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Monthly Archives: November 2012

One of the questions I get most often about The Littlest Shoggoth Kickstarter campaign is whether there will be any add-ons—extra shoggoth-related paraphernalia and regalia that backers can add to their pledges. The answer is yes, and the time has come to unveil the add-ons! +$10 — Shoggoth Lapel Pin: A 1.5"-wide, die struck, soft enamel, full-color lapel pin featuring the smiling face of Squammy wearing his holiday hat. +$25 — Shoggoth T-Shirt: A squamous-green t-shirt featuring Squammy wearing his holiday hat. Available in sizes S thru 3XL. +$15 — One Extra Book: An extra copy of The Littlest Shoggoth to stash in your secret occult library, or give it away to another potential cultist. +$50 — Shoggoth Sect Starter Kit: Four extra copies of The Littlest Shoggoth to disburse as you see fit. Do you have suggestions for other add-ons? Leave them in the comments . . . I'm always interested in hearing what you think. And if I end up using your idea, I might give you one of the items in question just for being such a clever monkey.
Hard as it is to believe, a fortnight flown by since I hit the big green button that put my Kicstarter campaign for The Littlest Shoggoth into motion. A lot has happened during the past two weeks. I've been almost constantly at work on some portion of the fund raising effort—managing the process on the Kickstarter website, communicating with backers directly, writing updates (for Facebook, Twitter, and the official product website), sending out press releases, laying out ads, researching and negotiating pricing for some ancillary Shuggoth products (more about those later in the week), and preparing to begin work on the color version of the art. Honestly, people TOLD me that running a Kickstarter would be a full-time job, but I didn't really BELIEVE them until now. I doubt I'm going to get much done on any projects until the Kickstarter campaign wraps up on December 16th. As we prepare to roll into Week 3, let's take a moment to take stock of where things are, and where they're headed. FUNDING PROGRESS Early in Week 2 the funding level crested the $5,000 mark, and it finished the week just a little north of $6,300, meaning that, barring a complete reversal of fortunes, this drive will be successful—a new print version of The Littlest Shoggoth WILL be made. And I owe a huge debt of gratitude to EVERYONE who gave (either of time or money) to help back this effort. Thank you, one and all, truly and from the bottom of my heart. This week I also announced the first stretch goals—the most important of them being $10,000 and $13,000 which, if reached, would allow me to print the book in color and hardcover. I'll be honest and say that those have always been the goals I've wanted to reach, and the version of the book I want to present to the world. But it seemed best to approach the Kickstarter process in stages, and set a lower initial goal, even though it represents a somewhat less prestigious product. Fortunately, we seem well positioned to reach those stretch goals, if the trends continue as they are. FUNDING TRENDS As often happens with Kickstarter drives, the rate of pledging has begun to drop off as we move into the middle of the campaign. Other projects have shown up on Kickstarter.com (new "shinies" for people to get excited about), and this drive is still has a relatively long way to go (so there's no real urgency for people to put their pledges in immediately). The trick, really, is to find a way to reverse this immediate trend, and get people excited about the project during THIS week. In fact, while we seem to be in a good position to hit our current stretch goals, if nothing is done to boost the pledge trends, it is highly UNLIKELY we'll do much more than that. The key lies in making more people aware of the project. The Littlest Shoggoth is the kind of book that engenders a strong and immediate reaction. Either it's the kind of thing that appeals to you and you'll want to buy a copy, or it holds no appeal and buying a copy isn't even