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08 March 2012 @ 10:23 am
Kickstarter musings  

Sudden random Kickstarter/crowdfunding question, not that I’m actually planning to do this, I’m just curious:

Part of the hard thing about crowdfunding is figuring out how much you oughta ask for. I happen to believe in being pretty transparent about that sort of thing, hence my breakdown of why I was asking $4K for “No Dominion” (which really ought to be NO DOMINION now, but I can’t quite get over the quotes habit). And I’m watching the various price points set to Make It Go for other novellas, revisions projects, etc (all of which, btw, are the kinds of numbers I think I’d be asking for for those kinds of projects), and I’m wondering–

–well. Wondering where the line between “I think we can reach this dollar amount and Make It Go” and “If it goes at this dollar amount I’m selling my services very cheaply” lies. With a new project–say a brand-new novel series, just for the sake of argument–would I price it at approximately what I’d expect from a traditional publisher, that being what my time is apparently worth? Where, then, do you set the rollover point for “Yay, patrons have now bought themselves book TWO in this series!” Because that’s going to be a *much higher* point than just 2x what the first book cost. I mean, you’ve got to add in production costs, even if there’s not any print edition, you’ve got to consider the possibility you’re never going to sell this thing traditionally and may never make another penny from it, you have to think about a lot of detail work that isn’t necessarily something the reader would guess was part of the cost. Or do you run a whole different Kickstarter for book two? Or…or what?

The thing with Kickstarter, of course, is that it’s all or nothing, so if you’re in a position where nothing is worse than a low-all point, obviously it’s better to lowball and hope it goes higher than the base dollar amount you’re asking for. But this comes around to the whole e-book pricing issue: undervaluing your work, creating a scenario where the consumers expect EVERYTHING to be priced at $.99 regardless of how much work has gone into it, and in the long run that certainly doesn’t do me individually, nevermind the community at large, any good.

*waves hands* Discuss! Discuss! Because this is a topic of great interest not just to me, I suspect, but everybody who is running or thinking of running crowdfunding campaigns.

- continue work on webpage
- write the PRSI letter
- finish the tree house
- vacuum
- sign my name (literally) 1000 times with the above ink
- answer faith’s email
- go to bed early. for the love of god, go to bed early.

(x-posted from the essential kit)

Laura Anne Gilmansuricattus on March 8th, 2012 10:55 am (UTC)
Going through this right now, in considering my next project. I hope to offer two stories, and had thought at first to bite the bullet and make them novels from the start...but the time/cost ratio might be too high and people will balk. A novella, on the other hand - I am more confident that people are good with that pricing.

And no matter how much research you do, how many polls you run, the truth is that what we SAY we would pay and what we actually shell out, isn't always the same. Human nature. So that has to be factored in, too.

(the above was written before coffee, so please excuse any typos or logic-fails...)
dancinghorsedancinghorse on March 8th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
I think for most of us, the <$5000 price point is most likely to succeed. For you, this may not be true. Though there's also the issue of donor fatigue. And whether this option will continue to be so useful as more and more authors jump on board.

The aspect that has me going o_O is the small but apparently growing number of writers who seem to be thinking of Kickstarter as their personal ATM--talking about running one after another. Won't their backers run out of money? Or find other things to spend it on?

I'll be watching that trend with interest but not planning to join in.
kitmizkit on March 8th, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
the <$5000 price point is most likely to succeed.

This is my gut instinct, too. But then I wonder if it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, but of course it's very hard to figure that out without *trying* it. :/

I thought the poll I did on how often to run a KS campaign came out interestingly. The option with the most individual votes was "run one as soon as enthusiasm carries you away!" but if you added up the others, which taken together were "run the next one 1-12 months after wrapping up the last", it was about a 35/65 split in favor of waiting at least a short window before running the next one, with a slightly heavier emphasis on "6-12 months later". I think probably once or perhaps twice annually is the ideal number for most patrons, though I haven't yet figured out where collaborative projects fall on that scale. I should probably ask Ye Olde Internet Mind about that.
dancinghorsedancinghorse on March 8th, 2012 05:01 pm (UTC)
It would be interesting to see what people think. My gut says 6-12 months as well--quite similar when you think about it to book-release schedules.

If the one I'm doing turns out well, and I think it will, I'll probably do another one next year. I don't think I'll do one sooner unless something really big changes between now and, say, October. It feels as if I'd be abusing the goodwill of my backers to keep asking them to do this.

Or maybe I'm all old-fashioned and silly and wrong. But that's how I feel.
Bryantbryant on March 8th, 2012 08:46 pm (UTC)
I keep buying books! I pledged more to NO DOMINION than I generally do, for various and sundry reasons, but in general I am willing to pledge $5-10 any time an author I like Kickstarts a book.

Mind you, if everyone who pledged to NO DOMINION only donated $10, it would barely have met the goal. Which is not entirely a bad thing for sustainability, but $10 is a lot for a novella.

OK, pausing here -- I have some more general thoughts but I am going to post them as a top level comment.
Bryantbryant on March 13th, 2012 03:49 am (UTC)
On the general topic, IndieGoGo has a list of things that help:


Most are pretty obvious. The importance of the $25 reward point is fascinating.
S. L. Grayshadowhwk on March 8th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
I've been a little concerned about donor fatigue too. There are a lot of awesome projects running and being planned and for many of the ones I'm seeing, at least, they all share at least a portion of the same reader base, and I wonder how well that base will support later projects.

