A professor of mathematics at SUNY College at Oneonta, Joshua Palmatier has published five books with DAW—the “Throne of Amenkor” series (The Skewed Throne, The Cracked Throne, The Vacant Throne), and the “Well of Sorrows” series (Well of Sorrows, Leaves of Flame) under the pseudonym Benjamin Tate. A new series began in July 2014 with the novel Shattering the Ley. Joshua has also published numerous short stories—“Mastihooba” in Close Encounters of the Urban Kind and “Tears of Blood” in Beauty Has Her Way (both edited by Jennifer Brozek), and “The River” in River (edited by Alma Alexander). With Patricia Bray, he has edited two anthologies (After Hours: Tales from the Ur-Bar and The Modern Fae’s Guide to Surviving Humanity). Recently, he has become the founder/owner of a new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC, whose first anthology—Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs Aliens—will be released in May 2014.
You can visit Joshua at www.joshuapalmatier.com and www.benjamintate.com, or at www.zombiesneedbrains.com. You can also find him on Facebook under Joshua B. Palmatier and on Twitter at @bentateauthor.
Kickstarter: My Experience
I recently ran a Kickstarter that had two goals: generate funds in order to put together a new SF&F anthology called CLOCWORK UNIVERSE: STEAMPUNK vs ALIENS and to start a new small press called Zombies Need Brains LLC.
I think that Kickstarter offers a viable alternative for the writer in the current publishing market. Essentially, it provides another option for getting an author’s work to the public. In my case, I wanted to continue co-editing anthologies with Patricia Bray. However, the major publishers were no longer interested in this type of anthology (except in rare cases) and even though we approached some small presses, no one else seemed willing to take the chance. Ten years ago, that would have meant the project was dead in the water.
Not so with Kickstarter in the picture. It gave me a platform to launch a new small press AND at the same time see if readers were interested in a particular anthology idea. Kickstarter is a final option, if all other avenues for getting a book published have failed. It has the additional advantage that it can be used to judge the viability of project ideas—if readers are interested, they’ll fund the project; if not, then the Kickstarter fails. You are essentially “test-marketing” a book idea, something that big publishers haven’t been able to do . . . ever. They risk that an idea will capture the reader’s imagination with every book they produce. That risk is nullified with Kickstarter.
I used Kickstarter to test-market an idea. Readers are essentially preordering the books they are interested in. If there are enough preorders, then the anthology or novel will be produced; if not, then I simply move on to the next idea. This alleviates most, if not all, of the risk on my part, as a publisher, while still giving the readers what they want. I’m surprised that others haven’t caught on to this advantage. (Actually, I’m seeing more and more anthologies and book projects being proposed on Kickstarter, so people are catching on now.)
I also see additional advantages for authors in Kickstarter. An author whose series has been dropped after a few books can potentially get the funding to finish off the series on their own by running a Kickstarter. Novels that have been turned down by every publisher, big or small, can perhaps find enough interest on Kickstarter to be self-published. And a writer’s backstock—books that are currently out of print—may also find a new audience through Kickstarter.
But there is a downside. In order to successfully run a Kickstarter, it requires a lot of time, work, and energy. It’s exciting, yes, but also extremely stressful. There will be little time to do anything much EXCEPT run the Kickstarter while it’s in progress, and there is significant planning far in advance and additional work afterwards. Any writer thinking to use Kickstarter needs to weigh the advantages and disadvantages ahead of time, and decide whether it’s worth it, or if they should just spend that energy and time writing something new instead.
Here are a few pointers for those of you who may be considering running a Kickstarter of your own:
- Research: Make certain you research ALL expenses for your project well before you run the Kickstarter, and THEN add in a buffer for unexpected expenses. This should be the base fund necessary for the Kickstarter to succeed.
- Set-up: Relying on your friends and followers on your social networks will only get you so far. Set up well beforehand some guest posts, articles, press releases, etc., to get the word about the Kickstarter spread BEYOND your own networks.
- Rewards: Spend time figuring out exactly what your reward levels will be well in advance. (I did this, but even so, if I run another Kickstarter, I’ll do something totally different.)
- Time: Plan on doing NOTHING but the Kickstarter in the first week and last week of its run. It will consume your life.
- The Lull: There WILL be a lull in funding/interest in your Kickstarter in the middle two weeks. In the set-up phase mentioned above, try to plan some of the posts during these weeks, to nullify the lull as much as possible.
- Thank the backers: You should always thank the backers with either the updates or personal messages. I sent personal messages to each backer, and the response from them was phenomenal. Yes, personal messages take up time, but it’s worth it.
- Exhaust all other options first: The Kickstarter will be an emotional rollercoaster, whether it’s successful or not. Don’t put yourself through that anguish unless it’s the only option.
- Have fun: That all said, have fun while the Kickstarter is going on. If you aren’t having fun, then it isn’t worth it. (I’d say the same of writing in general.)