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As I’m working through the first handful of chapters on my new middle grade project (tentatively titled The Tales of the Bryndlholt), I’m trying to take note of things that will help me as I continue to find this new, younger voice I need for a project such as this. I’ve been very steeped in an adult tone with largely adult characters with broad, adult concerns for so long, that it’s been hard breaking out of that shell. I did a lot of study by way of talking with other authors and reading various middle grade and YA books just to try to note the differences I wanted to shoot for, and even examining my own tendencies and an adult fantasist. And I’d come up with a very loose intent for the new voice, but really, thinking about it will only get you so far.
So after working on the world late last year and early this year, then toying with the characters and plot and magic system while I finished up the first draft of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai, I decided I wanted to dive in and start figuring this thing out.
It’s going well so far. I noticed myself consciously having to slip into a younger frame of mind as I was writing. This is fine. At least I’m doing it instead of blindly forging ahead with my normal, ingrained tone and voice. Over time, that will (I suspect) start to fall away, and I’ll become more and more accustomed to this voice. We’ll see.
As I was returning to the writing tonight, however, I realized something. I was struggling with how to get the young protagonist—a boy named Hadrian who wakes up in a strange forest before a great, burning tree, with no recollection of how he got there—into the company other kids as soon as possible. He’s discovered by an axemaiden named Sigrid (similar to a shield-maiden, a la Lagertha from Vikings) who brings him to the King for questioning. Initially I had Sigrid as the King’s wife, then his sister. As I started to worry that Hadrian was simply too far removed (page-wise) from children his age, I started to envision bringing various kids into the picture, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized the answer was staring me in the face.
I had planned on Hadrian having a crush on a girl in the village he’s eventually moved to in order to recuperate and regain his memory. But then I thought, why not make Sigrid that girl? It would give Hadrian the connection I was looking for. It would begin building the bond between them right from the first chapter. It would tie these two together, which is really what I needed to anchor the story and get it moving.
So today, I recast Sigrid as a girl a few years older than Hadrian. She’s a very capable young royal, not afraid to get her hands dirty (like many of those of royal birth in the Bryndlholt) and she’s someone Hadrian can easily fall for. On a more mercenary level, she acts as the perfect bridge for Hadrian. She will tie him to the people who hold power in the Bryndlholt, she’ll act as a love interest (a crush), and she’ll even act as a foil to the other children Hadrian will learn and grow with, younger kids who might either look up to or detest (or both) Sigrid.
In any case, I’m pleased with the progress so far. I want to get at least as far as a major turning point in the book, maybe a few chapters out, before stopping and taking stock. Rewriting and trying to get some feedback from alpha readers.
And I’ll share more lessons learned along the way.
Wish me luck!
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve finally finished the first draft of my new book, Twelve Kings in Sharakhai! I finished what I refer to as the zeroth draft about two months ago, but I don’t really consider the very first pass of a book a readable draft. That first raw draft is filled with so many needed changes, that I wouldn’t (under normal circumstances) send it out for review. Why? Because of the simple fact that I know there are so many things wrong with it. If you’re going to have someone review your work, you want them focusing on the things that you can’t find, not wasting their time and yours on the things you already know need fixing.
So what I do when I’m working on the zeroth draft is make the book as readable as I can without going back and changing the small things that would be better left for later. To be clear, I will go back and revise if I find something that’s critical to the plot or so much a part of the character that I’d have trouble writing about them unless I fleshed it out. But unless I find those sorts of things, I’ll simply take down a note and forge ahead, knowing I’ll go back on the run-through after the draft is done and fix it up. That’s why I don’t consider a draft ready until the second pass is complete.
I’m feeling really good about this book. It’s not perfect. It’ll probably need at least two more passes before I’m done. But it’s ready for critical readers. I’ll be sending it off soon to my editors and my agent, plus a few beta readers. Then in several weeks (or months), when I get all their feedback back, I’ll work on the second draft, which will consist of two steps: specific changes as per the recommendations of my editors and readers, plus another full run-through. Then it’s probably off to production, but we’ll see. One step at a time.
If you’re curious to get an idea of what this book is going to feel like, it’s basic aesthetic, take a look at the Pinterest page I created for it. I use it for inspiration, but it’s also useful to give people an idea of the book’s tone and feel.
I also created a page for the cover, the type of tone I hope the cover strikes. To be clear, though, I don’t imagine I’ll get a lot of control over the cover. This is just my way of collecting my thoughts on the subject in case I do.
And here are a few of my favorite images:
Fires of the Desert by Aaron B. Miller
Two Dudes in an Attic recently took on The Winds of Khalakovo, and the result was a very complimentary but also very amusing review.
Anuskaya is built on a foundation of Russian and Slavic culture, rather than the typical Western European, so there are going to be differences for those used to typical epic fantasy. I have no idea how “authentic” any of this is; Beaulieu could write about magical pandas gamboling across the taiga, call it Russian, and I would just nod my head wisely and keep reading.
Here’s an astute paragraph.
The heart of Khalakovo is the world building. (The other heart, because this is a multi-hearted creature, is the swashbuckling, but that is a discussion for later.) Beaulieu’s creation has to rate near the top of recent fantasy, because Anuskaya is such a unique, intriguing world. The relationship between Khalakovo and the other duchies, each of them windswept, mountainous islands, is politically convincing. The windships are a tad extravagant, but well worth the extra magic and suspension of disbelief required to appreciate them. The conflict between the Landed and the Aramahn is also fascinating, mirroring more familiar colonial-aboriginal relations in our world. Finally, I wonder if the Maharraht, a fanatical, terrorist offshoot of the Aramahn, are purposely modeled on the PLO, or if those associations just come naturally because the Middle East is so prevalent in the news.
I had not intentionally modeled Lays off of the PLO, but certainly the modern conflicts in the Middle East have heavily influenced this series.
And here’s the wrap-up:
Khalakovo is some of the best fantasy I have read this year. Regular readers will know that I appreciate my books to be off-kilter, political, and rational, so it’s no surprise that Khalakovo meets with my approval. It won’t be too long before I mow down the second and third books in the series; my biggest hope after that is that Beaulieu takes another stab at science fiction. That would make me a happy camper.
Rating: The 2008 Russian National Team. Led by Andrei Arshavin, the Russians smashed their way to the semi-finals of the Euro, humbling the highly fancied Dutch along the way (boo), before finally going down in glorious defeat to ascendant Spain. Khalakovo doesn’t go down in defeat to anything, but does dazzle unexpectedly and involve vodka.
I’ll be at GenCon this coming weekend, Thursday through Sunday. Will you? If you will be, stop by and listen to a panel, or visit me in the dealer area (in Author’s Alley). I’ll have freebies to give away at my solo panels (The Structure of Scenes, Tension on Every Page, and Schrödinger’s Plot)!
I’m super excited about this GenCon. Not only do I get to hang out with other writers and talk shop, I get to meet fans and maybe play a game or two. This year I’m taking my first stab at True Dungeon, a two-part adventure, even!
See you there!
Room 2: Computers & Security (Moderator)
Dealer’s Hall: Signing Tables
Room 3: The Structure of Scenes (Moderator)
Room 1: The Art of Storytelling
Dealer’s Hall: Signing Tables
Room 3: Tension on Every Page (Moderator)
Room 3: Meet the Writers of the Future
Dealer’s Hall: Signing Tables
Room 3: Schrödinger’s Plot (Moderator)
Room 3: Reading (Moderator)
Room 1: Genre Blender (Moderator)
Sami Airola over at Rising Shadow recently read and reviewed Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories. I’m very pleased and flattered that he enjoyed it so much. Here’s an excerpt from the review:
Bradley P. Beaulieu’s Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories is an excellent and fantastic short story collection. In my opinion this collection deserves all the praise it gets, because it’s been a while since I’ve read a fantasy short story collection that can rival this one in terms of quality, versatility and originality.
Some of the stories in Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories are almost like fairy tales for adults while others are more epic in nature. This is nice, because it creates diversity. In my honest opinion each of these stories is a small gem. All of these stories can be read over and over again, because they’re fine examples of quality short stories that can withstand the test of time.
Head on over to Rising Shadow to read the full review.
Tuesday Funk is tonight! I’ll be there. Will you? I’ll be reading along with Jac Jemc, Steven H Silver, Maggie Jenkins, and Dmitry Samarov. Things start up promptly at 7:30. Stop on by if you’re in the area. The Hopleaf is a great venue, and Tuesday Funk is a great way to relax, chat, and expose yourself to some great new writers.
I’m playing a lot more with poetry than I ever have in fiction before. My current WIP revolves around it a bit, and it’s fun to work those muscles, as I haven’t often done so. Here’s a taste. It feels a bit raw to me, but it’ll give you an idea of the rhyme and meter I’m shooting for.
