The Sorcerer’s Widow: Progress Report Zero

Okay, I’ll be serializing The Sorcerer’s Widow soon — I don’t have an exact date, but soon — but there are a few things about it that concern me.

The main issue is that it’s going to be either the shortest Ethshar novel to date, or not quite a novel at all; it may wind up a mere novella.  It’ll still be long enough for Wildside to publish it in book form, but I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking they’re getting more than they are.  Domestic donors of $20 or more (not the usual $25) will receive a paper copy of the finished book; $10 will get you an e-book (available formats not yet determined, but probably epub and mobi).  $25 will get both.  List price for the final versions will in all likelihood be less, but you’re helping get it done.

It’s still $250 a chapter.  I’m estimating twelve to fifteen chapters, though that may turn out to be way off.

I’m also thinking of making individual chapters available in ebook form, in addition to the web version — Chapter 1 would be free, and each subsequent chapter would be 99 cents.  This would not be an economical way to read it, but some people might think it’s worth it for the convenience.

And… I’ve been wondering whether there’s some way to move these serials to Kickstarter.  Any comments?

26 thoughts on “The Sorcerer’s Widow: Progress Report Zero

  1. Oh, I sort of figured that, but the more places the project is visible, the more likely it is to flourish. Kickstarter requires a set goal and deadline, though, and I’m not sure how to make that work.

  2. Well, Rich Burlew set a deadline for his Order of the Stick project, but the deadline was only for when the financing would be finished, not for when the deliverables would be sent. Are you concerned that the goal would not be reached and you would then not get any financing out of Kickstarter? It does seem like a risk.

  3. Rich Burlew’s goal was to raise enough money to get 1 of his books printed (it was out of print for ages, and fans were complaining). He then calculated how much each additional book would be and added those as additional goals.

    Assuming you want to copy his method (which seemed very successful).

    His system was based on having lots of pledge milestones. The kickstarter target for the project is set at the target for the first milestone.

    Only the achieved milestones and the next milestone would actually be shown in the updates.

    Then there needs to be updates for new milestones. This is to try to get more donations, since the target has officially been hit, there would be less reason for donors to donate more. Maybe, something like

    1st: The Sorcerer’s Widow minimally funded (1 update per 2 weeks)
    2nd: Additional short* story about for all donors
    3th: A donor prize
    4th: Sorcerer’s Widow update rate increased to 2 every 3 weeks
    5th: Another additional short story about for donors
    6th: Donors get Sorcerer’s widow chapters 2 days early
    7th: Sorcerer’s Widow update rate increased to once a week
    8th: Another additional short story about for donors
    9th: A donor prize
    10th: Sorcerer’s Widow published as written (at least once per week)

    *: Short = chapter length story (like the April Fool’s one)

    The targets for the milestones can be added as updates. This allows tweaking of the targets (and rewards) depending on how well things are going.

    Ideally, milestones should be broken reasonably regularly to build up momentum.

    More print runs for his back catalogue were good for milestone rewards as they required less time from him than actually writing more stories.

    You could use things like a scan of the ethshar map or maybe some background info on something. They could be emailed to all donors.

    If bonus chapters are used as rewards, then the milestones could be set 250 apart.

    You could also say that if the funding is not hit, the Sorcerer’s Widow would go to the end of the queue. Also, if the serial ends up being once per 2 weeks, it would take longer before the next one starts.

    There should be an “entry-level” reward. This could be for anyone who donates say $10. This is to try to capture lots of people who would donate a small amount, but don’t bother.

    In his system, digital copies of all donor-only short stories were included as the entry level reward. I though this was a good plan, it prevents people waiting until the last minute to donate, in case they would get better/more rewards.

    You could then have various other rewards at various price levels. These were mainly signed books and also donor specific content (various RPG items).

    He had “secret” targets that were often additional short stories for donors.

    He also had 2 high price rewards. One was a cameo appearance of a character that the donor describes in the main comic (1 available) and another was a short story about a character of the donor’s choosing (sent to all donors) (5 available).

    They could be lifted almost directly. The short story could be about any Ethshar character of the donor’s choosing. The donor just gets to pick the character, the story can be about any point in their lives.

    You could have a (high) reward being the right to choose the next serial (out of a list options).

  4. That’s really, really elaborate! I had no idea. I did hear about his astonishing success, but I hadn’t realized he had all that complicated stuff in there.

