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Let's Talk About Running A Successful Kickstarter Campaign

Most everyone reading this who knows me (and I figure there might be a few of you) recognizes me as the author of a failed urban fantasy series, Twenty Palaces. The blog post I wrote about my failure to find an audience for those books (and the reasons why) continues to be the most popular post on my site, almost three and a half years after I wrote it.

I hate it. I hate being defined by my response to the worst failure of my life.

Last year, after it became clear that no NY publisher was going to pick up my new epic fantasy trilogy (another failure!) I put together a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund the editing and other publishing costs of the books. (Don't worry, I'm not asking for pledges. The campaign ended long ago.) I set the goal at $10,000; I raised a little over $50,000.

A big success, right? Absolutely. At the time I write this, I'm still ranked ninth on the list of "Most Funded" Kickstarter campaigns in the Fiction category. Still, that post (which I'm not linking for obvious reasons) about my cancelled series is still my most popular.

But! in the spirit of moving forward, I thought I would share some of the lessons I learned in putting together a successful crowd-funding campaign. Maybe you have thought about a crowd-funding project of your own. Maybe Charlie will want to Kickstart something someday, and antipope readers would like tips on how best to help. Maybe what I learned re: that campaign are applicable elsewhere.

The first thing to keep in mind is that crowd-funding isn't a novelty anymore. A few years ago, just the fact that you (generic you, obviously) had started a Kickstarter campaign was enough to pique someone's interest. It was new! People were curious about how it worked! There were explanations to be made!

In the accelerated timeline of the Internet Age, Kickstarter is practically a venerable institution. Also, "everyone's" doing it.

So, while you can no longer get attention because of the novelty of the platform, you can still spread the word and make your goal. It just takes some planning.

First, things to consider:

  1. Is the project complete, or nearly so? Backers are leery of putting money into projects where the work has barely begun. Kickstarters sometimes don't deliver (although the Pictures for Sad Children creator had a fan who stepped in and finished their Kickstarter fulfillment.) The further along things are when the campaign begins, the more legitimate it will seem to potential backers. It's not an absolute requirement to write a first draft before crowd-sourcing, but if you can do it, I think it's a good strategy.

  2. Will a successful campaign be profitable? For the freelancers you hire, almost certainly. For you, the person putting together the campaign, probably not. Expect to make your money from the project when you release the finished version for sale.

  3. How much of your time will it take? A lot. I'm not trying to be coy, but however much time you think it will take, triple it. Even after it's planned, a successful campaign generates a lot of interaction.

  4. Who will back this project? Kickstarter rewards creators with small but dedicated fan bases (or large, dedicated fanbases, as the new card game featuring art by The Oatmeal proves) so it's important to spread the word about a campaign before it launches. You want to reduce the number of people who approach you after the campaign is over and say "Wait... you ran a Kickstarter and I missed it?"

Second, making your campaign stand out:

  1. People need a reason to talk about your project. The important thing to remember here is that backers don't want to know how this project will be great for you, how it will free you from gatekeepers, or how you'll finally have a chance to SHOW THE WORLD. How will it make life better for the backer? How will it make life better for everyone else?

    The Women Destroy Science Fiction campaign had a mission: to increase the representation of women in the genre. It was already a topic of conversation all over social media, and when Lightspeed Magazine created a campaign, it became part of that ongoing discussion.

    When I started the first draft of The Great Way, grimdark was big and getting bigger. Even though I like grimdark, I thought it would be cool to write a story without a bunch of grimdark tropes. That didn't impress publishers, but backers responded.

    Does your campaign tie into the current cultural discussion? Because that helps.

  2. People need a reason to share your project with others. Being part of a larger conversation is a good first step, but the campaign should also offer something that people will tell their friends about, and that's why game designer Fred Hicks says the first step in a successful Kickstarter is to spend ten years building a fanbase.

    If you're Matthew Inman, word about a card game called "Exploding kittens" with your art in it will spread like a fire in a gasoline factory. If you're Pat Rothfuss, you have super-fans enthusiastically sharing news with casual readers.

    But even for creators with small fanbases, friends will spread the word in their social circles, (although you may have to ask them to do it). Beyond that, you need a way to connect your project to some other popular thing.