A girl who walks upon the shore,
A woman not yet grown;
She breathes the air of discontent,
Her life is not her own.
She calls upon the river swell,
She wades into the flow;
Wondrous swift it bears her south,
A seed by wind is blown.
She lands upon a distant bank,
A place she doesn’t know;
She looks upon her withered hands,
Not maiden, nor matron, but crone.
This is a poem that my main character, Çeda, finds written on the arm of one of her sister Blade Maidens, a woman who despises Çeda (for reasons that will go unsaid). But in this the two of them have something in common, and they connect, however briefly.
Zombies Need Brains, the new small press started by Joshua Palmatier and Patricia Bray, has officially launched its first title via Kickstarter, a new anthology called Steampunk vs. Aliens. I sat down for a virtual chat with Joshua about the new project and the new press.
The project is running now on Kickstarter, and it’s been going great. As of this writing, it sits only a bit over $600 from its funding goal with over two weeks left. Full disclosure: I’m involved with the project, but I’m also very excited about seeing this reach the market and finding fans of Steampunk and old-school science fiction. There are a ton of great rewards for the Kickstarter, and lots of great stretch goals ahead.
Find out more by visiting the Kickstarter page for Steampunk vs. Aliens.
1. What drew you to Steampunk vs. Aliens initially? What is it about the combination that you thought would be cool for readers or that writers would have a lot of fun with?
Clockwork Universe: Steampunk vs. Aliens was actually Patricia Bray’s idea, which she got after we both went to the movie Cowboys vs. Aliens (mostly to see Daniel Craig). Patricia and I have a list of potential anthology ideas already made up, so when I decided to create the Zombies Need Brains small press, we went to the list of ideas and asked ourselves, “Which idea has the most oomph behind it? Which idea really grabs you by the throat and hangs on?” Out of all of them, steampunk vs. aliens had the greatest oomph. *grin* What draws me to it is the fact that I haven’t seen this kind of mix in genre before, and also the fact that there are just so many possibilities with that concept. Steampunk vs. aliens . . . my mind just explodes with ideas, and I’m not even writing a story for the anthology! So the concept has power to it. I can see readers’ eyes opening wide when they hear about it, and writers’ giggling with glee as they contemplate potential plots. It’s just a cool mix altogether.
2. What do you hope this anthology brings to the marketplace once it’s out and readers start digging in? Are you hoping for a bit of a throwback to the golden age of fiction? A fresh new take on the sub-genre? Something else?
Actually, what I’m hoping for is a good mix of a bunch of different styles, because that’s what Patricia and I like in our anthologies. I’m expecting to see a few stories that are throwbacks to Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. I’m also expecting fresh new takes, more modernistic in flavor. I’m hoping that we see some serious darker stories, as well as some light humorous pieces. That was actually one of the criteria for choosing the anchor authors: we wanted authors with different styles, some that would be more modern, some that would harken back to the golden age of fiction, some that we really don’t know what to expect. In the end, we want a cool mix of different ideas, plots, styles, and conflicts. I’m certain we’ll get it, based on past experience.
3. One of my personal favorite aspects about Kickstarter is its interactive nature, the way that you can interact with potential fans, and have them shape the project. Have you found this to be true of Steampunk vs. Aliens as well? What has been your experience and impressions of interactions with backers of the Kickstarter?
This is my first experience with Kickstarter and it’s certainly been enlightening. There is a ton of communication with the backers, more than I expected, and they have made suggestions and comments that have shaped the project. I encourage this feedback, and try to initiate it by sending everyone a personal thank you note for backing us. Many have made suggestions for how to reach out and find more backers, with things like possible new reward levels, new additions to the book, etc. The comments that had the most impact so far on the project were those suggesting we offer the paperback option immediately. I originally had it as a possible stretch goal, mostly because there’s a significant cost and risk involved with producing a paperback over an ebook. But in the end, I took the comments from the backers into account, and what my dream for this little small press really entails, and decided that if I want a small press, I’m going to actually press something! *grin* So I added the paperback option to the Kickstarter, and I feel good about that decision. The backers have altered the project in other more subtle ways as well. I wish I could act on all of the suggestions (such as making the anthology an open submission; that’s just not feasible at this stage). But I’m certainly considering every suggestion that I’m given.
4. The Kickstarter is only a week in and is doing great, but I imagine there’s always room for improvement. If you could start all over again, would you do anything different? What has been the most successful aspect of the Kickstarter so far?
I know, we still have 3 weeks left and we’re already near $7,000. 70% funded! It’s extremely exciting. I think the most successful aspect of the Kickstarter has been the anchor authors involved in the project. I think this is what’s drawing people into the project and getting them to pledge. I don’t think we’d be doing half as well without their support, both in adding their name to the book, and in helping to spread the word about the Kickstarter to their fans. I knew this was going to be key going into the project. In terms of room for improvement, the biggest item would be the introduction of the paperback option. In the future, I’d definitely have that built into the project and open as a reward level on Day 1. It was a mistake not to have done that with this project, even though the project had only been running for a couple of days before I made the correction. There are still a few things I haven’t introduced to the Kickstarter yet (such as some add-on options), so we’ll see how those go. Will they be worth it? Too much trouble? We’ll see. As I said, this is my first Kickstarter, so it’s all one giant learning experience for me.
5. What’s ahead for ZNB? Where do you hope to take Zombies Need Brains after this initial anthology?
Ah, my future plans! I’d like ZNB to become a force (for good) in the publishing world. I want it to be respected and I intend to do that by treating the readers, authors, editors, and artists with respect myself.
The short term goals are to produce SF&F themed anthologies initially funded by Kickstarter at a rate of about two a year, with the reward levels on Kickstarter steadily decreasing until essentially the readers are simply “preordering” the books, or until I can completely drop using Kickstarter altogether. The first few anthologies will be edited by Patricia Bray and me, but after that I want to pull in additional editors. Similarly, the first few anthologies will be invite-only to published authors, but I intend to work steadily toward open submissions from all writers. There will still be published authors “anchoring” the project, of course, but I intend to eventually be open to new voices in the field. I know writers out there would like open submissions right now, but ZNB needs to gain its feet before that can happen, and the best way to do that is to work with established authors.
I’d like to use ZNB to discover unknown talents in art, as well. The cover art for this project was found by scrolling through Deviant Art. I’d like future books to have covers from undiscovered, or at least unrecognized, artists in the SF&F field.
As for long term goals, I’d like to branch out into original novels, perhaps pick up series that have been abandoned by other publishers (so that readers can find out what happens next), and of course continue publishing anthologies. But I want to take things one step at a time, so that I don’t get overwhelmed and so that the small press doesn’t crash and burn like so many have before this. I believe there is a niche for a small press that produces quality books by great authors with cool cover art, and I think Zombies Need Brains will fill that niche.
Last night I had a fun interview with Angela Yuriko Smith on Journal Jabber, a live online radio show dedicated to writing. The show was a full hour, which was great because it gave us a chance to get into some depth on the things we were talking about. We talked about my books, of course, but also Kickstarters, marketing, self-promotion, writing advice, and balancing the day job, writing, and personal life. I may be biased, but I think it’s worth a listen.
Click here to listen to the show.
You a gamer? A writer? A gaming writer?
Then check out this nice post from Nathan Hall on the upcoming GenCon Writers Symposium.
You can also check out the Writers Symposium page: http://www.genconwriters.com/
I’ll be participating in lots of panels and giving three of my own solo panels, which, by the way, have already sold a large number of seats. Seats are limited, so if you plan to attend, grab a ticket now. Click here to see the full schedule of events at the Writers Symposium.
Here’s a rundown of the panels I’ll be on:
Thursday, August 15th
9am - Realistic Writing: Computers & Security (with Dylan Birtolo, Jerry Gordon, & Donald J. Bingle) – Uninstall that Hollywood OS! Learn to use computers and technology realistically in your stories
11am – Signing in the Dealer’s Hall @ Author’s Alley
1pm – The Structure of Scenes – In-depth seminar: learn everything you need to know about structuring scenes to create compelling stories.
2pm – The Art of Storytelling (with Patrick Rothfuss, Mercedes Lackey, & Larry Dixon) - Storytelling is at the heart of all writing. Learn how to tell unforgettable, irresistible stories.
5pm – Literary Alchemy (with Patrick Rothfuss, Gregory A. Wilson, & James L. Sutter) – The right words can make a reader laugh, cry, or leap for joy. Explore the uncanny power of words.
Friday, August 16th
9am – Podcasting (with Gregory A. Wilson & Howard Tayler) - Experienced author-podcasters share the tricks for the trade.
12pm – Signing in the Dealer’s Hall @ Author’s Alley
3pm – Tension on Every Page – In-depth seminar: discuss types of tension, as well as ways to maximize them to keep your reader glued to the page.
