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Andrhia
06-14-2013, 07:12 AM
This is going to be a little long. Forgive me.

Once upon a time, I had a short story knocking around. It got an honorable mention in Writers of the Future, but I had no luck selling it to a market. Then the iPhone 4S came out, and I wanted one. Bad. So I did something a little kooky: I put up a Kickstarter to ransom the story. If I could get $250 so I could afford a new iPhone, I would put the story up on my blog under a creative commons license.

I got $616. My husband got an iPhone, too. ;)

Some of those Kickstarter rewards were for bespoke stories... and I happened to knock together another short in that time for another contest, too. So I thought: Why not put them all together in an e-collection and see what happens? I got the OK from my agent, who hooked me up with a free ebook giveaway list. I put it up for $2.99, flogged it on the Twitters, and waited to see what happened.

This was on May 20 of 2012. My stats show that by the end of the month I'd sold 45 copies and given away 3432.

In June 2012, I sold 9 copies. My attention switched to publicity for my just-released nonfic book from McGraw-Hill; that consumed all of my free time through about November. I stopped active promotion of the collection of shorts basically as soon as June began.

In July 2012, I sold 2 more copies. From then on, I sold about 1 copy every other month (or less.) Eventually I dropped the price to 99, but it didn't make much of a difference.

Tuesday night on a lark, I decided to do a 48-hour KDP free promotion, just for kicks. In the last 40-ish hours, it's moved 150 copies and hovered in the #6-7 spot for free fantasy anthologies. So that's nice! :D We'll see if it results in any actual sales after this.

I doubt it, but you know what? It doesn't matter. This particular piece of writing has already done the work I hoped it would do, and everything else is gravy now: I got my iPhone and enough money on top of that to take my family out to Cheesecake Factory for brunch. Not a living, but frankly more than I'd likely have made trying to place these shorts in magazines.

And meanwhile... I thought I'd try a different experiment.

Andrhia
06-14-2013, 07:28 AM
A few months ago, I decided I wanted to do a longer and more ambitious self-publishing project, because reasons. So I conceived of another Kickstarter: The Daring Adventures of Captain Lucy Smokeheart. It's meant to be a year-long monthly serial with an added light treasure/puzzle hunt online.

The Kickstarter worked out brilliantly for me: 251 backers in all, funding at $7701. Of course that's not all profit -- a lot of that money will go to the illustrator designing covers, 10% went to Kickstarter and Amazon Payments fees, and I'm holding a reserve to print hardcover copies for some funders at the end of the year.

But the important part here is: Each episode is going up on KDP, B&N, Gumroad, and (eventually) Kobo and iBooks via Draft2Digital. Unless I decided to pull everything but KDP, which is possible!

The first episode went online on April 30, priced at 99 for roughly 7500 words of story. It sold 15 copies on Amazon, 3 through Gumroad, 1 on B&N. (Plus it was given for free to all 251 Kickstarter backers, natch, so my dearest friends and family have effectively all bought it already.)

The second episode was a little late. Went online June 8. Since then, it's sold 5 copies of Episode 1 and 4 of Episode 2.

Next month we'll see what happens; when episode 3 comes out (hopefully by the 2nd or 3rd of July) I plan to drop Episode 1 to free. And then... I guess we'll start to see whether I have something or not.

robertbevan
06-14-2013, 07:47 AM
This is one of the more interesting self-pub stories I've read. I love that your professional goals for that first story were simply to be able to afford a phone. That's really charming.

Keep it up. I still don't understand Kickstarter, but it sounds like you really know how to rock it. Good luck. :)

merrihiatt
06-14-2013, 08:37 AM
Looking forward to following your journey.

Ann Joyce
06-14-2013, 08:51 AM
Pretty fun stuff right there! I, too, will be watching your thread with the others to see your results.

Andrhia
06-15-2013, 02:31 AM
Thanks for the kind words. :) Historically the bulk of my writing is work-for-hire, but I feel like something in me has finally *clicked* and I'm ready to double down on owning my own work. Though I'm definitely still planning on running my novel-in-revising through the trade publishers first...

kaitie
06-15-2013, 02:48 AM
I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of using Kickstarter to fund an iPhone. Not exactly what it's there for. In fact, that sounds like it outright goes against their terms. Did the people paying you realize they were doing it so you could buy a phone?

Honestly, it strikes me as very close to unethical, but maybe I'm missing something here.

ETA: I just wanted to add that, to me, Kickstarter is also not about "profit." It sounds very much to me like you're misusing the good will of others. I would be very upset if I found an author I was supporting was talking about my money going to "profit" so casually.

Andrhia
06-15-2013, 03:09 AM
I'm really uncomfortable with the idea of using Kickstarter to fund an iPhone. Not exactly what it's there for. In fact, that sounds like it outright goes against their terms. Did the people paying you realize they were doing it so you could buy a phone?

I didn't say specifically what I was spending the money on for the first the Kickstarter, but I was very clear that the story was already written. Here's the Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andrhia/shivas-mother-a-story), if you'd like to see it for yourself and judge if it was deceptive or otherwise unethical. It passed Kickstarter's guidelines on the first go, for what that gets you.

It was inspired by Tim Pratt turning to Kickstarter (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/timpratt/grim-tides-a-marla-mason-novel) to effectively fund the time to write a Marla Mason novel.


ETA: I just wanted to add that, to me, Kickstarter is also not about "profit." It sounds very much to me like you're misusing the good will of others. I would be very upset if I found an author I was supporting was talking about my money going to "profit" so casually.

On the other hand, I was very transparent about my plans for Kickstarter money with Lucy. In fact, I wrote two blog posts detailing my plans for the cash and calculating my earned hourly wage for Lucy: Right after I launched (http://deusexmachinatio.com/blog/2013/3/3/the-economics-of-lucy-smokeheart.html), and an update after I hit my first goal (http://deusexmachinatio.com/blog/2013/3/17/the-economics-of-lucy-smokeheart-part-2.html).

