Saturday, 8 June 2013
Some like the perfume in Spain...
Who am I kidding? I'm sure to keep saying it. Jamie and I would love to continue the Fabled Lands series. We have some ideas of our own, and more importantly we have a team of trusted writers who we could work with so that it wouldn't take till the first peal of eternity to get it all finished.
Here's the but. Writers need paying. Even if Jamie and I don't pay ourselves, as we often don't, the writers and artists we work with have mortgages, kids, cats and goldfish to feed. I know what you're thinking. Feed the goldfish to the cats; it's a logic puzzle. Unfortunately, mortgage lenders don't accept repayment in the form of children, however much we all wish they would.
So, what about Kickstarter? The sonic screwdriver of funding, answer to every problem.
I did a post this week over on the Mirabilis blog about using Kickstarter to fund a publishing operation. (The t-shirt version: you can't. The longer version: unless you're famous.) This is not to say Kickstarter isn't a grand idea. You may remember that our good friends at Megara used it to launch their Arcana Agency gamebook, The Thief of Memories, and that was a very successful campaign. My buddy James Wallis used in to get the ball rolling on his Alas Vegas role-playing game. And just today - just today! - Sandy Petersen raised $231,000 for his Cthulhu Wars boardgame.
Let's not try to draw the graph that goes through that last one. It's Cthulhu, after all, and Mr Petersen has a track record adapting Mr Lovecraft's creations to a gaming context. It's an average of $195 per backer - significantly higher than usual for a game project. That doesn't necessarily mean Sandy will be on a Gulfstream to the Bahamas this weekend. The money "raised", you see, actually has to pay for stuff. Manufacture of playing pieces, a board, payment to the artists, postage.
In short, a business with a turnover of a quarter of a million is not making a profit of a quarter million. Or anything like.
Most gamebook Kickstarters begin with books that are already written, or (as in the case of Arcana Agency) that are being funded by enthusiam and willing work as much as by upfront cash. The snag about Fabled Lands is that we have six books to write, each around 750 sections. And then there's the art. Six lovely colour paintings - well, we can't get Kevin Jenkins back, much as I'd like to, as he's an art director at Framestore now and FL couldn't even pay for him to do a sketch on a napkin. And call it a hundred and twenty interior illustrations. Once those are all in, we can set somebody to do the typesetting.
And after all of that is done, we can launch a Kickstarter.
Jamie and I do plan to do something on Kickstarter. But to begin with it needs to be with books that are already written. If we raise some staggering sum and if, after parcelling up all those copies of Blood Sword or whatever, we are left with anything resembling a profit, you can be sure we'll plough it back into new projects.
What Kickstarter really is, and what it works brilliantly at, is a combined tool for pre-subscription sales and publicity. (Hmm, could that be why they gave it the name? Exactly what it says on the tin, right?) Moreover, this is publicity that generates money instead of costing money - though admittedly with a strong upfront risk component. So that's how Jamie and I are planning to use it. We want to build awareness of our many classic gamebook series. Yes, I know you know, but if we expect to get all the way across the Violet Ocean we're going to need a bigger boat. So expect to see some of our work appearing in Kickstarter campaigns over the next six months. And, if you like what you see, throw a few shards our way. You can have a free ride on our Gulfstream, honest.