Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Ok, remember that Kickstarter campaign I was on about earlier?

Here's the proper information about the state of the campaign:

Our latest Kickstarter campaign: Girl Genius: Kings andWizards has now funded, and we’ve posted a few stretch goals! The Envelope of Madness is now active: and a variety of extras are added as the campaign rolls on. So far, we have a very nice poster, a cute wasp eater sticker, the bookmark, TPU student ID card, art card featuring Agatha and Colette, and, of course, the autographed bookplate. We have also now reached the deluxe medal stretch goal!

The campaign ends on the 19th, and we plan to ship the books straight from the printer for everyone who fills out their BackerKit survey in time. Just like last time, we will have the post-campaign BackerKit store open for a couple of weeks, but keep in mind that, this time, backers of the Kickstarter are getting a special “backers-only” price on the campaign exclusives–like the medal and campaign patch. We hope you’ll visit, if only for the free-to-all-visitors downloadable wallpaper posted near the bottom of the page.

Can I put a link in a caption? Let's find out!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Setting up a new Kickstarter campaign, and thoughts on stretch goals

Cheapass Games is off on the JoCo Cruise, which is lovely for them, and not too bad for us, since it means they can't frown at us over all the art we're supposed to be getting to them for the new edition of the Girl Genius The Works card game. I'm told they might be demoing it on the cruise, so if you're there, lucky you, and see if you can get in on it! When they get home, we'll have a whole bunch of new art for them, and our newest Kickstarter campaign up and running.

I spent all day today fighting a nasty migraine, and getting the campaign ready. It's probably the weird changes in the weather, we've been having snow here in Seattle, which is extremely odd for this time of year. I love it, but I do sometimes get headaches when the weather changes. Bleh. At any rate, I've got everything but the video set up. I really don't think I can get away without some kind of video this time...I had to post last year's campaign without a video and it just didn't feel right.

The other thing that doesn't feel right...running a new campaign when I still have old stretch goals that I haven't finished up. They're all digital fun-type things...and I have to get the book out, or we won't be able to pay people like our color artist Cheyenne and our email helper Chris and our local grocer Art...but they bug me. I have a partially-designed box for the first 13 Girl Genius books taking up all the space on my work table, but I've had to leave it there while I set up the campaign. (I'd been hoping to squeeze it in before the campaign went live, and I still might, but time will tell.) Underneath it is the test printing of a PDF dust jacket for the hardcovers, which I need to photograph (or film) myself using, for illustration purposes. So people can see how it's meant to be used when I post it. I still have to figure out how the heck the Jägermonster toast goes. It turns out none of the Jägers can decide on the traditional one, and then they all start fighting, and everything I come up with sounds stupid. We'll see. I'm still working on remastering all of our old desktop wallpapers, I'm about two-thirds of the way done with that. I'm trying to do one a day, at minimum, but it's amazingly slow going. It turns out there are a lot of them. So...I'm really trying not to add any more of that "I will do X" kind of stretch goal. I have some ideas for this campaign that will help me avoid that sort of thing, at least until I finish up my old ones. If you're interested in the status of our uploads, they're all listed at the bottom of the Kickstarter Information Page I've set up on the Girl Genius web site, so that I have the list all in one place and can keep track of it. I want that monkey off my back.

And of course, there's the big monkey on my back, the fob from the City of Lightning campaign. It's got a profile face on it, and it has been the biggest manufacturing hassle I've ever had to deal with. I think we've finally got it right, but I won't know until next Monday at the earliest. I'm really excited about it, though, I designed it because it's exactly the one I want, and I can't wait to actually have it in my hands. I've never put a picture in this blog before, so I'm going to try it out now. Here's the latest set of notes I sent to the pin maker:

I'm expecting metal samples soon, and then we'll be nearly there. Right now, I'm off to bed. I really should stay up all night and get that video done, but...eh...I'm sleepy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rambling about Kickstarter Fulfillment and Shipping

The Kickstarter Backer Contact Form seems to be working well, we spent quite a bit of time over the weekend tracking down lost packages and packing up replacements for damaged or mispacked shipments. Chris, who does part-time work helping us deal with the mail, goes through the form responses and sends me a list of things to re-send or check into, and I check into them and then pack up books and re-send them. It's been a bit harrowing, but I feel good about getting the customer service more under control.

