Lessons from the Dungeon Samurai Kickstarter

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Having achieved 110.5% of its funding goal, the Kickstarter campaign of Dungeon Samurai was a great success. I am grateful to all backers and everyone who have helped with the campaign, and am now preparing the manuscript for publication. Looking back on the campaign, I’ve 5 lessons to share.

1. The Campaign Begins Before It Begins

The most important lesson of the Dungeon Samurai campaign was the importance of lead marketing. That is, stimulating interest in the target audience and converting them into buyers before the crowdfunding campaign begins.

Once the crowdfunding campaign kicks off, you only have a limited time to find backers. You don’t want to spend that time trying to excite people in your product. You want an eager audience primed to back your campaign and spread the word the moment it goes live. This saves time and energy on generating leads and selling your ideas to potential backers, letting you focus on more important task.

A good example of this from PulpRev is the #AGundamForUs initiative. For the past year, PulpRev writers have been creating mecha-centric novels, such as Brian Niemeier’s Combat Frame XSeedor Rawle Nyanzi’s Shining Tomorrow. By talking about their work during the creation process, they were creating an audience before they went live with their own campaigns.

The biggest mistake I made for Dungeon Samurai was the lack of lead marketing. To be fair, the original plan was to publish it as a web novel on Steemit. But by the time the manuscript was ready for publication, publishing on Steemit was no longer a viable option. Crowdfunding became the next best way of raising funds to publish it. I spent a lot of time and energy playing catch-up and seeking backers. If I had to do it again, I’d definitely start talking about my fiction well before it’s slated to be published.

2. Always Be Hustling

Once the campaign is live, it’s pedal to the metal, full speed ahead.

During the 30 days of the campaign, I was rushing every day, doing something to promote the campaign. I was arranging interviews, sending out advance review copies, participating in podcasts, writing background material to promote the stories, promoting the campaign on social media and more. In addition to working three different jobs.

It’s a relentless rush from start to finish. You can’t simply kick back and let the money roll in. You need to communicate with your audience, keep them updated on your campaign, and contact people who can help you reach out to even more people. And if you have other real-life responsibilities as well, it will be exhausting.

If you’re working a solo campaign like I am, there’s no way around this. What you can do is prepare well ahead. Arrange for interviews before the campaign goes live, send out eARCs to bloggers and reviewers, and other time-consuming tasks. Remember: the campaign begins before it begins. The more work you do before it starts, the less time you’ll need doing scut work, and the more time and energy you have for the important things.

3. Ask and You Shall Receive

Crowdfunding is, quite simply, asking lots of people, many of whom are strangers, to give you money in exchange for a product. You have to ask before you can get support.

However, I am, by nature, an introvert. Arguably a hermit. In every personality test I’ve run, I almost always max out the scores for introversion. Running a crowdfunding campaign runs counter to my natural preferences.

But I went and did it anyway.

I am enormously grateful for the help I’ve received along the way. From interviews with PulpRev creators to Kickstarter pledges to social media mentions, people were perfectly happy to step up and lend me a hand however they could.

Which leads to an important corollary: if you don’t ask for anything, you won’t receive anything. If you don’t tell people what you have to offer, they aren’t going to help you. If you want to succeed, you’ve got to reach out to as many people as you can.

The greatest obstacle here is fear of rejection. But you have literally nothing to lose. If you ask and get help, great! If you’re rejected, you’ve lost nothing except maybe the time it took to craft your pitch. The surest way to tackle this fear of rejection is to boldly contact as many people as you can, to work past the fear and partner with those who are eager to buy what you have to sell.

4. Who You Know Matters

Blasting all sorts of people with mass emails, newsletters, press releases and so on is exhausting. Some people have the time and stamina for that. I don’t, not when I’m working three jobs in addition to crowdfunding. To maximise returns, I elected to focus my marketing campaigns.

Dungeon Samurai appeals to a select group of people: fans of old-school sword and sorcery tales, OSR Dungeons and Dragons players, and PulpRev. I reached out to my friends in those groups, pitching Dungeon Samurai and asking for interview opportunities, and received many favourable responses. Through their interviews and social media signal boosts, they helped push the campaign to a wider audience than I could have alone.

I am also blessed to have a wife who is a superb networker. It’s no exaggeration to say that her tireless efforts accounted for half of all backer contributions. She helped me sell the books and ideas to her stupendously wide circle of friends, leading to the campaign’s ultimate success.

The lesson here is two-fold. First, focusing your marketing efforts on your target audience leads to maximum returns on investment. Second, relationships matter. Fans, friends and family are far more willing to go to bat for you than perfect strangers ever would.

Be an active part of the community, help everyone you can, and speak as often to your target audience as possible. Without relatonships, you won’t get far.

5. Maintain Momentum

Funding is a milestone, but it’s not the end. You can’t stop work just because you’ve received the money. If anything, you need to redouble your efforts, since you now have a responsibility to your backers to deliver on time.

You need to keep your backers updated, continue with production, handle shipping and logistics, track your finances, and more. The entire process isn’t over until you’ve completely fulfilled your backer obligations. You must see things through to the end.

In the case of Dungeon Samurai, the cover artist is hard at work on the cover of Dungeon Samurai Volume 1: Kamikaze. I am going through the manuscript as well to take care of formatting issues and other last-minute edits. The project remains on schedule.

I’m also pleased to report that I’ve begun work on my next series, a cyberpunk espionage/military thriller titled SINGULARITY SUNRISE. Do keep an eye out for it in the near future.

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While Dungeon Samurai is still in production, I have other books ready for prime time. If you love demons, magic, hardcore action, counterterrorism and conspiracies, check out my latest novel HAMMER OF THE WITCHES.

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Lessons from the Dungeon Samurai Kickstarter
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