4pm – Meet the Writers of the Future (with David Farland, Jim Hines, Gary Kloster, & Geoffrey Girard) – David Farland and a panel of authors who have won the prestigious Writers of the Future prize discuss the art of writing great stories.
Saturday, August 17th
11am – Signing in the Dealer’s Hall @ Author’s Alley
1pm – Schrödinger’s Plot – In-depth seminar: master plotting techniques, from basic structural concepts to plotting to breaking writer’s block.
4pm – Reading with Mary Robinette Kowal
5pm – Genre Blender (with Erik Scott de Bie, Joel Shepherd, and Monica Valentinelli) - Discover ways to mix your favorite genres without leaving the reader’s head spinning.
If you come to GenCon, come say hello. I’d love to see you!
I put this squarely in the “really cool news” column. Justin Landon via his newly designed Staffer’s Book Review just gave his early thoughts on next year’s Hugos, and I managed to snag two spots!
One is for “Prima”, an original novelette set in The Winds of Khalakovo universe that I wrote for my story collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten.
“Prima” is a story about a ballerina who comes face to face with one of the stranger consequences of the story told in The Lays of Anuskaya. I really enjoyed writing all three of the new stories for the collection, but I have to admit that “Prima” was the one that surprised me the most. Why? Because it was probably the most organic. I planned and plotted the other two stories fairly heavily (for me, anyway; YMMV), but Prima just flowed. It had me worried at the time, because I hate feeling adrift, but it ended up being a really cool story. It’s one of the more character-driven stories I’ve ever written.
The second is for Speculate, the podcast I run with Gregory Wilson, which falls under the Best Fancast category. We’ve had Hugo rumblings these past few years, so it’s nice to see the word continuing to spread.
See more and post your own choices over at Staffer’s Book Review:
There’s a new antho game in town, and it’s called Zombies Need Brains. It’s the brainchild of Joshua B. Palmatier and Patricia Bray, and their first project is one that I’m excited to be a part of. I’m also excited to be one of the anchor authors for the anthology and to offer up a Tuckerization for the story I’ll be writing if the funding for the Kickstarter comes through.
Check out this great piece of art Joshua found for the cover:
I can’t wait to see the cover in all its Steampunky, Alieny goodness!
More info tomorrow, as that’s when the Kickstarter launches, but I did want to give everyone a heads-up, as the Tuckerizations (others will be offering some as well), are very limited and are first come, first served.
For more info, Like the Zombies Need Brains FB page:https://www.facebook.com/zombiesneedbrainsllc
Here’s a great nod on this Monday afternoon for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh audio book via AudioBookaneers.
Out earlier this year, self-published by the author via a Kickstarter campaign after the demise of Night Shade Books, is The Flames of Shadam Khoreh: The Lays of Anuskaya, Book 3 by Bradley P. Beaulieu, narrated By Ray Chase for Audible Frontiers. The series is very well-regarded, and this book made Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist’s top 5 books of 2013 so far. Also: The audiobook has a regular price of $30.57. But! Through the magic of “Whispersync for Voice” if you get the Kindle book, available from Amazon.com for $6.99, you can add the Audible audiobook for $1.99. OK, enough about the about of the book, here’s the actual about the book: “Nearly two years after the harrowing events ofThe Straits of Galahesh, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim. The clues they find lead them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies. But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces.”
Read the rest of the post over at AudioBookaneers.
I was recently invited over to Upcoming4.me to talk about my influences in The Flames of Shadam Khoreh. I’ve talked a fair bit about the primary influences, most notably on Scalzi’s Big Idea and Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit, so this time I decided to talk about some of the things that were not so obvious to me in the writing of it, things that were more “beneath the surface,” so to speak.
Things like The Sopranos, and mixing and matching story ideas, and the circular journey.
Head on over to Upcoming4.me to see the results.
The Straits of Galahesh received a new review from Sarah Chorn today over at Bookworm Blues. The review itself was great, but this particular bit was gratifying:
I was afraid of being a little too confused and missing many of the details I usually pay attention to when I read a book I’m going to review.
This is where my first bonus point for Beaulieu fits in. Instead of a prologue that takes way too long and sets the tone for the story but is largely useless (sorry, I’m not a prologue fan) Beaulieu, in his infinite wisdom, put a summary of the first book where the prologue would be. Not only did this refresh my forgetful brain, but it kept Beaulieu from having to drop in “reminders” throughout the book like so many authors do. There were no refresher paragraphs sprinkled throughout the prose, which was absolutely wonderful. If you just came from reading the first book, you could skip that section. If you are like me and it’s been a while, reading the first section will bring you up to speed and help you remember everything you might have forgotten.
I know, I know, this is props for the summary I put in for The Winds of Khalakovo, but I almost didn’t put that in. It took several strong prods from Gregory Wilson for me to finally write it and get it into the book to act as a refresher. I’m really glad Greg did that, and that I finally caved, because a lot of people liked that recap. I did it again for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh. So, thanks Greg!
Here’s the great wrap-up of the review:
The Straits of Galahesh is a strong second book. Readers who enjoyed The Winds of Khalakovo will be sure to love this one. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a strong set up for what looks to be a promising finale to a unique, refreshing, and often surprising trilogy. Beaulieu’s expansion of his world, characters, conflicts and magic system pays off in a big way. This is a book full of surprising twists and turns resulting in a high impact novel that will have you hanging on for dear life by the time it’s ended. Regardless of whatever else I say, in the end I must tip my hat to Beaulieu’s unique vision and his nearly flawless execution of it. This is one series to pay attention to.
You can read the full review over at Bookworm Blues.
Woo hoo! It’s a big day for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh. It was released in Audio today from Audible.com with the same great voice actor, Ray Chase. As with any audio title, you can click through and listen to a sample.
Also, for those who aren’t aware, the trade paperbacks are also available, from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.
Nearly two years after the harrowing events of The Straits of Galahesh, Atiana and Nikandr continue their long search for Nasim. The clues they find lead them to the desert wastes of the Gaji, where the fabled valley of Shadam Khoreh lies.
But all is not well. War has moved from the islands to the mainland, and the Grand Duchy knows its time may be limited if Yrstanla rallies its forces. Worse, the wasting disease and the rifts grow ever wider, threatening places that once thought themselves safe. The Dukes believe that their only hope may be to treat with the Haelish warriors to the west of Yrstanla, but Nikandr knows that the key is to find Nasim and a lost artifact known as the Atalayina.
Will Nikandr succeed and close the rifts once and for all? The answer lies deep within the Flames of Shadam Khoreh.
From Bradley P. Beaulieu, author of the critically acclaimed debut novel, The Winds of Khalakovo, comes the concluding volume in the Lays of Anuskaya trilogy, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.
For more options on where to buy and video reviews of the book, please visit the page for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.
Joshua Lowe over at Fixed on Fantasy had this to say about The Flames of Shadam Khoreh: “This story is brilliant and you should definitely read the entire trilogy.”
Here are a few interesting pieces from the review:
The Flames of Shadam Khoreh is an intensely satisfying and captivating read and a great ending to this series. Beaulieu has crafted an incredibly mature and complex story that seemingly never takes the easy way out. It was refreshing to experience characters that have changes of heart, who get things wrong and even at times, lead the reader completely astray with their conjecture.
and the close, after a discussion of the characters and how much (or how little) was revealed to the reader:
Taking all that into consideration, Flames is still brilliant and a credit to the fantasy genre. There are many strengths in this book I haven’t even touched on (mostly because I brought them up in reviews of the two prequels) such as the exquisite use of language and names, impressive world-building and incredibly rich cultures that have been ingrained in the characters and story.
I will definitely be reading more of Beaulieu and you should too!
Read the full review over at Fixed on Fantasy.
This is Part II of a two-part series on How to Run a Successful Novel Kickstarter
Find Part I here.
For years I’d been planning on pulling together my short fiction into a collection of some sort to get it out and into the world. And for years I hemmed and hawed about actually doing it. I didn’t have time. It wouldn’t do well. My time would be better spent on my next novel. You’ve probably said many of the same things yourself.
Well, late last year, a few things changed. One, I wrapped up my debut trilogy, The Lays of Anuskaya, which finally freed up a fair bit of time for me to work on something besides novel-length work. And two, Kickstarter happened. What do I mean by that? Well, Kickstarter had been around for a while, but more and more I was seeing successful projects being started and completed on the platform. I saw how impressive some of them were, how caught up I got in the “community” that successful projects could bring about. I saw how effective some project owners were about running the Kickstarters during the ‘Starter itself.
And it got me to thinking: it may take some time and effort, but if they can do it, so can I.
And if I can do it, so can you.
