1. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kickstarting a book?

    Discussion in 'Self-Publishing' started by Ulramar, Sep 5, 2014.

    A few weeks ago my step father came home from Gen-Con and plopped two books on my desk. "Here, these are two self published books that made it big by using Kickstarter," he said. Oh, well that's interesting.

    So I sat and thought about it. You put your book up on Kickstarter with title, synopsis, and an excerpt to prove your writing is on par. You need money for self publishing (advertising, printing, etc.). Why not put it on Kickstarter or something like it? Put up various rewards like having your name in the back of the book for $10, maybe for $100 you can name a character (within reason). It'd quickly cover the cost, and your book would gain exposure before it's even released.

    The two books he gave me were:
    Steampunk World: a collection of short stories by nineteen different authors in the Steampunk genre.
    Athena's Daughters: a collection of Science Fiction/Fantasy short stories written by women (and about women).

    Of course these are short story compilations, but could this work for a full novel?

    I personally don't intend to do this as of yet but I'm interested in everyone's opinions. For those who don't know what Gen-Con is (where he got these books, which is important because these were at a stall apparently) a gaming convention for tabletop gaming, role playing games, etc. It had 56,000 UNIQUE visitors in 2014.
     
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  2. Clarina007
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    Clarina007 New Member

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    I am currently on a team helping my dad self-publish his first fantasy book Age of the Seer (book 1 of 10), and we are in the middle of our Kickstarter campaign.
    Now, I am not sure if we will be successful or not, but we are learning quite a bit along the way.
    Kickstarter very well could work out for a full blown novel, and I've seen quite a few successful projects.
    What I've been able to deduce is you need three factors to be successful on Kickstarter.

    1. A good product. Books tend to be easier in this area as all you need is an enticing story. Included with a good product is a good reward tier. Again, not too difficult as what you are offering is a book.
    2. A well formatted, professional looking page. The key is the words you choose to describe your book. You need to grab the readers attention.
    3. An already established fan base. This is something we are learning from our own project. We don't have a platform of eager fans yet, so it's much harder to gain awareness and pledges. Not that it's impossible, I certainly haven't given up on ours, but its much harder.

    If Kickstarter is something you're thinking of, I would encourage you to start creating a fan base now (if you don't already have one) as that'll be key.

    Hope this helps!
     
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  3. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm just kind of throwing the idea out there since I haven't seen it brought up. It's another way to publish so I've seen so I thought it deserved a place on the forum. I have tossed the idea around but I'm not sure if that's the path I want to take yet. I'd still rather traditionally publish.

    If possible, link me your campaign! I'd love to look through it.

    And yeah the reward tier is what I was talking about. The two books that my step father gave me had a huge list of names in the back of the book which were the pledgers, but I'm thinking that you'd want multiple levels of rewards. Of course you'd probably want to give everyone a book too just to kind of move copies of the books around. But self publishing doesn't cost ~that~ much in the grand scheme of things. I mean there's the cover art and advertising and stuff like that but you don't really need that much. Or can you pocket the money? Because that would be a complication in my eyes.

    And while I don't have a dedicated fan base I have a reach of about 40k people through various social networks, maybe more. Those are easily convertible if needed.
     
  4. Clarina007
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    Clarina007 New Member

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    First, thanks for starting this thread...I'm learning about crowdfunding through trial and error, and I would love to hear what other's have to say.

    If you can reach 40k you're definitely in a good place!

    What it really comes down to is that Kickstarter is another way of selling books...while getting enough funding to cover the tracks.

    There is a bit of cost to get the book to a level of professionalism that we want. We're only asking for $3,000, and when you factor in the price to print and ship the rewards, and the cut that Kickstarter takes, we have enough to cover basic costs (for the cover art, ISBN number, domain costs, and some marketing) so no pocket money. Really, Kickstarter is a great way of getting your product out and creating awareness at the same time.

    With the rewards it's pretty neat, and while we don't have the option of listing names in the book (although that is a popular option), there are some concrete and inciting rewards. You definitely want a variety of reward levels -- it's almost essential if you want to attract a wide audience, and thankfully Kickstarter is set up in exactly that fashion.

    Here's the link to our campaign:


    I think that'll explain things better ;) And I'd love to get your feedback on it!

