The Funding Period and the Immortal Campaign

In my previous post, I mentioned an intention to talk about how I’d launched my campaign a little earlier than was advised. There’s a school of thought that says you want a substantial number of followers before you begin, and another that says the number of followers do not matter. In my opinion, there’s an element of truth to both of these: what matters is not the number of followers, per se, but the amount of buzz surrounding a project. The number of followers a project has is simply one sign of overall popularity, but not a definitive one.

This popularity matters–well, I should say it mattered, past tense, because Things Have Changed–because a funding campaign gives you a limited time to gather all these pre-orders. The more you can frontload a campaign, the further you can go. If you have a bunch of people ready with their credit cards the day you launch, that’s so many people you don’t have to chase after later on in the campaign, and that much more time you’ll have to go chase other people.

But here’s a thought that struck me. Spending a lot of time picking up followers from Inkshares can also be counter-productive, because I can’t be certain that all these people are still going to be around if I wait six months to launch. Wouldn’t it be better to have the campaign already taking pre-orders, so people can order immediately instead of following now and coming back later–or possibly forgetting in the meantime?

I determined that the way to have the best of both worlds was to set an extra-long funding period. The first six months of it would be more of a “soft sell” period, where normal people would be picking up followers for their draft; the latter four months would be the “real” campaign. That’s not how it worked out, though. Family members were eager to jump in, and I started off with the bang that most people would have had to depend on a large following to get.

But, as I said, Things Have Changed.

fundbar

Here’s an excerpt from a screenshot of my “edit project” page. The yellow rectangle shows that I may now change the end-date of my campaign at will: in effect, I can give myself extra time whenever I want. This was probably in response to a number of campaigns that have had extensions on top of extensions, and it seems like a tiny little thing … but it changes everything.

(On a side note: Look! I’m 9 pre-orders away from 300! Can I make it there by Sunday evening? Come, send me over the line of 300, to gaze upon the bleak despair stretching on from there to 400…!)

Remember when I spoke about a campaign being a limited time to sell pre-orders? That’s no longer true. With the power to give oneself as many extensions as one wants, a campaign now will only timeout for one of three reasons:

  1. The author has lost interest and neglected to extend the campaign.
  2. The author has lost either faith or patience, and decided to give up the campaign.
  3. The author has vowed to take only what fate and the internet has seen fit to bestow on them within the given timeframe, and no more.

Imagine that each campaign is now immortal. What does this mean?

  1. If a campaign cannot die, there will be no point at which it can have failed. Money put into it may now be considered in it forever. This is probably a good thing: a cynical way of gaming the system is to find someone who is unlikely to fund, pre-order their book and oblige them to pre-order yours in return, knowing that when their funding fails, you will get your money back and still have their pre-order in hand. With immortal campaigns, you can’t do this anymore. (On the other hand, perhaps it may be harder for people who have not yet made Quill to convince strangers on Inkshares to invest–since there’s no longer much of a money-back guarantee.)
  2. It becomes less a question of whether a campaign will succeed, and more of a question of when. The great danger of this is that unsaleable books are now less likely to be eliminated by lack of support: a patient author can extend their campaign year after year, slowly building up a body of “support” bought through offers of reciprocal pre-orders. One defence I’ve heard of blind pre-order swapping is that it does not account for sufficient sales to get an author to a publication goal. With immortal campaigns, this may no longer be true. There are new authors on Inkshares every week; it may take five years, or it may take ten, but sooner or later a patient author is going to encounter enough other authors to swap their way to publication, regardless of the saleability of their book.
  3. Inkshares has more money floating around internally. With the reduced need to return money on books that fail to fund–because they fail less often–that’s extra money retained in the Inkshares coffers for current projects. However, with the increased likelihood of having to expend money on books that may not earn back the cost of production, I worry that this may be a case of enriching the present to the detriment of the future.

As can be seen, the primary concern is with unsaleable books hitting the publication goal. By “unsaleable”, I do not mean “bad”. Bad books are easy to suss out; unsaleable books are less so, and the whole point of  the Inkshares pre-order exercise is supposedly to weed out the saleable from the unsaleable. While Inkshares does retain the right to refuse publication to a book even if it has made the funding goals, I believe this is a right that will be rarely exercised. It is, I believe, meant to prevent the publication of hate literature and troll submissions like “Atlanta Nights”. A book that seems mediocre or even bad to the discerning eye of a critic or reviewer might still turn out to be a bestseller–I’m sure you can think of an example or two–so I do not think Inkshares is going to risk turning down successfully-funded books just because they don’t seem, at first glance, to be very good. After all, the pre-order process should be evidence that a market exists, right?

I think it is imperative now that people on Inkshares be more careful than before with where they put their money. It is vital to all authors involved that Inkshares succeeds as a publisher, and that means a minimum number of unsaleable books making it to the finish line. And that in turn means being honest about what we do or do not like.

Unless we’re talking about murder mysteries set in the 1920s. Those are always saleable, and everyone should pre-order multiple copies whether mysteries are their thing or not.

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