    For the creators of The Omni, that meant Minecraft, Skyrim, and Call of Duty. Sure, they could have showed their device working with Bastion or any number of perfectly good games, but they chose ones that were wildly popular.

    For me, it was to offer a Fate Core supplement based on my books.

    In truth, I sort of wish I hadn't done this: I think the game is fantastic (seriously, if you're into rpgs, check it out) but I've really struggled with the supplement. It's far longer than I'd intended and I'm not going to be able to design it on the page the way good supplements are. Plus, it's hard. Fiction I can do. RPG rules adaptations are extremely dense; it's a crapton of work.

    Other writers have offered prints of the cover art, tapping the attention of the artist's fanbase. Sometimes it's music. Sometimes the only way to reach a larger fanbase is through something as small as a blurb from a better-known author. The point is, you want fans (yours and others') talking to fans about what you're offering.

  3. People like nice things. This might come as a surprise to no one, but there it is. Personally, I over-estimated the appeal of getting an affordable copy of the trade paperback and under-estimated the appeal of a limited edition hardback omnibus. Backers were willing to spend more for a nice package, something a committed cheapskate like me didn't expect.

Third, it's easy to self-destruct:

  1. Shipping costs more than you think. Especially international shipping. I felt guilty asking for thirty dollars to cover shipping outside the U.S. Later, as I was sliding packages across the post office counter, it was clear to me that it wasn't enough.

    Let's just say that goods you deliver electronically are your friend.

  2. Don't forget to budget for the tax man and for Kickstarter's cut. If you can arrange it so the money comes in during the same tax year the expenses go out, that would probably be a good thing.

  3. Don't offer too much. It's easy to think of pledge levels as a price tag for backer rewards. It's not. There's a patronage dividend mixed in there, because it's a rare Kickstarter that will bring enough backers to cover production costs at retail prices. Backers know they're patrons, too (or they should know) so the trick is to find the right balance. Charge enough to break even, not so much that everyone rolls their eyes and closes the tab. Look at other campaigns to get a good sense of this.

    Alternately, beware of stretch goals that require months of work to create and distribute. Offering an extra novel you've already written is one thing. Offering a brand new novel you'll be writing from scratch? Well, you'll get marks for enthusiasm, but I hope you're especially prolific.

Quick notes:

  1. Paychecks? In the U.S., many people get paid on the first and the 15th of the month. That first check is usually dedicated to rent/mortgage/bills, but the second will sometimes have some fun money in it. Arrange for the campaign to end on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday after that second check, so your backers will feel comfortable pitching in. If you live somewhere else, with different ways of paying employees, adapt that advice as you see fit.

  2. Eyeballs? The common wisdom is that the best time to spread the word about a project online is between 10–11am on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, when office workers are bored and surfing the web. Time zones complicate this, yes. This being Charlie's blog, I'm going to schedule this post to go live a few minutes after 10am, GMT. Of course, I live in Seattle, where it will be 2am. Don't mind me if it takes a little while for me to respond to comments Change of plans: I'll get up early on Sunday and hit the post button, per Charlie's preference.

  3. Emails? Omg, the emails. So. Very. Many.

    You'll want to send emails to friends, mail lists, whatever, to ask for help spreading the word. Don't try to write those on the morning the Kickstarter launches; you'll have too much else to do. It's better to write them several days before and have them ready.

Is this post long enough?

Not yet! There's more advice out there, especially about the video (which is more important than you might think) but it's either on Kickstarter's site itself or reveals itself readily to Google. Alternately, I may be expounding in comments, if people are curious.

But this is a solid start, I think, and antipope gets enough traffic that I hope this advice reaches those who need it. Even though Kickstarter has been around for a while, I still hear from creators considering a campaign of their own, who want to know more first. Personally, I find that advice like this makes the process seem less chancy.

And there's still a risk. Missing a Kickstarter goal is a very public way to fail, and while the perception of success helps create success, the... Well, let's just allow that thought to trail off.

Still, with a realistic budget, a modest goal, and some planning, creative folks with a modest fan base can successfully crowd-source the expense of publishing their own work.

Good luck.

And here we get to the part you all knew was coming: that successful Kickstarter campaign I mentioned may have ended in 2013, but the epic fantasy novels they supported are new releases. In fact, the last book in the trilogy will be released the day after tomorrow. That's Tuesday, Feb 3.

