Wow! Just… wow! Above and beyond what I expected.
Before people start pounding my Comments with all the things I did wrong, it might be better if I just share some popular thoughts people have already shared on this Kickstarter. It may seem hard to believe, but there was a plan here. Now is a good time and place to review the strategy behind what I did, how I did it, and why I’m okay with the way how all this played out over the weekend.
“You asked for too much.” I’m certain this one is topping people’s This is What Tee Did Wrong lists. So exactly why did I pick $15000 as my goal and was that too much? Am I being cocky?
The truth is I came up with a number just as a publisher like Harper Voyager or Ace Books would. When a publisher offers an advance to a writer, they are saying “This is how much we’re expecting you to make off this title in royalties.” That’s how I came up with my Kickstarter goal, only I was looking for pre-sales as opposed to royalty earnings. $15000 was right in line with my previous advances, as well as my reputation and my value as a writer.
Additionally, I asked for $15,000 in order to cover the cost of editors, cover shoots, and layouts. I was also compensating for time I would no longer have for contract work. I would be writing full time. Not an easy task. Not an inexpensive one, either. Then, after factoring in all of these costs, I had to consider the cut Kickstarter and the cut our United States government would take.
So no, I didn’t ask for too much. I was asking for what I felt was a duly earned salary for a third book in a series.
“You needed better Backer Benefits.” The benefits are always a tipping point for some Kickstarters. I know of some projects that were pushed deep into the red on account of the tee-shirts, patches, buttons, and other cool merchandise that was produced solely for Backer Benefits. Then you have projects like this one where the Benefits were…well, I guess they were inside jokes into the creator’s webcomic.
From The Ministry Initiative Kickstarter, I learned that Backer Benefits, if kept simple and kept digital, would keep the costs down. This Kickstarter was solely for a third book in the Billibub Baddings Mysteries, as well as for print and digital (and in the end, audio) publications of the previous ones. From the breakdown of pledges, 59% backers were standing behind either the digital or print publication of The Curse of Dillinger’s Diamond only. (These were Backers at $25 and under.) People knew what they wanted, and it showed.
I’ve been pretty clear about this on other podcasts, even on The Shared Desk, but I don’t know if I’ve ever said it here on the blog: I will, most likely, never podcast a novel again. I can’t justify that amount of time for such a small return.
If I couldn’t do a podcast on the same level as The Case of the Singing Sword, I wouldn’t want to do it at all. I don’t think it would be fair to those who joined me on that award-winning production. I would have gladly recorded Audible editions of all three; and when I cleared the $10K mark, I offered that as an option to push us closer to the goal. There was a surge of upgrades which, I admit, was exciting to watch.
Giving the mysteries in audio away for free, though? That was never an option, nor will it ever be.
“You relied on the fans too much, and should have promoted it harder.” Now this comment threw me for a loop: “Did I see you comment on Facebook that your Kickstarter will succeed or fail on its own? Are you saying it’s all on the fans to make this happen?”
Isn’t that the very nature of Kickstarter? How can this be a shock?
Concerning how I promoted this Kickstarter—I grant you that I could have pushed this harder on my networks, but I had to consider the timing. Dawn’s Early Light, a higher priority on account of the royalties off that title, the fate of future books in that series, and our contract with Ace, is coming; and I wanted to keep the signal strong on that, not have my social media channels deteriorate into noise. I had to make a judgment call and hope the fans, those who are asking me time and again when the next Billi mystery would come, would take the lead. Many of them did. I even had one fan send out a tweet to support the Kickstarter with three minutes remaining in the drive.
But Kickstarter, by its very nature, achieves success through fans. This project was a huge risk going in as I was asking for backing on the third book in a series. I did what I could to increase the fan base by reducing the previous Billibub Baddings Mysteries to 99¢, and then making The Singing Sword free, in the hopes of reaching new readers and making them hungry for a third book. Without fans backing a project, there is no success in Kickstarter.
The problem is Billi didn’t have enough passionate fans.
My agent couldn’t get behind Billi. I approached a Hugo-winning editor who couldn’t get behind Billi. Even with the repeat requests from the core fans, The Billibub Baddings Mysteries were not considered a marketable property; and this Kickstarter was a true test of that market. The fans spoke, and I heard their voices loud and clear.
However, the market made its voice heard as well.
If the digital copies of The Case of the Singing Sword and The Case of the Pitcher’s Pendant had been selling like hotcakes fresh from one of Mick’s Breakfast Plate specials, I would have gladly continued to write more capers with the dwarf detective. Last year, between both books, I sold less than 100 units. I wanted to give Billi one last shot to see if writing another novel was worth the time. This Kickstarter was that shot.
So we are here, at the end of what I consider to be a fantastic run for a third Billibub Baddings Mystery and the end of a series. It was an exciting and sometimes thrilling race for my goal, but now I am done. I am not crushed or despondent. On the contrary, I could not have been more impressed, touched, and yes, humbled, by the performance of this Kickstarter.
This was my Apollo 13. A successful failure. I thank you, everyone, for your support. As always.
As for what’s next, trust me, I am hardly going to remain idle. I’ve got the fourth book of The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences in the works. There’s an urban fantasy I’m working on as well, and I can see it slowly taking shape. And then we have The Ministry Initiative where the ever-awesome P.J. Schnyder is spending the weekend with us and running through a few final details. Oh yeah, and then there’s Dawn’s Early Light coming in less than two weeks. And then there’s the One Stop Writer Shop which, Pip and I are hoping, will take flight.
So this St. Patrick’s Day, raise a pint to the dwarf detective. He’s had an incredible journey and took a Parsec with honors along the way; but it’s time to lock up the office, turn the keys in to the landlord, and move on. If you ever wonder about Billi and his fate, consider the end of Casablanca. Much like the way Rick and Louis wander off into the night, I see a similar fate with the dwarf detective. We don’t know where Billibub Baddings is headed, whether or not he ever made up that date with Gertie, or if the remaining talismans from Acryonis come back to haunt him; but we do know Billi is going to be okay, even as he disappears into the night fog of the Windy City.
Here’s lookin’ at you, Billi.