something you'll want to consider. There isn't a lot of middle room. Therefore, the most important part of fundraising is to spread the word as far and wide as possible—to make sure that as high a number of people as can be managed have the opportunity to see The Littlest Shoggoth and have that moment of instant realization that it is (or isn't) the kind of thing they like. If I can manage to change the trend and increase the number of NEW people who are seeing this Kickstarter campaign for the first time, then the trend in actual funds being raised will surely and naturally rise as well. The question is, HOW can those trends be reversed? NEXT STEPS One thing I did this holiday weekend was to make up banner ads promoting The Littlest Shoggoth, and I'll be buying some ad space on the Gamerati Ad Network, so you should see them popping up on sites like ENWorld, RPGNet, Kobold Quarterly, and Gnome Stew (among many others). If you have a site and would like to run a banner ad for the campaign, leave a message below and tell me how to contact you. Another thing I did this weekend was work up a page of fliers for the Kickstarter campaign. A colleague who runs a game store said that he would like to have such a thing to put next to the cash register and hand out to Cthulhu-friendly customers. I'm further going to print up a bunch myself and see if I can't get some of the local game, comic, and book stores in my area might do the same. Of course, the wider we can propagate this practice, the more eyeballs we can reach. So if you'd like to try it it in your hometown, you can download the fliers, print them out yourself, and distribute them anywhere that you have permission to. On top of that, I'll continue my blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking of Shoggoth-related information, and looking for various news sights and podcasts that might be interested in covering our product and progress. I'm hoping that as people start talking more and more about holiday-appropriate gifts, The Littlest Shoggoth will begin to get a little more attention. As always, if you have any connections with folks in decision-making positions at those sorts of institutions, I'd love to get an email of introduction (or simply have you talk up The Littlest Shoggoth to them, just cuz you luvs it so). MORE, MORE, MORE As a bit of pre-news, I plan later this week to announce a couple of "add-ons"—items that you can ADD to your upcoming rewards by paying a little bit extra money to your existing pledge. Honestly, I don't want to go too heavily in this direction . . . it seems a little rude to target the people who have already pledged money, just to see if I can squeeze a few dollars more out of them. However, these are pretty much all things that people have asked me about already. And I'm not going to twist anyone's arm to try to coerce them into giving more. Also, I'm going to be leapfrogging the stretch goals. We're still a ways from completing the $10,000 stretch goal, let alone the $13,000 one . . . but I still I plan to announce my "big picture, blue sky" $20,000 stretch goal, and even a few beyond that. My hope is that these will be so exciting that they will significantly BROADEN the base of people interested in contributing to the campaign. So, you see, there's a lot coming down the pike this week. Peek back in from time to time, I'll try to have interesting things for you to read. And while you're out in the big, bad world . . . I'd take it as a kindness if you gave thought to helping to spread the word about The Littlest Shoggoth Kickstarter. If everyone who reads this just gives one little shout-out sometime during the week . . .  well  . . . I KNOW it would be a BIG help. Thanks!
As if I needed more reasons to promote my ongoing Kickstarter campaign for The Littlest Shoggoth, it turns out that November is not merely the time of NaNoWriMo, it's also Picture Book Month! I was, of course completely unaware of that when I picked this as the month to run a fund drive for my own picture book, but I've never been one to turn away a good cross-promotional opportunity.

