We completed the fulfillment phase of the Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether Vol. 1 Kickstarter mid-December, which brought to a close a campaign that had taken 18 months to complete. It is, as they say, all over but the shouting.
So some thoughts, in no particular order.
Things we did well/right/properly:
- We made a beautiful book. That was the primary goal from the beginning, simply to take the first five chapters of what we’d posted on the web and to put it into print in a manner and form that would make the three of us — Eric, Rick, and myself — proud. The quality of the book is everything we wanted it to be (with caveats, which’ll be listed below): nice, thick paper stock, beautiful presentation, cloth covers in the most basic edition, map pocket for the deck plans; everything about the book is a pleasure, and it feels good in the hand, to boot.
- We ran a good campaign. We were clear in our goals, we were attentive in our responses, we engaged the community that came to support us and we endeavored at every turn to be both honest and communicative. We published a lot of updates. In fact, we published a total of 69 updates (and there’s a final one planned, so we’ll be at 70 when all is said and done).
- We ended up with books leftover. Not a lot of them, but enough that we’ll be able to bring a few to shows to sell them, and be able to put the remaining stock up for sale on the website. As this was the second goal (after, y’know, creating the books), this is a win. We’ve still yet to make any money per se off of the webcomic — we have always viewed the money raised on Kickstarter as not officially “ours” until the last book was shipped — this is finally an opportunity to see us make a little profit off of our toil.
- We made some lovely extras. The paperdolls and deck plans came out beautifully, as did the two companion books. They’re definitely in keeping with the Vol. 1 book itself, and the package as a whole is, I think, worthwhile.
Things we did wrong:
- We failed to account properly for the costs of shipping, packaging, and most importantly the labor involved. If we count the labor required to get almost 10,000 books mailed out to almost 3,000 people, we ended up not only in the red, but in the maroon, or even oxblood.
- The map pocket was, in hindsight, a mistake. Not a major one, but its addition, with the deck plans inserted, put additional stress on the binding. This, combined with elements well out of our control, seemed to result in the block separating from the cover in some cases. In some cases, books that appeared fine on inspection were damaged in shipping, only to arrive to a backer in what can only be described as a very sorry state. We replaced damaged books as promptly as possible, so as far as that goes, at least, we did right. The fact that it was needed is still a source of frustration.
- We lost (or had stolen, it’s unclear) one piece of original art meant for a backer. I’m still really fucking upset about this, by the way.
- We were overly ambitious (generous?) in our offerings of remarques and signatures. I’ve signed a lot of books in my time. This put all those to shame. It took far more time to remarque and sign all the copies needed. This wasn’t, as far as this list goes, a huge issue, but it’s one we’ll bear in mind should we do a second campaign.
- I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting.
Things we had no control over whatsoever:
- Delays. Oh Lord were there delays. If there could be a delay, we were delayed by it. Everything from printer issues to shipping issues (we literally had to wait two weeks at one point because the weather at the printer’s was too humid for the glue to properly cure on the binding) to life™. The life™ issues were, in particular, brutal.
Our original plan had been to have the books begin shipping in December 2013, six months after the campaign had completed funding. As it was, we didn’t receive our books until the middle of March 2014, just prior to Emerald City Comic Con. The process of remarquing and signing took much longer than we’d anticipated, as well. This meant that shipping was slow until June; the plan was to use the summer to get everything handled. Then my father took ill, and it went downhill from there. Needless to say… nothing on that front went as planned.
- The Kickstarter community, our backers, their enthusiasm, was amazing to the point of overwhelming and certainly humbling. There are some beautiful, wonderful souls out there.
- Two people tried to scam us. Or, at least, I can only presume they tried to scam us, because after they contacted us with their complaints (and interestingly, each one was aggressive, insulting, and unkind in their initial complaint; this is opposed to everyone else we heard from with an issue who was, at the worst, terse, and in many cases apologetic) and I reached out to them to rectify their situation… they went radio silent. No matter how many messages or emails I sent, never heard a word. To be clear, our procedure for replacements was to ask that photographs of the damage be emailed to us for our records; once verified, we would send a replacement copy with a mailing label to be used for returning the damaged book. In the two instances I’m referring to, once the replacement policy was explained, we never heard back. Even after repeated emails and messages to rectify the situation.
- We lost a couple backers along the way. We’ve tried several times to contact them, and have heard nothing. They gave us their money. We would like to give them their books. If you are one of these and you are reading this, please contact me.
I genuinely feel that we made a lot of “first time” mistakes that, should we do this a second time, we’ll be equipped to avoid. Obviously, if we generate anything like the support in future campaigns as we did in this one, a fulfillment service is in order. We won’t take on the task of shipping 10,000 anything personally ever again. There were, ultimately, two of us who handled this, and by two I really mean one, my bride, Jennifer Van Meter, who took it upon herself to manage the shipping. I helped, but not nearly enough. She lost days and days to getting the books out. She is the unsung hero here.
I also have to thank Kelly Sue DeConnick and Matt Fraction, who took it upon themselves to work with Jen and make a “book packing party” for my birthday. They enlisted Friend Kit, and Kelly’s mother and stepfather, as well as Chelsea Cain and Marc Mohan. And Eliza. And Olivia. And Dashiell and Elliot. And even, to an extent, Henry Leo and Tallulah Louise. I have a history of birthdays that are smoking wrecks of misery; it is traditionally not a good day for me. Birthday 2014 will go down as the best I’ve ever had. They didn’t have to give me this, but the gift they gave was just what was needed, precisely when it was needed. I have video from the day that I shot and planned to use as a Kickstarter update, but I haven’t had a chance to edit it together and post it. I’ll share the link when I do.
As to a Kickstarter for Lady Sabre & The Pirates of the Ineffable Aether Vol. 2, Eric, Rick, and I have been discussing it. It’ll likely happen, though we need to catch our breath and, moreover, we want to make sure we’ve got the postmortem on Vol. 1 completed so we’re sure of how to handle it next time.
Finally, to those who backed us: we cannot thank you enough for your faith, your support, and your patience.