DONE!!! Crushed the $30K stretch goal with a minute to go. LOVE you guys.
DONE!!! Crushed the $30K stretch goal with a minute to go. LOVE you guys.
http://assaultorattrition wraps in 60 minutes - couldn’t have done it without you!!!
for Blake Northcott’s new novel, "Assault or Attrition"
As always, Natasha did an AMAZING job on this design!! LOVE IT!!
What are you trying to get made? A comic book? A novel? An HBO mini-series about a psychic elf detective and his zombie sidekick? It doesn’t matter how simple or how complicated the premise is: you have to be able to sell it in an elevator.
Allow me to elaborate.
Imagine you step into an elevator somewhere in Hollywood, and standing across from you is Steven Spielberg. He smiles and asks what’s in your hand…it’s your project! Your dream project, and he can make it a reality. He wants the details – the ‘pitch’. You have maybe 30 seconds before he gets off, and you’ll never see him again. So explain it, and make him fall in love with it. And do it fast.
Whether it’s someone you want to work with or someone who might back your project, there’s one thing they have in common: limited time. And with limited time comes limited patience. As amazing and revolutionary that you, the artist, thinks your idea is, no one else cares (yet) and you have only a few precious sentences to make them care. Ramble, and they’ll lose interest, ie. get off the proverbial elevator. They click off your page, delete your Email or mentally check out of the conversation…you’ve lost them forever.
I recently reached out to Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar about my current Kickstarter project (sci-fi/superhero novel ‘Assault or Attrition’) and this was the pitch I sent him:
The premise is somewhat like, “What if Lex Luthor succeeded in killing Superman?”
Not just a ‘What If?’ scenario, but more like a ‘What Now?’ What would he do, how would the world react, and where would he hide? Lex would be the most hated (and hunted) man on the planet.
51 words. 273 characters. Not quite a Tweet, but close – definitely ‘elevator length’.
The result was an endorsement from Mister Millar that helped set my campaign on fire during it’s opening week:
My ‘long’ story synopsis for the novel consists of three paragraphs, and I edited that down from a page and a half. Cutting out your carefully crafted sentences can feel like you’re severing a limb, and at the time can feel just as painful, but in the end you’ll be thankful you did it.
Edit. Chop. Slice. Erase. Attack that multi-page monstrosity and keep hacking away until you can fit it on a bumper sticker, because that’s what gets people’s attention.
And once you have it down to a couple sentences – the juicy tidbits that intrigue and entice – then you can lead them to a longer description. They’ll be more receptive to your ideas, and ready to hear the whole story.
Did you enjoy Joss Whedon’s new televised hour-long drama, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?
I did. A lot. But not everyone shared my post-viewing enthusiasm. The all-out PR assault leading into last Tuesday’s series premiere had reached a fever pitch over the course of the summer, and it’s hard to blame people’s excitement – a televised tie-in to 2012’s The Avengers certainly deserved our attention. However, the bar was set just a little too high for some; and with great hype (always) comes great disappointment.
I spent the last week reading the glowing praise, as well as the angry grumbles…and of course, the complete nonsense. If you didn’t like it, here are my rebuttals to your complaints (and why you should hang in there):
1. Where were all the Avengers?
As Joss Whedon mentioned before the show launched, this wouldn’t be an ‘Easter Egg Factory’, constantly spitting out guest spots from Marvel Movie alum.
Yes, the possibility exists for a guest spot, and I’m sure we’ll see them in the very near future – but this is about the human, non-powered agents, and not the superheroes.
I want to see the A-listers show up as much as you do, but you’re just gonna have to wait.
2. Why didn’t they have recognizable superhuman characters – why make new ones up?
One complaint is that J. August Richard’s character, who looked similar to Luke Cage, was indeed not Luke Cage.
In the premiere, I would guess that they didn’t want to focus on any one superhuman, and just make it about the Agents. Especially since the point was to put the character on the sidelines by the end of the episode…so it would be a little silly to say, “Here is Luke Cage! Remember him? Wait, now he’s gone.”
I’m sure there will be some big name characters appearing at some point, but that won’t be until the main players are established.
3. What about the effects? They weren’t as good as the movie.
I know. It’s a TV show. The budget isn’t $200M.
4. The scale was too small.
I actually like the idea of a ‘mystery of the week’, as opposed to ‘the goddamned Apocalypse is upon us’ every episode. Let the blockbuster movies deal with the bi-annual world-ending event, and let the Agents do their own, more X-File-y type of stuff.
I think the scale will allow for deeper character development, and hopefully even more continuity as it weaves in and out of the events of the movies.
5. I didn’t like [insert grumble here]
Let’s face it: there was simply too much hype going into this show – period. Anything short of Tony Stark soaring from the sky with AC/DC blaring in the background was going to cause at least some measure of disappointment.