Writing is a business for me, and not just a pleasant hobby. This *is* my day job, so I have to think about money. Spending the time to write something like Lucy Smokeheart has a real cost to me in terms of money I can't make working on client projects. You can't eat love. And on the flip side of that, just because you're being paid for something doesn't mean it's not art, or that you can't be passionate about it.

kaitie
06-15-2013, 03:50 AM
That might be true, but Kickstarted also states outright that money is meant to be spent directly on the project. It even states that it isn't to be used to pay bills or life funding projects, which is what it basically sounds as if the first was--you just didn't put it that way, which is what makes it seem dishonest to me.

The story was already written and being posted for free on your website. There were no costs whatsoever. I'd have questioned that in the first place, but the fact that you outright say that the whole point was that you wanted an iPhone...that's not about creating an art project. That's about you getting people to give money for a toy.

Maybe I'm being overly harsh. I'm more than a little exhausted at the moment, which might account for my feeling so strongly about this.

Andrhia
06-15-2013, 07:07 AM
That might be true, but Kickstarted also states outright that money is meant to be spent directly on the project.

Actually, upon research... the guidelines don't say anything like that at all (http://www.kickstarter.com/help/guidelines). Consider the many cases where a project overfunds by an order of magnitude. Are they supposed to just find things to spend the money on rather than keeping it? What if a project runs surprisingly under budget?


It even states that it isn't to be used to pay bills or life funding projects, which is what it basically sounds as if the first was--you just didn't put it that way, which is what makes it seem dishonest to me.

The prohibition on fund-your-life projects is in the absence of an actual work at the end. "Buy me an iPhone" violates the guidelines. "I will release this work into the creative commons and create an audio podcast if I collect $250" does not. And this isn't hypothetical -- if Kickstarter felt the project violated their guidelines, they wouldn't have allowed me to use their platform. Because I ran a Kickstarter, I by definition wasn't in violation of their guidelines.


The story was already written and being posted for free on your website. There were no costs whatsoever. I'd have questioned that in the first place, but the fact that you outright say that the whole point was that you wanted an iPhone...that's not about creating an art project. That's about you getting people to give money for a toy.

Note that very, very many writers going to Kickstarter have a piece already finished. See this one (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gregstolze/sinner?ref=category). Or this one (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/365596946/the-forging-an-exciting-new-fantasy-novel?ref=category). This one. (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/415194828/vampire-survivors-book?ref=category) And those are just a couple in the "popular now" section of Fiction right this minute.

Would it make you feel any better if I'd intended to buy groceries with that cash, instead, or a memory upgrade for the computer I write on? Or if I only sent e-copies to contributors rather than gifting it to the world? If so, why would one be more virtuous than the other?

Would it only be acceptable to you to run a fiction Kickstarter if I planned to pay somebody else to do formatting or cover design that I'm competent to do on my own?

Alternately, do you genuinely expect nobody who uses Kickstarter to pay themselves a wage? Not the film producers, the games studios, not the musicians? Surely a large part of enabling a creator to pursue an independent project is in freeing them from the need to spend those hours on the job(s) that lets them keep a roof over their head.


Maybe I'm being overly harsh. I'm more than a little exhausted at the moment, which might account for my feeling so strongly about this.

For my part, I'm trying very hard to keep this about the topic at hand in a calm and reasoning fashion. I'd appreciate it if you could perhaps make your language a little less heated.

Old Hack
06-15-2013, 11:32 AM
For my part, I'm trying very hard to keep this about the topic at hand in a calm and reasoning fashion. I'd appreciate it if you could perhaps make your language a little less heated.

Andrhia, you've been here long enough to know that if you find anyone else's posts here objectionable you should report the post and let the mods deal with it, and not take it upon yourself to correct someone else's behaviour.

For the record, I share Kaitie's concerns about your use of Kickstarter, I didn't find any of Kaitie's language overheated, and I think it could be very useful if we use this opportunity to discuss the ethics of this situation.

merrihiatt
06-15-2013, 11:47 AM
I followed the link Andrhia posted and read this:



Kickstarter cannot be used to raise money for causes, whether it's the Red Cross or a scholarship, or for "fund my life" projects, like tuition or bills.

Bills would be the gray area for me. Telephone/Internet = iPhone = bill, to me. I might even find a way to make it a reasonable expense (I need it to see how the finished project would look on an iPhone); however, the second iPhone for hubby is one I cannot get my head around.

Kickstarter approved the project and I assume it was made clear where the money would be spent. Personally, I wouldn't contribute to a Kickstarter campaign with the purpose of buying an iPhone with money raised.

Spell-it-out
06-15-2013, 02:30 PM
First off - I have to say I agree with Katie. I may not know a lot about Kickstarter, but reading about how much you wanted an iPhone felt wrong. I wanted an iPhone last year, so I self-published my novel on my own, and when I collected some profits in may from local sales, I bought that iPhone.

Anyway, I'm not here to argue about that.

I think you've a really neat idea here with your SP efforts. I'm interested in seeing how the treasure hunt goes, as it's an excellent way of keeping your readers on board.

I wish you the best of luck with it.

Old Hack
06-15-2013, 03:23 PM
Does anyone else remember Kit Williams' book Masquerade, and the treasure-hunt which went with it? It's a beautiful book.

MmeGuillotine
06-15-2013, 03:32 PM
I remember Masquerade. That was wonderful! I wanted that golden rabbit SO badly. I can't believe that it ended up being found by some sneaky fraudster. :(

Anyway! I don't know enough about Kickstarter to comment on this situation but good luck with your future endeavours! Do you have the whole story planned out or are you writing on the hoof as it were? :)

Andrhia
06-15-2013, 05:32 PM
Some last points on Kickstarter and I'll try to move on myself.