If you're curious to see what sort of cover the ninth-most funded Fiction Kickstarter can buy, here you go:

The Way Into Chaos Cover

One of the oldest tropes in epic fantasy is the fallen empire, a powerful nation that once spanned the continent but has been reduced to interesting ruins for the protagonists to visit. Well, I thought it would be fun to write about the fall of an empire like that. Also, while the book has dark moments, there are no sociopathic protagonists, honor and decency are not tragic flaws, and there's no rape.

"Gripping, absorbing, and fast-moving, an epic fantasy for those of us who like it lively" -- Charles Stross.

You can find out more about it, or read some sample chapters, if you like.

If you have any questions about crowfunding or whatever, drop them in comments. I'll answer as many as I can.



" .. recognizes me as the author of a failed urban fantasy series, Twenty Palaces."

I hate to start the conversation by disagreeing with you Harry - maybe someone will leap in ahead of my typing speed and spare me the awful Shame of it? - but I really enjoyed the “Twenty Palaces " series and had hoped that it would continue and so, from my perspective, the Series was a success .. but, sadly, your publishers appear not to have shared my enthusiasm.

Of course no writer who wishes to make a living from his craft can afford to argue with the publishing industry so you can’t really dwell on the reasons why " Twenty Palaces " couldn't continue but I think that it is highly likely that there are quite a few people here on Charlie's Diary who wish that a series that really was a Creative Success wasn't a big enough commercial success to demand convential publication.

I suppose that the series termination, long before its natural conclusion, is just yet another sign of grim commercial reality in the midst of a major financial recession.


Thanks, Arnold.

I suppose I should have specified that they were "commercial" failures rather than artistic ones. I like those books very much.

Another way to look at it is that they are pretty much exactly the books I wanted to create, and I thought they would be received enthusiastically by large numbers of readers. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.

As for the recession, Seanan McGuire and Kevin Hearne both launched successful series while mine foundered, so I can't blame the economy.


The Fall of Empire is usually a deep historical event. Having it in recent memory is not all that common in epic fantasy. It can be a challenge, and its a bit of trail blazing.

(I'm reminded of Lest Darkness Fall, where the protagonist winds up in 6th century Italy, in the ruins of the Western Roman Empire, and trying to keep the Dark Ages from happening.

And I need to read my copies I got from backing your kickstarter and finding out for myself how you rise to that challenge.


For anyone who wants more detail to go with Harry's excellent summary (yes, that's a summary), Stonemaier games have a series of posts about the things they've done on Kickstarter - both right and wrong. They're in the games industry (obviously), where things are a little different, but not as much as you might think.


And don't forget the other extreme - the Kickstarter that is seen as too successful and sparks a backlash because of it. I'm thinking here about Amanda Palmer's experience and the ridiculous way she had to justify exactly where every cent was going and still got abused into the process.


(I can't find your link to your book page)


Chrisj, there's a lot of incredibly useful advice out there. I learned a ton from reading Fred Hicks's Pinterest board about it.


Keybounce, that's for letting me know. I added the links back in.


Kickstarters sometimes don't deliver (although the Pictures for Sad Children guy had a fan who stepped in and finished his Kickstarter fulfillment for him.)

Your information is a bit out of date, here. A fan did step up to the plate and offered to share out scans of the book to backers who didn't receive one, but that effort became redundant when the author had a friend complete the orders on their behalf. I got my physical copy of the book a few weeks later, and a link to digital copies of the entire PfSC catalogue, well before the fan had finished making scans.

Also I think the PfSC author would prefer female/generic pronouns.


Surtac, I don't know a lot about Palmer, but I do know that some of her rewards were incredibly expensive--flying to visit fans in person and stuff like that.

But she's a woman, so she takes grief that I don't have to.


Harry, I've just done a little instant research and Palmer herself did a pretty decent job of summarising the expenses of her project in...

" all you ever wanted to know about all this kickstarter money & where it's going. "

Whilst this piece in The Guardian seems to be fairly typical of her critics...

Kickstarter is much more interesting than I had supposed.


Justin, I didn't know about the pronouns. Thanks for pointing that out. I've changed them in the post.

As for the fulfillment, I'm just going by what's in Update #34, where a self-described fan named Max offers to distribute the remaining books on the honor system.