All this has really bringing home to me how much I love the new system we're using--BackerKit and MakeThatThing and Stamps.com for anything that needs to be shipped from my house--because the old systems have me digging through spreadsheets and huge binders full of packing slip copies to find the details of five-year-old pledge rewards.

For the first several Kickstarter campaigns, we packed and shipped everything from our basement. That means that my Mom was down there for ages packing things, then taking them to the post office every day. Sometimes our friend Carol from Cheapass Games came in and did the same thing, mostly for Beast of the Rails, if I remember. We weren't able to get tracking numbers back then. I have now learned how much I love tracking numbers.

Also for the first few campaigns, I was not in charge of the whole circus. That makes it even harder for me to go back and check on the crunchy details of things.

I really like having MakeThatThing ship the bulk of the rewards, and if we're on a good schedule, we can even have books mailed directly from the printer to our backers. That saves a lot of trouble, but means that we have to have our backer surveys in by the time the printer needs the shipping list. We weren't able to do that last time, and it really bit me hard. I'm setting up a new campaign for Kings and Wizards (the 17th Girl Genius collection) and this time, I've built in time to have it shipped from the printer. I love getting the book to our backers right away, it takes a lot of the stress off.

Well, I should stop "thinking out loud" about it here, and get back to work. I've got that next campaign to set up, and the pressure is on hard.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Our new "Kickstarter Backers' Contact Form" and information pages

I've made a lovely new information page with up-do-date status reports for all of our past Kickstarter campaigns.

I've also made a lovely new "Contact Us" form for our backers to use, once they've looked at the status reports and realized that the thing they thought we never sent to them probably just got lost in the mail. (We were not always able to send tracking numbers in the past.)

Our friend Carol Monahan (from Cheapass Games) is seeing to it that our old pledge managers are shut down. Carol's helping us get our ducks in a row so that we can get our next book out, so that her company can get the Girl Genius : The Works card game out. We are all in each other's pockets around here. Someday I'll draw up a chart. ANYWAY:

 She's making sure that there's a proper note on the landing page of each old pledge manager, telling people that, although the pledge manager is closed (like the ancient tomb it is) it's not too late to contact us for customer service. Because it's not. We still have little hoards of most rewards squirreled away, just in case.

The thing is, all those old Kickstarter campaigns are getting harder and harder to keep track of. A message on an old campaign page is easily missed, (although we do try to look things over regularly, it seems to happen more than we'd like.) So we're trying to consolidate things, to make things easier for our backers, and to make things easier for ourselves. Hence, the new information page. I hope it helps!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The state of the Studio, and some thoughts on Christmas Eve

It's Christmas Eve, and I'm trying to get tonight's page lettered before my Mom comes over for dinner. Some years we post a wallpaper or a funny picture or something else that means a little less intense work leading up to the holiday, but this year it's just another page. There have also been years when we've put up a secondary story and told everyone that we've "gone on vacation." Once or twice that's even been true, we have had a couple of guest artists. Usually, though, it's a joke: of course we're not actually on vacation, since we're still writing, drawing, and posting something on the same schedule.

The three Jägermonster portrait charms arrived yesterday, not the samples, but the actual big heavy box of charms. We are still waiting on the Jäger sigil charm, the final proof will be showing up a day or so after Christmas, and if we like the new finish on it, we'll go straight to production. When all four designs are here, we get to bundle them up into sets and put them into the nice little cloth bags, and off they'll go to TopatoCo, to wait for the medals to arrive. When the medals come in, they'll all get shipped out, and we'll be done with that side of the Incorruptible Library Kickstarter.

My office is full of cardboard mailing tubes, the last of our old supply. I had hoped to get the original art shipped out before everything shut down for Christmas, but it didn't happen, so my new goal is to get this cleared out before the New Year.

I'm going to have to do more to let people know that we don't actually have their addresses for mailing Kickstarter rewards until they've filled out a survey. I've talked to a couple of people who just don't realize that we NEED the campaign survey filled out. Kickstarter has their address, but WE do not, and the only way we get it is through the survey, whether we use the very simple one that Kickstarter provides, or a slightly fancier one like BackerKit. (We used BackerKit this time.)