Over on the Picture Book Month website, they're posting a series of essays on the subject "Why Are Picture Books Important?," each one written by a different accomplished and talented picture book writer or illustrator. It all came to my attention last week when they posted an essay by former D&D artist Tony DiTerlizzi (who also happens to be an award-winning picture book author/illustrator, as well as one of the mad geniuses behind The Spiderwick Chronicles). It seems like a question worth asking . . . and answering. So I thought I'd take a crack at it, too. WHY ARE PICTURE BOOKS IMPORTANT? When I was two years old, my favorite book was Little Henry to the Rescue (which I knew simply as "Henry the Helicopter"), written by Eleanor Graham and illustrated by Ben D. Williams. Anytime someone offered to read me a book (and many times when they didn't), I asked to have Henry read aloud. I couldn't get enough of that plucky little 'copter. Having grown up to see my niece, nephews, and many friend's children go through a similar media-devouring phase, that I loved the book so much is no surprise. Most kids go through a stage where they want to see the same video, listen to the same song, or read the same book over and over until their parents are nearly driven insane by the repetition. But I believe that a picture book is the most powerful of these story-delivery devices. I loved Henry the Helicopter so much, and had it read to me so often, that I memorized it completely, including when pages needed to be turned and where my finger ought to point as it scanned through the text. Family lore holds that I was so good at this trick that they were able to fool a number of friends and relations into believing that I was actually capable of reading. Reading Henry the Helicopter clearly wasn't a passive event—it was a sacred ritual, one that had to be performed precisely, whose every gesture and inflection held deep, dare I say spiritual, meaning . . . at least to two-year-old me. Reading was an activity, something special to do, something that gave me great pleasure. Henry the Helicopter provided me my earliest lessons in storytelling, timing, delivery, and even public speaking. It also was the first step in my becoming a life-long reader, something that stood me in good stead during all my years of school and certainly in my professional life afterward. These lessons cannot be learned from watching a video. These passions cannot be communicated through passive absorption of a tale. They only come from holding a book in your hands, seeing the way the printed words (though at that age you don't recognize them as such) and images and vocal inflections and physical gestures come together when a grown-up reads a picture book to a child, and when that child learns to read that book for him- or herself. I long ago lost my copy of Henry the Helicopter. I no longer remember the pictures. I can no longer recite the words. But in my heart, I still carry my passion for that book. In many ways, Henry is what drives me in my work today. I can only hope that one day I might produce something that has the same impact on, the same importance for, some other child. That would truly be a legacy to be proud of.
The first week of my Kickstarter campaign for The Littlest Shoggoth went well . . . quite well, actually (though I'm having a difficult time figuring out how the week passed that quickly). I started the week with a stated goal of raising $5,000 over the course of 35 days, and I end the week with over $4,900 already pledged. Yes, we're over 95% of the way to the initial funding goal. Of course, if you read the posts I made back in August giving my musings on how one ought to do a Kickstarter, you'll know that $5k was never my ultimate goal—it was my minimum level goal. (If you go back and read that article you'll also see that I picked some numbers out of thin air quite accurately . . . and others less so.) I'd hoped to get to the $5k mark by the middle of the drive, so that there was time to push some stretch goals, and now . . . well, I'm ahead of the game. But that actually kind of ups the ante. You'd think that having more time would be a huge bonus when doing fund raising like this, but it's not always the case. Before I go any further, I want to be clear that I am NOT complaining. I am INCREDIBLY lucky and blessed to have done this well on this Kickstarter in such a short period of time, and I am in no way being dismissive of that. What follows is a walk through the thought process I have to indulge if I'm going to reach beyond my initial goals and try to accomplish something extraordinary with this drive. I just want to be clear that making that attempt and thinking along those lines does NOT mean that I'm feeling thankless for or denigrating the success and wonderful support I've already had. Just wanted to be clear on that. Anyway . . . . If The Littlest Shoggoth Kickstarter campaign had gone absolutely bananas (raising, say, 2 or 3 times the target goal during the first week), then that would be one thing, but it's merely done very well—raising almost its target goal on one stellar day of sales (Day 1) and a solid 6 other days of a few hundred dollars a piece. That's an awkward place to