Written by Sarah Yoon
Unlike many aspiring novelists, Kelly Thompson’s journey as a writer hasn’t been shrouded in anonymity. As she stated in Part 1, “You simply cannot expect people to find you on their own, it’s just not how it works.” Instead of waiting for an audience to find her, Kelly won them over with creativity and dedication as she found her own niche online and launched her dreams with Kickstarter.
Why did you choose to Kickstart The Girl Who Would Be King? How did you spread the word and build your audience?
I think I mostly answered this above. I loved TGWWBK and was unwilling to either trunk the book when traditional publishing said it was too violent and “not YA enough” and I was also not willing to make the kind of changes they wanted to make it fit those boxes. So I decided to self publish and fortunately for me, Kickstarter was becoming a pretty big deal. I thought with my existing platform and an audience that had a nice comics/superhero crossover, it might give me a shot with a superhero prose novel. I was fortunate also to have some very talented people offer to donate rewards—like art commissions and writing critiques. It takes a village and all that! Spreading the word was mostly through my existing audience on twitter and blogs/sites that I write for, as well as the connected colleagues and friends who spread the word through their own social media. Additionally a few high profile sites wrote small pieces about the book and I did some podcasts and things like that. And all the time I kept doing my own blogging, hoping that one more person seeing my name might lead to one more interested backer.
How did you determine the amount you needed to raise for publication?
Poorly! I tried to be as smart as possible about building cushion into the budget, but having never done it before (Kickstarter or publishing in general) I was a bit of a babe in the woods. My primary mistake, beyond underestimating (and undercharging) for shipping, was just getting greedy about what I thought we could do for the project. I had all this great art I wanted to use on swag and for the book, and the potential for cover artist Stephanie Hans to do even more illustrations, and I just WANTED IT. I wanted it for my backers and for me, so we could have this incredible one of a kind book. And so I really stretched the budget to try to make it work but the reality was simply more expensive – kind of the equivalent of jamming a square peg in a round hole.
One of your columns (Kickstarter Campaign vs. Kickstarter Reality) explains the difficulty of the shipping and budgeting involved in the process; has the publication and promotion been easier with Storykiller?
Well, I’ve been much more careful with the costs all around, especially the shipping. I hope I’ve learned all my lessons from the first campaign when it comes to too much swag and general over-reaching, but I’m sure I will make some exciting all-new mistakes too. Promotion initially was much easier as I had a mailing list three or four times the size of last time, a twitter following nearly three times the size, and I was now a proven commodity on Kickstarter and an author with a well-reviewed book. My existing audience came out in huge force right away (which was awesome) and we funded very quickly. But now that leaves me scratching my head about how to find a new audience for the next three weeks. They’re out there…I just have to find them!
Do you have any advice for other authors out there trying to get published?
I think one bit of advice I would give is not to rush it. Everyone is in a hurry to get to the finish line, but that’s not a great way to publish, it’s how mistakes get made. You don’t have to wait as long as I did, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thankful that self-publishing wasn’t as common/respectable and Kickstarter didn’t exist when I was younger. How tempting it would have been to try to fund and/or publish some dreck that I was excited to have finished and thought was awesome but had not bothered to workshop, or have professionally edited, or with a terrible amateur cover, and more. At the age of twenty-four if self-publishing and Kickstarter had been around. I’m sure the Kickstarter for twenty-four year old Kelly would have failed as I had no platform at that time, but I still could have self-published and man would I regret that today.
One of the best bits of advice my first agent gave me—well worn though it may be—was that you only get a first time to make that first impression. There’s only one “first novel,” so you should take it extremely seriously. That doesn’t mean you can’t self-publish it; TGWWBK is my first novel and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out—well, as a writer you always want to make changes—but I mean that the experience, the response, the success. It was all more than I could have hoped for and I’m glad in the end I did it that way. But had I tried to publish it (or some other novel) at twenty-five, there wouldn’t be enough regret it the world. Again, you don’t have to do things as slowly as I do, but if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And there’s a way to do self-publishing right and there’s a way to do it wrong. There are many examples of both, so tread carefully.
What are your goals for your writing career?
I want to write ALL THE THINGS. I do have massive writing aspirations—I want to continue writing novels of course—Storykiller is the first book in an intended series, and the sequel to TGWWBK (tentatively titled The God Slayer) is still in the works, but I also have a graphic novel coming out from Dark Horse Comics at some point in the not too distant future, and I have designs on both TV and Film like most writers that want to make a living as a writer. I’d also love to do a graphic novel adaptation of TGWWBK one day down the line. So, yeah, there’s a whole lot I can’t wait to do and hope I will get the opportunity to do.