I’ve been writing for a long time, but The Odds Are Against Us is the first time I ever tried to put together a collection of other people’s work. It’s also the first time I ever ran a successful Kickstarter project, with all the expectations that implies. So the last year has definitely been a learning experience; the good news is that for Ye Olde Magick Shoppe, I’ll be better prepared. (By the way, submissions are open! Click the link and check it out.)
Since I’m surely not the only person who’s producing a compilation of other people’s work, I figured that a writeup of my key takeaways would be interesting. So here they are:
1. Everything takes longer.
When it’s just you, you are limited by your own capabilities; but on the other hand, you have total control, and no coordination friction. Once other people are involved, time has to be budgeted in dealing with all the slowdowns that result. And even if you think you gave yourself enough time, you probably didn’t.
I first published the Call for Submissions in December 2016, launched the Kickstarter project in February 2017, and promised the completed anthology to my backers by December 2017. In my case, even though editing the stories took more time than I anticipated, I actually did give myself a distant-enough deadline to handle the overflow anyway—provided that we went the self-publishing route, which was the plan. Even when I started talking with my publisher, I assumed that there was enough time left to meet our promised deadline without difficulty. But traditional publication is a much, much, much more deliberate process than I expected. Hence the delay.
2. Start planning your campaign early.
I didn’t decide when to launch the Kickstarter campaign until far too close to the anthology’s submission deadline; so marketing suffered, and the project page wasn’t as polished as I would like. For one thing, the promo video used computer voices, which sounded hideous, because I could do it in an hour or two—but I figured computer voices were marginally better than no sound at all.
For my next project, even though I’m planning to launch the Kickstarter page in April, I’m already in contact with artists and voiceover actors. With a little luck, the project page will be far more attractive than it was this time around, which means more backers and more money for authors. And speaking of which…
3. Budget realistically.
Kickstarter takes roughly 10% of the gross as its fee. It also costs money to mail physical books to backers, or to provide other tangible rewards. And about 70% of the funds raised were used to pay the authors, of course—and suddenly we’re already in the red.
I expected that, and viewed it as a long-term investment, in principle. And on the bright side, for a modest project like this one, the dollar amounts are manageable. But in a larger project, the costs of distributing backer rewards can quickly get out of hand if you don’t plan for them carefully.
I don’t know yet what proportion of funds will go to the authors the next time around, but it may end up being closer to 60%. And as fun as it sounds to offer things like bookmarks or art prints, we’ll probably skip all that and stick with intangibles, like being able to name a character.
4. Know what rights you want from your authors, and why.
With my original plan to self-publish, I didn’t care so much about securing a long term of rights from the anthology’s authors. When traditional publication became possible, that became a problem; the publisher was hesitant and ultimately wanted a longer period of exclusivity, which I had to get from the authors. That slowed us down.
Next time, I’ll have a better set of expectations about what rights to secure, and will get signed contracts from the authors in advance. That will make the anthology more marketable, and will hopefully help us avoid unexpected delays over the legal wrangling.
If this was helpful for you, let me know in the comments. Kickstarter and other crowdfunding methods are powerful, but you need to have a plan and realistic expectations. Once you are armed with those, however, the power of crowds can help bring new works of art to life.