The first Kickstarter I ran was for Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, my premiere short story collection.
The second Kickstarter I ran was for the third book in my Lays of Anuskaya Trilogy, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, and it came about all quick-like. That is, I hadn’t planned on running one, but there were a few, well, “issues” with my publisher, Night Shade Books. You can read about it more on the post I created then.
You may also know by this point that Night Shade subsequently folded and sold off their assets to Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing. Suffice it to say that after how well my first ‘Starter went, I felt like I could take on this project to get the third book out and do it successfully.
What follows are a few pieces of practical advice that may help you run your own. Note that this isn’t about how to create a book, per se. It’s not about how to generate epubs and mobis and fulfilling the Kickstarter once you’ve run it. It’s about how to run a Kickstarter from pre-launch to post-close.
6. Stretch Goals — Appealing to the Group
A big part of Kickstarter’s appeal is that it gives a sense of ownership to those who back it. It gives backers a sense of pride because without them, the project wouldn’t succeed. And for me personally (and I suspect a lot of other people as well) there’s an underdog appeal to backing a project, and an anti-corporate undercurrent that sees Kickstarter as leveling the playing field (at least a bit) for those daring enough to take the plunge and do things themselves. This is why Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites will continue to work well in the future, long after the luster of newness has worn off. With corporations as large as they are, with each of us controlling less and less of our destiny, this gives us a way to bring something into the world that isn’t beholden to corporate interests.
(This is sidestepping the issue of whether or not progressively larger corporations will enter the crowdfunding fray. They will. But that doesn’t diminish the small projects that can succeed in big ways through venues like Kickstarter.)
Stretch goals are a very interesting aspect of Kickstarters. If the reward levels are about self (i.e. the backer is getting something for their money), then the stretch goals are about group (everyone or a certain specified group gets something). And I think this goes hand-in-hand with the sense that you’re banding together as a group to make a project succeed. Together, you have made the project work, and stretch goals are both a way to acknowledge everyone’s contributions and to help enhance those feelings of community.
If you think about a typical drive for money—say, a random charity fund you decide to donate to—you’ll often donate and that’s the last you’ll ever hear about it (beyond more calls to donate, of course). You’ll feel good, but you generally (at least, I don’t) get much sense of community from it. With Kickstarter stretch goals, you can formalize group success to highlight the effect that people’s contributions have. In other words, stretch goals tighten the bonds between you and the backers and between the backers themselves. It’s a really interesting phenomenon that can help lead to the runaway successes we’ve seen from Kickstarter.
So how to leverage stretch goals to best effect?
Here, again, you’ll want to be creative. Some of the more common stretch goals for Kickstarters are bookmarks, added interior artwork for the project, posters, added content like afterwords or short stories that tie into the novel.
In the Time Traveled Tales Kickstarter I’m a part of, several stretch goals added new stories from various authors, and if a really lofty goal of $20,000 is met, an additional story from every writer will be added to the anthology. Time Traveled Tales also added challenge coins—coins that feature interior artwork and the cover on opposite sides of the coin. Those will be something that’s really neat. A true collector’s item that many backers will appreciate.
Raffles are an interesting way to create buzz without a huge amount of added expense. I added a raffle to my Kickstarter for three rare Advanced Reader Copies of The Flames of Shadam Khoreh. I did the same for prints of the interior art within the book. Michael J. Sullivan had an interesting raffle for four people to be chosen to name characters in his upcoming book, Hollow World.
If you have related work, or really any other work that you want to promote, (assuming you have the rights to do so) you could offer ebooks to everyone if you reach a certain goal. For my Kickstarter for Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, I arranged with my then-publisher, Night Shade Books, to allow me to give away copies of the first two books of The Lays of Anuskaya to all backers if we reached certain levels (there was one stretch goal for Book 1 and another for Book 2). I think that was a great way to thank everyone for their help in getting the project funded and also to generate more buzz about the Kickstarter.
Take a look at Matt Forbeck’s Kickstarter for Monster Academy. By the time Monster Academy was up and running, Matt had already ran three prior Kickstarters for the other nine books in his 12 for ’12 project. He had various stretch goals where he gave those who pledged at certain minimum levels extra ebooks from the other Kickstarters.
One of my favorite stretch goals, strangely enough, was for the computer game, Among the Sleep. The first one, at $200,000, was ice cream for the team that’s creating the game. Why was it my favorite? I’m not really sure. It was clear that this team was very professional, that they had put in a ton of work for (up to that point) little gain, and that they were very serious about finishing the project. So I just liked that it wasn’t 100% business, that they were willing to take a seat for a moment and reward themselves for all the hard work they’d put in. There were additional stretch goals that were for the backers, but I applauded their willingness to add some humor and a bit of cheer to the whole process.
One of the more inventive stretch goals I’ve seen is from Tobias Buckell for his third novel in the Xenowealth series, The Apocalypse Ocean. The $30,000 stretch goal was for an immediate start to the project instead of waiting for a certain window in the future he’d initially scheduled for the new novel. That’s a very interesting way to incentivize a group, and if you have enough supporters that are really hoping for that next novel, it’s a great reward for them as well.
Again, much of this is going to be project-specific, and also based on your unique set of abilities, interests, background, and so on. But do try to think of things that will enhance the sense of community that builds around these projects. That will help everyone to feel part of the group, and that will help to boost adoption of the upper backing levels and also the willingness of your backers to spread the word.
7. Add-ons — Capitalizing on the Enthusiasm
Add-ons are things that are outside of the scope of the original backing levels. Things that might be only peripherally related to the project, but that people might certainly want. Just take a look at Pat Rothfuss’s add-ons from his Name of the Wind playing cards Kickstarter:
But wait, there’s more:
Nope, not done yet:
Now, please keep in mind that Pat had a team of people working on this Kickstarter. And he also had a lot of items (not to mention the experience of ordering and fulfillment) from The Tinker’s Packs. Not everyone will be able to add so much to their Kickstarter. But certainly look over various Kickstarters and think of things you might be able to add.
Larry Elmore had a number of cool add-ons for his Complete Elmore Artbook project, one of which was to get a dragon doodle. I thought that was a really neat idea, and I opted for that when I was paying for the artbook once the Kickstarter had ended.
I’ll admit it, Add-ons are something I completely fell down on in my own projects. I had grand plans. I wanted to add tee shirts. Hats. Coffee mugs. All sorts of things to boost sales but also to give people something cool to remember the project by. I simply ran out of time. But don’t let that stop you. Plan ahead, do some research into costs and how to fulfill orders once you have them, and get a few things ready to go before the Kickstarter begins.
And don’t forget to bundle them. Bundling is a tried and true method for getting people to opt for more because they’re getting a better deal overall. Below is an image from Pat Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind playing cards Kickstarter in which two of the backing levels were put in an image for easier view, but you could do the same for a bundled set of add-ons.
8. Spreading the News
Let me start by saying that I’m not going to list a bunch of places where you can list your Kickstarter to get the word out. Those resources exist, and you should find them, but there isn’t much more I can add to the subject. What I want to talk about instead is how to approach communications over the course of the Kickstarter and how that should change as the project evolves.
No one will argue that your project will live or die by how well you can get out the word. And to me there are three distinct phases to this. To use a story analog, there is the Beginning, the Middle, and the End. Study just about any successful Kickstarter and you’ll see that there is a flurry of people joining in the Beginning, there’s a drop off in the Middle, and there’s a flurry again at the End.
Let’s talk about each.
The Beginning is when you’ll be using your contacts (i.e. friends, family, close fellow writers) to spread the news that there’s a new Kickstarter in town. Your base will certainly help you. Word will get out, and you’ll have “early adopters” who will hopefully help to spread the news throughout the remainder of the campaign
Hopefully you can get some early successes in the Beginning as well. Use your social networks and blog to talk about the milestones you’re knocking down. Good news items are first backers, first backers at certain reward levels, reaching milestones like 25% funded, 50%, and so on. You’ll be running a mile a minute at this point, and it’s usually not too hard to keep the enthusiasm running for several days as the initial news hits the airwaves.
To take a step back a moment to the pre-planning for your project, the Beginning is where everything in the Kickstarter is new. It’s why you want to spend so much time making things look professional, so you can grab people right away. First impressions count. So make you’re presentation and your rewards attractive, and people will hop onboard.
But eventually the days will pass, the initial rush will fade, and you’ll hit the Middle, the doldrums, the point after which all of your likely early backers have already joined and now you’re fighting to gain new backers and to awaken those “semi-interested” backers. In this phase you’re trying to energize your base so that they’ll continue to spread the word, which will allow you to go reach previously untapped groups of people (you know, friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends). You’re also trying to reach those people that have seen your news but haven’t yet clicked through, or have but have not yet taken the plunge but still might.