Oops! You were right all along and I half-misremembered, half-misunderstand. I should have double-checked myself before posting. I apologise completely.

And thank you for making the pronoun changes!


No worries at all. And I'd hate to misgender someone.


The Way Into Chaos was the most fun I've had in epic fantasy since Matthew Woodring Stover's Caine novels. I especially like the way you repeatedly get the characters into situations where there is a standard trope for how to grind their way out, and then you subvert that with something original.

No, I especially like the way that it's a complete story in three volumes, boom, done, no Great Wheel of Infinite Sequels on the horizon.

Wait, I really like the way you chose two viewpoint characters who are neither a young action hero nor a royal prince(ss) unfairly deprived of their throne.

The fact that you tie up questions at the end that I wasn't even aware I was asking is pretty cool, too.


This all sounds right to me. I'm part of a campaign that funded recently, and we're now working to manufacture rewards and plan the event and the work to be done at and after the event (the event is the Cats Laughing reunion concert, and we're recording audio and video at the concert and releasing an audio recording and concert video afterwards).

The things you mention as dangerous are, at least, on our radar. Did we in fact estimate production costs right (or at least high rather than low)? Shipping, handling, administrative overhead? At least I know we planned for the Kickstarter percentage. Taxes are only relevant on the net -- but another issue is we have to deal with sales tax on the merchandise sold at the concert and such.

Our project was not, of course, close to complete when we asked for funding. We did have the band's agreement to perform the concert, though, and of course it was a reunion, so possibly this counts as "close to complete" for the first-level goal.

As it played out, we had a total "gimme" for promoting the campaign. Three of the band members are active authors with solid fan followings (Steven Brust, Emma Bull, and Adam Stemple). The concert is being held at Minicon (SF convention Easter weekend in Minneapolis MN), and Adam Stemple is also Musician Guest of Honor this Minicon. We got to mention the campaign in a Minicon progress report being sent out at just the right time. Adam's mother, Jane Yolen, is one of the author guests as well, and she gave us a beautiful bit of story-telling video to promote with. John Scalzi gave us a very good retweet. And we were able to launch the campaign with a video featuring Neil Gaiman telling how he was a Cats Laughing fan before he was a famous author (and a good retweet when we launched, too). So, I can confirm that the right endorsements for your audience can work really well indeed; but I never doubted that.


Twenty Palaces was great, and I hope the commercial problems will die like Philistines facing a good Sun Myth.


"self-destruct" #2 The tax rules in the UK will be utterly different. Also, whatever you do, don't try it across different jurisdictions, if you can possibly help it.


Let me put that slightly differently; 20 Palaces (series) was undeservedly neglected in the popular marketplace. Ok, this isn't a great indicator of anything except that "people who read them enjoyed them" but the series has an average MZN UK rating of about 4.6*.


Loved your original series and couldn't believe it would suddenly stop dead. It's really good to see you here on Charlie's Diary page.

The covers are very stylish -- well worth whatever you paid for them. And now I'm off to buy/pre-order all three books. Like someone said upthread -- it's nice not to have to wait between volumes. Well, one day for vol. 3, but I'll cope.

Good luck with this venture and any future ones in the pipeline!


I'm 2/3 through your epic fantasy trilogy and it is a page-turner. Just waiting for the last part to come out tomorrow. It's disappointing the Twenty Palaces series couldn't find an audience but I suppose that is the risk of doing something genuinely different. I would really like to read more of that series.


I'll join in with the affirmation of the Twenty Palaces novels - they were far from being a failure. They were different and interesting, and I really enjoyed them.

On the bright side, you just sold three more copies of your books :)


Harry, what sort of fans and backers should one try to get for a project in the sciences, rather than the arts? I'll mention one of the projects I'd like to fund.

At "Category Theory Demonstrations", I have an interactive Web page which demonstrates a branch of maths called category theory. CT is used in quantum theory and computing, and is useful in other branches of maths too. But it's abstract, so some students find it hard to learn without copious examples. Which is what I've provided on that demo page. I believe this is worthwhile, and I'd like to do more.

Experts like my demo, which gives me confidence that it is worth doing more. And since very few mathematicians are doing anything similar, it seems a good use of my specialised skills to do that. A better use indeed than the programming I do to earn a living, because there are many more people who can do that.