    We started by trying out traditional publishing...it's been quite a journey and I wish you the best of luck on it!
     
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  5. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    So personally I think it'd be better to get a book, either paperbook or ebook, for every level. That's personally what I would include if I were to kickstart. It seems like a waste to me to back a book and not get it, which seems to be one of the rewards. Like for the $1 rewards I'd put up an ebook (because those are free to make) and then the next step would be $10 and they'd get a paperback copy.

    Also:
    Torn from his family at a young age and sold as a slave, Ahiram must face impossible odds and answer his calling to...

    rise like the hero he was born to be,
    or die the slave he thinks he is.



    For me it looks almost unprofessional with random bold words. Just my thought. Some may like it, I personally don't.

    It'd also be nice to get a look at the writing of the book. Like I'd love to have a small excerpt up there just to look at writing quality. I wouldn't back a book that was poorly written, but if it is truly great it'd give me a reason to back it. If I were about to put my money down on a project like this and I noticed that there was no proof of the quality, I'd be skeptical. I'd be asking myself, "Why is there no writing? Well, maybe they're here because the writing isn't up to par. That's why they aren't trade publishing." It's not what I thought at first (though I was disappointed to see no excerpt) but then again I wasn't looking to back it. Those willing to put up money may not be as nice about it.

    Overall it looks good. If I had money I might have put something down, but sadly I do not. Sorry!
     
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  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I checked your link - I feel there are many issues with it.

    First of all, there's pitifully little about the book. I don't even know what it's about. The first half of the page is just fluff - it tells me nothing. Yes, I know there were 2 paragraphs or so about the Game of Mines and how Ahirim awakes a deadly fury within him and he ends up making the whole thing a nightmare and for some reason there's hope calling out to him, implying he doesn't have to die. I did read it. It tells me nothing. What "living nightmare"? What harrowing death? What hope? What do these things actually point to? And what actually happens? It seems you've given the premise but not the story. And you're just using a bunch of buzzwords that just annoy me because you're trying to sound exciting and mysterious and it's just not - because I can't see or feel or hear anything. I have no image to actually focus on. I don't know what's at stake. Ahirim could die - that's at stake - why should I care about him? He's a slave, so what? You're not selling the story - you're not even telling me what the story is other than that it's about a slave who's trying to get his freedom back. How's that unique?

    Listing that you have 122 rivers and something like 500+ named characters is not impressive - it is scary. Unless you're hoping to write a book of geography and lure geography fans, I'd rethink including such a thing. If a vast world is what qualifies you/your dad to think "there's nothing like this out there" - that's simply not true. LOTR and Game of Thrones together likely trumps it and probably do it better.

    Highlight what is truly unique to your dad's novel - vast numbers of mountains and cities is NOT it. Nobody except your dad and perhaps his family cares about the vast world and that's just the painful truth of writing and being an author. Nobody cares until you give them a reason to care - and readers care about story and characters, not mountains and how many rivers there are in your world. Clearly your dad's created a pretty in-depth world - so describe it, show me how wondrous it is and why I should explore this new world through the book. Make me want more - not through numbers, but through some delicious description. (this would showcase your writing too, which can only be good)

    I'm not saying there's nothing unique or worth caring about in your dad's book - but right now, that's simply not mentioned, and if it is, then it's not highlighted.

    I'd encourage a change of name regarding "Game of Mines" - it's simply too close to "Game of Thrones" and the idea that he's down in a finite area of space fighting for his life reminds me far too much of "Hunger Games". In short, whether it's true or not, your dad looks like he's copying two wildly successful series and it gives me the impression that it's got nothing new to offer.

    Now that might not be true, but I as the reader/backer cannot know that. It's too close to Game of Thrones and Hunger Games, and it's simply not worth discrediting your own story because you chose a name that's similar to something else that's wildly successful. I strongly recommend changing it to something else.

    Also, I'd take those sketches of the character etc OUT of the campaign. Frankly, they're not even that pretty, nor are they professionally done (if it were, I'd expect full colour on photoshop and it'd be a unique artwork in its own right - currently, it is not. It is a sketch.) It is good to leave the reader to imagine for themselves how the characters are going to look unless your rendition of the characters is so excellent that it's worth putting up. Currently it does not sell the book - currently it tells me this is an amateur project.