I would recommend a couple of things in the Middle of your campaign. First, continue to use major milestones as news items. Those are interesting and can make people sit up and take notice. My Kickstarter for Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories funded in about 5 hours, if I recall correctly, and was about 200% funded at the 24-hour mark. That was news, and I continued to use that as the Kickstarter moved along. By the end of Michael J. Sullivan’s Hollow World project, he’d hit 1000% funding—1000%!!!—but Michael also used the major milestones (100% funding, 200%, 300%, etc.) to help get people excited and to spread the news.
Share your amazement at how things are going, and people will pick up on your enthusiasm. They’ll become enthusiastic too.
The second thing I would recommend for the Middle is to keep some things in reserve. If you have stretch goals planned, don’t announce all of them at once. Announce one or two up front, but then leak more of them as the Kickstarter continues. This makes valid news items that people are going to want to hear about. It keeps the Kickstarter “fresh” as it moves along through the middle days, where it seems like backers are very hard to come by.
You could do things like add new videos or testimonials. When I was running my Kickstarter for Flames, I had sent out advance reader copies to various people, and I asked them to create a video of their impressions of the book. I released two of those videos partway through. Here’s one of them that was a compilation of four different video reviews:
You can also adjust some of the reward levels, or add new ones. As long as no one has backed a particular reward level, you can make changes to it. You can also add something new to them via stretch goals (as opposed to having the stretch goal apply to all backing levels).
Add-ons can become news as well. Don’t add them all at once and you can create a buzz about the cool things you’re adding to the Kickstarter.
The days will continued to pass, and eventually you’ll reach the End, the closing days of your project. I think there are two things to consider here regarding communication that will help to maximize the excitement that accompanies the End of a Kickstarter project.
First, you’ll want to make adjustments to the Kickstarter that will entice backers to opt for the higher reward levels. I mentioned the stretch goals above. Well, if some of those are available only to the higher backing levels, remind people of it. And if you have things that are exclusive to the Kickstarter, now is the time to highlight them. I had limited edition hardcovers in both of my Kickstarters. Remind people that time is running out to get them.
If you’ve added or adjusted reward levels along the way (from new stretch goals or modified rewards), consider creating a special update that details what people will get for their money at each reward level.
And second, you’ll want to try to re-engage your friends and backers to help spread the word. Make everyone aware of the ticking clock. Show how close you are to certain goals that will benefit everyone. Make special appeals for people to spread the word in the final days and hours.
In short, in the final run-up to the End, be positive and energetic, appeal for help and make it clear what people will get and how little time is left to get it.
The flurry of backers at the End is just as much of a rush as those early days—perhaps even more so because the project will soon be complete—but keep in mind that it’s a rush for everyone else as well.
Be sure to use that to your advantage.
9. Don’t Make It All About the Kickstarter
I was tempted to make this a note in the Spreading the News section above, but I think it’s important enough that I wanted to highlight it in its own section.
For me, it was important not to go full bore. I didn’t want my life to be all Kickstarter, all the time. Part of that is simply because I didn’t want the project to take over my life. But the other side of it is that no one else wants it to be that way either. There’s no bigger turnoff than when you feel like you’re being sold to. Constantly. With nothing gained for you. And you can fall into that trap if you’re not careful.
Look, you’re depending on your friends and backers to spread the news for you. I consider that a favor. I didn’t want to betray their generosity and forbearance by what could amount to a month’s worth of spam about my project. Yes, close friends will put up with it. But those you don’t know very well? They’ll tune you out. Maybe even drop you if you go overboard.
So on my social networks I tried to keep my enthusiasm about the project high, but I also tried to mix in my “normal stuff” into the mix. Everyone has their own M.O. when they’re socializing on FB and Twitter and G+, right? Don’t lose that person. Keep that person around. And also, pull back the curtains a little bit. Tell people that it’s hectic, that it’s a wild ride. Tell them about what it’s like to run a Kickstarter, because that’s interesting, without selling to them every time you post. Does that make sense?
On Kickstarter updates (more on this below), people will be more forgiving about project-only communications, but don’t take their generosity for granted. Update them when there are important things, but otherwise treat it like a privilege, not a right, to be able to communicate with your project backers.
Also consider adding a bit of humor, or give back to your backers in some way. Those who know me know I like to cook, so For The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, for every $1,000 the project hit, I sent out an update with one of my favorite recipes—either one of my own or one from a chef I’d tried and liked. I don’t know if everyone enjoyed those updates, but many people let me know that they did.
Consider the long haul, here. You might run another Kickstarter someday, so don’t make your first one an unpleasant experience.
Or no one will stick around for the others.
10. Updates – Communication With Your Backers
I kept this one separate from “Spreading the News” because Kickstarter Updates are generally for backers only—at least, that’s the intended target; you can optionally allow anyone to see them. The point is that you’ll be communicating to those who have already decided to hop onboard the train, and so your approach to them will not be the same as for others (i.e. potential backers who have not yet joined).
I used to be a fan of The Apprentice (before the show became ultra commercial and before I realized how much of an ass Donald Trump was). In one season, the contestants were to head to Atlantic City and create some marketing buzz around something or other. I forget what the actual goal was for the contestants on that day, but in doing so, one of the teams had lined up a young animal tamer that worked regularly in Atlantic City. He was like a tiny version of Siegfried. Or Roy. Take your pick.
In any case, there was some convincing to be done before the kid agreed. The teams had a limited budget, and the young man was normally pretty expensive. And after a heated sales cycle, the kid finally said yes, but afterward, one of the contestants, a southern car salesman type of guy, kept after him, telling him how cool it was going to be, how good for his career, and so on. And the kid stopped him, and he said, “Let me tell you something about life. Don’t try to sell something that’s already sold.” And it shut the contestant right up.
The kid was right. And you’d be wise to remember it was well. Don’t try to sell something that’s already sold.
You want to spread news. It’s fine to tell people about major milestones. It’s fine to tell them about changes to what you’re doing, or what you have planned, but don’t take them for granted. They can still back out of the Kickstarter, remember.
So what do you say in your updates? Well, take a look at a few. Here are the update pages for The Flames of Shadam Khoreh and Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten. I added updates to let people know what was going on behind the scenes. I shared interior artwork that was being generated, both sketches and final pieces. I told them the progress I had been making on fulfillment even while the project was running.
If I had a rule of thumb, I’d say you probably don’t want more than one update every 2-3 days. But as always, your mileage may vary. There will be certain times when you’ll have more updates, and certain times where they’ll be more spread out.
And remember that updates are for more than just when the Kickstarter is actively running. It’s for after the Kickstarter ends, too. Use it as a way to keep everyone informed. You don’t want to fall off the face of the planet or you’ll risk people wondering what’s going on. As you did during the Kickstarter, keep people informed of milestones and your progress toward fulfillment.
I shared some of the steps I was going through along the way and some of the things I learned. I let people know when the ms was complete, when the editing was done, when layout was finalized. I shared artwork as it came in, including various versions of the covers for different formats. And when you start fulfilling, let people know that as well. It will give people the confidence that you’re running a good project now, and that you’ll do so again if you decide to run another Kickstarter in the future.
I hope this was a useful guide. There are certainly more things to learn than what I passed along here, but hopefully this will help you to run a successful Kickstarter of your own.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to ping me via my Contact page.
Best of luck to you!
The amazing news came in this morning. The Song of the Shattered Sands sold to Gollancz in the UK. It’s already sold to DAW for North America, so this new deal (as I understand it) locks up worldwide (i.e. non-NA) English rights.
I’ve had no direct ties to Gollancz so far, but I’ve heard nothing but great things about them. They are a world class organization. They pick wonderful authors, some of whom I’ve come to admire greatly. George R.R. Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch, Saladin Ahmed, and many more.
I’m pleased and honored and humbled to be counted among them, and gratified that Gollancz though enough of Shattered Sands to take it under their wing. Like DAW Books, I’m looking forward to a long and prosperous relationship.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to get this next series out. I’m about 80k words into the first book at this point, of a projected 120k, and the end is beginning to come clearer and clearer, as well as the path I need to take to get there. I’m toying with adding a handful of cut scenes to spice the story with other POVs and other storylines that are impossible (or highly problematic) to show from the main character’s POV, but the throughline of the story is really firming up.
Exciting all around!
Upward and onward!
This is Part I of a two-part series on How to Run a Successful Novel Kickstarter
Find Part II here.
For years I’d been planning on pulling together my short fiction into a collection of some sort to get it out and into the world. And for years I hemmed and hawed about actually doing it. I didn’t have the time. It wouldn’t do well. My time would be better spent on my next novel. You’ve probably said many of the same things yourself.