be because the fans can be complacent—certain that the drive will fund and they'll get their books—and they aren't jazzed by a massive groundswell of support that seems to be leading to a wild, unexpected level of super-stretch-goals. And without that buzz, they are less likely to get out there and evangelize for the campaign, thus bringing in more supporters. Because of this, the middle weeks of many Kickstarter campaigns tend, from everything I've ever heard or observed, to be slow—the fund raising hits the doldrums, and it's not until the end seems to be looming that people begin to get excited and things start moving quickly again. There's nothing wrong with that. I mean, I'm going to get The Littlest Shoggoth back in print, pretty much for certain. But there are so many MORE things I'd LIKE to do, more goals I'd like to reach. The first three stretch goals are as follows: $7,500 — If the drive reaches this level, I'll produce a special holiday post card and send it to all backers at the $25 level and above. $10,000 — If the drive reaches this level, the book will be produced in color, and the size of the pages will be increased to 6" x 9". $13,000 — If the drive reaches this level, the book will be produced in hardcover. That all is good. If nothing changes about the drive, if we don't pick up any kind of crazy momentum, suffer through the doldrums, and have a strong finish, chances are that we'll be able to hit that $13k level just around the end of the drive. But I've got some other goals—things I hinted about in the pitch video. I'd like to do an audio-book version . . . pay to have a professional voice actor (and preferably one that has at least a bit of geek culture name recognition) read the story. But doing that would require an additional $7k-$10k . . . which means the drive would need to hit the $20k level. In order to do THAT, the drive cannot slip into the typical doldrums—it can't afford to have a fortnight of slow motion progress. There just won't be enough time or momentum at the end to hit that large extended goal. So I have to find a way to avoid the doldrums. But how? PUBLIC RELATIONS: I'm doing my best to get myself out in the public eye for any reason. If I can get folks' attention, I can get a chance to mention this fund drive. I've already seen it work. So far this week I've done one podcast, one online seminar, and given one interview for a news article. Through mentions by friends and fans, the fact that the Kickstarter exists has been covered by a handful of sci-fi and fantasy news and fandom sites. Every time one of those things goes public, I see a notable uptick in pledges. Even if it's only a half-dozen, they are people who might never have heard of the campaign otherwise, and now they'll tell their friends about it. WORD OF MOUTH: The last sentence above is what I'm talking about. Friends telling friends. Social networks causing an electronic ripple. That's the most powerful promotional tool I've got. I've seen where sending an email to old college and high school friends whom I KNOW have zero interest in Lovecraftian parody has paid off because, despite their own indifference, they have current friends and colleagues who like this "weird stuff." And once they pass the information along, it spreads throughout a whole new social group of like-minded fans—people who would NEVER have connected to me on their own. Seriously, if there's one subliminal message I could plant in the brains of everyone on my contact list, it would be to make a small, unobtrusive post (including a link to the Kickstarter page) on Facebook, Twitter, or their blogs two times each week during the course of this fund drive. The amount of good that would do is, from my perspective, immeasurable. ACTUAL ADVERTISING: I'm not always the biggest fan of traditional advertising, particularly for niche products like The Littlest Shoggoth. We geeks are fairly inured to standard advertising, and it's relatively expensive to get a message in front of enough eyeballs to make a numerical difference. But in this instance, the combination of the off-beat idea, the appropriate holiday theme, and the fact that we're about to hit the busiest shopping time of the year mix to make me a little more gung-ho about the potential. Over the next week or two (just as the drive is getting ready to hit the usual time of doldrums), I'm going to buy a bit of online banner advertising spots. I'm going to hope to try to use the confluence of events I described above to pull people in and counteract the slowdown that otherwise would likely settle in. Of course, I'm going to be fairly circumspect about how much I spend in this regard. I need to buy enough to prime the pump, but not so much that it eats into the revenue that it generates. As I said, it's a tricky balance. And all in an effort to take a really great first week and springboard it into a whole month of solid fund raising. If I can do that, you're going to see some very interesting shoggoth-related projects being released in 2013. Whatever happens, though, I want to reiterate that as this week draws to a close I feel truly blessed, and luckier than I deserve. And, as it turns out, this is a week when I'm going to be especially mindful of that.