    I'd encourage you to look into queries - that is, the letters writers send to agents to ask if they might represent the book and sell it to a publisher. It gives you a nice framework to work within, what kinda thing really doesn't sell the story even though you think it does, "fluff" that agents hate because it's just buzz words that tell you nothing about the actual story etc. And then translate the knowledge from that into writing something for your kickstarter campaign.

    Perhaps the most detrimental to the whole thing is this: the campaign is simply not well-written. I skipped over half of it. You're trying to sell a book and yet you cannot write a copy that's enticing enough for me to read the whole thing from beginning to end. Therefore, how can I trust that the writing quality of the novel itself would not be just as poor? You have given no sample of the book for me to read, so I can only judge your writing skill based on this campaign, and my impression is poor.

    Another thing - as a first book, it might not be a good idea to tell the world it's the first book out of TEN. For an unestablished writer, it just looks like your dad didn't know where to finish his story - combined with the excessive number of rivers and named characters etc, it looks like your dad simply got caught up in the story and wrote a load of stuff and didn't really bother to edit it. Or else is so indulgent in his own book that he fails to see what other people might find boring. It's not a positive. Especially as backer - I want to read the ending of the novel I'd pay for - I don't want to know I might need to back 9 more books before I ever get there. If those 9 other books ever even get released!

    My biggest worry when I see that it's only the first out of 10 books is this: the guy's simply failed to edit - either he's a bad editor or he just didn't bother.

    Again, this might not be true, but it is the impression I get based on the fact that your father has no reputation and no known works that I can judge him by.

    Lastly, I'm unsure of why you're doing a kickstarter on a book anyway. You can self-publish for free and what you really want is some kind of book promotion and free downloads to encourage sales and reviews. Anyway, whatever funds you do get should probably go towards cover art and a good, solid editor and possibly strategic advertising space.

    Which leads me to yet another question - what exactly are you using the money for? As a backer, I'd like to know, because as a writer I'm thinking: You don't need the funds because self-publishing is frigging FREE. So make sure you state this loud and clear - what will you do with the cash?

    I'm not trying to bash you/your dad/your dad's book but these are the problems I see. Right now, I do not get the impression of a professional writer. And I do not get the impression of a GOOD writer. This latter point is probably the most important of all.

    EDIT: wait, what? at $15, $25 and $30 you get a copy of the book in some form. But for $40 you get NO BOOK? But at $50 you do get a book after all? Seriously, it looks like you guys hadn't thought through this at all. It makes no sense. Or maybe you don't want anyone to donate $40...? Cus I mean, if you're gonna back a book, getting the BOOK is pretty important as a reward I'd think... and $40 isn't cheap. Btw, $15 for an ebook is way over-priced - even established authors don't charge that much for an e-copy.
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2014
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  7. stevesh
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    stevesh Banned Contributor

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    Well, some mope got $55,000 for potato salad on Kickstarter, so I guess anything is possible. I'll echo a lot of @Mckk's concerns about @Clarina007's campaign. I don't read in that genre, so I'm probably missing something, but I'd pay you something for fewer mountains, rivers and characters. I have to keep track of more than twelve rivers, more than forty-six cities and fifty-seven characters per book, on average? I love to read, but I don't want to work that hard.

    As @Mckk said, the biggest obstacle to gaining donations is the lack of examples of Mr. Murano's talent. We don't have any way of knowing if the guy can write. Our only clue is the fact that he has received his share of rejection notices, like the rest of us. You should consider making the short story available to everyone, rather than as a reward.

    The ten-song CD isn't much of an incentive, I don't think. That's the kind of thing you might do as a merchandising gimmick after the books are successful.

    I'm also unclear why you're using Kickstarter. Nothing is really free, and you note the possible expenses involved with self-publishing, but I would also want to know where the money will go, with some hard numbers.

    All that said, I wish you (and @ulamar) good luck and Godspeed. I hope that whatever you end up doing gets your books to people who will enjoy them.
     
  8. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm in the midst of a rewrite (as in I started on chapter 1 earlier this week). I'm just weighing ideas. Honestly this may not be the best handling of a kickstarted book but I do believe it's possible.
     