Well, late last year, a few things changed. One, I wrapped up my debut trilogy, The Lays of Anuskaya, which finally freed up a bit of time for me to work on something besides novel-length work. And two, Kickstarter happened. What do I mean by that? Well, Kickstarter had been around for a few years, but more and more I was seeing successful projects being started and completed on the platform. I saw how impressive some of them were as well, how caught up I got in the “community” that successful projects could bring about. I saw how savvy some project owners were about running the Kickstarters during the ‘Starter itself.
And it got me to thinking: it may take some time and effort, but if they can do it, so can I.
And if I can do it, so can you.
The first Kickstarter I ran was for Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, my premiere short story collection.
The second Kickstarter I ran was for the third book in my Lays of Anuskaya Trilogy, The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, and it came about all quick-like. That is, I hadn’t planned on running a second Kickstarter, but there were a few, well, “issues” with my publisher, Night Shade Books. You can read about it more on the post I created then.
You may also know by this point that Night Shade subsequently folded and sold off their assets to Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing. Suffice it to say that after how well my first ‘Starter went, I felt like I could take on this project to get the third book out and do it successfully.
What follows are a few pieces of practical advice that may help you run your own. Note that this isn’t about how to create a book—that is, it’s not about how to generate epubs and mobis and fulfilling the Kickstarter once you’ve run it—these are tips on how to run a Kickstarter from pre-launch to post-close.
One of the things you really have to do is to make your Kickstarter look professional. I’m listing this first as this, to me, is probably the most important factor that leads to a successful project.
Just take a look at some of the successful Kickstarters out there (for books or other projects). Look at Michael J. Sullivan’s Kickstarter for Hollow World. Or Matt Forbeck’s Monster Academy, part of his insane 12 for ’12 project. Or Krillbite Studio’s recent project for Among the Sleep. Look at these crazy runaway successes from Steve Jackson Games for the Ogre relaunch and from Patrick Rothfuss for the playing cards based on his book, The Name of the Wind. There are several things in common with these and so many other successful projects. They have the air of professionalism about them. Whether or not that’s what’s happening behind the scenes isn’t important. What’s important is that the viewer, your potential backer, sees a nicely present package that gives them the confidence that you’ll not only deliver what was promised, but deliver a quality product to boot.
Take a look at some unsuccessful projects as well. The easiest way to do this is to go to Kickstarter and click the Ending Soon link on the right side. It’s an easy scroll to find the projects that will not make their funding goal. Look at this Kickstarter from Jason Lee Guthrie, a project for a worship album.
The amount Mr. Guthrie was looking for was modest. The reward levels were also not out of line. He should have easily been able to meet his goals. So what went wrong?
Well, probably a lot of small things, but a few big things stand out. First, the description of the project is very spare. I got no real sense of what the project was about, what he was about, his history, his goals, and so on. And why on Earth he didn’t have a full song for people to listen to I cannot guess. Even if it was pre-production quality, it would make a huge difference to a potential backer. You don’t want to pad your project with nonsense just to fill space, but you do want high-quality information that gives the project backer confidence that this will be a good project that they’ll enjoy after they receive their rewards. Only after getting that sense of comfort will they be able to get in to the groupmind enthusiasm that fuels so many Kickstarters.
Now take a look at a similar project, this from Chaise Candie, again for a new music album.
You could argue that one was from “some guy” and one was from a beautiful woman unafraid to use her sex appeal—and there’s some validity to that argument—but then again, she was looking for more than twice what Mr. Guthrie was looking for. And just watch the videos. Look over two project pages. Ms. Candie’s was much more informative, detailed, and personal. It gave links at the end of the video to social networking sites (something I should have done, actually). It had an actual song to listen to, complete with video and another version en Español.
Stated simply, Chaise Candie had a much stronger pitch than Jason Lee Guthrie.
These were music projects, but you can see the same thing in a lot of creative projects like novels, graphic novels, computer games, board games, and so on, the stark difference between failed projects and successful ones.
You have to put your best foot forward, because you’re going to be relying on two things for your Kickstarter: your base and building a new audience for your project. You have little control over your own base. It is what it is. It may be large or it may be small, but by the time your Kickstarter begins, you’re pretty much in the boat you’re in. As a small aside, though, don’t discount your friends and family. Their enthusiasm can mean a lot to the initial “getting out the word” effort.
So what can you control for relatively little cost?
We’re talking about novels here, and the cover art is going to be your biggest seller. For Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten, I found existing art to use for the cover (a beautiful piece by Sang Han), and I talked with him about terms before I ran the Kickstarter. With that agreement in hand, I was able to create mock-ups for the book cover that I was able to use over and over and over. I used it for the book itself. I used it for the video image (reworking it to get the dimensions right). I used it for the mini-banners within the Kickstarter project page. I used it in updates, emails, Facebook and Twitter posts. By the time I was done with it, I’m sure people were sick of looking at it, but it worked well, because it was an attractive piece and I had designed good images using it to help promote the book.
If you’re not good at graphic design, this may be one of the places where you want to invest. It’s so key to your success that you may want to find a qualified designer to help you with the cover and a few of the things I mentioned above. It’ll go a long way toward showing the kind of product you plan to deliver.
Another popular thing you’ll see are “project gauges,” images that show the stretch goals, how far everyone has come and what’s left to conquer. Here’s one from Among the Sleep.
You can do this with text, and many projects do, but I think it gives you an edge if you use these types of images as it’s easy to digest just how successful things are.
There are many ways to “project professionalism,” and the way you do it is going to vary based on the project itself, your strengths, your friends’ strengths, what resources you have access to, how much money you’re willing to spend, and so on. But at the very minimum I think you’ll want to include the following in your messaging for a novel project:
- Your bona fides—what you’ve written in the past and why people might like to back you for this project
- What the project is about
- What made you fall in love with it <— this may, in fact, be the biggest key in your message
- Why you need help
- An explanation of where the money is being spent
This doesn’t mean this all has to be done in one place, but between the video and the project page, you should cover these points.
2. The Video
There really is no question of whether or not you should have a video. You should. And in this day and age, there’s no excuse not to have one.
The real question is: what form should it take?
Just like project pages, there are some amazing videos out there. Some are earnest appeals, which is the approach I used in both of my projects. Some are Q&A’s, like Patrick Rothfuss used in his playing card Kickstarter and Time Traveled Tales used for its anthology project. Others are jaw-droppingly impressive, like the runaway success of the Veronica Mars Kickstarter or Torment: Tides of Numenera.
Don’t get too caught up on the flash and sizzle of some of those videos, because this, I think, is where the viewer is going to be a bit more forgiving. Not everyone has access to the greatest cameras and cool editing software and knock-your-socks-off locations in which to film. If you have those things, great, but for a novel, what people are looking for is earnestness, enthusiasm, a succinct pitch of what the book is about, and why you’ve chosen Kickstarter as your venue for publication. If possible, try to capture the tone of the novel. If it’s a comedy, be funny or write a funny script or read a humorous piece of the novel. If it’s a thriller, make the video have some sense of that with the music or the graphics or by teasing them with some plot points.
I mentioned finding artwork for the project page above, and you should absolutely use that for your video. You can use it for cutaways between your major points in the video, but certainly use it to intro and outro the video.
And don’t forget a call to action. Don’t just tell us what the project is about, ask people to back you. Ask them to spread the word. Give your thanks. It will go a long way toward getting them to click “Back This Project” and part with some of their hard-earned money.
For the actual taping, I would recommend creating an outline of talking points. I would not recommend, however, that you create a script. Create a script and it will view like you’re reading from cue cards. Badly. Keep the points generic, and then speak from the heart. That’s what’s going to get people to believe in you and to reward your for taking this bold step. Sound like you’re stiffly reading words someone else gave you and they’re bound to move on, never to return.
And remember, retakes are your friend. Get the jitters out of the way by practicing. You can always throw it away. Keep going until you feel comfortable, but don’t forget to keep the enthusiasm in the taping. Don’t drum that out of yourself with too many takes.
If you haven’t watched Mary Robinette Kowal’s series on how to give dramatic readings, do yourself a favor and watch them. The taping of a Kickstarter video is not the same thing as delivering a narrative reading, but I think there’s a fair bit of overlap.
My three favorite bits of advice from Mary’s talks are to (1) slow down, (2) to remember to vary your pacing and pitch, and (3) to choose one word per sentence to stress. These tips alone can work well to create an earnest, approachable, believable video that sells you and your work. And the funny thing is, we use these techniques in our everyday lives. When we’re telling people about the near-miss we had on Hwy 20 when the jerk cut into our lane, when we’re talking politics, when we’re telling the prideful story of our daughter’s win at her swim meet. When there’s no pressure, we talk conversationally. We talk easily. We speed up and slow down. We vary our pitch depending on our level of excitement.