We're nearly at the end of the first week of the Kickstarter campaign and, at the same time, the project is nearing its initial funding goal (not quite 95% of the way there at the time of this writing). That kind of blows my mind a little, but it certainly means that it's time for an update . . . so here we go. First of all, thank you to all of you! Getting The Littlest Shoggoth back into print has been a dream of mine for several years, and it's amazing to me how many other people have been willing to join me in that dream. I feel grateful and honored beyond words that you have. Thank you. Now on to business. STRETCH GOALS As I mentioned in the pitch video, I've been pricing out the cost of upgrading the book to being a hardcover and having color art throughout. I knew going in that it would be an expensive proposition, but I also had a pretty strong idea that those would be the things that you guys wanted (mostly because I knew they were the things _I_ wanted). We've gotten some price quotes back, so I'm ready to set some initial stretch goals (bearing in mind that I will lower them if I can, should better price quotes come in later). $10,000 — Color Art/Larger Format If the pledge total reaches $10,000, I'll not only be able to print The Littlest Shoggoth in color, I'll also be able to increase the page dimensions from 5.5" x 8.5" (as it is now) to the more standard picture book size of 6" x 9". Frankly, I'm a little surprised that we can do this by merely doubling the cost. In my experience, color books are often three or even four times more expensive than black & white ones. But I've got a top-notch team working on this with me (I'm looking at you, Larry Weiner), and so this little holiday miracle has occurred. Or maybe the stars are just right. $13,000 — Hardcover If we can reach the $13,000 level, we'll have the ultimate version of The Littlest Shoggoth in color and a hardcover format! I'll be honest, this is what I've always wanted the project to be. But it seemed smarter to build to this level in stages rather than starting out with such a large goal. $7,500 — Post Card Even with the reasonableness of those previous goals, it seemed to me that I ought to offer some sort of extra incentive before going all the way to double the initial goal. So if the pledges hit the $7,500 level I will send out a Littlest Shoggoth themed post card, hand signed by me, to everyone who pledges at the Cultist level ($25) and above. Given how close this end of the Kickstarter campaign is to the holidays, I can't promise that these cards will arrive before the end of the year, but I do promise that I'll try my hardest to make that happen. It's been an incredible week. We've accomplished so much, and there's still 28 days remaining in the pledge drive. I can only imagine where we'll be by the time it's all over. But I look forward to finding out . . . together with all of you. Thanks!
Check out the Kickstarter page for details. http://kck.st/POIjR3
The Kickstarter campaign rolls on. We're sitting just shy of 75% funded at this point but, predictably, things are slowing down a little bit. The first wave of backers has crested, and now it's time to go out and get the second wave. Why am I telling you this? Well, friends of the shoggoth, it's because I'd like to enlist your aid in that effort. I'm not going to ask you to constantly shill for the drive. That'd be crass, not to mention annoying. But I will say this: I think the best way to get people involved and interested is to show them the story itself—that's why I've still got it up and available in its entirety over at StoryTimeWithStan.com. So rather than pointing people directly to the Kickstarter page, if you like the tale and want to encourage others to also, point them to the link above. I believe that people who like the story of The Littlest Shoggoth will want to have a copy for their own . . . something to share with their children, nieces, and nephews . . . something to laugh over when the over-hype of the holidays gets too much . . . something unusual and fun to put on their bookshelves for nosy visitors to find. So point people to the online version of The Littlest Shoggoth . . . and just happen to mention that, if they like it, they might want to go check out the Kickstarter, too. And thanks for your support!
Okay. The Littlest Shoggoth Kickstarter Campaign is now officially under way, and Day 1 was, to put it mildly, a resounding success. In the first 24 hours, we got pledges to cover a little more than half of the target funding level. But, as they say, that's just the beginning!
There's still more than a month to go in the fund drive, and we're looking at some very interesting stretch goals. I should be able to give details on those later this week, but for now the plan has to be to keep pushing and (hopefully) reach that initial $5,000 goal in next couple of days. I'm going to be doing more promotion for the campaign, and anything you can do to help spread the word will be much appreciated. Thanks for your support so far. Let's kick(start) this baby into full gear!
With so much going on, I thought it would be a good idea to have a website dedicated to The Littlest Shoggoth. However, with so much going on, I haven't been able to get it all spruced up yet. Once the Kickstarter campaign is launched, getting this site functional and ready for visitors will be just about the top of my priority list. — Stan!