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Standing at the Brink

One week from today I will launch my first Kickstarter for my scenario He Who Laughs Last, for which I have written about 20,000 words. Writing the scenario, which I did in three waves, was mostly enjoyable grunt work. Thinking of fun, crazy horror scenarios is the easy part – the challenge is finding the discipline to get on the computer to write 5 days a week. But once I’m in the groove, scenario writing is really just about putting word after word. Hard work, but very straight-forward.

Last August, right before BigBadCon in Oakland, CA, I made the decision that I would launch my Kickstarter around the beginning of February, to time it with my annual attendance of DunDraCon in San Ramon, which I have been attending since 1984 or so. My reasons for this were two-fold:

  1. If I launched right before DDC, then I could run the game at the con and use that to generate interest for my project. Most projects go through a lull in the middle, and while people don’t generally pledge during cons, I figured if I could get those 12 people who played in the game excited enough to pledge right when they came home, it would be worth it.
  2. More importantly, though, I wasn’t actually ready to run a KS project back in August. When I started researching all the things you need to do to build an online presence, I quickly learned that I really had none of them. No blog, no Twitter account, no place to send people to find out about what I’m working on (aside from my personal FB, which doesn’t count). I needed some time to get all these things together and I needed to start ASAP.

So that’s what I did — I started to build my online presence right after BigBadCon, and now that I’m here in February, I wanted to take a look back at all the work I’ve done, to savor the moment before the madness truly begins. I’m not saying I’ve done everything needed, some of which just takes ongoing contributions and writing. But I know that I’ve done the hard work — the real work, not the fake work of just sitting around and writing a scenario — necessary to make my project a success.

Since the beginning of September, I have taken the following actions in preparation for my Kickstarter:

  • Blog – Well, you’re here, right? I needed an online home that could be both a blog and a project page, and with some help from my awesome friend Wade, Weird8 was born. Back to my original point, though, the main work here is writing and more writing. This year I hope to get into a cadence of regular posts, but for now it’s just whenever I can make time in between prepping for the KS. Still, now I have a home.
  • Twitter – Honestly, I didn’t really want to get a Twitter account, but now that I’m here I finally understand what all the fuss is about. I can see why people get all wrapped up in writing their witty and concise 140 character updates, and how it could fundamentally change how people communicate. And again, it just takes some brute effort to continue communicating in this manner, sending out regular updates and chatting with people from around the world. But though many of my 770 followers are just part of the standard Twitter “I follow you, you follow me” process, I have engaged with at least a dozen new people who are genuinely interested in my project and share many similar interests. This has made it worth it.
  • Collaborators – Early on I realized that I couldn’t (and didn’t want to) run this whole KS project by myself, so I found myself some collaborators. First, the book just wouldn’t be the book with0ut the work of Jake Coolidge, who did an amazing job on the layout, cover, maps and overall look and feel. But then I met Gregory Geiger, who has helped me not only with my KS video and managing my marketing/press, but is also full of amazing ideas and is my go-to guy for just about any question. I love collaboration and this project has truly been the fruits of our collective labors.
  • W8 on FB – Whether or not it’s on the way out, Facebook is still the largest social media platform, and I had to create a space on FB for my content — so I created Dave Sokolowski and Weird8 (so you can search for both). Ultimately I will triangulate content between this blog, my Twitter feed, and my FB page, but for right now it’s sputtering along. Building this up will be a goal of the KS project.
  • FB groups – One of the key places for additional learning have been FB groups, particularly Kickstarter Best Practices and Lessons Learned. It’s a great place to ask questions, get quick and thoughtful answers, and engage people in dialog about the overall KS process. I’ve learned tons about KS here and consider this group to be critical for anyone running a KS project.
  • Industry Expertise – Just as important as that FB group are two key people and their respective homes on the internet: Funding the Dream podcast and Stonemaier Games. These are indispensable resources that I cannot recommend enough – you must check out Richard Bliss’ podcast and Jamie Stegmaier’s page on Kickstarter Lessons. If you aren’t well versed in both of these and you want to launch a KS, I’m not sure how serious you really are.
  • Kickstarter Itself – I have learned more about KS in the past six months than all the previous years combined, and I’ve been pledging there for more than two years. I’ve looked at so many KS projects (especially RPGs) that I can pretty much tell whether a project will succeed in the first few days just by looking at it. I also started backing lots of projects just for $1 so I can be involved in projects that I’m interested in and continue to understand how projects succeed or fail (and I was finally part of two projects that failed). Also, staying in the loop like this keeps me engaged with the community and I have even upped my pledges on a few projects, just because I can see the projects are being run very well and that the end results will be so great.
  • Interviews – I like to interview people and plan to do more of that on this site in the future. As I got nearer to my launch date, I wanted to interview someone with a successful RPG KS project already under their belt. Oscar Rios is the president of Golden Goblin Press, who has just launched his already massively successful second KS project, and was more than welcome to spend some time talking with me about what makes a successful RPG project – and with his project funding in about 24 hours, I think it’s fair to say he knows what he’s talking about. I will be editing the interview and getting it up on this site this week so I can share his insights. Again, it’s just important to keep talking to people and learning.
  • Old Yoggie – Finally, and most importantly, is that I already know where the people who will buy my product hang out online, and I am already part of that greater community. Yog-sothoth.com (or YSDC to us) is the online home of the greater Cthulhu gaming community, of which I’ve been a part of for seven years (as DrummerDave). I’ve writing extensive blogs on RPGs that I’ve run, made friends, and been a part of the overall discussion for long enough that people there know my work and me. It’s critical to know your audience when publishing anything, and I’m quite certain where to find the people who will want to back my project. But it’s not something that I just discovered; I’ve been part of the community for years and will continue to for as long as YSDC is around. Makes this whole thing a lot easier, really.
  • Early Bird – One last thing that I’ve been doing differently: going to bed early and getting up early. I’ve been getting up from between 4:30 and 6am every day for the past month, as well as August to October, which also means I go to bed early. Sleep is so critical on an ongoing basis, but I also need to get up early so I can have some alone time before the rest of the house wakes. Unless you’re lucky enough to have your own office, getting up before everyone else in the house may be the key to finding productive time.

Right now, I’m pretty confident that my Kickstarter will be successful – it’s just a matter of how much money and interest I will raise. I’m only interested in the money so much as I want to produce quality materials that everyone is happy with. I’m really interested in meeting people who find my scenario interesting and want to share this gaming experience with me.

But I feel like I’ve done just about everything I can for someone who is kicking off their writing career with a first KS project. When the project ends, we can look back and see how much impact all these items had on my project’s success. And as they say, nothing good comes easy…

 

3 Comments


  1. // Reply

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