Kickstarter isn't a charity, and that first project wasn't charity. People put in their $5 to get to read the story and listen an exclusive audio version, or in a few cases they put in $100 to get a bespoke story written by me. There was a fair transaction of value going on, and the work involved in delivering on the project took me another few months. When I decided to roll the shorts into a collection and put it on KDP, I asked if it was OK first with the backers that had received those stories as rewards... and made sure to update every single backers to snag it on Amazon while it was free, too. So they actually all got more than they'd gone in for.

It seems to me the iPhone is a red herring here. The big philosophic question is, "Do you think it's OK for a creator to earn a wage for the time and effort spent in creating a Kickstarter project?" If you accept that, what that wage is subsequently spent on is nobody's business. If your answer is no, then we've found an insurmountable philosophic difference -- but note that Kickstarter culture is by very common practice on my side of this.

The specific amount of money I originally asked for was meant to be roughly the amount I might get selling the same story to a professional market. I figured this was a fair valuation of the time and effort spent in writing.

Note that Kickstarter is very commonly used as a method for effectively selling pre-orders of a work, by funders and backers alike. (Definitely the case with the Lucy serial.) Also note that people backed the short story ransom for more than twice what I actually asked for, presumably because they wanted what I was offering.

Every backer went into this knowing what I was producing or had already produced, and knowing what they'd get from it. They actually got those things, and actually a little more than they'd gone in for. Kickstarter approved the project as an acceptable use of their platform. There was no violation of terms of service, nobody thought something different was going on than actually occurred, and everyone walked away from it happy and with something they wanted.

Why would any of that be wrong?

Andrhia
06-15-2013, 05:39 PM
I remember Masquerade. That was wonderful! I wanted that golden rabbit SO badly. I can't believe that it ended up being found by some sneaky fraudster. :(

Funny you guys are mentioning Masquerade, my first professional writing gig was a long-term puzzle-centric game that was very much inspired by it. Hilariously, I've never been able to get my hands on a copy myself. Though my birthday is coming up...


Do you have the whole story planned out or are you writing on the hoof as it were? :)

I have a sort of long-term arc planned out, but one of the reasons I wanted to do a serial is so that I could adapt the narrative to respond to reader speculation and/or demand as I go along. :) See what's working and what isn't, so to speak. It's an artifact of coming into my own through writing games and social media drama. Writing just a whole novel all on my own is comparatively so lonely...

kaitie
06-15-2013, 06:26 PM
Some last points on Kickstarter and I'll try to move on myself.

Kickstarter isn't a charity, and that first project wasn't charity. People put in their $5 to get to read the story and listen an exclusive audio version, or in a few cases they put in $100 to get a bespoke story written by me. There was a fair transaction of value going on, and the work involved in delivering on the project took me another few months. When I decided to roll the shorts into a collection and put it on KDP, I asked if it was OK first with the backers that had received those stories as rewards... and made sure to update every single backers to snag it on Amazon while it was free, too. So they actually all got more than they'd gone in for.

It seems to me the iPhone is a red herring here. The big philosophic question is, "Do you think it's OK for a creator to earn a wage for the time and effort spent in creating a Kickstarter project?" If you accept that, what that wage is subsequently spent on is nobody's business. If your answer is no, then we've found an insurmountable philosophic difference -- but note that Kickstarter culture is by very common practice on my side of this.

The specific amount of money I originally asked for was meant to be roughly the amount I might get selling the same story to a professional market. I figured this was a fair valuation of the time and effort spent in writing.

Note that Kickstarter is very commonly used as a method for effectively selling pre-orders of a work, by funders and backers alike. (Definitely the case with the Lucy serial.) Also note that people backed the short story ransom for more than twice what I actually asked for, presumably because they wanted what I was offering.

Every backer went into this knowing what I was producing or had already produced, and knowing what they'd get from it. They actually got those things, and actually a little more than they'd gone in for. Kickstarter approved the project as an acceptable use of their platform. There was no violation of terms of service, nobody thought something different was going on than actually occurred, and everyone walked away from it happy and with something they wanted.

Why would any of that be wrong?

This is where we differ. In my mind, Kickstarter is a way to help people raise funds for creative projects that would otherwise be impossible. For instance, if I chose to self-publish my book, I'd seriously consider using Kickstarter (this is the reason I've looked into this) to cover editing, cover art, and so on. I would lay out specifically what the money is needed for, and use the money for that. (If I ended up with extra, that's a little more free, but personally even then I'd try to put it toward a sequel, and I'd spell that out in the listing).

What Kickstarter isn't is a store front, IMO, and that's more how you treated it in your first scenario. You took an already written book that required no money and said "pay me for it and you can read it." It's nice that people were willing to do that, but I don't think Kickstarter is the place for it. Kickstarter also outright says that it's not a place to sell things, for what that's worth.

Now, were you to say you needed the money to buy cover art or editing or formatting or something of that nature so you could put the book for sale, I'd have no problem with it, but that's what the money would need to be used for. In this case, you basically used it as a store to sell your story for much more than you would get in any other situation.

While it might have passed muster because it was posted on your website, the heart of Kickstarter is to help authors raise money for artistic endeavors they otherwise would be unable to accomplish, and at the very least you violated the heart of it. To be honest, if that was still running, I would have reported it to Kickstarter along with your post here because I do feel so strongly that it's an egregious violation to brag about using it to get an iPhone. You outright used it for something you can't use it for, and did it by implying the money would go toward an artistic project. Not cool.

