Well… This has been an eye-opening experience to say the least. After a few dozen tweets, blogs, and over 100 individual emails the response has been cold as ice; dead on arrival some might say. There could be many reasons for the inevitable failure of this Kickstarter campaign, some that I may not want to admit. Some times things fall onto the losing track from the start, and there is only so much that duct tape can do to guide it in the right direction. Below are a few things that I have come to realize and still question if much can be done to correct them.
What is left mouse click? I only have one mouse.
Yes, you know them too. The friends and family of a certain age that would love to support your vision if they only knew how. Kickstarter is very much a tech-savy form of funding, requiring fundamental knowledge of the web browsing and digital payment accounts. For anyone 35 and under, this probably isn’t a terrible hurdle since many of us have lived and breathed the digital era. But there is a strong likelihood that these pen & paper people have email addresses that you set up for them, and PC’s that you built for them, that are collecting dust. Though a phone call will help to make them aware of your dream, it will hardly help you to reach your Kickstarter goal.
Did you get that thing I sent ya? Hello?!
This was the hardest part of digital marketing for me. Even this blog is conveying information, but who knows how many people are actually reading it, or how many people simply deleted my email (mistakenly?). There is no physical confirmation like eye contact and a firm handshake but this is a side effect of trying to reach a larger audience than a 10 mile radius from your home. Under the assumption that people were simply missing the information, I sent out weekly posts via the usual social media chains as well as a few followup emails to closer contacts.
In addition to the followups, I’ve posted periodic updates on the Kickstarter campaign page. In those updates, I’ve added helpful videos to explain how pledges work, posted text updates explaining why they should support it, and posted links to samples from the book. Each of these updates were followed by a burst of notifications on the social media chain. None of it seemed to move the needle.
I even started reaching out to local Meetup.com groups, fans of fiction and avid readers. My thought was to expand the knowledge of what I was trying to do beyond my own circles. Again, the trail went cold.
How “social” is social media?
I’ve always known the answer to this but I suppose it was one of those truths that I refused to accept. When you read articles that state the nominal percentage of tweets that are actually read, or that more Facebook updates are streaming past your wall than you realize, it’s not impossible to see that these tools are not as effective as one might think at first glance. Especially now that Facebook has recently changed their email settings, many people have simply stopped listening to their news feeds.
As a result of this flooding of feeds, sites like Facebook and Twitter have become more a PUSH of information and less a POLL or PULL. People tweet streams on consciousness and close their app before bothering to read any of the people they follow. If they do stop to read, it is often the top 20 or 50 tweets that will get grazed over. Twitter is a great promotional tool, but only seems to work for a certain kind of viral marketing like a funny video or a comment from a notable industry figure; not a first-time novelist.
Not always what it seems
This particular thought cuts me deep. There is of course the chance that what I am doing is not very good. Perhaps I am a terrible writer and my misguided intentions have finally hit that brick wall. I can admit that I am no Isaac Asimov or H.P Lovecraft, but I have certainly read worse on the New York Times stands than what I am producing. Then again, maybe I am biased in saying so. Feedback has been overall very positive and I have taken every criticism to heart, but it could all be lip service; though I would suspect my friends to know better than to humor me like that.
On a positive note, I found some individuals to be unexpectedly supportive. A select few really took my campaign to heart and did their part to tell their friends and coworkers all about it. It was inspirational to see and I am grateful for their support.
To follow your dream, or the dream of others
There has been an explosion of Occupy Wallstreet content on Kickstarter recently. Many of the films, novels, and illustrated books and magazines have all claimed to be “inspired” by the movement. Whether their gestures are true or not, it seems to have affected many of the campaigns on the site, causing some to outright fail while others (using the Occupy gimmick) to thrive at over 150% to 400% funding.
The Occupy movement is an interesting one and I hope that it will all serve to better our nation but I hope that it doesn’t become a way for companies to profit from their good intentions. If I start to see Occupy Cola, and Nike apparel being bought and sold I’m calling BS.
I decided to stick to my guns and write a fictional novel because it was what I cared about, and I can only hope that all of those Occupy campaigns on Kickstarter have the best of intentions.
On its current trajectory, I would be naive to assume success is in my campaign’s future but I will hold out hope until the clock runs down. In the end, I have come to grips with the truth that some things were simply destined to fail. Reaching this far in the book writing process, I will likely attempt to publish without Kickstarter’s help.
Passing on any print options, ISBN registrations, copy edit services, and other physical media, I estimate that it will cost between $2k-$5k out of my pocket. That includes the services that I can’t do on my own, like illustration, cover design and publication fees. I could ship the book with a white cover and a Courier New title but when nobody knows your name, the cover is all you have to earn their click. I would consider an audio book as well, but is out of my price range to receive professional help and 5 hours of my droning NPR voice will put the listener to sleep; not to mention that a laptop microphone is hardly the proper recording equipment.
Cutting out many of the marketing and physical prints of the book will be a huge savings since print and distribution is so expensive. In doing so however, I feel like I am send the book off to die with the 100 other digital books that are published on any given day, overshadowed by the next copy of Eragon or The Help. Since your average book probably doesn’t make more than $2k I don’t suspect to profit from this, but money was never the objective to start.
This post may come across as a downer, but believe me when I say that this past year has been a good learning experience. There are factors in our success that are beyond our control and all we can do is take the ride and hope it stops gently. As long as your intent is honest, and you are honest with yourself, you can’t help but let it slide and hope that your future endeavors of more fruitful. When it’s all over, I will have a full-length novel published, and it’s more than a lot of people can say. There will be no, someday or getting around to it; it will be done and you can’t put a price on that.