James and Carol from Cheapass Games came over on Thursday. They brought the card list for the new version of The Works card game and we spent several hours going over the attributes of each character represented on the cards. We also made some decisions about which characters to include, and which could safely go by the wayside or at least wait a while. It was fun, and we only got about halfway through. Next week, we're all going to go see Star Wars, and then, if we can talk about anything else, go over the second half of the list. I think James is hoping to have this new edition out by San Diego ComicCon 2018, which would be lovely. It will be nice to have something new on the table that isn't an expensive high-number volume of an monster ongoing series. Heh. I should probably talk about that in another post, sometime.

So, I'm off to get the last of my work done. For those who celebrate Christmas, I wish you a very happy Christmas indeed, and for those who don't, I wish you a nice normal day of health and good cheer. As for the New Year, which rolls along no matter what we do, I hope it's a wonderful one for all of us!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

First Post: I'm starting this blog to talk about the business of publishing and crowdfunding the Girl Genius comics

Welcome! I am Kaja Foglio. With my husband Phil, I am co-owner of Studio Foglio, LLC, and co-creator of the gaslamp fantasy series Girl Genius. 

At the time of this writing, Studio Foglio has put out three Girl Genius novels, and sixteen volumes of the Girl Genius graphic novel. Both series are ongoing. The novels are published by outside publishers, so all we have to do there is get them written...but the comics are self-published. That means that a lot of work has to be done that no-one ever sees. I'm starting this blog partially because people have expressed interest in the workings of a small comic book company, but mostly because I need a central place to lay out information about our crowdfunding campaigns, both past and present.

Our company has done five Kickstarter campaigns to date. I have been in charge of running the last two of them. I've made a lot of mistakes, but overall it works very well for us and I'm getting better at it every time. Right now, the rewards for our latest Kickstarter campaign are shipping, and a good thing, too, since the need for the next campaign is pressing. So you're joining me right at the fulfillment end of one campaign, just in time to follow me through the next one. It might be pretty boring unless you're one of our Kickstarter backers, or looking to run your own company yourself, but here it is.

I won't be able to write up long, well-thought out essays on everything. It will mostly be little updates. There's always some emergency nipping at my heels, and that doesn't give me a lot of time to spend blogging. For instance: right now, I need to wrap this up so that I can go letter the page of the comic that will go up tonight at www.girlgeniusonline.com, where we post new pages Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I also have a few other things to take care of before I sleep. For instance:

With this campaign, (for The Incorruptible Library: volume 16 of the graphic novel series) we have signed up with BackerKit to handle our campaign surveys. It has proven to be a very useful system indeed, and one of the wonderful things it can do is allow us to allow people who missed the campaign one last chance to get in on the exclusives. This is especially good since our last campaign was such an emergency "do it now" affair that several people did indeed miss it. So, now that most of our campaign backers have filled out the survey, I'm off to open the BackerKit store to our readership. I'm hoping that allow a few of our sad readers to jump on the campaign, and also that it will noodge the last few actual backers into filling out their surveys.

Before I can open the gates, I must:
1) Check in with Chris, who keeps an eye on our email, to make sure that any backers who are waiting for problems to be sorted out are taken care of (before I add more to the pile.)
2) Check to make sure that there are enough posters left that I can offer the "Envelope of Madness" without having to go back and print more.
3) Make sure the shipping for new backers is calculated properly. Calculating shipping is horrific. I try to make sure we're not overcharging anyone, but I run the numbers and it still looks wrong. So I run them again. Then I take packages to the post office and have them do it. Then I go lie down with a cold cloth on my head. It costs ridiculous amounts to send the simplest things to Australia, for instance. It seems like I ought to just take the stuff there myself and save money...and then I'd be in Australia...so bonus! I'll definitely write more about shipping at some later date. It's a major concern.
4) Make graphics for the web site to let people know about the BackerKit store.
5) Post the graphics and add proper links.
6) Steel myself to wade into social media to tell people about it. Those who have followed our Studio over the years will know that I am not good at social media. I don't have time to answer all the questions, and then I feel bad about it and people get mad at me. So I mostly stay away. Still, it's a great way to let people know what we're working on. Hence, this new blog.
7) Do the laundry. Seriously, things are getting piled up. At least I can watch movies while I fold clothes.

So that's it for now, I'm off to get to work. Thank you for reading!