I understand wanting something "really bad." I spent my first year and a half back in the states literally unable to pay my bills, so I know how tough it is when you don't have money and want something. The thing is, I want a lot of things, too.

I'd love for my agent to sell my book and make enough to put a down payment on a car because mine is 15 years old and falling to pieces and starting to need more upkeep than it's worth, but that doesn't mean if I put the one that didn't sell on Kickstarter to raise funds, that I could use that money to buy a car. It isn't "profit." On a smaller note, I'd really love to buy a video game that's coming out, or to visit my relatives who I haven't seen in over a year. Again, Kickstarter is not the place to raise funds for that.

Your second project seems to fall more in line with what Kickstarter is designed for, but to just casually refer to the money raised there as "profits" is still inappropriate because Kickstarter isn't about getting you profit so you can buy personal things.

The iPhone isn't a red herring because it is exactly what I'm objecting to. The purpose that you stated is contrary to their entire purpose as stated by Kickstarter. It's an example in which, to my mind, it is a very clear violation of what the site is set up to do (again, by their own rules and statements). The fact that you're stating this as a positive and good way to earn money really bothers me because some other soul might come along and think it's a good idea. That's the reason I'm saying anything about this, btw. I don't want others to come along and see this as a viable option.

If you want to make a profit, put your work up for sale on a site designed for sales and avoid the problem. I don't think this is just a philosophical question. It seems to be very clear cut.

Also, I dislike the idea of "other people are using it for this" as a valid reason to do it. If that's the case, then it simply means other people are misusing it as well. I would tell them the same thing.

ETA: I'll tell you something this reminds me of. I know it's a different scenario, but it's similar, IMO. I'm a teacher. My students know that if they miss a test, they can only make it up if they have an excused absence. I'll announce that we're going to have a test on Friday, and then the student who doesn't want to take the test will call and make a dentist appointment for class time Friday (this happens a lot at my school).

Technically speaking, they have an excused absence. The thing is, the excused absence thing is there to help students who come down with the flu, or have a family emergency or something of that nature. It's not intended as a way for students to get out of classes they don't want to go to. I think most of us would say that what the students are doing isn't right, even if as teachers we can't actually do anything about it.

Andrhia
06-15-2013, 06:41 PM
Let's agree to disagree, kaitie. I've spent a lot of time on research for Kickstarter and I am very comfortable that I've conducted myself in an extremely ethical way, and indeed in a way that aligns with how a vast majority of Kickstarters operate, but it looks like we have an underlying philosophic disagreement here.

girlyswot
06-15-2013, 10:59 PM
Without commenting on the OP's use of it, I do think that Kickstarter is a really interesting way to go about self-publishing, especially for print books that require a significant initial outlay. I've seen a number of projects there for beautifully illustrated books, hand-bound books and other things that would not be commercially viable in any other way. It serves an entirely different part of the book market from digital self publishing, and it would be interesting to hear from other authors who have used it.

kaitie
06-15-2013, 11:29 PM
Part of what appeals to me about Kickstarter is that if you can get people interested enough in your project to donate, when the book comes out you have likely guaranteed readers. Even if you give a copy of the book for free, if they're happy with the finished product it can help with reviews and things of that nature.

It's something I've really been considering. I do worry a bit that I would fail to raise enough funds doing it, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with that short of a bit of embarrassment.

girlyswot
06-15-2013, 11:37 PM
Right. Guaranteed readers who are already invested in your success. There's definitely a publicity bonus to that. Even for digital books, it's still a great way to raise the capital you need for e.g. cover art, editing services etc.

The thing I object to about Kickstarter in general is that it doesn't set a limit to your fundraising. There was the famous Amanda Palmer case where she raised more than $100k over her initial budget. I just think at that point it's become a shop rather than a fundraising project.

Andrhia
06-16-2013, 01:05 AM
Sure you can just put the same work out there on KDP and urge your friends and family to buy it and spread the word... but there's no urgency to it. One of the benefits of Kickstarter is a sense that time's running out -- so people who might never get around to actually buying your stuff on Amazon are more inclined to pitch in before the deadline. If I'd just put Lucy's first episode online, I doubt I'd have sold 250 copies, much less that many of all 11 subsequent episodes.

That sense of urgency may be false, and maybe not. I speculate (without data, so really who knows) that a lot of KS authors who fail to fund go on to push to KDP regardless.

I can't remember what I was planning on doing with Shiva's Mother if it failed to fund; I think I'd intended to submit to markets that don't pay a pro rate, but realistically I'd have shelved it and nobody would ever have read it at all. Which is a shame because I consider it one of the finest pieces of writing I've ever done.

If I hadn't funded with Lucy, I definitely wouldn't have pursued the project. It's a big and ambitious thing, and if I couldn't get that much support for it, I'd have decided that it was something not enough people actually wanted to see in the world. I sort of look at Kickstarter as a quick pass/fail for ideas: "Hey you guys, do you think I should do this?" And if support is lackluster, it's nice to know before you've spent months or years of your life making something not much of anyone wants.

Andrhia
06-16-2013, 01:16 AM
It's something I've really been considering. I do worry a bit that I would fail to raise enough funds doing it, but I suppose there's nothing wrong with that short of a bit of embarrassment.

There's no shame in trying and coming short. :)

The OTHER thing with Kickstarter, though, is that you have to be realistic about your expectations regarding how much you can fund. This is sadly a popularity contest, sometimes, and a function of your reach on social media or your existing fanbase. Someone like Ryan North and a constellation of webcomic superstars (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/breadpig/to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-adventure)... yeah, obviously $20K was a low bar considering all of their fans in aggregate.

But you also see eg. first-time game developers with no existing fanbase who think they can fund hundreds of thousands of dollars. This is unrealistic, to put it kindly. And yeah, a great idea can take off even from someone who doesn't have a lot of reach to begin with, but making it your funding strategy is a lot like making "make my book trailer a viral hit on YouTube" your business plan for becoming a best-seller.