  5. This was his last target based update (after the timer expired)

    Most of the horizontal lines in the graph are the various reward targets. He had to rescale it a few times.

    In fact, each graph update was a comic in and of itself, as an added reward for hitting the target.

    In the end, the project was better than 2000% funded relative to the original target (his original target was $57,000 for the print run of one of his books).

    The updates after that are status reports of actually fulfilling his promises.

    The various donor rewards are shown on the right hand side. Donors can pick 1 reward and each reward can have a minimum donation set by the project creator.

    Apparently, donors can’t pick multiple rewards, which caused a bit of a headache, but the project creator can send out a survey to donors at the end to ask questions.

  6. I don’t know anything about Kickstarter, but it sounds like you could make each chapter a reward target. In fact, it sounds like the biggest problem will be coming up with new rewards after you finish the book.

  7. That isn’t how Kickstarter works, Konrad. Kickstarter rewards are ordered by dollar amount, not chronologically. Chronologically, it’s all or nothing — you get enough pledges by deadline, and everyone pays up, or you don’t, and no one pays anything.

    Incidentally, it doesn’t feel as if I’m seeing much enthusiasm for this project. Yeah, I know a lot of people don’t read here when there’s no serial in progress, but I haven’t gotten any feedback from the announcement in my e-mail newsletter, and the chatter in my SFF-Net newsgroup hasn’t exactly been encouraging. I keep bringing up the issue of the story’s length, and getting no reaction, positive or negative, which worries me. Maybe I should just give up on serials.

  8. Well, I, for one, have your web sites in my list of “Daily” sites that I visit, well, every day. I check vigilantly to see if something new is coming along, even though I also subscribe to the emails.

    I would like to see the serial happen. I would pay to get the paper and e-book, and the length isn’t so much an issue for me. I paid full price for the Myth Adventures books in paperback, and those things were TINY by comparison to any of the Ethshar books. For me, if the story is a good one, the length is not really a concern if the story feels like it was done justice.

  9. I only subscribed to the rss a few weeks ago. (in fact, I couldn’t recall what Serial Box was when the post came up.)

    I’m not concerned about the length of the story, as long as you keep going with Ethshar stories.

    Just let me know where to send my moneys.

  10. Please don’t stop the serials.

    My observation is that generally interest and interaction builds as the serials continue. Financially may be different, I seem to remember you describing a rush of support at the start tapering to enough to keep it moving (which seems to fit the experience of the Kickstarter projects I’ve followed and supported), but I can’t speak to that. If anything I think doing more serials would get you more consistent and ongoing support (but I might be biased).

    From a supporter standpoint, Kickstarter is a great idea. The levels incentivize people to donate more and the goals and stretch goals give a clear target and motivation. I can definitely see how it’d be more work for the project manager (you), though, and would definitely need to be weighed as to what you hoped to gain from going to Kickstarter vs continuing as you have.

  11. Well, I’ve had my head down concentrating on one massive ball of stress after another (balls of stress so epic to me it feels like I’ve caught the attention of some bored deity who has decided to see how I handle something novel each week for moths now.). The email tonight was the first I heard of the project. I’ve donated. I’m enthusiastic.

  12. I’m interested, but length by itself doesn’t need a comment.

    Re Kickstarter: It seems obvious enough:

    The initial goal is one chapter, each additional chapter is a bonus or strech goal. Chapters are released as pledges accumulate, but no more than one per week.

    Donor levels: $10 is a PDF, $20 book and domestic shipping, $25 book and PDF, additional levels for oversees.

    This is EXACTLY what Lawrence already does, and it fits their model other than that their model has a set end-date, which many projects finesse by setting it well past the time they expect to need.

    The question is, are kickstarter fees worth the extra publicity? I have no idea myself.

  13. Oh, there would need to be an adjustment from standard kickstarter based on the fact that donar levels only pay off if the book ends, but again, Lawrence already does that. That just makes the support levels bonuses that only come active if he hits the full book level.

    Every project I’ve seen also has a $1 support level that gives nothing. Lawrence could simply have ALL donars be at the nothing level and state that he’ll ship books on the terms he usually does.

  14. I agree with the others, Lawrence.. I would like it for you to keep the Ethshar novels going, who’d ever thought that what started out as an RPG would turn into a 12 novel series. It was just by chance i happened to notice the ‘Misenchanted Sword’ in a bookstore in Montreal Canada (where i am from) and found it fascinating and fun to read.