If you are a fan of Joss Whedon, you know that he likes to world-build. This is what’s happening here. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse – they all required several episodes to hit their stride, and really grip the viewer. Hell, I wasn’t a hardcore Buffy fan until the middle of season 2, and then it went on to become my favorite series of all time. That’s just the way he operates; Joss takes advantage of the medium, and uses multiple hours to develop characters, relationships, and to reveal ‘the big bad’ – the ultimate hurdle that the protagonists are going to try and overcome.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will get better. It’s inevitable. As great as I thought the initial outing was, I can definitely see it improving, and taking care of all the complaints that people are having.
We will get guest stars. And recognizable heroes. And big budget moments. All that good stuff. Just give it time, relax, and enjoy the ride.
And if you come complaining to me on Twitter or Facebook, I will be forced to write an assessment of your behaviour. And rest assured, it will involved a drawing of a little poop with knives sticking out of it.
Love and kisses,
This is a couple of years old, originally posted by Disney/Pixar storyboard artist Emma Coats.
Talking cars aside, this studio has a pretty spotless record of telling amazing stories, IMHO; no matter who you are, or what level you’re at, I’m sure you can find something useful in this list. Enjoy.
#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.
#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.
#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.
#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
#6: What is your character good at, comfortable with? Throw the polar opposite at them. Challenge them. How do they deal?
#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.
#8: Finish your story, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time.
#9: When you’re stuck, make a list of what WOULDN’T happen next. Lots of times the material to get you unstuck will show up.
#10: Pull apart the stories you like. What you like in them is a part of you; you’ve got to recognize it before you can use it.
#11: Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
#12: Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th – get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.
#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
#15: If you were your character, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to unbelievable situations.
#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.
#17: No work is ever wasted. If it’s not working, let go and move on - it’ll come back around to be useful later.
#18: You have to know yourself: the difference between doing your best & fussing. Story is testing, not refining.
#19: Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.
#20: Exercise: take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How d’you rearrange them into what you DO like?
#21: You gotta identify with your situation/characters, can’t just write ‘cool’. What would make YOU act that way?
#22: What’s the essence of your story? Most economical telling of it? If you know that, you can build out from there.
rough to inks for a wolverine cover - Mark Morales inked this one beautifully!
When it comes to setting timelines for your Kickstarter campaign, keep things brief and don’t overstay your welcome. 30 days, or less, is optimal.
Conventional wisdom would lead some to ask, “Wouldn’t it be better to keep my project up there for as long as possible? Then more people can see it!” The problem is that people won’t back you for 45 or 60 straight days. For the most part, they’ll back you in the first week, and the last.
Check it out:
$18,961 of my $35,353 total was pledged in the first 7 days of my campaign - 53.6%. In the last 7 days, $8,756 more was pledged – 24.7%. So in the opening and closing weeks, 78.3% of the total came in.
The two weeks in between accounted for less than 22% of the pledges.
Other reasons to keep it brief?
1) Kickstarter fatigue: you’ll be exhausted from campaigning. A month of PR and marketing and asking people to check out your project takes it’s toll – both mentally and physically. It’s a job in itself, and it will consume a lot more time than you’d think.
2) Backer burnout: the longer the campaign, the longer the backers have to wait until they receive their rewards. People are impatient – deliver as quickly as possible and keep the momentum going!
3) Keep the heat on: the shorter the campaign, the more heat you’ll generate in a smaller time frame, clustering your pledges closer together.
More buzz = more backers, and more backers = you could appear in the ‘Popular This Week’ section, leading to even more exposure for your project.
Hope that helped get your timelines figured out. I’ll be back with more entries, where we’ll discuss the rest of the set-up process. Next up: set up your rewards!
I love you guys…
Good covers = more attention from potential readers.
More attention = more sales.
More sales = you are a happy author. :-)
Sorry if that wasn’t overly technical. This business of cover design is more of an art than a science, so I can’t give you as much quantifiable data on this front as I’d like – but, for the sake of argument, let’s try to attach some dollar values to this concept.
We all know that a gorgeous cover will attract attention, and give the perception (justified or not) of quality when it comes to the book itself. So if you want to be a best-selling author on Kickstarter, Amazon or anywhere else, you need to make sure that your cover is as professional, compelling, and as stunning as possible.
“But Blake!” you shout at your computer, shaking your fist in the air, “I’ve seen a lot of mediocre covers, and they sell a shit-ton of copies! What about JK Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy? Or those Twilight pieces of crap!?”