Amadan
06-18-2013, 07:10 PM
It seems to me the iPhone is a red herring here. The big philosophic question is, "Do you think it's OK for a creator to earn a wage for the time and effort spent in creating a Kickstarter project?" If you accept that, what that wage is subsequently spent on is nobody's business. If your answer is no, then we've found an insurmountable philosophic difference -- but note that Kickstarter culture is by very common practice on my side of this.

I think not. Or if it is, then Kickstarter culture is being taken over by the same sort of opportunistic gamesters who ruined eBay and similar sites, which would not surprise me.

You could use your rationalization for any kind of "pay-the-bills/buy me something" project, exactly the sort of thing Kickstarter is explicitly not for.

Kickstarter projects are supposed to be for funding a project - i.e. making sure that project happens. I can see, in the case of staffing needs, including some expenses for paying them, but the theory is that people need to be funded while they are producing the thing you are funding.

What you did was "Solicit money for something I already produced so I could buy something I wanted."

Andrhia
06-18-2013, 07:26 PM
I think not. Or if it is, then Kickstarter culture is being taken over by the same sort of opportunistic gamesters who ruined eBay and similar sites, which would not surprise me.

You could use your rationalization for any kind of "pay-the-bills/buy me something" project, exactly the sort of thing Kickstarter is explicitly not for.

Kickstarter projects are supposed to be for funding a project - i.e. making sure that project happens. I can see, in the case of staffing needs, including some expenses for paying them, but the theory is that people need to be funded while they are producing the thing you are funding.

What you did was "Solicit money for something I already produced so I could buy something I wanted."

And yet *exactly this* has been done on Kickstarter practically since it was founded -- Greg Stolze, in particular, has done a ton of story ransoming, the first (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gregstolze/regret-with-math-an-eternal-short-story) when Kickstarter was just four months old. He's done 27 projects by now. It's up to Kickstarter to review whether a project meets their guidelines or not, and they review every single project before it can launch. It can take a few days, and it can require a couple of rounds of approvals.

The ban on fund-your-life projects is for raising money with no actual deliverable at the end. No project, if you will. I had a deliverable: I released the story online, recorded and sent out an audio version, wrote a number of bespoke short stories that I later released as an anthology, and finally made sure all the backers knew how to get the anthology for free.

This is absolutely an acceptable practice on Kickstarter, and has been all along. You may think Kickstarter should be something else, but only Kickstarter is the arbiter of what they actually are. You're free to start your own crowdfunding platform if you dislike how they manage theirs.

Old Hack
06-18-2013, 08:10 PM
I agree with Amadan.

Kickstarter campaigns are intended to help fund creative work, not pay wages or buy you fun stuff. If you want an iPhone, save up for one out of the sales of your book.

These points have anything to do with your "big philosophic question". Of course it's acceptable for creative people to earn money from their creative endeavours. But that's not what you did with Kickstarter, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

Andrhia
06-18-2013, 08:42 PM
Kickstarter campaigns are intended to help fund creative work, not pay wages or buy you fun stuff.

Paying an artist for their labor IS funding creative work.

The point of Kickstarter isn't just to bring art into the world, created eternally by starving artists who have to find some other way to put food on the table. It's about finding a new way for creators to make a living. You can't say you're going to fund art while simultaneously refusing to fund the artist.

Kickstarter is about connecting a creator with an audience so the artist can get money for their work independently of a studio, a publisher, a gallery, or a distributor. It's just me and my audience, and it's entirely up to them to choose whether what I'm offering is worth their attention and money.

And please note: I didn't take the money and run without delivering anything. I didn't tell anyone that I'd be spending the money on editing services, feeding orphans, or otherwise make any representation that was inaccurate. This was not lying, cheating, and stealing. I used a tool in compliance with how others have used it and continue to use it.

I have good fortune in life such that I could use the money in this case to buy a phone. That doesn't mean it's wrong for me to do crowdfunding, it just means I'm lucky to command a pretty good day rate for my work-for-hire writing. (Well, once the invoices get paid, anyway.)


If you want an iPhone, save up for one out of the sales of your book.
See, I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I did. People bought into the story, they got it and I got some pocket money, the end.

And actually -- a backer reminded me that on social media I did in fact call it 'Project I Want a New Phone Wah-Wah-Wah.' So even on THAT level, backers knew what they were funding explicitly.

If you think that's not what Kickstarter should be used for, well, I disagree, and so do people like ex. Matt Forbeck, who's making a pretty OK living off of Kickstarter proceeds, as I understand it. And more to the point, Kickstarter disagrees, too.

Old Hack
06-18-2013, 09:17 PM
The point of Kickstarter isn't just to bring art into the world, created eternally by starving artists who have to find some other way to put food on the table. It's about finding a new way for creators to make a living. You can't say you're going to fund art while simultaneously refusing to fund the artist.

I understand that: but as I understand it--and I might be wrong here, and if I am, I apologise--you had already written the story when you started your Kickstarter campaign; and you didn't make it clear in your Kickstarter campaign that you were doing it in order to get yourself an iPhone.

If that had been clear, then I'd have no problem with your actions.


And please note: I didn't take the money and run without delivering anything. I didn't tell anyone that I'd be spending the money on editing services, feeding orphans, or otherwise make any representation that was inaccurate.

No one has suggested that you did. What I'm suggesting, however, is that you didn't make clear on your Kickstarter campaign how you intended to spend the money it raised for you.


And actually -- a backer reminded me that on social media I did in fact call it 'Project I Want a New Phone Wah-Wah-Wah.' So even on THAT level, backers knew what they were funding explicitly.