The idea of a basic income has been brought up in several previous threads. If we lived in a society that subsidised creative work with a basic income, I'd happily use that to pay me while improving these demos. But we don't, and crowd-funding seems to be the nearest I can get, even if it isn't very near.

But it raises questions. Who should be my backers? The people who will best understand my work? Well, these are mathematicians. Not overly rich. We hear statistics such as that (in 2012) the richest 100 billionaires earn $240 billion net. I'd much rather take money from them than from mathematicians. But I suspect they don't spend much time scanning Kickstarter feeds.

What should I offer the backers? I want the demo to be publicly available free, so anybody would be able to access it, backer or not. And backers who aren't mathematicians wouldn't want to anyway.


Jocelyn, that's an excellent question.

Kickstarter is designed to help people realize a single discrete project. Sometimes it's something the creator intends to sell (which is what I'm doing). Sometimes it's something they intend to give away, or that will disappear after it's created, like a theater performance.

But a web page is something you set up and pay to maintain. If you're not planning to monetize it, the campaign would have to cover X numbers of years while also paying you.

Your backers would be people who are interested in improving STEM education. Anyone who's interested. The mathematicians would lend credence to your work, but you would want to get your campaign in front of people who advocate for improved STEM education. Lots of people are working on the problem as it relates to young folks, but how many are working to help students in advanced classes?

So, that would be techie people, especially techie parents who envision their kids going into the sciences someday. To reach them, you'd reach out to media figures in the tech and parenting world, people like GEEKDAD, or whatever that guy calls himself.

As for backer rewards, that's tough. You could do commemorative swag like a funny themed Tshirt or coffee mugs, or something cheap. Those can be a lot of bother, but there are companies that help with that sort of fulfillment now.

The really hard part is your income. Kickstarter sucks for that. It will pay expenses to create something, but it's on you to monetize it later.

An alternative would be Patreon, which let's people "subscribe" to you, paying you by the month or by release. There are creators out there using Patreon to continually release new work, and also help cover their bills.

That's the best I can offer. Good luck. It sounds like a worthy project, even if your webpage looks like robot moon talk to me. :)


I want to pause a moment to thank everyone who has said kind words about my books. That really is the best thing.


Can I just add another supporter for the Twenty Palaces novels? - I particularly liked the lack of same-old, same-old fantasy monsters and the feeling that the world was genuinely new & unexplored before you wrote it.


I agree with everything Ian said in #26. I enjoyed the Twenty Palaces novels too.

Harry mentioned Patreon at #24. I hadn't paid attention to them before and I watched their intro video just now. I'd pay for monthly fresh chapters in the Twenty Palaces world.

If you (Harry) structured the plot so it had book-sized chunks, you could stitch the chapters together to make a book eventually, much like Stross' Accelerando.

Have you done the numbers to be able to guess whether you have enough 20P fans to make Patreon work for you?

If I understand the Patreon rules correctly, you could just ask people to sign up for your Patreon 20P feed, and then only produce chapters if there are enough signed-up fans to make it worth your while. The only risks I can see here for you would be set-up costs and opportunity costs if you think some other scheme is better.


Tim, I've looked into Patreon. Two problems with it.

First, I just don't write that way. Release a finished chapter, then go on to the next? I can't do it. I do too many passes and jump around too much. Time-wise, it wouldn't be worth it. The start of the book isn't done until the end is, too.

Second, the reason I don't return to 20P isn't money, it's readers. Each book sold 2/3rds what the previous one did. That's a shrinking fan base, and it's not healthy for my long-term career.

In fact, before Circle of Enemies came out, Del Rey dropped the price of Child of Fire to $0.99 in the hope that it would spur sales. It didn't work. There was an initial surge, but nothing sustained.

What I need is a book or books that snowball with readers. I hope The Great Way will do that. I also hope the next project I have planned will do that. I already that with 20P and it didn't work.

So, short of a weird miracle like an actual movie in theaters or something, 20P is on indefinite hold.


Thank you Charlie, this was an awesome posting - thank you, thank you !

