I have obtained a new WiFi modem, and things appear to be better than they were for the past couple of days. I’m still nailing everything down and figuring out how to secure stuff. If, uh, you’re hanging around outside my house, please don’t steal my bandwidth, ‘kay?
- We’re getting close to the release of Randal Munroe’s Thing Explainer and its attendant book tour. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make the New York event on 24 November (EMS duty night; trying to swap nights during Thanksgiving week is pretty much impossible), so I’ll just offer him my congratulations now. Condolences also, as I see his next event will be Monday the 30th, which means he’ll be traveling during the single busiest travel weekend of the year¹.
He’ll bounce down the left coast the first week of December, then do a vertical shot up the Central Time Zone (including a stop in Houston, where I hope he’ll get to visit the Christopher C Kraft Jr Mission Control Center, then a shift eastward to Toronto before heading home. It’ll be a whirlwind of fun, and with any luck, Munroe will manage to conduct himself for those two weeks using only the ten-hundred most common words in English. I understand that after about the first week of a book tour, longer words mostly go away on their own.
In case that doesn’t make you want to buy his book/attend his tour, consider the video that Munroe made that explains how to be an astronaut (How To Go To Space), endorsed by no less a space-goer² than Commander Hadfield.
- Shifting gears now, I’m looking over an email I got a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance to work into a post before now. That’s the way it is when stories break, other things get pushed back a day, then another, and so on. In this case, it’s from Douglas Wilson, Manchester animator and webcomicker, regarding a Kickstarter for a print collection of his comics.
It’s not going well, with five days remaining out of a thirty day campaign, and about 8% raised. Not 8% to go, mind, but 8% total. And I’m not sure why that is.
It appears that Wilson did everything he was supposed to — has the material already produced, set a modest goal (£3000, or about US$4600), he’s got existing sales channels which presumably produce sales, which means he has an audience. He’s pushed the Kickstarter on his own site, and sent out announcements to the likes of me³ (and it’s a better press release than I usually get). I think it’s just a matter of having people that read his strip, like it well enough, but it’s not their absolute favorite (or second, or third) and thus something they want to drop £15 to £30 on to get a book.
And that’s okay.
Kickstarter has produced so many successful projects in absolute terms that we forget that that average fail-to-fund rate is about 50% (if I recall correctly from the last time I saw Cindy Au, director of Community Relations for Kickstarter; I also recall it’s a little better than that for comics). Kickstarter’s not a guarantee, and that is actually a very good thing.
Because in the years Before Kickstarter, your alternative was to scrape together a bunch of money, make your thing, and then hope to hell it sold because if it didn’t, you were out a bunch of time and money. I feel bad for Wilson that this project isn’t going to happen (at least, not at this time). I think I’d feel worse for him if he’d sunk that three grand into books and sold … looks like eleven print copies, and one more PDF.
I don’t want to make this sound too rosy — five days from now is going to suck for Wilson, but that’s a lot better than sucks, plus the car doesn’t get fixed, and the thermostat stays lower all winter, and the shoes don’t get replaced.
Failure is where we learn. Given the lack of psychotic whining one often sees from deluded would-be Kickstarter moguls whose dreams don’t pan out I’ve seen from Wilson, I think he’s taking a reality-based approach to this entire thing.
Maybe he learns that this readers lied when they said they wanted a book. Maybe he learns that his sales don’t extrapolate. Maybe he learns that a different approach to monetizing his strip is necessary. Maybe he learns that it’s not going to monetize and that time/effort are better spent elsewhere. I’m pretty sure he learns something, and it’s not too expensive a lesson.
I’m sorry it didn’t work out for him, but I’m not sorry that the costs of this failure are bearable. Here’s hoping it goes better next time.
Spam of the day:
Okay, this is a new one — I got a text message through an email relay, which consists solely of a picture of a business card. That card is for “NJ’s Largest Adult Entertainer”, which appears to be an agency that supplies bachelor parties with naked ladies. The card promises 23 Years Of Excellence, and the name on the card reads:
A/K/A Dr. Love
It’s … it’s beautiful.
¹ So will I; the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I get to fly on the busiest travel day of the year to the busiest airport in the world. Yay.
² Also a noted moustache-haver.
³ I’m not sure how many people ran those announcements, and honestly I’m not sure that running those makes a huge difference.