Technically that’s not true. Kickstarter hasn’t kicked my butt yet, and may not at all. But if I’m going to hit the end of this campaign swinging, I needed a super catchy title. “Kickstarter Kicked My Butt” seemed to fit the bill. I mean, do people want to read about someone being squashed by a crowd-funding campaign? Sure; people love gore.
The deal is, I followed every piece of advice that I found on running a successful Kickstarter campaign. I take that back. There was exactly one thing I didn’t do: I didn’t hire a professional videographer (partly because advice was split on that issue and partly because hiring a videographer would sort of defeat the motivation of having no money to begin with). Everything else I did. No joke. I made the campaign the “right” length. Offered the “right” kind of prizes at the “right” price points. My video was personable. My description included a how-to Kickstarter bit. I papered the town. I hit up the local news. I Tweeted. I tried to get noticed by the Kickstarter gods. I made events and had a giveaway. Etc.
I have no idea why I wasn’t comfortably funded by Monday. I have no idea why I couldn’t even break a grand (so far). There are plenty of possibilities and I am not going to play my second-guessing tape here. But what I think most likely crushed us is something I have been wanting to discuss with you, anyhow.
This is a word you need to be on a first-name basis with, if you are a modern writer. Basically, it’s just an important modern word.
Where do you hear it? I often hear of markets reaching a saturation point. This means that there are no more people to sell to in a given market. So that’s really important to understand. For example, the book market has hit a saturation point. There is always enough literature available for the amount of readers reading at a reasonable rate. When you self-publish, you often aren’t looking for a need or a dry spot (unless you truly have a book with a topic that has not been covered), but are just looking for your piece of the daily pie. Like the market for football in America, people are already buying as much of books and football as we can ever expect they will.
But what I want to add to the discussion is this: People are saturated. They have reached saturation point with their time, their money, and their interests. Very few modern Americans have a scrap left for something new or different. We are in a culture of constant stimulation, where thing after thing after blessed thing marches through our days vying for our limited resources. It’s not that we don’t care about neutering cats or think that our child wouldn’t benefit from Chinese lessons, it’s just that we’re saturated. It’s not that my friends don’t want me to succeed or don’t think I can write, it’s that they have a Facebook feed of three hundred other things, topped with a toddler who sings like Pavorati and another $10 box sale at Modcloth.
It’s the flip side of the benefit of having everything at our fingertips. Yes, it’s super easy to find out anything we want on Wikipedia, or to buy the exact laptop screen that we spotted at the cafe, today (and have it by tomorrow). But, unlike computers and growing technology, humans have not been able to increase ourselves. No more time, no more brains, no more us. You get what you get. So when our town holds it’s annual chili cook-off, it’s not as simple of a proposition as it used to be. When our friend or some random talented writer asks us if we might contribute money–or even a share–to a fund to publish three books, it’s so darned complicated we’re defeated before we even start.
What about the Girl Scouts fundraiser my niece sent me?
What about the fund to build our new church building?
That jewelry party is this weekend, to support freeing Indian sex slaves.
So is that benefit dinner. And I still haven’t paid for the Disney on Ice tickets. Or theater club dues. And the serpentine belt needs to be replaced in the car…
But before I completely blow your fuse, I want to bring you back to why I share this. (Well, besides that fact that I would love for you to share this with your friends and then head over to Kickstarter and pledge for Owl and Zebra Press…) I want to make you aware of that pesky phenomenon: saturation. Let’s face it. Likely, you’re saturated. Likely, your audience is saturated. Likely, your supporters are saturated. Why can’t you get anybody except your husband and mom to show for a book launch these days? Too many options on a Thursday night. Too many books in everyone’s queue.
So what do we do about it?
- Be patient. Have endurance. This is the code of the modern writer.
- Have longevity. Being an author is very rarely a get-rich-or-famous-quick game. In fact, statistically speaking, we might as well say it is a never-get-rich-or-famous-quick game. If you are committed to the life of a writer, time is working for you, but you have to stick with it.
- Be the best, the most professional, the most polished. Every step up the awesome-work ladder you go, it’s one step closer to the success you seek. Don’t be distracted by the poor product that you see succeed; acknowledgement and sales come most often to those who have a superior product.
- Provide something that no one else provides. I wouldn’t spend my whole career chasing this goal, as it can be very elusive, but if you can draw real attention to a product that is unique, you are half-way there.
- Be easy on other people. Work with other writers, not against them, and be sympathetic to your overwhelmed readers.
- Put your eggs in more than one basket. Diversify. Be flexible when Facebook goes out of style and you have to move your life to Instagram. And make sure you have a back log that grows with the years.
- Keep your perspective. Are you a good writer? Are you working at becoming better? Don’t stop believing that because everyone else is so distracted they haven’t told you that, today.
- While you’re at it, enjoy the process. Oh, this is the hardest, especially when you just flopped on a very public Kickstarter bid or your first book is at an average of selling one hundred copies per year. But believe me when I say there is a way to enjoy this. You either have a really cool job or a really cool hobby, so live it up.
- Eat that humble pie. Use failure as an opportunity to grow. Why is the writer’s life so full of these opportunities?!?
And don’t stop dreaming, believing, or reaching for the stars. That’s when we find your dusty half-manuscript on your bookshelf when you die. It’s a life lesson, folks. You can never win if you never try.