I have been working towards launching a kickstarter campaign to underwrite the production of the world's first CFRP 3D printed WR breaking r/c dynamic soaring glider - the current record stands at 628 mph, and I want to hit 730mph at SL - Mach 1.01....flown from Pike's Peak by the nutters you see moving their CF ships faster than a 60fps refresh rate on a camcorder CCD.... Thereafter, the glider can then be on-sold.

Design work is (mostly) finished in Solidworks for FEA and Stress Analysis, and hey-wow renders are finished in Rhino3D, and Windform CRP tell me they can do wing panels and fuse sections of 1.0m, so all is good for a 3.0m F3J or F3B FAI class conformal airframe.

Similiar projects are an EPP version of the Jaro Muller ellipse 2V for immortal high-performance sloping (the plane will be both fast and unkillable in midair and air-to-ground impacts) as well as an F3J of 4m wingspan, 3D printed from diverse materials. Production by, and units sold by for maximum market penetration. A better Salangane or Sunbird....and much faster. Plus there is a growing fascination with ludicrous wingspan electric F3J ships in Australia for a target market.

OK, so this is precis, but I am much beholden to you for elucidating the requirements necessary to see to it that a Kickstarter campaign is successful. For this I am very grateful , and will be taking your recommendations and experience to heart, as well as downloading and documenting the data to use as touchstone as I take there projects to the furthest point possible in medium term.

With thanks, from the shores R'Lyeh in Auckland.


Hello...SORRY . Harry, please forgive my slip (this thing won't let me edit)

However the thanks are the same. Much much much appreciated to you sir !


I'm glad it was useful.


I really liked 20P - the monsters were very alien - shame there be no more.

Just bought the book - it would be really helpful if you could have a link to Amazon UK from your page. (Reducing friction etc).

Looking forward to reading it - just need to finish the latest Scott Lynch book first.


At the risk of being the 33rd poster to say the exact same thing, I loved Twenty Palaces and remember vividly looking forward to discovering more about the world. That said, I'm excited to discover your new series as well. I do love the idea that it's a full, self-contained story in three books.

One thing that's a bit of a shame about this crowd-funded self-published business is that there's not likely to be audiobooks. I ride my bicycle a lot these days, and there's nothing I love better than to ride through the Santa Monica mountains while listening to a good audiobook. Oh well, guess I'll have to dust off the old eyeballs.

Harry: do you think this could be a viable way for you to keep publishing going forward, or would you prefer to go back to a traditional publisher given the chance?


You could do commemorative swag like a funny themed Tshirt or coffee mugs, or something cheap. Those can be a lot of bother, but there are companies that help with that sort of fulfillment now.

Anyone have any suggestions here? The few times I've looked into this I felt like I needed to shower after dealing with them. Are there "good guys" in this industry?


On the other hand, you also get projects to convert existing novels to audiobooks - with Braille as a stretch goal.


David, I don't have any personal recommendations there. Sorry. I did all the fulfillment myself.


Re: audiobooks. I have no competency there. I can't even listen to audiobooks of my own work. The guy who narrated Child of Fire was great, but his voice was so different from the voice in my head that I just couldn't.

That means that audiobooks are something I'm hoping my agent can sell, while she works on foreign rights sales.


You could do commemorative swag like a funny themed Tshirt or coffee mugs, or something cheap. Those can be a lot of bother, but there are companies that help with that sort of fulfillment now.

Anyone have any suggestions here? The few times I've looked into this I felt like I needed to shower after dealing with them. Are there "good guys" in this industry?

I draw cartoons, and have had them printed onto mugs, T-shirts, large-size paper for prints, and cards. These were all done by people in my town (Oxford), and I can say that at least where I live, yes there are good guys. I'm lucky enough to live in a university town which can support such businesses, so I've never bothered looking on the Internet for them.

Oxford also has many artists, which means that if I didn't draw, or didn't want to, I could easily find someone to do so for me. With both the art and the printing, I think it's important to meet the people who'd be doing it for you, suss them out, look at other work they've done. So find an artist, find a printer, and meet them face-to-face.

Since you'll probably be carrying digital images from the artist to the printer, it helps to know the best file format for the image. And how to scan it, if the artist can't.

It may also be useful if you can manipulate it into the format needed by the printer. For my mugs, I had to take each of my cartoons, and then size it so that it was horizontally aligned between the top of the mug and the bottom, with a margin top and bottom for the regions where the heat is so intense that it burns the resin carrying the image. I also had to double each cartoon, so that a copy would appear each side of the handle. I'm sure most readers of this blog could do that kind of image processing, but if you can't, find someone who can.

