I — Craig Mod, your bleary-eyed, frazzled guide — am emerging from Book World (straight into Book Promotion World), and wow do I have a ton of geeky stuff to share with you: Friends ofRoden.
First and foremost — IT’S ALIVE — the book, Kissa by Kissa:
Kissa by Kissa is now available for purchase. We’re running a pre-sale campaign until August 14th during which some perks and other goodies can be unlocked. This run of the book is limited to 1,000 copies, and there is a 30-copy limited edition signed photo print. We did a small beta-launch on Sunday for SPECIAL PROJECTS members, and as of hitting send on this we’ve sold … almost 200 books and about half the prints almost 500 copies and half the prints! (I meant to publish this 12 hours ago — lots of excitement on social media since then.)
A little history: Ten years ago, right at this very moment, I was hitting publish on Kickstartup (an essay so old it doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version). That essay was the result of crowdfunding Art Space Toyko, a book I made with Ashley Rawlings.
Making AST was great, but sharing how it was made and why it was crowdfunded in a time when crowdfunding a book was still a very, very new concept — well, that sharing became an unexpected, mega-dividends-paying delight. Each month, for years I’d get a book in the mail from folks who made something having read that essay. I suspect it unlocked some $10+ million in crowdfunding revenue / campaigns / inspiration for indie publishers. It taught me the power of archetypes. Show folks how to do something — and show them with great transparency and detail and humility — and the power of the thing you’ve made is multiplied many times over. This is a superpower: the doing and explaining. Just explaining can veer into pontification. But showing an object — a thing, an “output” — and explaining … that’s a substantial combination.
And so: Today, ten years later — and what feels like no fewer than six or seven lifetimes (so many different jobs, hats, residencies, ups and and downs) — I’m doing … basically the exact same thing: launching a book independently, explaining the tools around it, and hoping to provide even more evidence for the fecundity of non-traditional publishing routes.
Let’s dig in:
Kissa by Kissa’s launch is actually a few sly experiments being run in tandem.
The first has to do with memberships. Yearly members of my SPECIAL PROJECTS (née Explorers Club) membership program get a $50-off coupon to use on the Book or Book + Print. Anyone who joins as a Yearly Member going forward will get that coupon (I was already providing a $30-off Koya Bound coupon from the beginning of the program). If you’re not a member and want to join, you can do so here: https://craigmod.memberful.com/checkout?plan=35443
You’ll immediately get the coupon in an email.
So this first experiment is about seeing how many folks are intrigued by that offer. The Yearly Membership costs $100, but comes with a ton of other perks. And right away, you can get $80 back if you use the coupons on Kissa by Kissa and Koya Bound.
I see all members as voters, but Yearly Members are like mini-investors. As I wrote in Kickstartup: “I want to share with you a story about books, publishing, fundraising and seed capital.” Yearly Memberships are seed capital. I don’t mean that in the way of crude, spreadsheet driven, emotionless capital deployment, but in the freedom-unlocking, the opportunity-giving way. Obviously, members are not only “seed capital,” but the dollar amount of Yearly Memberships, in aggregate, become a kind of Kalman filter or linear quadratic estimation in a way that Monthly amounts aren’t. Yearly members say: Ya got a year, delight me! And if I fail to do so, the onus is on me. So, as a thanks to Yearly Supporters for that pledge of faith, I see the $50 coupon as a kind of financial dividend (beyond all the cultural dividends I hope the program inherently pays).
It should be noted, too, as I’ve written about before: The membership program is incredibly freeing. Our members-only livestream launch on Sunday night was a blast. The numbers are just right, just reasonable enough to make me feel open and comfortable and non-overly-performative in a way that would be difficult when, doing, say, a livestream for thousands. For a new book I’d normally throw a big launch party, invite hundreds of folks, take over a museum or venue in Tokyo, and we’d have an airborne-virus-friendly shindig. Obviously, no go now. The livestream was lovely. Thanks to all who joined and chimed in in the chat.
