I intereviewed the collaborative team behind the Balance of Powers collaborative book which they aim to fund through Kickstarter.
What's the elevator pitch for this project?
Balance of Powers is a new alternate-history story set during the Cold War written by Adrian Hon, Andrea Phillips, David Varela, and Naomi Alderman. It’s a free-to-read online episode story funded through Kickstarter with special content and rewards for supporters - everything from getting the story early to printed newspapers to taking part in live online performances. Balance of Powers will unfold over eight weeks, with a chapter being released every week.
Why are you doing it? What's your aim?
Our initial aim was to find a project to work together on again. We loved working together a lot on Perplex City - the balance of our four different skillsets (or powers, if you will, see what we did there?) just seems to produce good storytelling. The chemistry’s right. Andrea and Naomi first developed the pangs last autumn and managed to talk David and then Adrian into getting the band back together - we took a long time cooking up an idea that we could all get excited about. And now we’ve got that, we want to make it the best it can be.
Ultimately, we’d love Balance of Powers to become a long-running storytelling series, with story elements online, in print form and maybe in other media too. We’ve got story twists brewing as far ahead as (hypothetical, so far) seasons 4 and 5, so we’d love to make enough revenue from it to keep it going, and keep making it bigger and better.
Why funding through Kickstarter?
When we were working on Perplex City, we really loved how it made us feel in touch with our audience. Often, we’d be able to put some new content up on our website in the morning, and then by the afternoon we’d check in on forums to see what the players were saying about it.
Players would email our characters, we met them at live meetups, and chatted to them online.
Funding through Kickstarter felt like a great way of developing a close relationship like that again - getting to know the people who are excited by our idea. The great thing about a Kickstarter project is that your audience already want your project to succeed - and even want to help! We love that community feeling.
For those not familiar with it, how does Kickstarter work?
Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform where people can launch creative projects that require funding to get off the ground. In return for pledging money, supporters usually get something tangible and significant, whether it’s just their name on a list of contributors, or receiving a product of the creative project such as a book or an artwork or a song.
It works well for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s an ideal place to begin a riskier project that traditional funders (e.g. publishers, grant-awarding organisations) might shy away from. Secondly, it gives creators much more freedom since they can go directly to an audience without having to deal with an intermediary that might not understand what that audience wants or might like. Of course, it’s not magical - you do need to spend a proper amount of time preparing your project page and putting in a lot of elbow grease to promote it.
What will be free and what’s available to paying supporters?
We’ll be releasing the text of the story on our website for free - we see it as the best way to attract a loyal audience and to promote our work. There are quite a few rewards for supporters though, depending on how much they pay. At the $15 level, they’ll receive the story early via email, along with extra content and behind-the-scenes commentary (plus they get their names on our list of contributors).
We’ll send a printed newspaper with articles and adverts from the world of Balance of Powers to anyone who pledges over $40, and at $75 supporters get to take part in a special live online performance. At $200, we’ll send supporters a limited-edition book of the story plus access to exclusive online discussions with us, and finally at $500 supporters get an extra-special 3D artefact from the story. It’s also worth pointing out that every level automatically gets all the rewards from lower levels, and that we’ve had quite a large number of pledges coming in at the higher end!
What's in it for your audience?
We’re kicking around a lot of different ideas. One thing we know for sure: we’ll be producing a newspaper from the world, which will give key bits of news and background on the story. Writing fake news is fun, and gives you a bunch of new story ideas to play with and slot into your main narrative if they get to seem relevant.
We’re also going to be producing a book of the season 1 narrative (which will come in at a very healthy book-size of around 55,000 words). And at least one ‘artefact’ from the world itself. Which if we told you what we were thinking of would reveal far too much... Suffice it to say, it’s a dark world. It might be a dark object. You have been warned.
Apart from Kickstarter are there other revenue streams?
After the Kickstarter funding round finishes and we launch the project, we’ll still be selling the various newspapers, books, and behind-the-scenes access, but probably at a slightly higher price.
It’s still early days, but there’s always the possibility of selling ebooks, apps, and other products as well.
What are our commercial hopes?
To take over the world! But seriously. Yes. To take over the world.
And get people to make movies and TV shows of all our stuff. And shower us with love and riches.