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  9. Clarina007
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    Clarina007 New Member

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to look at our campaign and to give a detailed response, I know that life is busy, and we (the team) appreciate every comment.
    We will definitely take what you said into consideration, and see how we can improve our campaign both on Kickstarter, and also in the future.

    Here is the link to an excerpt of the actual story: http://www.epicofahiram.com/age-of-the-seer/try-it/
    Again, I would love to get your feedback on this.

    Also, for another view of the author's style here is a post describing the Silent Corps, an organization within the story: http://www.epicofahiram.com/blog//2014/05/the-silent

    It's always great to get feedback as our team is new on this road of publishing...we are working hard and constantly trying to improve. So, thank you again!
     
  10. Clarina007
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    Clarina007 New Member

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    Thanks for your response!
    Thank you for your response, we're always looking for feedback.
    We are considering all the comments we receive, and will be revising our Kickstarter page. I will re-post the link here when it's done.
    Again, it's always great to get feedback on what we can improve on.
     
  11. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I took a look at the excerpt that you provided and, eh. There's what I think is an error, but I'm unsure. So, maybe I'm wrong and the editor and author is right. Fine, but I just got turned off from this project because it looked unpolished to me.

    "The High Priestess of the Temple of Baalbeck?" had asked the Commander, taken aback. So that could be right, but if I were a possible backer I'd go, "Oh thank goodness I looked at this before I backed it. It's unpolished!"

    Also a little thing I always say: toss the maps and fancy font. The maps look like unprofessionally done and are worthless. And the font makes it look like (once again in my opinion) that you're trying to hit the fantasy genre too hard, using every possible advantage. Fancy fonts are a no-go for me.
     
  12. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    You can definitely do it, but like @Clarina007 said, you need the fanbase there to start with. Even a reach of 40,000 through social media isn't likely to be enough.

    Most kickstarters that get funded get a significant chunk of their funding on day 1, anywhere up to 75%. When someone sees you don't have much funding and your project's already been active 7 days, they assume it won't be funded and often don't bother donating, even if they like the idea. This means you need to start building your buzz about it early, so you can mobilise as many people as possible to donate on that first day.

    It's worth noting as well that those short story collections would have had several authors all shilling for donations - you've only got yourself.

    But all that said, you can make it a success. Damn near every big webcomic has proved that. And the costs of self-publishing don't have to be high - use a POD shop like Createspace and you can get a good product ready for less than $500, and most of that's a good cover.
     
  13. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I understand some of the basics of Kickstarter. 40k isn't a lot but it's a start. It's more than 0 and that's good enough. Honestly I'd probably only go for $750 or $1000. I'd want a good cover and then the rest goes towards printing for the backers and advertising. I'd be using Createspace most likely.

    And yeah I'd be building my audience ahead of time, not throwing it out there the day of.
     
  14. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm befuddled about the continuing focus on numbers. The reader is told that there are "twenty lyres, six cymbals, ten flutes, and four sitars..." I don't understand what interest this is thought to have for the reader, any more than I understand why they would be interested in the 122 rivers.

    After reading a few pages of the story, I have to say that it's just not ready. I think that there's a great deal of backstory, description, and explanation that needs to be carved away, so that you can get down to the story.
     
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  15. Clarina007
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    Clarina007 New Member

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    Thank you for all your feedback. We've adjusted a couple things on our Kickstarter campaign, addressing some of the concerns brought up.
    We had a beta group of 60 readers read the story first, and the results were very positive which is why we're continuing with publication. We even had a reporter for the Union Tribute (in San Diego) who is excited about the project and doing a story on it.
    However, all your comments are extremely beneficial and will definitely be taken consideration.
    Thanks Again!
     
  16. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    There's no sample of the writing. Why is there no sample? And if there is one it's hard to find. Most of the page is talking strategy, how good it is, how many people are on the team, and all the crap you can get if you support the project. But you don't give a sample of the product. If you believe in it you'd be mad not to show it off and get readers hooked with a sample. It's the very best way to get interest.

    Also, sorry to say, but that tag line is really, really weak.