And as always, a reminder: Students get free membership. Just reply to this email and I’ll set you up.
I still think Kickstarter is an incredible, amazing, life-giving force in the world of enabling creative stuff to exist. But options are good!
So why not use Kickstarter? A few reasons:
The feel of the platform has changed dramatically over the last decade — from indie upstart with funky, artsy, low-key projects, to a kind of machine used by big companies to pre-sell watches and coolers with USB ports. There are still tons of inspiring self-made folk on Kickstarter, but it doesn’t quite have the “small village” vibe it once had. (Meaning: There’s an opportunity to make your own small village!)
By building atop a platform like Shopify, you can save up to ~7% on platform fees when running a campaign. That’s non-trivial.
Kickstarter doesn’t allow for coupons (which were integral to the tests I wanted to run).
Kickstarter doesn’t allow for multiple goals — stretch goals are kinda hacked onto campaigns.
Design control (branding, et cetera) is severely limited.
A platform like Shopify has direct integration with all kinds of fulfillment options, dramatically simplifying shipping and customer service.
Once the campaign is over, your project lives like a kind of museum piece on Kickstarter’s servers. Who knows if Kickstarter will be around in five years, or how their design will change.
Own. Your. Nook. There’s power in owning your nook of the ‘net — your domain name, your design, your archives — and it’s easier than ever to do so, and run a crowdfunding campaign at the same time.
The real change in the last decade, though, is that platforms like Shopify are amazing. I am blown away. Shopify is one of the best pieces of software I’ve used in recent years. It consolidates the entirety of a campaign — from shop building, to campaign running, to fulfillment, customer communication, and newsletters — and its extensive markup language (in-house designed Liquid templates, which are a joy to use, and local development tools like their “theme” software that auto-syncs with the server) allows for the base-functionality of a site like Kickstarter to be easily duplicated. It also incentivizes running more campaigns in the future since it all lives in your nook. My plan is to release two books a year (ed: ha ha! we’ll see how that turns out) using Craigstarter.
I don’t mean to belittle the feat that is Kickstarter. Kickstarter obviously brings with it a bunch of its own benefits — not the least of which is the known “brand” of running a Kickstarter Campaign™, the network effects of the social graph of backers on their platform, and handling all the technical work that you’re responsible for on a platform like Shopify.
Kickstarter also has the advantage of being an “all or nothing” platform. So nobody gets charged if you don’t meet your goal. This used to be more important than it is today (especially ten years ago, when the risks of this so-called “crowdfunding” doohickey seemed high). Today, most campaigns set arbitrarily low goals that they know they’ll hit. (It’s also very easy to game the system and push a project over the “success” line.) The bulk of Kickstarter’s benefit today seems to be in creating a sense of scarcity, a timer running down, stuff to “unlock.” We can easily do that on Shopify.
For most people, Kickstarter is the right option. But for many of us — especially those of us with a little technical background or indie publishers already running a Shopify store — having a native-to-Shopify option seems like a no brainer.
Options. I’m just interested in options!
Long Arc Work
Kissa by Kissa’s subtitle is “How to Walk Japan, Book One.” That’s not aspirational — I can already see the next three books, if not more.
I now have a framework — a printer, a fulfillment solution, a crowdfunding platform, an online store, a set of design language and book materials I am excited by and proud of — which means the focus, in theory, going forward, should be on writing and photographing, editing and thinking about form within the context of that framework. That’s exciting. That’s why we frontloaded this book with so much extra work.
I’ll be writing more about the shape of Kissa by Kissa once the physical copies are out in the world (we go to print this week). And I’ll run a livestream for members (and anyone who buys the book) once we have them in hand. We can go through, page by page, talk about why it looks the way it looks, talk about editorial decisions, talk about paper types and bindings — we can talk about whatever you want (that’s the fun of livestreams) with the goals of: demystification of creative processes, and hopefully becoming an archetype to activate even more independent and well-crafted stuff in the world. Let’s own our nooks.