You managed to get the books funded on Kickstarter. What was using crowdfunding like?
For me it was a great opportunity to promote the book I was writing, and the ideas I had surrounding a fledgling series. It was pretty exciting, and waking up each day to find perfect strangers backing my project was personally very affirming. I was quite lucky to have it fully backed at an early stage, without the need to explicitly tap up friends and family. It’s not a fun run – you can’t badger people for money, otherwise the whole thing is just a fabrication built on quicksand. My parents didn’t back me. They don’t get it. It’s a truly an alien concept to most people. The phrase ‘Oh, I sponsored you’ is not one you want to hear.
I’m proud, and clearly insane, to say I didn’t make a penny of profit from the initial campaign. I’m in it for the long haul.
What advice would you offer to someone who is planning on using crowdfunding?
Don’t rush it. Publicizing the campaign and working on the product is mutually exclusive. I’m not terribly disciplined and used the date as my red line, which enabled me to tie up all the loose ends. Let’s say it was a tough month. Do your research on costs. Tier your rewards realistically – no one cares about what your time is worth. Use it for what it is – a platform, not a cash-cow. It’s a one-use-only teat, so don’t be greedy or think you’re going to grow fat off the proceeds. Give free stuff of low value; everyone likes bundles.
Will you do another campaign to fund more gamebooks?
I don’t really believe in going back for a second dollop of good will. If a project doesn’t stand on its own merits after the initial push, it’s probably because it’s not a good product, or that it betrays a lack of guile on behalf of the originator. I know some big companies use it to effectively guarantee pre sales for new products, and I don’t subscribe to this as an honest function.
Is there anything you would do differently if you did a second kickstarter?
I would probably do a bit more research about how to push people towards it. I was quite reliant on social media and forums, and often felt like a gatecrasher to other peoples parties which I’m not madly comfortable with. I would certainly have given a free copy to bloggers and influential figures within the products market. I would have written a press release and circulated it to the same. I regret not tying it in with other Kickstarts or having the patronage of a big name. Going solo is a hard task. It’ll always be easier when people are going into bat for you. I was going to get Brian Blessed to do the voice over. Couldn’t afford him.
Oh, and I’d also do proper research on postage costs to Australia, the US and Far East 😉
Can you give us a preview of the Lost Legion? Does it continue from the cliff hanger of book 1?
The Lost Legion is a standalone book, based in the same fantasy world as Restless Heart of Evil,though on a different continent – an immense and capricious jungle setting in which you are part of a search and recovery mission. It’s somewhat unique in the sense it can be played either as a solo adventure, or with you in command of a company of men. You don’t get to choose which – your decisions dictate the circumstances you find yourself. There are individual and group characteristics and different over-arching storylines. There are multiple dynamics running through it; trading, disease, curses, earthquakes, different protagonists fighting for various causes. It started off as a simple adventure and became something quite complex. Writing an adventure in a single setting is a challenge I hadn’t fully understood. So much more work is needed to keep pace.
The first 150 sections were written in one go over the space of three days and are quite heavy on narrative, so these are being revised to inject more immediacy into proceedings.
You have had some feedback about the system. Are you thinking of changing it?
Most of the feedback was complimentary towards the writing and characterisations, and hesitatingly critical about gameplay. I have to admit, this was a relief. Gameplay can be tweaked – poor writing is more difficult to turn around. The mechanics are very similar, crucially however I have adopted randomisation into tests and combats, using 1D6 and 2D6 ‘rolls’ to add to attributes, rather than flat pass/fail criteria. The bottom of each page will feature virtual dice rolls, so thumbing through the book will act it a proxy for rolling dice. Obviously, I’m not the first person to use this mechanism.
What does the future hold for the series?
I’m planning for two more books in 2015, so three published in total this year. Ambitious, but realistic. As I mentioned in my painfully narrated Kickstarter video, I wanted other authors on board, and have one such pensmith beavering away on a Desert Kingdom adventure, whilst I will be working on a Sci-Fi adventure. The follow-up to Restless Heart of Evil will follow as Book 5.
Work needs to happen to underpin the series. Social media needs a lot of love, and a website is planned. As it stands, meaty paperback gamebooks are a niche and I’m pretty comfortable with this, but should opportunity arise I’d love to take them to mobile in the form of Dangerous Worlds Lite.8