Mary’s tips are (in part) trying to recapture that for performance’s sake. So use them to your advantage.
3. The Psychology of the Funding Goal
You’ll find all kinds of advice that tell you to make sure you account for everything that you’re going to need to spend money on. And this is great advice. Certainly follow it. You want to know how much you’re going to need to make that first dollar in profit. Here is a list of the things that I had to take into account when I started. I’ll list the direct costs (both fixed and variable) and the investments (things that I spent money on but that can be applied to other projects as well).
Fixed Direct Costs for Novels
- Structural Editing
- Copy Editing
- Line Editing
- Cover Art or Photos
- Interior Art or Photos (if any)
- Fonts (optional)
- ISBN numbers for each version of the book you’ll have generally available for sale (MMPB, TBP, HC, EPUB, MOBI)
- Printer setup costs (charged per title)
- Hard copy proofs (can be costly depending on your printer)
- ARC printing costs (for promotion and early giveaways)
- Promotional items (bookmarks, posters, tee shirts, various stretch goal items, etc.)
- Optional professional assistance for various parts of the project where you’re unable to provide it yourself
- Cover Design
- Interior Design
- E-book generation
- PAYMENT FOR YOU, THE AUTHOR, TO DO ALL THIS STUFF!
Variable Direct Costs for Novels (driven by number of copies purchased in Kickstarter)
- Book printing costs (including shipping to you)
- Shipping costs (to your backers)
- Shipping material like bubble wrap and boxes or envelopes (don’t overlook this!)
- PAYMENT FOR YOU, THE AUTHOR, TO DO ALL THIS STUFF!
Indirect Costs (with my choices noted for each)
- Video editing software — iMovie (luckily I have a Mac, and iMovie was good enough for my purposes)
- Graphical editing software — Photoshop
- Book layout software for print copies — inDesign
- Novel drafting software — Scrivener
- E-book generation software — Scrivener
Essentially, you’re going to be adding that up to get a basic funding level for the project. You’ll add the fixed direct costs and a projection of the variable direct costs to come up with some baseline, and then you can add in any of the indirect costs if you wish. Matt Forbeck has a nice writeup on adding up your costs.
But here’s the flip side of adding all this up to get a grand total. The higher you make your starting goal, the tougher it’s going to be to reach. And the tougher it seems like it will be to reach, the more resistance you’ll have on the part of your potential backer. I’ll reference Matt Forbeck again here. He has a nice blog entry on how to gauge your novel’s chances for funding via Kickstarter.
I wanted my first Kickstarter to seem very attainable. I made it a mere $1,000 because I wanted the project to succeed, and I wanted it to appear to be a success early. This is important. Our perceptions form so much of our reasons for buying things. If people see your project as a success right off the bat, they feel more comfortable in backing it. If it seems like it’s iffy that the funding goal will be reached, they’ll hesitate. It’s human nature.
But show that you funded in a few hours like my first Kickstarter did? That’s news. It gets people excited. It makes more people want to join in.
And remember, Kickstarter is a lot about joining in something as a community. People that hop onboard feel ownership of its success (rightfully so) but the flip side of this is that no one wants to back a loser. So be careful with the price you choose.
Had I made only my $1,000 funding goal on my first Kickstarter, I would have been losing money, but I set it low on purpose so that it had a chance to build that elusive buzz we always want for our books. Had I set my goal at $5,000, I might have still funded, but it would have increased the chances that I would fail. So I kept it low, and I used the relative success to my advantage.
You’ll have to make the call on where you set your goals. But be reasonable. Plan to make money as the author, because we deserve that. But also recognize that there’s more than one path you can take to reach your goals.
4. Pricing of Reward Levels
Reward levels are the price points at which backers can join back your project. Backers can give more if they like, and there are even allowances for “no reward” for the backer, but generally people are choosing one reward and paying a set fee for it.
You want to choose these rewards and their corresponding price points carefully. You’ll want something modest. Something around the $25-30 mark (because for many, that’s doable), and then more exclusive rewards with similarly exclusive price points. I’d be careful, however, on stretching the generosity of your backers. Don’t push the envelope too far. Yes, you want to make money, and it’s fair to charge a premium for certain things, especially a limited edition of anything, but you also don’t want to push people away with reward that seem offensively high.
Where the right price point is is tough to say—it does depend on the project itself, how many books there are, the format being offered, its costs, your profit goals, and so on—but try to find the sweet spot between fan/friend support and going too far and turning people off.
As for the number of reward levels, I would recommend 4-6 “standard” backing options plus a few exclusive, limited rewards. The standard rewards tend to run along these lines (with rough ranges of prices I’ve seen for those sorts of rewards)
- Bookmark or screensaver using the project’s artwork or a “thank you” in the book ($1 – $10)
- E-book (or an ePack, like I offered, with EPUB, MOBI, and PDF versions for the backers) ($3 – $10)
- Signed e-book ($10 – $20)
- Trade Paperback (often signed) ($15 – $30)
- Hardcover (often signed, perhaps limited to a certain number of copies) ($50 – $100)
This list can grow if you’re offering more than one book, but try not to go crazy. Offer too many options, and people can get confused. I had three books in my second Kickstarter, but to keep things simple I only offered either the third book by itself (1 book) or the entire trilogy (3 books, i.e. I had no option for 2 of 3 books).
Another thing often forgotten is the recap of your rewards. You’ll often see things change as new stretch goals are added, and sometimes new backing levels are added mid-project. And some rewards can “include” other rewards, which may be good for a simplistic pitch in the rewards, but can get confusing if they become labarynthine.
Current and potential backers can get confused as to what they get with each reward level. Don’t be afraid to send out an update and to revise your project page to recap what backers get, including stretch goals and “included” rewards, so that it’s clear what they’re getting for their money. I’ll admit, I fell pray to a few too many reward levels in my second project, and even my first, which is why I added a recap in each.
5. Exclusivity Is Your Friend
For fiction, the limited rewards range from Tuckerizing backers into your stories or novels to flying to a party with books for your backer’s friends to working with the backer on a brand new story.
Michael J. Sullivan even offered a “Patron for Life” in his Hollow World Kickstarter, in which the backers receive all of his future ebooks and will be recognized as patrons for life in the credits. He sold 25 of those rewards at $250 each. That’s $6,250, my friends. Now, this type of reward doesn’t fit all projects, and not everyone will be as successful as Michael was if they decide to include it, but it shows the variety you can add to capture the interest of potential backers or fans of your work.
Use your creativity. Find something unique to you and your work that will get your backers excited. Make sure it’s something you’ll really want to do, of course, but there are unlimited possibilities within that simple framework.
If you look around at the various Kickstarters, you’ll see that many offer something only for the backers of the project. I think this is a wise idea, and I adopted it for both of my Kickstarters in the form of limited edition hardcovers that were only being offered to the backers of the project. I ended up needing to have a limited run of 100 copies of the hardcovers, so I do in fact have some left over, but the backers had first crack at them, and I’ll offer extras to backers before I open them up to any further sales to sell off my stock.
People who run music projects offer limited signed copies of their CDs. Patrick Rothfuss offered a Limited Edition run of his playing cards to backers in his Name of the Wind Playing Card Kickstarter.
This is not just an idea that builds buzz. It’s fun. It gets your backers excited.
So again, try new things. Use the uniqueness of the limited rewards as news items as you spread the word. Sometimes these things will take on a life of their own, so try to make it noteworthy in some way.
Click here for Part II in this series.
A new review of The Straits of Galahesh came in recently, this from Joshua Lowe over at Fixed on Fantasy. There’s some good, and some not-so-good, but overall quite a complimentary review. Encapsulating both, here’s the closer:
I’m now a total BPB fan and will be moving straight onto The Flames of Shadam Khoreh to finish of the series. I would totally recommend that all fantasy fans give this series a go, just be prepared for some irksome moments if you’re an anally retentive want-to-know-it-all like me!
Read the full review over at Fixed on Fantasy.
In other, awesome news, Justin Landon over at Staffer’s Book Review has compiled a list of the 50 essential Epic Fantasies, from Gilgamesh, to Beowulf, to A Song of Ice and Fire. And The Lays of Anuskaya made the list!
The Lays of Anuskaya by Bradley P. Beaulieu (2011) — I’ve talked about this series a lot. Beaulieu tackles all kinds of new and interesting cultural touchstones in the series, and does so without kowtowing to the pace or structure expected by epic fantasy readers.
See the full list over at Staffer’s Book Review. That, my friends, is pretty cool. I’m very honored to be included in such a list with so many great epic fantasists.
I’m incredibly pleased to announce that The Flames of Shadam Khoreh is now available for sale. It’s ready for download on Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords, and will soon be ready on iBooks and Kobo and more Smashwords affiliates.
