Friday, March 11, 2011

Sports Cars, NIGHT FOLK, and Kickstarter, part two

(And here's the second part of my long and rambling explanation for why I'm doing a Kickstarter campaign for a novel. If you're curious about the project, please visit the Kickstarter NIGHT FOLK page.)

It seemed like a pretty simple idea -- use Kickstarter to raise funds to finance work on a novel. I've been studying prose in depth for the last 5 or 6 years, learning the craft and refining my approach to stories, all with the goal of writing a novel. And then I started working out the details.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Kickstarter, here's how it works -- you put your creative project up on the site, set a goal for the amount of money you want to raise, set a time limit for the fundraising (up to the Kickstarter limit of 90 days), and solicit pledges from people to help finance it. If you meet your goal, you're golden. If you don't meet your goal by the end of your auction, you receive nothing. So in order to attract 'backers', you need to give away some rewards, geared to different levels of pledges.

Now, anyone who knows me knows I've been working on a novel based on my character, Evan Fade. When it really comes down to it, he's why I decided to learn how to write prose. My first thought was, "Great! I'll raise the money I need to take time off from comics to finish the Fade novel!". But if I was going to ask people to pledge money for a book, I felt like they should get a copy of the book, and the most logical way to do that was to create something I could publish digitally, give a copy to all my backers, and then sell it in Amazon's Kindle store and through Apple's iBookstore. I've been playing with the idea of digital publishing for my personal comic book projects, even setting up my own company to do it, so why not expand the idea to publishing a digital novel, as well?

Now, for the record, let me admit up front that I'm a wuss. This whole thing is a massive experiment, even if I happen to think it'll work. (Wouldn't be spending time on it if I thought otherwise.) But I was nervous about using the Fade novel as the project I'd be fund-raising for. There are all sorts of complicated reasons for this, mostly having to do with trying to sell a book to publishers when it's already been published digitally, but really it all comes down to this... I chickened out.

In my defense, I've been developing the Fade material for 20 years. It's an intensely personal project for me, and it's not something I'm comfortable taking chances with or doing anything that might compromise my vision for the material. With people pledging money to see a finished project, I would have to rush to finish it and publish it digitally, which in and of itself was a risk. While some authors (most vocally, thriller and mystery writer J.A. Konrath) have had a lot of success with digital self-publishing, it's still a pretty new and volatile market. All in all, a few too many risks and way too many opportunities to compromise in the name of getting the project done and out.

But there was a solution. I had two stories that tie into the whole mythos of the Fade universe -- or as my friend Dan and I call it, the Smythos (which I probably shouldn't admit to, publicly) -- The October Girl, and a project called Night Folk. They're both side stories, featuring characters that also appear in the Fade book I've been working on, and flesh out the whole mythology in ways that will be important to Fade's story later on.

(Did I mention that the Fade novel I'm working on now is supposed to be the first in a series? I've got 2 more plotted, and a plan for at least 3 more on top of those. Yeah... I've had way too much time to plot and plan his story.)

There was another added bonus -- I'd conceived both October Girl and Night Folk as comics, but the more I worked with the Night Folk concept, the more it seemed like it wanted to be a novel, and a shorter novel than the first Fade book. And it was an all-ages kind of book that would lend itself to illustrations, something I hoped might bring in fans of my art who were iffy on the whole idea of me writing something. Hmmm...

But in the end, the deciding factor was that I really wanted to tell the story. It's true that I'm a wuss, and I have time constraints to deal with, so length was an issue, but I never commit to writing something unless I actually care about it and feel like I have something to say with the story.

And I care about Victoria and the Night Folk, and there IS something I want to say through them, something about being true to who your are and standing up for what you believe in.

As I'm writing this, I'm already 30% towards my funding goal with 50 days or so left. We're off to a good start, but there's a long way to go. But let me also say, having admitted my nervousness about using the Fade project (and feeling like a world class wuss for being nervous about it), I'll make this promise -- if this NIGHT FOLK experiment works, I'll be doing the same thing with Fade next.

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