    I don’t normally read fantasy novels, but I really liked this one and eventually aquired all of the printed novels and since read the ones you posted here. I have also aquired a couple of other (non Ethshar) novels you wrote.

    don’t stop the novels..


  15. As long as the books keep getting written, I’m happy with the current system. And honestly whether it’s 15 chapters or 150 chapters, I’ll donate whatever I need to get the full thing.

    As for Kickstarter, I think it needs to be an all or nothing. Maybe the first goal is it gets written and the second is that it gets serialized. So for 10k (i’m just throwing out a random number) Ethshar Book 13 gets definitely written. For 15k it gets serialized. For 20k there’s a chap book…

    Maybe one of the big donation tiers is you get to pick which book is written (assuming LWE has 2 or 3 he wants to write). Seems like there’s enough big ticket prizes that fans would love. Skype conversation with LWE, maps, additional background info or snippets of failed stories.

    Overall though, I think Kickstarter is worth experimenting with, but it wouldn’t be a 1 for 1 replacement of the serials. I think funding the serials the way LWE has been doing seems to be a good solution. Kickstarter would be about trying something bigger and slightly different. To just use Kickstarter to do a serial seems like giving a lot of money to Kickstarter on the assumption that it’ll drive that much more traffic.

  16. I love these serials, reading as it gets written – then seeing how the final published book changes after the refinements.

    CE Murphy did a fabulously successful kickstarter campaign – asked for like $4k to write a novella that happens “within” one of her other books, then as the amount pledged kept rising, she kept adding in bonus layers (so as it reached further and further benchmarks, she added in short stories for those who pledged at certain levels in addition to the original promised goodies). She ended up the campaign at well over $20k … and the subscribers got a novel (the novella went way over on wordcount) as well as multiple short stories to do with the same world/characters as the original novella.

    That said, I’m not sure what her following is in #s compared to yours – or whether the cut of the take that kickstarter requires vs. getting the entire $250 per chapter works better for you.

    BTW I haven’t donated to this serial yet for two reasons, 1) just bought a house and am tight on cash right for a couple of credit card billing cycles and 2) waiting for the initial rush of donations to ebb so I can donate to keep things ticking along in the middle when chapters start getting held up ’til $ comes in. *grin*

    ~ Ailsa

  17. Congratulations on home ownership!

    The initial rush this time paid for eight chapters, but the flow of money has slowed down now. No rush about donating, as I’m covered well into June.

    Kickstarter’s cut appears to come to about 8%, counting everything, which is more than whatever cut PayPal takes (2%, maybe?), but they also have a wide reach. I’ll probably try a Kickstarter project sometime, but not an Ethshar novel.

  18. I think Kickstarter for Ethshar is a great idea. The visibility could potentially really help the outcome.

    I wasn’t aware of this serial until I just now saw it on your Facebook page. How do I get on the email list for future projects?

    I love what you do and plan to keep supporting in the future.

  19. There are two ways to get email notifications of new serials.

    First, the ones who get priority are the people who donated to the most recent serial and whose email addresses haven’t changed. I don’t go back to earlier serials because the bounce rate just gets unmanageable, but when I started this one I sent a notice to everyone who had contributed to The Unwelcome Warlock. (If you donated and didn’t get that notice, a spam filter is probably involved.)

    Second, if you sign up for the Misenchanted Newsletter, you’ll hear from me three or four times a month, and that will include updates on serials. That list gets news about the serial immediately after the donors.

    You could also sign up for the RSS feed from this blog — I do post news here when a new serial’s launching.

  20. I have been a huge fan of your books for years and just found out recently about the serial box. I hope you continue to write many more Ethshar books and I will donate to all future books just as I have this one. I also read on the main page that you were thinking about printing up maps and would be very interested to see how that turns out!

  21. Welcome aboard, Dustin.

    Those maps are a spare-time project, and I almost never have spare time, but I haven’t given up on the idea.

  22. Lawrence,

    I think Kickstarter projects would be a great way for you to fund your books. However, Kickstarter is more of an “all or nothing” than a serial. Your project either succeeds, in which case you write the book, or it doesn’t, and you don’t. I’ve pledged to probably half a dozen novels or so on Kickstarter, so far. I think your dollar amounts that you are currently using would only need to be adjusted by a small amount to take into account any Kickstarter/Amazon fees. One company that is funding all their books through Kickstarter is “Art of the Genre.” Take a look at their projects for ideas. Here’s one example:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *