. I'll come back to this later. I contacted Jim Magnusson for one of his killer pieces. I wanted to start with a killer cover. Jim delivered. His cover was a huge part of the success of the campaign. I hired Jim to do all the art for the zine to keep a cohesive theme. Jim thankfully agreed. Check out the cover and back cover. I thought the quote from Ernest Hemingway was perfect for the zine's concept. 


Still love it even after looking at it constantly for the last nine months. 

The Write Up for Hunters in Death
First off, I needed to write the information about Hunters and Death and what it was about. The concept. Sometimes I write things as if the reader is supposed to know what I'm talking about. And they don't. Ivy kept nudging me to rewrite it. It didn't sound like me. I hate when she says that. First, because that means I needed to rewrite it again. Second, because she's right. After doing as much as I could do with it, Joethelawyer volunteered to give it a much needed edit. Not only did he clean it up, he injected it with a big dose of steroids. His help was also a huge part of the success of Hunters in Death.

Figuring Out Pledge Levels and Pricing
I wanted to keep it simple. A pledge level for the PDF. A pledge level for both the print copy and PDF. Done. I get annoyed at multiple pledge levels. They confuse the shit out of me. But then there was the matter of pricing. Here was my math with no science or research involved. 

I figured I'd get 50 to 100 people to pledge. So I averaged it at 75 who'd take an interest in my zine. I went back and forth on my goal. I started thinking I should have a $1000 pledge level. So that meant the average pledge needed to be at $13.33. That wasn't going to happen. I finally settled on my PDFs at $4 and Print copies w/PDF at $8. In my head I figured a third would want PDF only and two-thirds print. So using my mind bending logic...

From PDFs I estimated: $100
From print I estimated: $400

Boom! Done. I set my goal at $500. I felt comfortable that I could hit that. And like Ivy said, if you don't reach your goal you'll still do it. She was right. Again. 

The Launch
There was some discussion before hand of when to launch. Zine Quest is run in February and could run for 14 days. Some took the strategy of waiting, to allow some of the deluge of zines to subside. I wanted to get involve as soon as I could. And I am glad I did. It seemed as the month went on more zines kept coming in. Plus, people's wallets aren't endless so I wanted to be in the front of the zine mall. Not in the back.

I was in the first batch of zines in Zine Quest 2. Not only that, Kickstarter selected me as one of their favorites. So my campaign spent a significant time one the front page. 

1st Day
The first day of the launch was on a Sunday. I was glad because if it was Monday, I would have missed a lot of the excitement. My expectations were shattered before the first day was over. It...was...fantastic. I whooshed passed my goal by a bunch.

The Campaign
It was a hell of a ride. While I was at work friends were texting me when I'd hit a pledge or backer milestone. By the end of the campaign I had nearly 600 backers and nearly $5300. While of course seeing the money is good to see, I admit I was more interested in the number of backers. Wow.



What I Didn't Know
When I created my pledges I had people pay for their postage. A $2 mailing charge for US backers and $4 for the rest of the world. When Kickstarter collected their pledge they counted the shipping into the pledge total. I wouldn't do it like that again. It makes sense that Kickstarter would want this to happen. First, it increases the chances of campaigns to fund and second, they get a bigger slice. But knowing this now. Yeah, I won't include shipping in pledges.

Realization
I decided at the beginning I was going to print all the zines at home. I have a Patreon where I print about 60 to 120 zines a month. To put it in perspective though those are usually one page, folded zines. 

Hunters in Death is a cover and 8 pages. With contributor copies and backers I needed to print 450 copies. And I wanted to print an extra 50 for those damaged during mailing and selling for those who missed the Kickstarter. That's 4500 pages that needed printing. Without mistakes. 

I needed to order more paper...and a lot more ink.

Don't Go For Cheap Ink
I'd been using this cheaper ink on Amazon for a while. I had a single Epson cartridge left. It looked so much better. So no cheap ink. I think we burned through eighteen cartridges. I lost count. It was worth it. Made the zine look much better.

Editor
Back to Joe. My editor for this project. After figuring out details Joe really helped hone Hunters in Death. He was quick to get back to me. He was as enthusiastic about the project as I was. His contribution was invaluable. And he tried to sneak in his character as much as possible. A little Easter egg, you'll find Joe's guy in there twice. A big thanks to Joe.

Ivy
Ivy supported me through the entire process, but she really got this project done. First of all she is the one who made me do read thrus when I didn't want to. And each damn time I'd find something I could tweak to make better. "Yes, this is good, but you can make it better." And we did. 

She took over the entire production process. I was struggling with getting the zine to print properly. I have been using MS Publisher for a long time. And it was dropping pictures randomly. I'd print ten copies and the last two would have a picture missing. Or drop the last sentences in text cells. Frustrating me to the point I was ready to punch my printer into pieces. I am not exaggerating about this part. She came up with another way to do the printing process and we switch programs to Affinity Publisher. No more problems with pictures or sentences coming up missing. She pulled all-nighters printing and assembling the zines. 

Then she helped organize the mailing. Much better than I ever would have. At the end I ended up getting sick (I know, a Kickstarter creator cliche), and she got the postage taken care of the delivered it to the post. 

Amazing lady.


Aftermath
440 some copies of Hunters in Death are now spread across the globe to 33 different countries. I still have about five people I don't have addresses for. I'll try one last time to reach out to get them their zine. I'm taking a break from it for a while. Then I'll put the PDF for sale on RPGDriveThru and offer the print copies I have left for those who missed the Kickstarter. 

Conclusion 
I have nothing to complain about. I learned a ton from the process. I'm glad I did Zine Quest and will probably do it again and do Kickstarters in general again. So many people were supportive and their excitement helped me get it done. So you'll see future projects from me, but not right now. A little time to breathe.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Babe! I'd do this project again too. Big thanks to Joethelawyer for his help and Jackson for his support. Very, very cool that these are shipped out. And now, I'm ready for our next project. Muwhahahahaha.

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