This has been a long, rewarding, sometimes harrowing road. I have a couple of pieces coming out over the next few days on Scalzi’s The Big Idea and Mary Robinette Kowal’s My Favorite Bit, and I’ll link to those when they come up. For now, I’ll just say that writing The Lays of Anuskaya has been a wonderful journey, and I feel grateful and honored that I can share it with you, the friends and fans of this series.
The book has been getting wonderful early reviews. Here are just a few. Find out more on The Reviews page.
“All in all, The Lays of Anuskaya series is dark, ambitious, complex, and populated with a great cast of characters that leap off the pages. If you are looking for a quality read that’s different from everything else on the market today, this series is definitely for you.”
“In remarkably short order, Beaulieu has marked himself as an epic fantasist that any reader of the subgenre should take a look at.”
“Don’t doubt though that The Flames of Shadam Khoreh and The Lays of Anuskaya series as a whole is an excellent choice for any fantasy reader. It should stand proud in the ranks of epic fantasies that transport readers to incredible worlds that will beg for exploration long after the final page is turned.”
If you enjoy the books, do be sure to crow about it on Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, or the review site of your choice. It doesn’t seem like much, and I know it takes a bit of effort to do, but it really does help an author to grow their audience.
Don’t forget, I also have a free prequel story to The Lays of Anuskaya in the sampler for my short story collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories. Download “To the Towers of Tulandan” here in three different formats:
I hope you enjoy the conclusion to this tale. I think you will. It’s very near and dear to my heart. It felt right in the writing, and it feels right now in retrospect.
And thanks, everyone, for all your support over the years. For supporting the Kickstarter during the Time of Troubles. For spreading the news, some of which I saw, but much of which I’m sure I didn’t. I appreciate it all.
In closing, my friends… Yay!!!
Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories releases today! I’m very pleased to have this out and into the world, which is a funny thing to say since it’s in electronic form only at this point, but there it is.
This story collection collects seventeen fantasy stories, essentially all of my published fantasies to date, plus a few seeing print for the first time. Three new stories were created as part of the Kickstarter I ran back in December and January, and two of those are set in the Lays of Anuskaya universe.
To celebrate and to help spread the word, one story, “To the Towers of Tulandan”, a prequel story to The Lays of Anuskaya, is available as a free download. See below for the links to download, and please share!
Table of Contents
“To the Towers of Tulandan”. A Lays of Anuskaya story, written exclusively for the collection.
“Prima”. A Lays of Anuskaya story, written exclusively for the collection.
“Unearthed”. A story set in Bradley P. Beaulieu’s new Bryndlholt world, written exclusively for the collection.
“In the Eyes of the Empress’s Cat”. First printed in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.
“Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten”. First printed in Realms of Fantasy Magazine.
“Sweet as Honey”. First printed in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.
“Shadows in the Mirrors”. First printed in Dimensions Next Door by DAW Books.
“Parting the Clouds”. First printed in Time-Traveled Tales.
“Flotsam”. First printed in Writers of the Future XX.
“A Trade of Shades”. First printed in Alien Skin Magazine.
“Good Morning Heartache”. First printed in Spells in the City by DAW Books.
“Cirque Du Lumière”. First printed in Fellowship Fantastic by DAW Books.
“How Peacefully the Desert Sleeps”. First printed in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show.
“Foretold”. First printed in Steampunk’d by DAW Books.
“From the Spices of Sanandira”. First printed in Beneath Ceaseless Skies.
“An Instrument of War”. First printing.
“Prey to the Gods”. First printing.
Download a free story, “To the Towers of Tulandan”, the prequel story to Bradley P. Beaulieu’s critically acclaimed epic fantasy trilogy, The Lays of Anuskaya
I’ve been hard at work behind the scenes getting my short story collection, Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories, ready for delivery. The release date is tomorrow. Tomorrow!
It’s all been a blur since I ran the Kickstarter last December. Writing the stories, getting them edited, getting the entire story collection line edited, layout, covers, interior art. Oy vey, it’s been a busy time—an exciting time!—and it’s not over yet, but tomorrow marks a major milestone in the release process. It’s the general release for the e-versions. I’m ecstatic to have reached this stage. I can’t wait for the patient Kickstarter gang to get their hands on it, and for others to grab it if they’ve been waiting.
On the print side, the files were submitted to the printer last night. There’s some time while they check the accuracy of the cover and interior files, then I approve the proof copy, and then it’s off to the races. I get print copies and start fulfilling those for the Kickstarter and begin offering them for sale on Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere.
One extra step in the print process will be the limited edition hardcovers. I’m waiting for the trade paperback process to complete so that I catch all possible errors before moving onto the limited edition version. I want them to be perfect (or as near to that ideal as I can make them). They’re going to look sharp, let me tell you. The cover turned out great, as did the interior with the art from Evgeni Maloshenkov.
More news tomorrow!
Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist recently reviewed The Flames of Shadam Khoreh and gave it excellent marks.
And after showing so much potential in the first two volumes and how ambitious The Lays of Anuskaya has been from the beginning, I was wondering if Beaulieu could close the show with style and aplomb. And for the most part, the author does! Though The Flames of Shadam Khoreh is far from perfect, it brings the series to a thoroughly satisfying end! Indeed, The Lays of Anuskaya is one of the most interesting fantasy series I’ve read in the last decade.
Here’s the close of the review:
All in all, The Lays of Anuskaya series is dark, ambitious, complex, and populated with a great cast of characters that leap off the pages. If you are looking for a quality read that’s different from everything else on the market today, this series is definitely for you.
Read the full review at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.
Paul Weimer at SFSignal recently reviewed The Flames of Shadam Khoreh.
The ambition and scope that the authors lays down since the first page of The Winds of Khalakovo is paid off and finalized well in this last volume of the trilogy. In remarkably short order, Beaulieu has marked himself as an epic fantasist that any reader of the subgenre should take a look at. His work is not for those new to the form, but for readers familiar and ready for the length and complexity, The Lays of Anuskaya is a rewarding read. I look forward to the future efforts of the writer and how he builds his skills from this most promising foundation for a career.
Read the full review over at SFSignal.
Josh Vogt over at Examiner.com recently reviewed The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, and in fact the entire Lays of Anuskaya trilogy.
Here are three different excerpts from the three reviews he recently posted, the first from his review of The Winds of Khalakovo:
The Winds of Khalakovo is a unique epic fantasy, opening up a richly imagined world of adventure that is well worth exploring. For readers who enjoy magic, political intrigue, sky-bound battles mixed with sword and gunfights, and a decent dash of romance, this first entry in Beaulieu’s The Lays of Anuskaya deserves your attention.
The second from the review of The Straits of Galahesh:
The Straits of Galahesh is a fine fantasy entry that has a strong self-contained plot while also setting up the series for a powerful conclusion. There’s plenty of intrigue, explosive fight scenes, character growth, and new lands to lose yourself within here–and all that, in itself, should provide good motivation to do so!
And the third from the review of The Flames of Shadam Khoreh:
Don’t doubt though that The Flames of Shadam Khoreh and The Lays of Anuskaya series as a whole is an excellent choice for any fantasy reader. It should stand proud in the ranks of epic fantasies that transport readers to incredible worlds that will beg for exploration long after the final page is turned.
And more cover wraps. I’ve been a busy boy today. I’m picky about these things, so it’s taken me some time to pull these together. The good thing is that I had the basic template for the design down from the Flames ARC and the full wrap I just did for my story collection.
Without further ado, I give you the new covers!
And again, please let me know if you see any typos. And what do you think of the three spine covers? I tried to pull out representative colors from each piece of art to make the spines stand out a bit.
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Et voila! Here’s a the full cover for Lest Our Passage Be Forgotten & Other Stories. This is near final, but for the love of all that is good, if you see a mistake please let me know!
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I really enjoy working on graphic design projects like this. And I quite like how this turned out. It’s in no small thanks to the wonderful artist Sang Han. I also rather like my new logo on the spine and the banded Quillings Literary on the back. It makes me feel all professional.
Now it’s on to the other three books in The Lays of Anuskaya trilogy. More wraps as I have them!
Here’s the fourth of the pieces from Evgeni Maloshenkov for the interior artwork he’s creating for The Lays of Anuskaya. The previous piece, The Dance, has a special place in my heart because of the scene it illustrates from The Winds of Khalakovo, but this is my favorite of Evgeni’s interior pieces for the trilogy. Gorgeous colors. I love the action on the warrior, and the man below, I love the headdress and the horse. And I find it interesting how he used the bright red to outline the horse’s features.
As spoiler free as I can be, this is from The Flames of Shadam Khoreh, and it shows one of the Haelish warriors, a land to the west of the Yrstanlan Empire, who’s about to make life truly unpleasant for one of the Kamarisi’s personal guard.