I also wonder a lot about price point vs. established base of fans vs. pure dumb luck, too.

And, while it's tempting to go 'oh! I have another idea!' I think the 6-12 month wait is probably for the best.
dancinghorsedancinghorse on March 8th, 2012 05:09 pm (UTC)
The bandwagon effect is concerning me, too. I had to be talked into doing mine, because it seemed the whole world was doing it and would there be any pennies left for me?

Obviously the answer was yes, but I'm not taking it for granted at all.
S. L. Grayshadowhwk on March 8th, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
I think that's where having the established fan base is a good thing. People already want more goodness from you, and now here's a new and exciting way to get it. Win for everyone. :)
Bryantbryant on March 8th, 2012 09:11 pm (UTC)
OK, so here's what I think about long-term sustainability. Disclaimer: this is purely based on observation of the ebook market. I am not an writer so it's not like I'm putting anything on the line, here. Also, the ebook market is pretty damned young. Probably too young to make predictions based on current trends.

I think that setting Kickstarter goals at a point sufficient to pay for the entire book at typical rates is not sustainable. The core problem is that it's a relatively small storefront. Using Alexa's numbers, which are flawed but OK for comparison purposes, Kickstarter is around #450 on the list of most-visited US sites. Etsy is #50. Amazon is #5. You are going to miss out on eyeballs with Kickstarter. If you're using IndieGoGo it's even worse.

And yeah, you can drive traffic to Kickstarter, but the numbers say not that much traffic is being driven. Compare the number of people who spent money on NO DOMINION to the number of people who spent money on EASY PICKINGS. This means that you're relying on a relatively small pool of people to spend a relatively large amount of money on a book.

So my guess is that long term, Kickstarter can't fund an entire book or series. I agree that fatigue will set in. If I were a writer, and I chose to self-publish rather than trying to use traditional publishing, I would think of Kickstarter as marketing campaigns. I wouldn't lower my contribution points; I'd keep it at $5 or so to get the novella, higher if we were talking a full novel. But I'd lower the goal. I'd also probably explicitly use it as a way to give my community input into what I did next.

I would not guarantee multiple novels in a series, because really it's how well the book does on B&N/Amazon/Apple/Smashwords that determines that. If you promise more novels at higher levels of funding, you're heightening your risk. And, hm... I think that I want my Kickstarter peeps to have a stake in promoting the book once it's available on a bigger marketplace. Kickstarter gives you a 30-90 day window during which people have a reason to get their friends to spend money. It makes sense to expand that, right?

Then you have the trick of convincing people to contribute even if they know it'll be available later, of course -- widening that window has the effect of reducing tension, too. I think under this model you don't get the kind of wild success NO DOMINION had. But you can structure your release schedule to help, maybe? Say donors get the book three months before it hits public stores?

This probably makes timing more important, FWIW. Or maybe it's important anyhow, I dunno. But I suspect you want this to be part of people's yearly schedules: "Hey, it's March, time for a new C. E. Murphy Kickstarter!" If it's predictable, you have the potential for pulling public buyers into the Kickstarters, too...

Oh, hey, generic Kickstarter landing page. List past projects but current ones are up top. Put the URL in everything you self-publish. :)
Bryantbryant on March 8th, 2012 10:34 pm (UTC)
I'm reminded: Matt Forbeck is pretty much testing this question right now with his 12 for '12 project.

Kickstarter 1 made $13,276. The goal was $3K, with a second novel unlocked at $8K and a third novel unlocked at $15K. He wound up dropping the third unlock to $12K towards the end of the Kickstarter, though.

Kickstarter 2 is at $6,173 as I type. The goal was again $3K with $8K and $12K unlocks. Three days left; I'm very curious to see what it hits.

Edited at 2012-03-08 10:34 pm (UTC)
Bryantbryant on March 12th, 2012 02:20 pm (UTC)
Kickstarter 2 hit $12800 or so, so he's sustaining so far. He got a boost from Wil Wheaton towards the end.
Megabitchmegabitch on March 9th, 2012 08:50 am (UTC)
I have no idea of what an appropriate Kickstarter target should be, but I can tell you that from this ebook-buyer's POV, I "expect" ebooks to be priced at no more than the paperback of the same book would be and, preferably, a little bit cheaper (maybe £4.49 for the ebook if the ppb is more than £4.99) - most of the ebooks I buy are in the £1.49 to £5.99 price range. Though I do keep a keen eye out for the occasional free promotion, especially if it's a writer I am not familiar with.

As Kickstarter patron, I like there to be at least three contribution points under the $/£50 mark - 5, 10, 15 or 10, 15, 25 - and I'd like to get an ecopy of the book in question at the 10 or 15 mark at the least. I've seen some with a $1 contribution point as well, with a reward of "the author's eternal thanks" or similar for fans who would like to help, but simply can't afford more than that. I look on contributing to Kickstarter/Unbound as a new way of getting a book that otherwise would not become available, so I'm less likely to contribute if I'll have to buy the book as well as helping to fund its creation... if you see what I mean.

It does seem to have become a very very popular way recently for people to get funding for what they want to write/make rather than what their publisher/agent thinks will sell.