A Kickstarter success story: fifty-five thousand dollars in thirty days

Mind Afire: The Visions of Tesla PAPERBACK


Abigail Samoun and Elizabeth Haidle carried out one of the most successful Kickstarter projects in Taos.

Mind Afire: A Graphic Novel, the illustrated biography of Nicola Tesla, had an initial goal of $7,450. It ended up receiving $ 55,796 from 1,978 backers.

“We both felt that there was an increasing interest in the details of Tesla’s life, contributions and vision, and that people would jump at the chance to see an illustrated biography of him,” said Haidle. “We didn’t want to wait the year or more it would take to get the proposal together and then for editors to get back to us.”

Expenses and funding: creating a balance

Haidle admits that they couldn’t realistically have completed the book for the minimum goal they had posted.

“We might have made it one-color, with fewer illustrations, to cope with a low budget,” she said, “but I was worried about the month and a half full-time work it took to get the proposal ready for Kickstarter. I had a big freelance job fall through right at that time, and I was determined we had to succeed at some level.”

Kickstarter operates on an all-or-nothing funding model, so the minimum goal must be reached for any of the funds to be obtained.

“Of course, I didn’t dream we would attract 2,000 backers in just 30 days,” she said. “Since I was a nervous insomniac for the month previous, this success came as a great relief.”

Their project attracted a lot of international attention, said Haidle, so a huge percentage of the budget went toward shipping.

“It’s tricky to come up with the financial goal,” she said, “because you want the numbers to reflect what you need to print the books, pay for the video, pay for your time in creating it…but as orders of the book add up, your expenses increase, so you have to figure that into the pledges and hope that your expenses and funding are getting larger in the right proportions.”

Creative rewards, happy backers

Besides offering digital and print editions of the book, posters and t-shirts, the authors came up with creative reward ideas like a custom tattoo design made by Haidle and cameo shots in the book—painting the backer into a scene.

The backers’ reaction to the results was mostly good, said Haidle.

“I had a challenge in dressing them all up in Victorian costume, so they would fit in the era of the book,” she said. “Even though I had included an example of the level of detail that backers could expect, I found it tricky to communicate promises long distance, through a website.”

In general they had happy backers, she said, because they decided to autograph all books sold that month, instead of just those corresponding to one reward level.

They also increased the book from 64 to 80 pages without raising the price.

“We printed overseas, in South Korea, so we could afford a number of deluxe extras on the cover like matte coating, spot gloss and French flaps,” she said.

Haidle is pleased that a large number of people ordered the e-book.

“I wanted anyone to be able to buy the digital version, and was especially thinking of people in other countries who may not be able to afford the extra shipping fee,” she said.

The e-book is still available for sale at nikolateslagraphicnovel.com.

Self publishing vs. traditional publishing

One advantage of self publishing, and pre-selling through a site like Kickstarter, is that authors have direct access to the buyers, Haidle said.

“We had loads of encouraging feedback during the production of the books and after sending them out,” she said. “Some comments were so wonderful to read that they made me cry! If we had gone with traditional publishing, we would never have had so many connections with readers; the books would be shipped to stores and bought off the shelves by people we would never know.”

She has received handwritten thank-you letters in the mail, and more.

“I got some complimentary songs from a musician who was a backer and wanted to give us something fun to listen to while we were packing the thousands of envelopes with books,” she said. “And I even received one marriage proposal via email, from a very enthusiastic backer, I guess.”

Wider distribution

The print edition consisted of 2,100 copies.

The authors are now in the process of speaking with editors in order to distribute the book to a wider audience. They want to publish two more editions: one longer, with more writing and illustrations, and another for teens or children.

“I am hopeful,” Haidle said.

Buying the book

The book isn’t available in any bookstore. Haidle plans to have a few signings to sell the remaining signed copies and posters.

One event will take place at World Cup on Saturday, February 15th from 10am to noon.

The other will be on Sunday, February 16th. Haidle and Miles Bonny will join at Mesa Brewery during Community Vinyl Brunch, from noon to 4pm.

The book is paperback, full-color and has 80 pages. It costs $25.

So you want to launch a Kickstarter campaign…

When I asked Haidle for advice to future Kickstarter creators, she recommended investing money and time in the perfect video.

“That is mainly what grabs attention and makes the project memorable,” she said. “I want to thank Wendy Shuey for her mad skills—she filmed and edited— and Dustin Sweet for applying his magic in AfterEffects. I couldn’t have made it without his help.”

After Tesla

Haidle’s next publishing project is a 100-page graphic novel called Keeper of Ravens.

“It’s a myth that I wrote and am in the process of illustrating,” she said. “Not sure if I am releasing it for pre-sale this spring or fall on Kickstarter, but anyone interested can ‘like’ the Facebook page to make sure they hear the news.”

To know more about the project, visit its website