Should I, or shouldn’t I?
That was the first question I asked when thinking about running my Kickstarter. The answer seemed obvious: of course I should! What Kickstarter goes live with no stretch goals? What even is a Kickstarter with no stretch goals? Stretch goals are such a pervasive and common aspect to almost every Kickstarter I really felt that I couldn’t run the Corsairs Kickstarter without them.
Now I’m not so convinced, but more on that later.
Ok, so Corsairs was going to have stretch goals… for what, exactly? What would they be? I started, conversely, with what they shouldn’t be:
- I didn’t want to add any weight to the zine. So no extra pages of content, no hard cover option, no extras that would go in the envelope…
- I didn’t want to break the ‘rules’ of ZineQuest. So no colour cover, no colour art.
- I didn’t want to be ordering things from multiple companies. So no bookmarks (I assumed these wouldn’t add a significant amount to the weight, so waived that consideration), and no stickers (see previous), because Mixam didn’t do either.
Ok, so now we have a start, a list of things I didn’t want to do. But why didn’t I want to do them? Simplicity. As this was my first Kickstarter, my first time printing anything, my first time fulfilling anything, I wanted to keep the process as simple as possible. Keep it simple, keep it straight forward, keep it within the cost parameters I had already worked out.
The last point there is really the most significant, I wrote about shipping in a previous post, and on backer levels, in both I had already costed out the options. Shipping particularly is an issue. From Australia to overseas shipping was going to cost $8.30 per zine, if I added anything to the zine (like extra pages, postcards, etc) and the weight tipped over the magical line of 125g it would cost me, even with the backers paying for a set amount of shipping. If it tipped over the 125g line shipping would jump to $13.50, and that would mean I would be inadvertently be absorbing and extra $5.20 per zine. That’s a significant amount.
So we have the why I didn’t want to do those stretch goals… what could they be instead?
The first was always going to be art. My art was… ok. But professional art by a professional art doer was always going to be better. I had been in talks with a number of artists, and settle on Felicity Haworth. I loved her style, and I am glad to have had the opportunity to work with her. She has given flesh and bone to Corsairs in a way I could never have hoped to achieve on my own.
I settled on the idea of PDF supplements. This is not an uncommon thing in RPG Kickstarters – get to a certain level and the supplement on the ‘acid spitting borer beetles on Zargon XII’ becomes a reality! Ok, so this was a tested path for RPGs, Corsairs could do the same. It would serve three key purposes: it would provide stretch goal material, it would allow me to expand the Corsairs line, and, just as importantly, it would allow me a vehicle through which I could engage the backers. Yes! Do you want to see ‘Acid Spitting Borer Beetles of Zargon XII’ as the next supplement, or ‘Knife Wielding Voracious Voles of Seragon IX’? Vote here! Sounds like I am not taking it seriously, and that’s not the tone at all. I thought it would be a great way of involving what I hoped would be a growing community around the Kickstarter in decisions and choices – what did they want to see next? What aspects of this little zine about Sky Ships and piratical adventures would people like expanded upon? It would also help me create content for the game that people actually wanted. Was it background material? Was it a campaign to play through? Was it more rules on area X, Y, or Z? I wrote down the ideas for about a dozen different potential supplements, and then refined it to six:
Strange Customs is a Corsairs campaign. A customs and storage company in Teboa has been transferring goods coming into port to storage sheds in the interior of the island. A quartermaster with the Corsair ship ‘The Harlequin’ has noted some discrepancies in the log notations. A number of Corsairs captains want the matter brought before the Council, but some proof is needed to add credibility to the claim. Is the customs house skimming off the top? Or is something deeper unfolding?
Jewel of the Molten Sea
A background zine to Teboa including details on the island, the main port, trades, piracy, the influence of empires, important people and places, and adventure hooks every step of the way.
The Molten Sea
A background zine to the Molten Sea including details on the dangers and places, rumours and stories of fouled ships and lost treasures, and an exploration of the people and denizens of the floating islands.
Speed, Strength, and Wits
Expanded rules for Corsairs with a particular emphasis on character development. It will include advancement tables to extend character development and growth.
Smoke and Oakum
Expanded rules for Ships and Sailing, including modifying ships and special ship abilities.
A Corsairs campaign. The chance discovery of guano smugglers has much bigger implications than anyone could have guessed.
INSERT OBLIGATORY PLUG:
If you don’t have a copy of Corsairs you can fix that by heading to DriveThruRPG or Itch.io. If you missed the Kickstarter and are interested in a physical copy of the zine, there are still some physical copies left, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
END OBLIGATORY PLUG.
Of course, I had no way of knowing whether we would hit any of these stretch goals. But I knew I wanted each to have it’s own art. To that end I asked Felicity to quote me for art for these supplements, and I included that in the stretch goal ‘price’. Originally I set each stretch goal to open at $1000. This would cover art, as well as the cost of writing, layout, and everything else they entailed. At some point during the Kickstarter I decided I wanted to reach more of them, and dropped the ‘levels’ to $750. In the end we unlocked three stretch goals, new art, and two new PDF supplements.
To decide what those supplements would be I turned to surveys. These I sent to backers via ‘locked’ updates. First I tried Survey Monkey, but this platform just did not work the way I had hoped it would, and I shifted to Google Forms, which worked perfectly well. These surveys maintained a solid engagement, and helped me identify which supplements people wanted. Anyone following Corsairs will know, Smoke and Oakum was the most highly voted for. Once that had been locked in the next clear winner was Speed, Strength, and Wits.
I had assumed that the campaigns might have been near the top, potentially the background book on the main island in the setting, so it is fair to say I was surprised that both the most highly requested supplements were for expanded rules. I was surprised, but in a good way. Smoke and Oakum has already been released, and Speed, Strength, and Wits is not too far away from being ready for release as well.
So I wrote at the top that I wasn’t convinced about stretch goals. This may be specifically for the ZineQuest, maybe they are more important for a standalone kickstarter… But I am torn. On one hand it has given me the opportunity to add some really neat content to the game. It has also, I hope, added some serious value to the price backers of the Kickstarter got from their pledges. On the other, I wonder: how many of those backers joined (or didn’t leave) thanks to the stretch goals. Maybe some? I’m not convinced that too many would have joined on the basis of the stretch goals. Maybe that is down to marketing, maybe it is down to being a zine format game, and maybe it is down to being a ZineQuest game, and that stretch goals would play a larger or more ‘felt’ role in a standalone kickstarter. Food for thought… I think if there is another ZineQuest, I would take more time to ponder the question I first asked myself: Should I, or shouldn’t I? For the ZineQuest my jury is out. For a stand alone Kickstarter, I still think they are a valuable addition to the campaign.
What did I think of adding supplements as stretch goals? I was paid to write them when the funding goals were met, the amount I was paid was reduced by the Kickstarter fees, and then by the dropped backers, but I was paid, and if I planned well, then I was paid appropriately. Smoke and Oakum released a month ago, and a majority of the audience who might buy it already did – that is both a good thing (providing the stretch goal level was priced well), and needs to be considered when looking at subsequent sales. If I release a further supplement for Corsairs, one that wasn’t a stretch goal, will people buy it? Well, we’ll find out in the future, and maybe I’ll finish this train of thought then…
This article is a part of a series about running a Kickstarter campaign for ZineQuest, you can find the other articles in this series here.