2014 has already been a busy year putting together the last details of our new graphic novel about Owney, the postal dog. Now, it has finally arrived! Artist David Montgomery and I come full circle in our own journey to bring to life the adventures of this much-admired pooch.
This coming week marks the release of “The Secret Around-the-World Adventures of Owney the Postal Dog” to all our Kickstarter backers. It’s a great moment for us, as we are tremendously excited to share this book with the people who helped us make it happen. It all started on October 4th 2012, when we launched our first campaign on Kickstarter. Today, Kickstarter has become the household name for crowdfunding, having helped bring more than 133,000 creative projects to life already. We’re proud to have made one of those projects!
Despite the boon that Kickstarter was for us, allowing us to network and to reach out directly to readers who believed in the project, David and I soon realized that with crowdfunding, there was much to learn and a short time period to learn it; lessons and challenges cropped up with each new phase of the project. Below are just a few of the things we learned from our Kickstarter/self-publishing experience:
1- Running a Kickstarter campaign takes stamina.
From the moment you hit the launch button until the last seconds of your campaign, your heart and mind will be fixated on your Kickstarter counter. We ran our campaign for 30 days, which is what Kickstarter recommends (“choosing a shorter duration better positions a project for success,” according to their instructions - as shown in the graph below), and we worked hard each and every one of those days to get the word out, to network with people who might be interested in the project, to create new campaign rewards as the days went on and, of course, to get started on the book itself. Even before the launch, there is significant prep for the campaign (creating a video, planning rewards, etc.) and afterwards, there is still much to do and consider (ordering of items and services, delivery).
2 – If possible, have a Kickstarter guide.
When we decided to take our project to Kickstarter, our knowledge of crowdfunding was minimal. Luckily, David was working with Jamey Stegmaier - creator of Stonemaier Games - on a board game called Viticulture. Besides being a Kickstarter success story, Jamey also writes a very informative blog where he lists the many lessons he has learned from Kickstarter. We learned a lot from Jamey and his impressive track record in running successful campaigns for his games. If you don’t know anyone who has done a Kickstarter campaign (though there is an increasingly great chance you do know someone!), reach out to others through the Kickstarter site: Kickstarter is a vibrant community of people with creative ideas like you who are usually friendly and more than happy to help out.
3 -Allow more time for delivery.
The hardest lesson we had to learn was when it became painfully obvious that our initial estimate for the book being completed within 6 months was unrealistic. The book turned out to be 142 pages (from the 110 we had first projected), all drawn and inked by David. In hindsight, it was actually quite a feat to finish production in a year. We will be forever indebted to our Kickstarter supporters and grateful for their patience and understanding. We can only hope that they find the end product will have justified their wait.
4 - No matter how much you prepare, unexpected problems will appear.
We have not discussed this until now because we didn’t want to detract from the book itself, but we made an unfortunate mistake when we hired our first colorist, who we prepaid from our Kickstarter funds; in our inexperience and eagerness to get started, we did not do enough investigating to determine if this person could handle the large amount of work that lay ahead; he couldn't, and we ended up losing some money and a lot of time. Fortunately, through a friend in common, we got in touch with Toronto colorist Dan McLaren, who stepped up to the plate by delivering outstanding art and ideas on a fast and consistent basis. To complete the team in Toronto, we contacted experienced letterer Chris McQuaid, who brought a crisp but old-fashioned style to captions and balloons that complemented the art perfectly. In the end, the project was the better for it, but a lesson learned was to know who you're working with and to have all expectations spelled out clearly and in writing!
5 - When the campaign is finshed the work really begins.
Kickstarter is only the beginning. Now that the book is ready, its life can begin. The gestation period is over and we have this newborn book in our hands; now we’re looking for a home for it where it can grow to its full potential. As we embark on this next stage, we feel very grateful to all who believed in our project and excited to present Owney to a whole new audience (like any proud parent, we're excited to show off our baby to everyone!). It seems our trip with Owney is just beginning, and we can't wait to see where it takes us!