Friday, January 2, 2015

Kickstarter Research

So we're getting ready to publish this book, the Builder's Guide.

Current plan is to do a Kickstarter right after our friend with the big website gets done with his next one, probably end of Feb / early March.

We are doing some research on what makes a good Kickstarter campaign.
 Here are some examples we've liked:

Charming crafts - one with a solid video and rewards structure, the other just fun to look at the craft itself even though not a great sales presentation.

Lovely, professional-quality video and a very successful campaign.

 We also saw a bunch of successful projects that had very snappy video, good pacing, fabulous interesting content.  Sometimes funny, sometimes just entertaining in a more dramatic or points-made kind of way.  The better ones included motion. 

For the filming-myself-with-no-help category, there are a few ways to do it OK, but a lot of ways to make it lame.  I think we will get as much video with motion in it as possible - including some shots tomorrow with the Wheaton Labs folks, and as much workshop video as we can get our hands on.

One bad example gave us the lesson: Boring is bad. Preachy boring is worse.  Watching the video should not remind you of DMV paperwork in any way.

Video projects have a distinct advantage when it comes to using great video footage and editing skills.  Not sure how well this translates to a book project, but we have some friendly advisors who are pretty confident it can work.

Our current preview page is a work in progress. The video is boring, and I made it without a script on a not-so-great day.  So we already have plans for a much better video.  Comments on the rewards, and whether this is

We are considering what pitch to make.
Do we go with 'save the world' - pollution and energy-related shots followed by the no-smoke out of a rocket chimney?
Do we go more conservative, to avoid alienating the folks who have no problem with gas-guzzling they just can't afford to heat their house that way, and emphasize saving money and chore time?  (Those folks are probably not on the Internet as much as the younger change-the-world set, but they may have more money and more interest in this particular book.)
Do we just make it an entertaining video that makes some nice sounds and pictures, maybe a pajama party and some flickering fires, and a simple pitch to accompany the detail in the text?  Here's us, it's a book, join the fun!

Making something that works for both strangers and the in-crowd, and packs a little bit of relevant punch without offending the intelligent folks in any of our support categories, would be a coup.

We would like to ask some friends about contributing good video clips (we're looking at you, and

We'd also like to ask about video content, and reward levels, that would really excite you or make you want to rope in your friends.  Not fond of chain letters - so we're looking for ways to deliver more value and cool-factor that makes this a joy to participate in, with minimal strings attached.

Some great ideas for rewards so far (think cheap to deliver, no mailing-label parties for low-level rewards, but very fun to get and enjoy).

- how-to diagrams for fun projects that you can show off at a backyard bonfire or barbecue
- recipes for yummy things that cook beautifully on a rocket stove
- existing digital plans and booklets, up to and including chapters of the new book

 The book itself is the mid-level reward, of course, and $20 to $30 is the target range for most serious supporters.
- Autographed copies are a nice slight upgrade.
- We also have the option to offer physical copies of the existing DVDs featuring us, for a mid to high-level reward.

For higher-end rewards, we saw things like:
- Skype consultation (another permaculture guru offered 1 hour consultations plus a nice bundle of the mid-level rewards for $250).
- Opportunities to attend workshops, or other events (usually $500 and up, but we saw one craft project that offered a class for something like $60 which seemed very reasonable... no reason we couldn't do a handful of local evening presentations in Tonasket, Portland, and Montana, or something like that.  Maybe even one in NY.  We can limit the numbers to what our event hosts can handle.  Worth contemplating.)
- Getting your name in the acknowledgements, credits, etc.  For some reason this one makes me nervous - maybe I'm not sure if it's falsifying or pandering or something - but  the most likely supporters at the higher levels would be people who are very committed and may have already done interesting work of their own, so it's not a bad option if we get final discretion on things like business names.

Also, realistically, how do we get the best results for the book?
We know we'd like a good editor, distribution, etc, which suggests a conventional printing house if one is willing to pick up the book.  It would be nice to know before finalizing the reward timeline estimates.  (Not interested in more offers from vanity presses that only do print-on-demand; we are not confident in the editorial quality that would be delivered by a press that makes its money primarily off the authors rather than by sales of books, and if you leave aside those services the printing starts to look like a poor deal.)

We had some nibbles a year ago from two legitimate printing houses with a good position in the relevant market - "Alternative Living," which includes everything from prepper shelters to homemade pickles to strawbale homes.

If you have good video of rocket mass heater projects, especially the 8" brick-firebox designs we've been making since about 2009, or anything recent, this would be a great time to find out how to get some of that from you. 
Editing help very welcome, simple animation could also be useful.

We would love a little family help with copyright-free music.  Especially something pleasant with an up-tempo beat that would energize you for steady work (dance, march, sea chantey, Irish reel, even campfire songs are good but must be copyright-free classics or original work).
If you want to make my dreams come true and compose that catchy cob-stomping song I've always wanted, I will write you into the budget.
(but i do need something in the next few weeks for the introductory video.).

We have a good collection of rocket mass heater photos, but if you have never sent us that finished baby-picture of your project, or an adorable shot you got at a workshop that has us in it, this would be a great time.

Reviewers for Kickstarter advice:
If you hang out on Kickstarter a lot and would be willing to preview videos or rewards and offer your review, it would be helpful.  Links to good examples of projects you loved are good - or projects that seemed good but failed for some reason that seems obvious in hindsight.
The most useful reviews, I imagine, will come from people who are:
- kinda interested in rocket stoves  (know what we should be saying about them)
- have friends who aren't already in the choir, but could be (can guess what one or two things would interest them).
That kind of feedback would be super-helpful.
Video makers who know where to get genuinely royalty-free content for music or  entertaining filler (this would be commercial use), that would be great as well.

Publishing connections:
We can do self-publishing, and have some good connections in this field.  But this book is bigger, more 'serious,' and it might be useful to distribute through mainstream channels.  This is our last month to consider publishing deals before finalizing the self-publishing plans.
If you have personal connections with publishers, agents, or editors who work in the how-to, alternative living, or even just generally in nonfiction (non-autobiographical), we'd love to hear from them THIS MONTH. Even if they are not ready to make a decision yet, 15 minutes of their time to help us set realistic delivery timeline goals that could potentially be met after further contract discussions would be incredibly helpful.  (A Kickstarter doesn't have to deliver 100% on schedule, but it's good to have realistic goals and meet them unless the delay is truly unforseeable and unpreventable.)

Other things I'm not thinking about....
now's the time.

Here's what we've got so far (the preview of the page).  Hope to have the improved video up within a couple of weeks.

Comments are welcome on the Kickstarter preview page itself. 

If you have longer comments, or want to indicate your intentions and get some reminder emails once the kickstarter goes live, you could use this thread:

You're also welcome to email me privately if you prefer.

Thanks for all your encouragement.