No, they didn't. Because unless you've edited it since it ran, you didn't make it clear on your Kickstarter campaign page what you were running the campaign for (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andrhia/shivas-mother-a-story). As it stands, the page you linked to earlier contains no mention of an iPhone, and that seems deceptive to me.

Andrhia
06-18-2013, 09:31 PM
I understand that: but as I understand it--and I might be wrong here, and if I am, I apologise--you had already written the story when you started your Kickstarter campaign; and you didn't make it clear in your Kickstarter campaign that you were doing it in order to get yourself an iPhone.

If that had been clear, then I'd have no problem with your actions.


FWIW, I've had a look at my reports; when I ran the KS, analytics hadn't existed yet, so this was the first time. Here's what I found: Zero of my backers were strangers. (And I mean there were only 25 of them.) Every one was someone I knew, mostly from Twitter. Given how I promoted it and where the traffic came from, I can guarantee everyone knew what I was spending the money on.

Not that it matters. It didn't say in the project, because I genuinely don't think it was relevant. But it should be clear even to a complete stranger wandering in by mistake that "I am going to take this already-written story and post it on my blog under a Creative Commons license" is not a costly endeavor.

slhuang
06-18-2013, 09:35 PM
I understand that: but as I understand it--and I might be wrong here, and if I am, I apologise--you had already written the story when you started your Kickstarter campaign; and you didn't make it clear in your Kickstarter campaign that you were doing it in order to get yourself an iPhone.

If that had been clear, then I'd have no problem with your actions.

No one has suggested that you did. What I'm suggesting, however, is that you didn't make clear on your Kickstarter campaign how you intended to spend the money it raised for you.

No, they didn't. Because unless you've edited it since it ran, you didn't make it clear on your Kickstarter campaign page what you were running the campaign for (http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/andrhia/shivas-mother-a-story). As it stands, the page you linked to earlier contains no mention of an iPhone, and that seems deceptive to me.

I know nothing about KS Terms of Service, I've never used the thing, and I've donated only once (to a project I believed in that some friends of mine were doing). So I can't comment on whether or not this sort of thing is okay by KS rule or by KS practice, though it sounds from the linked examples like it is at least accepted in practice.

That disclaimer out of the way -- as a random person reading Andrhia's page, I think she was very clear. I would not have felt deceived if I had donated to her campaign. She made it very clear that she had already written the story and that she was "ransoming" it, and I don't think there was any implication she needed more funds for anything related to the story. From the KS ad, I think it's very clear she was asking people to pay her, and if she got paid for it, she was releasing it, and if she wasn't, she wouldn't. After that, I think she's correct that whatever she wanted to do with the money is her business (by which I mean, that's how I would feel if I had backed her).

So, as a random stranger who never uses KS, I would not have felt duped had I donated to her campaign. I think she was clear. Others may vary, but there's another data point for y'all. :)

Amadan
06-18-2013, 11:42 PM
Paying an artist for their labor IS funding creative work.


So, by your rationalization, what significance does Kickstarter's rule against "pay my bills" or "fund my toys" projects have, since there is nothing you could not spend money on that wouldn't "philosophically" fall under the category of "paying you for labor"?

I don't see what the difference between "Ransom a story I wrote" and "Use Kickstarter as a storefront" is, other than that in the latter case, everyone who pays gets the story, while in the former, you only get the story if everyone pays.

So if Kickstarter is cool with being a self-publishing storefront, fine, but I don't think that's the intent.

girlyswot
06-19-2013, 12:43 AM
So if Kickstarter is cool with being a self-publishing storefront, fine, but I don't think that's the intent.

I honestly think they are fine with that.

It's weird to me, because it's not how they present themselves. But by allowing funding way beyond the initial amount asked for, all projects have the potential to become storefronts. Once the costs are covered, backers are giving money in order to receive rewards. That's it. And, as Andrhia has repeatedly pointed out, her project was passed without any problems by their project checkers. They were fine with it.

heza
06-19-2013, 12:57 AM
So, by your rationalization, what significance does Kickstarter's rule against "pay my bills" or "fund my toys" projects have, since there is nothing you could not spend money on that wouldn't "philosophically" fall under the category of "paying you for labor"?

I don't see those prohibited activities as being the same in spirit as the project in question.

To me, "pay my bills" is simply that--a project where you ask people to give you charity to pay bills or to buy something specific, and you're offering nothing in return. I don't see how this project violates that rule.


I don't see what the difference between "Ransom a story I wrote" and "Use Kickstarter as a storefront" is, other than that in the latter case, everyone who pays gets the story, while in the former, you only get the story if everyone pays.To me, it seemed more like everyone gets the story if a few people pay. I won't argue that it's not reminiscent of a storefront situation, but if it had been a true storefront, only the people who paid would have gotten to read--which is what you have when you self publish to KDP or wherever.

In my mind, the project was "make a finished short story available to the public, free of charge, under a creative commons license." The cost associated with that was for the author to recoup the cost of producing the material.

If writers deserve to make a living off their writing, then we'll assume that they're not obligated to give their work away for free. That means to see publication, the work had to be sold to the marketplace (i.e., bought by a magazine or anthology). It could also have been self published, but there's no guarantee that would manage to recoup investment in the production. The alternative was to start a kickstarter project where readers could become patrons, thereby funding to recoup the author's work, enabling the piece to be distributed online for free.

This idea actually gets brought up from time to time in the discussions that come around about length of copyright. .. about how it used to be that authors had patrons who funded their lifestyles so they could spend their time producing art. I think Kickstarter can be used in that way. I don't see that it's a bad thing... and I think the question of does the project have to be unfinished or can it be completed before the funding is requested might be an issue of semantics.

