How to Train Your Kickstarter

Following the success (and by success, we mean the current top funded project in the Publishing: Fiction category with $35,353 in pledges and 948 backers!) of her first Kickstarter, Arena Mode author Blake Northcott has the perfect brain to pick for Kickstarter advice. The Toronto-based, self-publishing author very kindly took time out of her busy schedule, which includes work on her new Kickstarter, Assault or Attrition, and regular comic book and pop culture contributions to CBS Man Cave Daily, to share her Kickstarter experience with us.

Q: Your ebook Vs. Reality series was a success. What prompted you to up the game for Arena Mode?

A: I had an idea for about a year surrounding superhumans in a dystopian, slightly futuristic setting, but I really hadn’t sat down to write it out until September of 2012. That’s when I was in Los Angeles for Stan Lee’s Comikaze Expo, and someone introduced me to the concept of ‘crowdsourcing’.

I thought Kickstarter might be a good way to get my work noticed by a larger audience, so I set a goal for myself to get it funded, and release it that way. While my books were doing well on Amazon Kindle, without a publisher I was kind of spinning my wheels – this newfangled Kickstarter thingy sounded interesting. Apparently I was the last person on the internet to have heard of it!

Q: Arena Mode ended up being the #1 most funded fiction book of 2013 to date. How long did it take to reach your first goal? How did it feel? Were you expecting to get as much funding as you did?

A: I was originally asking for $6,500 USD to pay for the printing costs, packaging, artists, cover and logo – plus all my additional expenses. I figured that, worst-case scenario, I’d get funded and break even. Then at
the very least I’d get my name out there.

My campaign was scheduled for thirty days, and I hit my target on the second day. The feeling was indescribable. The closest word I can think of is “Whooooaaa!” That’s what I was screaming inside of my own head for nearly a month non-stop. Needless to say I didn’t sleep very much last February!

Q: We’ve heard that putting together a Kickstarter can be quite a task. What challenges did you face? What did you learn about the process and how do you feel about the end result?

A: I knew it would be a battle, but I had no idea just how insane the process would be. Figuring out packaging, shipping, organizing the rewards, issues with international labels…it was completely nuts.

And since I’m Canadian I had to drive down to the US and do all of my shipping from there, because it would have literally cost me thousands of dollars more to do it here. In America they have ‘Media Mail’, which allows domestic shipping of books for a ridiculously low price, so it saved me a bundle. I had to get everything packed up in a hotel in Buffalo, New York, and the process took nearly a week straight, 14 hours a day. The word ‘exhausting’ doesn’t even cover it!

I learned a lot my first time around, and hopefully my new campaign will go a little smoother.

‘Brynja & Melvin the Manticore’ – by Jon ‘Roc’ Upchurch
Character design for the novel ‘Arena Mode’
by Blake Northcott © 2013, Digital Vanguard Inc. 

Q: What are your plans for the Assault or Attrition Kickstarter launching this fall? Will you be doing things differently for this Arena Mode sequel?

A: The plans are to do pretty much the same thing – deliver the best possible reading experience I can, and deliver it on time. I’ve got more artists from Marvel, DC and Image Comics lending their talents, so I think this will be even better than Arena Mode. At least I hope it is!

The campaign is running right now at is already the hottest book on Kickster with 100% funding in a mere 9 hours! Congrats Blake!)
Q: Any advice to writers looking to use Kickstarter to give them a jump on publishing?

A: Figure out a great reason to write your book. Something you’re passionate about and in love with. Once you have all the basics: an outline, sample chapters, a title, a summary and a great cover, then figure out the Kickstarter part.

I think the biggest mistake people make is doing it backwards. At least once a week someone asks me, “I want to make money on Kickstarter or Amazon – how do I do it?” You’re asking the wrong questions. If you already have a great concept and something to work with, getting it out to the world will be a lot easier.

But once you have something that you want to share with readers, make sure it’s as attractive and professional-looking as possible. Check out some of the most-funded projects on Kickstarter, and pull them apart. Find out what makes them appealing – from the video, rewards, description, etc. Anything that catches your eye, make a note of it. I researched relentlessly before I launched my campaign back in February, and I think that’s what made it a success.

For more details on the lovely and amusing Blake Northcott, visit her website, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Check out the Kickstarter for Assault or Attrition at and stay tuned for our review of Arena Mode next month!

Thanks Blake!

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