The four campaigns for his alternate history series WREN had performed modestly, largely relying on family, friends, and a small but committed following on Kickstarter.
Now he was ready to branch out with a new series in a new genre, one he’d hoped would appeal more to the native Kickstarter audience.
But his email list was small and “stubbornly refused” to grow. And as he readied to launch the first issue of PIONEERS, Peter found himself staring into the unknown and wondering…
“Am I making a big mistake?”
After more than forty years in IT/Finance, Peter found himself with an opportunity.
When the company he worked for was subsumed in a merger, he had the opportunity to play for a big role in the new company or take the severance package and run. With the encouragement of his wife, he decided he could do with the exercise.
It was time to start his dream job: making comics.
“When I signed up for ComixLaunch, I didn’t really know it was about crowd-funding comics (I’d never heard of crowd-funding comics). I assumed it was about writing and putting them together, and I knew I was going to need support doing that, even if at the time I wasn’t actually planning on publishing anything. But joining got me from my first folded A4, pencil drawn ‘storyboard’ to a funded, physical ‘thing’ in just a few months and has been absolutely key in me continuing past that first issue.”
Peter found a welcoming community that helped him navigate the creation and crowdfunding of WREN. And seeing that series through to completion motivated him to try something new.
“With encouragement, the ability and know-how to un-block almost any problem or barrier—there’s always someone on hand to help with an issue, or inspire via their own achievements. I love watching people (in any walk of life) do their ‘thing’ WELL and Comixlaunch is full of them.”
With the community at his back and some success under his belt, Peter felt he knew exactly where to go to grow his audience for PIONEERS.
So he rolled up his sleeves and took to social media.
Unfortunately for him, the effort didn’t play out like he expected.
“I’d been doing a lot of work on social media, posting almost daily for about five months with the aim of directing people to my mailing list. This was really hard work and brought limited success, both in terms of mailing list signup and backers, so since the PIONEERS #1 campaign concluded, I’ve scaled that back a lot. I did a little paid (Facebook) advertising for WREN (with again little impact) but none so far for PIONEERS, although it’s something I might look at again for issue #2.”
With limited gains for his efforts, Peter knew he needed to pivot. He decided to try something that left him feeling energized rather than drained.
“I have had great fun contacting and appearing on podcasts, which gives me a chance to chat with likeminded (aka comic obsessed) people AND grow my audience at the same time. This has had as much impact on my list as social media & paid advertising combined—and is a LOT more fun to do.”
From there, he concentrated on engaging his mailing list audience, asking opinions on everything from plot to costumes, and sharing lots of work in progress pics and announcements like colorists, covers, and logos.
And while he hasn’t found the magic bullet to grow and excite his audience on autopilot, he’s certainly found a way to make it all less painful.
But less fearful? That's another thing.
Peter admits he’s not surprised he felt fear at the thought of launching a new series.
“I get terrified of everything! Imposter Syndrome haunts me with every page I draw and paragraph I write. I worry the results of a day’s work will be worthless (often while I’m still working on it). I worry people won’t like the books; about running out of money, of over-running deadlines. If it exists, I can manufacture a panic attack over it. The key for me has been to recognize the noise, not as my reality or truth, but more a type of ‘intrusive thought’ that my brain throws to trip me up. I’m in my (late’ish) 50’s now and I’ve carried this around throughout my career in IT and now as a creator. I’m never going to THINK I’m good enough—but that doesn’t mean I’m not!”
Peter knows what he wants, which is to share his work with an audience. So he finds a way to forge ahead despite the fear.
One trick he discovered lowered his stress level considerably.
“I personally find setting Kickstarter funding goals as low as possible, meeting them, and concentrating on how you can exceed them works well for me. You end up with (by and large) the same amount of funding, but you get to build on an earlier ‘success’ and remove the stress that comes from not knowing if you're actually going to fund! I’m sure there’s drawbacks to this strategy, but it has worked very well for me. My demons agree!”
He also found that the very act of moving forward in the face of his fears came with another benefit.
And it was one he’d already been working towards with limited success…
Peter found that by launching a new book in a genre the Kickstarter audience was interested in, the marketplace responded positively.
“I’m a relatively new creator, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from Kickstarter even two years ago. After a few issues/campaigns for WREN and some very kind comments from readers and reviewers – I was pretty sure that the content and quality were worthy of an audience, which left me unsure as to whether my limited audience size was due solely to the lack of ‘kerb appeal’ of an alternate history / mystery set in 17th Century London or if the size of the audience was ‘all’ Kickstarter was ever going to allow me.
“PIONEERS: BLOOD & STARS plays in different, more accessible spaces (c’mon, its Sci-Fi & Vampires), with seriously devoted followings and readers hungry to consume quality content. So the majority of PIONEERS backers (over 70%) are first time supporters that have mostly found me via this first PIONEERS campaign. Armed with those stats, I’m now firmly in the camp of ‘if you deliver quality / accessible content’ of a type that the Kickstarter audience enjoy supporting, there IS potential to gain new supporters and followers.”
The end result? Nearly three times as many backers as he’d gotten before, not to mention his highest dollar amount raised.
The experience left him certain of two things:
“A) I am good enough! B) Kickstarter definitely helped me expand my audience (which I was not expecting). I definitely feel I've peeked around the door of the 'hobbyist' lobby, perhaps into the atrium of the 'semi pro’!”
Delivering a good book, and keeping (and growing) that audience.
Then it’s on to PIONEERS #2, and perhaps a side project to keep things fresh.
As to the “screaming terror,” Peter’s not certain it will ever go away. But with a little experience and a supportive community, he’s learning to live with it.
“I’m a thinker, an overanalyser and a hell of a planner. Five years ago, I knew my place in the world and was still working hard to build (and/or keep pace with) my career. I didn’t foresee the merger, the pandemic, the need for indie books, or my need to write one. But I’ve always been just smart enough to recognize an opportunity when it tries to slide past (or runs up and punches me in the face). So my advice to myself if I could go back in time would be –
“Stay Awake. And if opportunity knocks, go answer the damn door!”
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