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How One Writer Used Kickstarter To Revive a Book Series

Tobias Buckell, a science fiction writer, and the author of Arctic Rising, a near-future science fiction thriller, experienced something that many writers have faced. He had written three books in his Xenowealth Universe – Crystal Rain, Ragamuffin, and Sly Mongoose, but book sales for the series was going in the wrong direction. After battling some personal health issues, Buckell decided to revive the Xenowealth series (despite sales, the books had a steady and growing audience), and he decided to use Kickstarter as a way to fund and publish the fourth Xenowealth book – The Apocalypse Ocean.

The Apocalypse Ocean

This week, Tobias wrote an epic explanation of how he successfully used Kickstarter to revive his Xenowealth series. Below is a short excerpt from Tobias’s epic post – read the full post.

And, oh yeah, if you’re a science fiction fan or have a science fiction fan in your life, grab a copy of The Apocalypse Ocean today. You can buy it directly from Tobias, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, or iBooks.

“I created a Kickstarter page. I created a video with the custom graphics Pablo had made, with me giving a brief synopsis of the novel to be, and a lot of explanation as to how Kickstarter worked (it was a little over a year ago, it was a newer concept).

I researched every similar project I could, and read the Kickstarter (and Kickstarter lesson articles) blog summaries of statistics.

I decided that I would a) keep to as few levels of support (rewards for backers) as I could, as many indicated too much choice creates choice fatigue or confusion and b) focus on the $25 and $50 price levels that Kickstarter indicated are the two most popular.

I set the eBook as the $25 reward, and the printed limited edition hardcover as the $50.

I promised to start the novel January 1st, and finish it sometime in the middle of the year (I kept using July as a target month).

I created a spreadsheet, where I then ‘gamed’ various scenarios based on averages that Kickstarter showed for successful projects (most people support at 25, then 50, and so on).

I took a look at a print on demand publisher, Lulu, and eyeballed out what a per-book cost was going to be. For the hardcover, Lulu estimated ~$20. I added in $5 shipping and handling on my end, I wasn’t sure how much they would charge, so I guessed $30 a book to be a very safe place to be. I gamed out how different levels of support would affect the overall profit of the project, and came up with a final price.

Back in 2006, five years earlier, I sold my first novel for roughly the bog standard minimum wage of genre novel writing. The mythical $5,000 advance. I earned way more than that in royalties once it earned out, and translation sales, audio rights, and the SF Bookclub addition. My advances are higher now, but this was my first attempt. It felt right to compare.

So I figured, I needed to at least beat $5,000 in profit. Printing fees looked like they could be anywhere from $2,000 and on up. I set aside money for design (Pablo does amazing work, man, and deserved to be paid as he does this stuff professionally, as he was doing a cover design, an interior PDF for the print copy, and so on). There was shipping. There was copy editing that would need done. There was the 10% in fees that would be taken out (5% to Kickstarter, 5% to Amazon payments). I looked at it and figured, $10,000. Minimum needed to make it work.

So that was the set up. The Apocalypse Ocean. $10,000 needed to fund it to match the same sort of base scenario as my first novel.”

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