Choose your own adventure: Authors turn to Kickstarter to fund their stories

By Andrea Huspeni , written on February 18, 2013

From The News Desk

Game designer Mike Selinker had a dream back in 1995—to bring his puzzle solving fantasy adventure, a book called The Maze of Games, to market.

It was, he believed, a story that Narnia fanatics would eat up. After being snatched by a frightening gatekeeper, two siblings, Samuel and Collleen Quiace, scramble around late-19th century England trying to escape. The twist was that readers held the key to Samuel and Colleen making it home safely by completing puzzles to move the adventure forward.

No one he knew thought he could sell it, so Selinker put his manuscript in the proverbial drawer for eighteen years. Then he decided to try Kickstarter.

Four and half hours after his campaign launched, he met his campaign goal of $16,000, and to date has attracted 1,600 backers and raised more than $100,000. In the world of Kickstarter, with 24 days to go Selinker is on track to have one of the most successful book projects ever.

More and more authors are turning to Kickstarter. With self-publishing exploding and traditional book publishers scaling back their lists and advances, many have been scrambling to find ways to fund their own work. So it’s not surprising that they turn to services like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and the like.

Canadian writer Ryan North’s choose-your-own-adventure-book is the most funded publishing project ever with $580,905, fantasy artist Larry Elmore scored $299,914, and best selling author Seth Godin raked in $287,342.

Not everyone succeeds, of course. In one high-profile failure, a book about Kickstarter failed to garner enough support on Kickstarter.

Seliker, co-founder of Lone Shark Games and a games contributor to Wired, knew that for his leather bound book to succeed, he had to do it right. It took months of meticulous planning – from developing the tiered pledge prize list to incorporating a maze within the campaign to developing the Conundrucopia, a supplement in the back of the book featuring other famous puzzlemakers. He believed he had thought of everything, until a friend asked about how he was going to reach the tipping point, a strategy to get 10 percent of his project in the first three hours.

In Kickstarter getting a percentage of your project funded as quickly as possible ups your chances successfully funding it. Quickly Selinker put together a limited edition puzzle book for the first 100 backers and pushed it this through Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. In the first three minutes he had met his tipping point.

It worked. “It was a huge success out of the gate,” he says. “We blew away all our expectations, but we also blew away all of our plans.”

These plans included scrambling to keep backers interested. So Selinker created a strategy for updates. He developed badges and a sharing mechanism so that puzzle fanatics could brag about their successes on Facebook and the like. And while he’s selling a physical book he also developed an e-book version for the iPad, produced by Puzzazz for a $20 pledge it is all yours.

Even though Selinker can chalk up this campaign as a victory, he still has a long road of head of him to get the book in the hands of hard-core gamers. He has promised to deliver by Christmas and does not want to as part of the 84 percent of Kickstarter projects delivered late. Yet, because of rewrites, creating additional puzzles, adding the Conundrucopia, he only has 50 percent of the book done.

And because funding was seven times more than he had anticipated Selinker has to adjust his strategy for production, such as changing his printing strategy.

Of course, that’s a good problem to have.

Image Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons