Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What I Learned And Should Have Remembered About Kickstarter

I am the Warden!!

As I write this, it is the Wednesday before Killshot: The Director's Cut PDF goes on sale to a murderous public and I'm just waiting to hear back from my editor for review notes and last minute changes and corrections to the book's final layout. Once they're made and the final export sitting on my desktop, the culmination of six months of blood, sweat, and tears comes to a head. OK, so there's still completing the upload to OBS, sending out backers' copies, review copies, and some other stuff, but my point still stands.

Perhaps you're dying to know how everything went as I've been very quiet this past few months, especially compared to before. In a word: outstanding. I'm so ecstatically happy with how this book has turned out so far (and there's still the print copy to look forward to, which may be my favourite part of this entire experience). Did it all go according to plan? Hell no. Did I learn something from the process? Oh yes. Will I share it with you? Guess I better, seeing as I went to all this trouble leading up to it.

Presenting a list of the 5 things I've learned - for better or for worse - about the Kickstarter experience.

#1. Finish Writing First

Perhaps the biggest mistake I made was starting the Kickstarter drive without a completed draft. While I wouldn't consider it a huge mistake, it did lead to more hiccups that I can possibly contend with, not the least of which will be the increase to print production for the appropriate backers. When I originally submitted my project, Killshot was going to come in at 64 pages. Today, the complete volume stands at 155 pages. That's 142% larger than originally planned.

Allow me to correct my previous statement. It's not that Killshot was not complete, but I wasn't done with it. When the Kickstarter project launched, I had a draft for Killshot at 60+ pages and quickly found myself adding more and more text as I continued to plug the game for a continuous month. Luckily, the final result was 189% of my original goal, allowing for additional artwork to help fill in the extra pages and I've very happy with the result. But things could have gone far out of hand and resulted in a far emptier project or numerous pages cut on the floor.

What Did I Learn?: Have a finished, signed off version of the game FIRST. Then raise money. Only make changes if it's to fix the game. You hear that, Reloaded?

#2. Never Bother With Playtesters on Kickstarter

One of the benefits offered to backers in the project was involvement in the game's development as playtesters. As I wrote before, very little feedback came in from backers. Aside from the occasional "Looks good" comment or email reply, no one said boo on the matter. All the playtesting came in as it would always have been: through in-home playing and correspondence with others already assigned.

Maybe it's just my experience, but backers don't seem to be invested in the development of a game so much as its completion. Kind of a strange twist, huh? During my research, I was under the impression people willing to invest money in a game would also be keen to assist in ensuring in its final design, but that wasn't to be. This also passes into half of the Directors entitled to have a mark named after them in future issues of Killshot Files who haven't returned my emails, but there's no rush on that.

What Did I Learn?: Offering backers a draft of the project and keeping them up to date on the game's design and development is a definite plus when trying to get them to sign on to your work, but don't so worry so much about gaining backers as playtesters.

#3. Shipping and Printing Costs Will Always Screw You

Aside from the miscalculations from page counts, the print copies are going to be more expensive than I had anticipated. Go figure. It's a problem everyone seems to deal with, especially on the first time. While this issue was not unexpected, it does add to the list.

What Did I Learn?: Oh, I'm not done learning this one yet. Not by a long shot, I'm sure.

#4. Deadlines Rock

In my previous life, I was a press operator. Like everything in the production industry, deadlines were a staple of success. Stressful though it may be, those fitted to work within the field thrive on that kind of pressure, much in the same way doctors and nurses live for the hustle of the emergency room. With so much free time on my hands over the past couple of years, it was incredible to have something to aim towards within a public timeline. I think it's safe to say without a deadline posted on Kickstarter, Killshot would still be in development.

What Did I Learn?: Use deadlines. Always.

#5. Kickstarter Is An Amazing Opportunity

There is no way in Hell this game would have come to light (except as a free download) without Kickstarter and the 36 backers who offered up their cash to a complete stranger who made a video using nothing but passion and an iPhone. Hmm, when you read it wrong way, we're not talking about the same kind of video.

Even during my days with Emerald Press, I've never been able to put anything of this size and scope together. Money makes the world turn, as they say, and I've never been one to have access to it. And with the current situation, it's an endangered species. Yet every night when I take the dogs for a walk, I dream about the day when I can finally hold a hardcover copy of my book with my own two hands. None of which would have come to pass without Kickstarter.

What Did I Learn?: To use Kickstarter again until such time I no longer need to raise capital for upcoming projects. Or at least until this trend burns out or there's just so many damned projects on this site, it's impossible for little guys like me to make it work.

On The Next Episode...

... we'll get into the money. That's right, da money. Because 189% of your original goal never goes as far as you thought it would.