'TWAS - The Roleplaying Game Before Christmas

Friday, 1 February 2019

Gamebook Friday: 'TWAS Kickstarter Post-Mortem

Now that the dust has settled on the 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas Kickstarter, I thought it timely to share a few thoughts I've had about the experience. (The Kickstarter did fund, I'm pleased to say, and thank you to everyone who supported it.)

January, i.e. straight after Christmas, is not the best time to run a Kickstarter. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's the worst time of the year to run a Kickstarter, seeing as how nobody has been paid since mid-December and everyone has blow all their disposable income on Christmas. Which is, obviously, why Kickstarter created the Make 100 initiative, encouraging creators to launch new projects in January that offer at least one reward that is limited to 100 backers. Clearly, it's not only Kickstarter creators and backers who have cash flow problems in the New Year. (Apparently the best months to run crowdfunding campaigns are March and October.)

I have now run ten Kickstarters and only two of them didn't fund. One of those was a campaign to fund production of the short story anthology SHARKPUNK 2, which was part of the original Make 100 programme. That particular project attracted a grand total of 31 backers and raised 8% of its £9,000 funding goal.

So I took a calculated risk launching 'TWAS in January, but it would also then give me time to write and publish the book by Christmas 2019. And I was delighted when it reached its funding goal just over halfway through the campaign's run. But it was from then on that things became a little stressful.

The project plateaued. That's not uncommon for Kickstarters. Generally, most money is raised in the first week and the last few days. What was unusual, in my experience at least, was how many people either reduced or cancelled their pledge altogether after the funding goal was reached, to the point where I was worried that it wouldn't be funded anymore when it got to the end of January.

It was at this time that another series of Kickstarters, run by one company, went from being very late to, apparently, undeliverable, and they were all run to fund the production of gamebooks. Of course, I can't prove that this had any effect on the 'TWAS campaign, but I do know that one backer burnt by the experience dropped his pledge to my project.

And at the risk of biting the hand that feeds me, these failing Kickstarters revealed a weakness in the Kickstarter model; it doesn't actually make any difference if you report a project to Kickstarter. I suppose it might stop the company from being allowed to launch anymore Kickstarters, but there is no real accountability. Unless backers want to take those creators who don't come up with the goods to court, which would probably cost more than the money lost due to the Kickstarter not delivering, there isn't really anything anyone can do. It relies on the creators managing their funds effectively and, at the end of the day, coming up with the goods.

I am acutely aware of this, at the moment, as people have put their trust in me on numerous occasions, and currently backers are waiting on three ACE Gamebooks. But don't worry, we are about to press 'Go' on the printing of NEVERLAND - Here Be Monsters!, Beowulf Beastslayer will be going to the play-testers by the end of this weekend, and 'TWAS is already planned and under way, and the illustrations are already being produced.

I'm pleased to say that the final 48 hours saw a rapid rise in backer numbers again (probably because people had clicked the 'Remind me' button, earlier in the campaign), and 'TWAS - The Krampus Night Before Christmas actually ended up being my third most backed ACE Gamebook.

Despite this success, I won't be running another Kickstarter for a while. I want to clear the decks regarding the books I've already committed to first, and am toying with the idea of writing my next gamebook before I crowdfund it (although that carries a big risk, if the Kickstarter doesn't fund). I'm also waiting to see what impact Brexit will have, particularly regarding overseas postage costs.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter will doubtless be aware of my personal views about Brexit, but putting that to one side, one thing I can tell you is that production costs of the hardbacks of YOU ARE THE HERO have doubled since the second edition was printed in 2017.

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