Good point, guy who screams at his monitor and expects me to hear it. But here’s the thing: they’re already best-selling authors, with a major publishing house pushing their work. If you write the next Harry Potter series, and sell millions of copies and billions in movie ticket sales, THEN you can have whatever the heck you want as a cover; put a stick figure holding up a sign that says ‘buy this novel’ for all I care.
But until then, focus on quality.
“But what is a gorgeous cover?”
Art is subjective, but it’s also a technical skill. If you’re a reader of a certain genre, there are different expectations you have about the type of cover you want to see.
For example, I write sci-fi/superhero/fantasy. So the expectation for my readers, I’d imagine, would be:
And as someone pointed out to me, there are a couple other similar elements you’ll see if you explore fantasy and sci-fi novels: full-bleed artwork, jewel tone colors, and art, NOT photography (while in young adult, you’ll find photography is all the rage – know your audience, and research a ton to see what’s hot in your particular genre).
With the cover of ARENA MODE, that’s what I wanted to deliver – so I found the most talented artist possible to make that happen. On top of that, I found the most incredible logo designer I could get my hands to cap it off.
“What am I, Donald Trump? I can’t afford fancy cover artists and logo designers!”
If there is one area where you need to invest as an indie author – one place where you absolutely, positively cannot cut corners – it’s the cover designer.
Get mom and dad to proofread for you. Get your alcoholic cousin to do the typesetting. Get the crazy cat-lady who lives next door to be a beta reader. I don’t care. But don’t get someone to do a cover just because they’ll do it for free.
You don’t need to spend a fortune: go to Deviant Art and you’ll find some insanely talented people willing to hook you up for as little as $100 - $200. As an indie author, it’ll be the best money you ever spend.
And why not sweeten the deal? Offer a couple hundred bucks on the back-end if your Kickstarter funds successfully – give the artist an incentive to work even harder.
“Okay, so what should my cover look like?!”
Well, again, that’s an art – not a science. But it only took me a couple minutes to find these covers on Kickstarter: scroll down, and check out the covers along with the money they raised from backers.
Three are amazing, and three are…well, not so amazing. This is where art meets $$$. You can see for yourself what worked and what is definitely not.
CLOCKWORK UNIVERSE: Steampunk vs. Aliens Anthology
Time Traveled Tales: A Speculative Fiction Anthology
A journey to prove her worth…
$50.00 pledged of $5,000 goal
16 days to go
The Red Threads of Destiny
$110 pledged of $2,500 goal
15 days to go
The God Project Part 1 & 2
pledged of $1,500 goal 32 days to go
If you are on the ‘not so good’ cover list, this is NOT designed to make you feel bad! Your book might be phenomenal - it’s just that you need something a little prettier to help spread your story to the rest of the world.
I’ll be back soon to talk about some more pre-campaign prep work. As always, drop me an Email or find me on social media if you have any questions!
I love you guys…
I’ve backed 28 different Kickstarter projects, and in every occasion, it was the video that sold me.
Sure, I was searching for things that initially caught my attention through the title or concept or a still picture, but it was watching – and enjoying – the video that caused me to pull the trigger, and ultimately become a backer.
How important is a video?
My video was watched 11,903 times, leading to 948 backers (and $35,353) during my 30-day campaign.
How does that break down? 7.96% of the people who watched my video (about 1 in 12.5 viewers) became a backer. I have no clue if this is a good ratio vs. other Kickstarter campaigns, but it definitely shows the power if the medium. A campaign could easily get funded with a fraction of that number, and I’m sure plenty of people have done far better that I did.
What to keep in mind while making your video:
1) Keep it short. People have extremely limited attention spans. The Internet is filled to the brim with cat videos and hilarious memes and every type of porn known to man – if you aren’t giving your audience something compelling, they’ll keep surfing.
(Do people still say ‘surfing’ the net? I sound like my mom.)
Look at my stats: only 17.47% of people actually finished watching my video – and it was only 4 minutes! I would suggest trying to keep it around the 2-3 minute mark if you can manage it. Be concise, to the point, and try to make your case as soon as possible (preferably in the first 60 seconds).
2) Don’t be a talking head. Before making my video, I spoke with a co-worker who had 18+ years of professional video editing experience. His advice: there is nothing worse than a talking head. Ever. Unless someone is an incredible, compelling speaker, having a person staring into a camera for more than 30 seconds is death to a viewer.
Mix things up: music, sound effects, images, other video clips – ANYTHING to give the viewer something else to look at.
3) Have fun. Be professional, and state your case clearly – but do it with a smile. You don’t have to be a goofy and ridiculous as I am, but let the viewer know that a) you’re passionate about your project, and b) that you’re enjoying yourself.
So don’t hold back, because there is nothing more contagious that fun and passion!
Other than the Black Plague…I hear that was pretty contagious. But aside from that – fun.
I’ll be back soon for part 2.
I love you guys …