I was scheduled to play Dicenstein on Friday morning, but the other players were no-shows. So I watched the previous round finish up and read through the rules. Waaaay too complicated for me. I still had some time before my writing panels began so I started a systematic perusal of the exhibit hall. There are some 29 aisles and each one took about 10 minutes -- if all you did was browse along.
Writer's Craft: How to Write an Amazing First Page (Susan J Morris (mod), Dan Wells, Leigh Perry, Marco Palmieri, Dave Mack)
Dan: Don't worry too much about the first page at first.
Leigh (who writes cozy mysteries with a skeleton sidekick): Get your (dead) body out there as soon as possible.
Marco (editor): likes to be dropped in the middle of things without preamble: total immersion; challenge readers to keep up.
Some like to be grabbed by the throat, some like to start with dialog (to get the characters rolling)
Emotion. visceral. Double duty: show the promise/genre, e.g. magic (for fantasy), tech (for sci-fi).
Ground the reader pretty quickly, if not the first page then the first (short) chapter.
Great first lines:
"The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." – William Gibson, Neuromancer.
'He punched the door with a code combination, and awaited face check. It came promptly; the door dilated, and a voice inside said, "Come in, Felix."' -- Robert Heinlein, Beyond this Horizon (cheating here, that's 2 sentences, a full paragraph. And, heaven forbid, a semi-colon. I guess things were different in 1942.)
"The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed." Stephen King, The Dark Tower.
Make the reader want answers. Start with dramatic tension -- readers will read on without knowing exactly what's going on.
Too Many Panels
I walked past a long row of food trucks with lines up to yar and on to lunch at the 24 hour Steak'N'Shake. It was booming but I grabbed a stool at the counter without a wait. They were handling the crowd with aplomb, yes-sirree Bob. Then back for two panels and a reading.
The first was Writer's Life: An Introvert's Guide to Interacting with the Public. Sandra Tayler was sage.
The reading was Ilana C. Myer and Sandra Tayler. A very small audience of about 7 of us. Highly recommended because we got insights into the evolution of the things they read.
The next panel wasn't part of the Writing Symposium, it was over in the Convention Center (the Symposium was in meeting rooms of the Westin hotel, attached to the CC by a skywalk). Immoral Women in RPGs and Why We Need More of Them. It was packed but largely lost on me. Margaret Weis, a big name apparently in early Role Playing Game design was there, I think folks came to hear her.
Beware the Kickstarter, My Son
(Always with the apologies to Lewis Carroll)
I had a bit of a Hero's Journey of my own just to find my next presentation, Kickstarting your Game, Book or Film 101. It was at the Crowne Plaza hotel on the far side of the convention center. The Plaza was converted from the old central railway station with some rooms still in train cars and the architecture is of massive steel girders. My meeting room was in the farthest basement corner.
It was worth the trek. A trio of funding-woes weary Canadian game and film producers from Lynnvander told the several of us all about losing money through successfully funded Kickstarter campaigns.Kickstarter takes 5% off the top, Amazon payments another 3%. If you use a pledge manager (like PledgeManager, Backerkit or Stripe), and you should, that's another 5 to 8 percent.
If you account for those, the one that most first-timers don't see coming is the delinquent accounts. Credit cards that expired or got canceled between pledge and funding -- and they don't feel like ponying up for that super-double-deluxe package they signed up for. Count on another 2%.
And shipping will kill you. If you include it in the pledge you pay fees on it, too, so a $10 postage stamp costs you more like $12. Count on $11 to $16 to ship a two pound game within the continental US. What to do about a problem like Hawaii? (and Alaska?) More campaigns are handling shipping as extra after the pledging.
Give yourself at least a 15% cushion if you just hit your goal. You're gonna need it.
On the up side, if you blow past your funding goal you look super successful. on the down side if you sell a lot of copies of a game via Kickstarter then no stores will want to stock it. And 1,500 is about a minimum print run for a game, in order to get a good price from the (presumably Chinese) manufacturer. (Lynnvander had a bad print run, ended up telling the backers to throw them in the trash and Lynnvander paid for a second manufacturing run out of their own pockets -- your Kickstarter reputation will follow you, for good or ill. Oh, and so will your Kickstart, you'll be answering emails for years. Tell everybody what's happening every step of the way. It will make (almost) everyone less cranky.)
Consider paying for art, like box cover art, yourself up front. Shows everyone you have skin in the game and you can use it on your Kickstarter page. And backers love the pie chart that shows where their money is going.
Board Game Geek is a great resource. These guys were funny and forthcoming. And they've kept their bank accounts above water, unlike others who have used the next Kickstarter to pay for the shortfalls in the prior one. Uh-oh.
Your mileage may vary.
Writing Excuses LIVE!
I made my way back to the friendly and familiar surrounds of the Westin, determined never to run my own Kickstarter, The recording sessions for the Writing Excuses podcast had sold out before I got my tickets but I got in as overflow part way through the first hour. The full regular cast was present: Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Mary Robinette Kowal and Dan Wells. This season they are interviewing experts in things other than writing. I saw a falconer (Larry Dixon), a street artist (Illus), a rap producer (Wild Style) and a lawyer whose name escapes me. All good shows. They ended after 8:00 pm.
I called it a night.