A lot of organizations online start as one thing and then evolve to serve multiple purposes. I don't think that's a bad thing, and Kickstarter--having vetted the project and approved it--doesn't seem to think so either. From time to time people talk about how it'd be great if there was a way for artists to be supported by patrons and be able to release their work for free. Maybe this is the start of returning to a model sort of like that....

Andrhia
06-19-2013, 02:51 AM
I honestly think they are fine with that.

It's weird to me, because it's not how they present themselves. But by allowing funding way beyond the initial amount asked for, all projects have the potential to become storefronts. Once the costs are covered, backers are giving money in order to receive rewards. That's it. And, as Andrhia has repeatedly pointed out, her project was passed without any problems by their project checkers. They were fine with it.

See, to me, 'Kickstarter is not a storefront' is a message directed more to backers than to the people running the project. That's because of the element of risk involved in backing a Kickstarter project. There's a non-zero chance that a Kickstarter project will ship late, or never ship at all, so Kickstarter doesn't want funders coming into the deal with the same mindset as if they were browsing on Etsy. ...And then getting angry when they don't get their goodies in time for a birthday or Christmas or what have you.

And speaking of Etsy, Kickstarter also doesn't want you selling allegedly handmade one-of-a-kind wedding dresses that were really mass-produced in China as part of an alleged gown-a-hundred brides "art" project. (Though... man, that would be a fun art project, wouldn't it?) Selling manufactured goods as if they were handcrafted is a rampant problem on Etsy, and that's precisely the sort of thing that "no finished goods/we are not a storefront" is meant to prevent. To their vast credit, they've been wildly successful at keeping that kind of thing off the site. Probably because they DO vet every project by hand.

RLMcKeown
06-20-2013, 04:58 AM
Kickstarter aside, I'm really interested in your Lucy project as I've been thinking of doing something similar on my blog. Lucy's story sounds really cool. I'll definitely be following your diary!

Andrhia
07-04-2013, 04:46 AM
Numbers!

May
iBooks: n/a
Amazon: 15 sold
B&N: 1 sold
Gumroad: 3 sold


June
iBooks: 7 sold (five of those were probably free, Draft2Digital makes it hard to tell)
Amazon: 12 sold (Lucy); 5 sold and ~150 freebies (Shiva's Mother)
B&N: 3 sold
Gumroad: 3 sold (one of them free), including one subscription to the whole series for $10. Woohoo!


Some things to note: Episode 1 is free on Kobo, iBooks and Gumroad, but wasn't at the beginning of the month. I sold zero copies on Kobo. :)

Shiva's Mother and Other Stories did a free promotion in June and I was astonished to see it continue to sell after that. It hadn't sold a copy in months!

Episode 2 of Lucy Smokeheart was released on Amazon and B&N on June 9, but didn't make it through Draft2Digital until... hmm... the 23rd, I think. I set the price to free for Episode 1 a couple of days later, but you can't do it on Amazon without KDP Select, so I've reported a lower price to Amazon and I'm crossing my fingers about price-matching.

And of course all of this isn't including the 251 existing subscribers on the email list to get the whole serial as it goes up.

I'll probably have Episode 3 up in the next handful of days, which will almost certainly result in a short-term sales boost as I promote it. I figure when I get Episode 4 out, I'll also introduce an Omnibus bundle of 1-4 for $2.99. I also figure I'll start looking into pulling in favors re: podcasts and blog appearances at some point, but I can't decide if I'm better off waiting for 4 episodes released before I really start to push.

Andrhia
07-10-2013, 06:25 AM
Lucy episode 3 is out to subscribers now! Delayed because my illustrator's poor computer is on its way out, but hopefully I can make up a few days this month and get back to publishing in the 1st.

Waiting for the Amazon link to go live. Why does it have to be so slowwwwwwww? Actually -- I'd be really curious what kinds of turnaround everyone sees between clicking 'submit' and having a live product on Amazon. They say 12 hours but I feel like I've seen it go much, much faster than that.

Andrhia
07-10-2013, 07:21 AM
...for future reference, my answer today was: click to available, about five hours.

Andrhia
07-12-2013, 09:23 PM
I'm not having much traction now that Episode 3 is out. It's been a couple of days... but I've only sold one each of Episodes 1 and 2, none of 3, and not even moving free copies on iBooks. I've pulled everyone but Amazon to go into KDP Select and do a free promotion. We'll see how that goes. :)

AnneGlynn
07-15-2013, 08:52 AM
Thanks for the update. Sales remain such a mystery to me. Keep us updated!

Andrhia
07-17-2013, 05:23 PM
Running my free-on-Amazon promotion for Lucy Smokeheart Episode #1 today. I am strangely nervous about it! O_O What if I can't even GIVE it away?! Sob!

merrihiatt
07-17-2013, 05:52 PM
From the stats I just saw on Amazon, you have no need to worry. And, it's only 7am in my part of the world!

Andrhia
07-17-2013, 06:39 PM
From the stats I just saw on Amazon, you have no need to worry. And, it's only 7am in my part of the world!

No, it's doing better now! And I'm trying to relax and get through some revisions due today. Whew.

Though I just swapped one of the categories -- I took a look at the other free puzzles/games and it's all how-to guides and walkthroughs. #8 out of 8 free isn't THAT great. :roll:

annetpfeffer
07-17-2013, 07:29 PM
Just a note that I've been following your efforts with interest and wish you all the best -- good luck to you!

Andrhia
08-23-2013, 08:20 PM
Haven't followed up in a while -- I need to post some new numbers. I will say that I'm regretting signing episode 1 up for KDP Select. The free promotions don't seem to move the needle on buying other episodes so much.

Some of that might be the time-of-year slump... and numbers are picking up quite a bit now I've released episode 4. Still, I don't think the benefit KDP Select gives me has been worth the loss of other sales channels.

merrihiatt
08-24-2013, 12:28 AM
Sorry to hear that, Andrhia. It varies so much with Select.