I can't suggest anything about sussing out such people over the net, should there be none in your locality.

Oh — and preview, preview, preview. It may cost money in proof copies, but it can avoid expensive mistakes.


Harry said - Second, the reason I don't return to 20P isn't money, it's readers. Each book sold 2/3rds what the previous one did. That's a shrinking fan base, and it's not healthy for my long-term career.

Look at your wiki page. Type in "Harry Connolly" and it redirects to "Twenty Palaces". You don't have a wiki page, your series does. What does that tell you.

Now look at the wiki page for "Douglas Preston" and click on "Collaborations with Lincoln Child". Look at the order in which they published the books.

Agent Pendergast series 1) Relic (1995) 2) Reliquary (1997)

"Stories using associated characters" Mount Dragon (1996) Riptide (1998) Thunderhead (1999) The Ice Limit (2000)

3) The Cabinet of Curiosities (2002) 4) Still Life with Crows (2003)

"Diogenes Trilogy": 5) Brimstone (2004) 6) Dance of Death (2005) 7) The Book of the Dead (2006)

8) The Wheel of Darkness (2007) 9) Cemetery Dance (2009)

"Helen Trilogy": 10) Fever Dream (2010) 11) Cold Vengeance (2011) 12) Two Graves (2012)

13) White Fire (2013) 14) Blue Labyrinth (2014)

"Gideon Crew series, in the same Verse" 1) Gideon's Sword (2011) 2) Gideon's Corpse (2012) 3) The Lost Island (2014)

They played in the world where Pendergast existed before they focused on one main character. They had fun in that world, telling Story. They discovered that Pendergast was the most interesting character to build around. That's what people picked up. Now they are playing with "Gideon Crew" as a character, while still writing about Pendergast. They are seeing if people will shift over to Gideon Crew. I tried to read the Crew books, and they are dead on the page.

I didn't buy the Pendergast series by Preston & Child until book ten came out. I bought the "Diogenes Trilogy" part of the series first, read those, then bought everything they did together. I love Story that plays in the same Verse.

Readers have been burned so many times by a "series" that starts and then never has another book published. The reason the number of sales dropped with each new 20P book was because people were waiting to see if you actually produced more in that world. In other words, they were looking to see if you had a Story to tell, or if you were just doing it for the money.

You answered that question.

Harry said - What I need is a book or books that snowball with readers. I hope The Great Way will do that. I also hope the next project I have planned will do that. I already [tried] that with 20P and it didn't work.

You have a whole Verse where 20P occurs. Why are you abandoning that Verse just because people are dodging your "snowballs". Stop expecting things to "snowball" and write Story in that Verse.

Where are the stories of regular people having to deal with the monsters.


Allynh, why are you "fansplaining" to an author about why their series failed and what they should be doing with their own time to "fix" this? I think he has a grasp on the commercial aspect of his writing and made the decision to cut his losses and do something that might be sustainable for him (personally as well as financially) as an author.

As far as the 20 Palaces books, I was a fan of those as well. I still plan on running a 20 Palaces FATE RPG game with friends though I wish there was more of a guide to the world and what was really going on with the society and its enemies!


I feel obliged to point out that authors need money to live on, so yes, in a way they are doing it for the money. If they have no money, they starve to death somewhere or die of a preventable disease. So at some point they can't just keep writing because not enough money is coming in to feed them etc.


Your analysis is horribly flawed. In particular by the statement "Readers have been burned so many times by a "series" that starts and then never has another book published. ".

I'll happily take a punt on a series of standalone novels like 20P where the same protagonists recur but each book reaches a conclusion in itself. When I will feel "burnt" is if $author writes V1 (and maybe V2) of $major_trilogy but never writes (or at least publishes) V3. Similarly, I'll happily accept that all authors are in it at least partly for the money: no money -> no food on table -> starving in garret etc...


Well, I've finished the Way into Chaos trilogy, and rather enjoyed it - and nope, no hanging unfulfilled endings. :)

Add that to Karen Memery, and it's been a busy week of reading :)



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This page contains a single entry by Harry Connolly published on February 1, 2015 7:20 AM.

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