With so much aplomb (and promise) at the start, it seems appropriate now, after The Lightstream Chronicles, Kickstarter effort proved to be unsuccessful, to double-check the toe tag, pull back the white sheet, and put an analytic eye at what might have gone awry. When it comes to Kickstarter, I think there are potentially three categories where you either succeed or fail.
I would divide awareness into two types.
The first are those who were already aware of the graphic novel project.
Though I did not know it at the beginning, and none of the research that I conducted prior to the launch indicated that this was a critical factor — it was a critical factor. This group can probably be split into two parts as well; those who had tacit knowledge, and those who were genuine fans. The tacit knowledge group includes family and friends, but most of these people, while aware of what you are doing, don’t really understand it, or what would have compelled you to do such a strange thing to begin with. The tacit knowledge group also includes, what I would call, colleagues. This group understands what you are doing and may even have an appreciation for it, but (apparently) not to the level that would motivate them to act in support of it. I included fellow MFA candidates, professors, and associates from my speaking engagement earlier this year at the RMCCGN conference and even a few students. My real, true-blue friends came through with flying colors, but the more pertinent question, it appears, is how many of these were genuine fans. While there were some among the aware, that were completely impressed, full of excitement and anxious to read more, they were probably 2 percent of this total number.
The second category is those who were alerted to it at launch time. In this case, I drew a much wider circle than the 75 or 80 people who fell into the first category, but you can divide this group into two parts also. The first of these are the likes of past associates, acquaintances, and professional contacts. I bugged the heck out of these people. So, it’s not like I sat back and waited for them to embrace the project and respond. Some of this group were critical of the fact that they had not heard from me in “forever” and now three times in one month. Hey. They way I see it, is if you’re friends with a colleague from your past, then you’re glad to hear from them whenever they contact you, and you not sitting around keeping score.
There were also some, design fiction types in this group. For the masses, I did not play up the design fiction side of the graphic novel. Those in the scholarly community knew of it, my professors and some from the “aware” group, but with all that was already different about this graphic novel, I figured the design fiction side would just scare average readers off. For the elite few that know about design fiction and have read my blog, my paper or are aware that I’ve been published on the topic, I assumed that this was evidence of a legitimate proof-of-concept. Here, again, it looks like I misjudged. Perhaps chapter 1 was just insufficient to seat the design fiction idea for them. I admit it’s not obvious at first, but then, how many people look at Minority Report or 2001 as a work of design fiction. You have to be looking for it and I thought these people would. A mention from one of these guys would probably have helped. (Maybe I should have sent along a draft of my thesis).
The last group in the awareness category was the “blog” press which included high readership web sites that regularly feature new concept art, comic book and graphic novel projects and some graphic design sites as well. This was probably 30 in total. Prior to writing the release, I researched proper press release form and even spoke with a web-savvy public relations pro on how to improve my chances with the online press. Since the art of this book is its most distinguishing factor, it did not make sense to attach big files to these emails so I uploaded some hi-definition examples to a 3rd party server and supplied them with a link. From stats provided by the site, 9 of the 30 journalists that I contacted downloaded files. Then, over the course of the campaign, I changed the spin on the release two different times, and hit the same people again. Nothing happened with this, and why that is will probably remain a mystery. Since I am a speculating kind of guy, I’m guessing that my design credentials were not as intriguing as publishing credentials might have been to this group. If I had a video game or comic book already on the shelves, I think my project may have been seen as more interesting than merely its face value. It certainly helps when journalists have a name that people recognize. You don’t even need to be recognized in that field, as long as somebody recognizes you. If a rock star decides to draw a comic, it’s news, even if it sucks. I’m not moaning about that. It just the way it works.
I have no doubt that the quality of the art and the story is first rate. This comes from someone who is by all ready his own worst critic. Could it be improved? Always. This book, however, is completely unique and very experiential. The research into the Kickstarter campaign, printing, and custom flash drives, shipping, warehousing; all that stuff, was very thorough. The video, in all its homegrown wonder was compelling, too. I don’t think it was a quality issue.
This is somewhat related to awareness. Let’s face it; a graphic novel is already a niche genre. No surprise there. If you add the science fiction story, the subject matter of future tech and the viewing experience that requires you to have a basic appreciation for CG graphics, then you are looking at a target audience that has a relatively high geek quotient (like me). Add to that, high-definition graphics that reward you if you zoom-in to discover details and clues, then you’ll also need proficiency at making your way around PDF software, and a fluency on the keyboard and mouse. This sounds like a lot for the average reader, but more like a comic book fan with a “gamer” skill set. Could some of the aforementioned blogs have been the ticket to reaching them? Absolutely. But, in the final analysis, I did not reach this group.
Does that mean that only this narrowly defined target will appreciate the book? No, just that they are more likely to “get it.”
It seems, then that my mission should be to begin targeting this group through other means. Until, I am published, the journalists are not going to care. Taking a grass roots approach through a web comic may be the best approach. Then, when the entire story is completed, perhaps I will have a sufficient following of genuine fans that would be willing to be backers to see it come to print.
I’m thinking that way at this point. If you have comments, join in the post mortem. Cheers!