RLMcKeown
08-24-2013, 06:59 AM
Sorry to hear Select isn't working well for you. I've heard similar stories lately, which is too bad since it seemed to work so well for most people not too long ago. Wishing you all the best!

Andrhia
01-29-2014, 08:19 PM
Right -- long time no update! Three more episodes out, sales have been growing slowly but steadily. I'm giving KDP Select another shot because of some number-crunching -- sales at Amazon fell off quite a bit after I left KDP Select.

I've also had some luck with giving away episode #3 and having it drive sales of episodes #1 and 2, FWIW.

Mainly, though, I'm posting here because I did a blog post filled with pretty charts and graphs about my sales numbers. [link removed by moderator] I hope you find it informative.

Old Hack
01-29-2014, 09:23 PM
Andrhia, you're welcome to discuss your stats here, but please don't direct traffic to your blog like that: it's borderline spammy, and not encouraged.

I've edited out your link.

Andrhia
01-29-2014, 09:58 PM
OK, then, sorry -- I didn't realize that wasn't cool, and didn't want to have to recreate the image links, basically. Most of the text as follows.

---

The big conclusions: Since the Kickstarter ended and I began self-publishing the episodes, I've made $141.04 extra from Lucy to date (roughly -- this isn't excluding a small amount of transaction fees and some currency conversions may be off.) I've sold 136 individual episodes, 10 new subscriptions, and I've given away 185 episodes in all.
I'll also note that this includes 6 episodes over the course of 8 months; I'm releasing one new episode every five to six weeks, roughly, which is... meh, it's OK.

https://static.squarespace.com/static/52656c38e4b0862f16928141/t/52e00171e4b012addc894630/1390412146559/Lucy%20Raw%20Data.jpg?format=750w

But let's see some of this in pretty chart format, shall we? Maybe we can pick out some interesting stories based on this data. Here's the first one, income by month:

https://static.squarespace.com/static/52656c38e4b0862f16928141/t/52e00579e4b0440a09740d10/1390413178232/Income%20By%20Month.jpg?format=500w

August and December have both been really great months for me, for a definition of "really great" that means "I earned enough to take the whole family to McDonald's one night."

This speaks directly to the heart of that debate about how much money a self-published author can or might be making. It's pretty clear Lucy Smokeheart isn't making me much of a living, and if I had a day job, I shouldn't be quitting it for this. It's also interesting that there just isn't a clear trend here, not up, not down. I have eight months of data and still not much idea what makes a good month and what doesn't.

Then there's Sales by Retail Outlet.

https://static.squarespace.com/static/52656c38e4b0862f16928141/t/52e00595e4b0440a09740d5c/1390413206408/Sales%20by%20Outlet.jpg?format=500w

No surprise here: Amazon is absolutely the gorilla in the room, followed by Barnes & Noble/Nook.

I sell copies on Apple/iTunes, but in a volume only marginally higher than episodes I sell directly through Payhip (or previously, Gumroad.)

In all of the time I have been collecting data, I have never once sold an episode of Lucy Smokeheart on Kobo. As far as I can tell, maintaining a presence on Kobo is pointless.

Then there's one that's a little bit of a mythbuster here: Sales vs. Freebies.

https://static.squarespace.com/static/52656c38e4b0862f16928141/t/52e005a6e4b0440a09740d8e/1390413223510/Sales%20vs.%20Freebies.jpg?format=500w

If you squint, it looks like there's a little bump the month after I've done a lot of giving away episodes, but a closer look at the data doesn't support that reading. The giveaways have all been episode 1, so further sales would be skewed toward later episodes. That hasn't happened.

So it may well be that freebies lead to sales... but that doesn't seem to be panning out particularly well for me. I dunno, maybe I'm doing it wrong. But the correlation of freebies=future sales just isn't there for me.

That said... I had the first episode of Lucy Smokeheart enrolled in KDP Select up until early September, and single-episode sales have been stagnant since then... mostly on Amazon. That leads me to speculate that dropping out of KDP Select has been bad news for Lucy Smokeheart overall.

https://static.squarespace.com/static/52656c38e4b0862f16928141/t/52e00bf6e4b0523759b62b6d/1390414838585/Sales%20by%20Outlet%20by%20Month.jpg?format=500w

See this last chart, Sales by Outlet per Month. It's true, Amazon hasn't been so good to me since I dropped out of KDP Select, though that's been disguised by a tiny picking-up of sales from B&N. And given the huge percentage of my sales are in fact on Amazon, I'm reconsidering that whole KDP thing again. At the very least, this is going to require some serious thought.

So in conclusion: This is what a successful Kickstarted ebook serial looks like once it makes it to the self-publishing phase. These are not impressive numbers. These aren't even fund-a-Starbucks-habit numbers. Of course my sales are skewed -- remember I have 248 subscribers getting every episode of Lucy Smokeheart as I write them, and they've already paid for those. (Plus another ten entitled to it... but they never filled out the backer survey.) I cannibalized my base of friends, family, and ardent supporters before I ever exported the first ebook.

But even so, man, it's a good thing this isn't my day job. ...Not that I have a day job...

Andrhia
01-29-2014, 10:04 PM
Also adding -- after I wrote that post, I did sign up for KDP Select again and pull down from Draft2Digital. Then I did a promo giveaway of episode #3 (hey, anything is worth trying once, right?) that looks like it HAS driven sales for episodes #1 and #2. Some evidence for giving away a middle chapter, not just the beginning.

Meanwhile, January is shaping up to be my best month ever, though I'm not precisely clear on why. It's all haruspicy.

merrihiatt
01-29-2014, 11:31 PM
Thanks for the update!