It is the final hours of the Kickstarter Campaign for the Yarthe Campaign Setting. Exciting stuff, but stressful, too.
I don’t know that I would do it again. No, scratch that – I’m almost certain that I wouldn’t do it again, at least through Kickstarter. Which is not to say that Kickstarter itself has been terrible, but neither has it been as straightforward and stress-free as I’d hoped.
One of the big hurdles for an indie author is the marketing side of things – most of us just aren’t marketing type people. Certainly I’m not. My happy place is a quiet spot or a corner table at a cafe that doesn’t mind you staying for hours and drinking tea, with a notebook or laptop, writing. Unfortunately in the capitalist hellscape that we exist within, marketing is a necessity; to be seen, you have to be seen. You’d think sourcing the artwork or getting things print-ready would be the hard part, but no. For me, it’s the marketing.
Even traditional published authors don’t really get a lot of marketing support from publishers these days. They expect you to do your own until you get famous enough for it to be worth their time to market you. All a publisher really does is get your book on shelves somewhere, and (maybe) offer you editing and cover art services. I mean, I think they still pay advances, but I don’t know how that really works. Turns out, Kickstarter is a little bit the same as signing up with a traditional publisher in that way. You have to do all your own marketing, and all the same work as if you were just self-publishing or indie publishing, and the benefit is primarily the Big Name platform (and some analytics, based largely on your own Google or Facebook analytics tags and advertising/marketing).
Posting on social media (Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Reddit, … is there any end to them?) without annoying people or spamming anyone. Actual paid advertising on Facebook, because Facebook seems to be the best place to get views for tabletop gaming projects (but how many of those views turned into sales? Not as many as I would have hoped for. I think the actual Kickstarter backers resulting from a month of FB advertising is 4). Hitting that balance between upbeat optimism and.. well, not.
There are upsides, of course. I have a whole bunch of marketing media & assets that I’ve put together already, rather than just the front cover and the interior artwork that’s completed so far. I’ve created a spreadsheet to track how low my print pricing can go, given my estimated final page count, without making a loss. And I do like to think I’m better at the elevator pitch than I was a month ago, I’ve had to give it to so many people in so many different contexts and conversations. (I dread to think what doing this would be like for a novel. Fewer pictures to share, for one thing.)
However, the things no one tells you about in the ‘how to Kickstarter’ posts: you are constantly inundated with spam messages from shady marketing firms, wannabe influencers, shipping companies (who obviously don’t bother to check if you’re US based, since they all are, and even if legit, their offers aren’t valid for shipping from Australia), and people offering to help out with art or 3D models. That last one is not so much a problem, although I have to wonder at anyone who puts a campaign up with 3D models or STL files as a reward and doesn’t already have an artist or company lined up to produce them.
And then there are the comments, ranging from criticism of the marketing pitch to outright accusations of being a scam yourself (there have been some really nice comments as well, though, which helps offset the others). Oh, and then there are the pledges – not just people cancelling their own pledges (which, fair enough, although disappointing), but also Kickstarter itself deciding that some pledges are potentially fraudulent and either cancelling them itself or requesting me to do it.
(Currently, with 4 hours to go, I actually don’t know if I have or have not hit the target, as there’s a Kickstarter Trust & Safety message asking me to cancel a large pledge which has been flagged in their system as possibly dodgy.)
It’s been a whole ass thing.
For context, I’ve created the artwork for a full, custom, in-theme steampunk poker deck as a way of relaxing and taking my mind off the marketing and the constant dashboard checkins. It’ll be for sale as a campaign add-on and in the pre-order store (if I can get a pre-order store working) along with the campaign setting & all the other bits & pieces.
So here’s my TL;DR. Crowdfunding, obviously, is in itself a marketing and sales avenue, but it also takes a lot of marketing of its own. Honestly, even under perfect conditions the amount of hustle required is exhausting. If I could have just set up a pre-order store on Backerkit with or without the Kickstarter actually making its goal, I’d have been tempted to say f**k it and stopped with all the hustle 2 weeks ago in favour of actually writing the book. One star, did not enjoy.