    Edit: Ok, just found the preview chapter. A bit silly it was so hard to find considering it's importance. As others have said, all those maps at the start are very annoying. Move them to the end. At the start they have no relevance. At the end it's a useful reference in case people get interested. But I digress. This is about Kickstarter.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2014
  17. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    60 beta readers doesn't reassure me. If I asked 60 people I know to beta read my WIP the overall response would be positive because only a handful of the people I asked would be prepared to give honest criticism rather than mindless praise.
     
  18. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I'd trade in all 60 beta readers for just one serious, thorough and professional editor.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2014
  19. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's good that you added a preview chapter, but I counted, and it took me thirteen mouse-clicks to get to the first page of actual narrative. Most people won't have that much patience.

    I've been trying to figure out why the marketing seemed both wrong and familiar, and I realized: It's being marketed as if it were a roleplaying game. In a roleplaying game, all those bazillions of characters and places can be relevant, because they mean that there's a big, flexible world to roleplay in. The focus on charts and maps is also relevant for a roleplaying game.

    But this is a novel. A novel is about the narrative.

    Edited to add: I'm similarly puzzled as to why you're spending resources on a "10-song CD" and why the "team" includes musicians and audio engineers. Again, it's a novel. A book. It's about the words.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2014
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  20. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    You need to clearly explain how the money will be used and what for. A basic budget would even be good.

    Excite people. Make them want to give you money. Make them want to see the finished product. Don't beg for help, offer some awesome.

    Keep it simple. Too much is more damaging than too little. Give your pitch, get people hooked, make the sale and get the fuck out.

    Keep it neat. Part of keep it simple. A neat, well designed page works far better than a load of scrappy bits and pieces.

    Demonstrate that you're worth backing. Make them like you and your product. In your video engage the backer and make it perfect. Rehearse, re-shoot, and polish polish polish. It can't just be 'good'. It can't just be 'ok'. And forget 'that'll do'. It must be perfect. Earn your money.

    Be professional. A slight hint of amateur stinks enough to turn people away.

    Value for money. Don't offer gimmicks. Offer incentives that will be valued, either for keepsake value, or because it's actually a good deal.

    Look at other campaigns. What would you support? Why? What won't you support? Why?
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2014
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  21. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    Here's a link to a highly successful Kickstarter campaign for a documentary.



    It is clear, engaging, professional, honest, and gripping. It lists what the project is, what they need the money for, and how it will be spent. The rewards are incredibly good, but not expensive to fulfill, and the writing is top notch.

    Learn from it.

    :)
     
  22. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    I dunno, I quite like the idea of the CD. The novel is about the words, the kickstarter is about being different enough to be noticed. It won't necessarily work, but it feels like something worth trying.

    That said, all @Selbbin's points a couple of posts ago are good ones. I think if I was writing that pitch, I'd be looking to hook people right away with the story and building up some kind of emotion from the author, then position the extra stuff like that as bonuses that they won't get if they spend their money on any other fantasy book.
     
  23. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    The Epic of Ahiram campaign needs a lot of refinement. First, as mentioned, the drawings need to go. They add nothing, but only detract. They are not good drawings and all they do is make the product look cheap. Also, there are typos. Inexcusable. The wooden backpack is not shown yet the terrible banner is. Show the backpack, it sounds interesting. The video is bad. It needs better lighting and better scripting. Script it carefully and rehearse it to death. I mean, crossfades? Really? At the moment it looks like your team is not taking this seriously. The trailer is useless, btw. Literally. It serves no purpose. Show what the money will be used for, and include a budget if you can. The whole thing is messy. It needs to be cleaned up. It's not clear. Be clear about the story. Excite and engage. Leave the perks to the end only. Sell the story first, campaign second, perks last. Smaller images. The book cover is too large. Make it smaller. Also, you're lying, as things like the project DO exist and your audience is well aware of them. Lastly, it just comes across as a Tolkien wanna be. Show us why it's not.

    And everything Mckk said.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2014
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  24. Krishan
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    Krishan Active Member

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    With regards to the original topic - it's worth noting that the two books that "made it" via Kickstarter each feature multiple authors, and thus multiple people to promote the campaign to friends, family and fans. Funding a novel with only one author and one publisher in the same way might be a little bit more difficult.
     
  25. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    That's a major reason why I'm asking. Would a full novel with a single writer make it?
     

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