Monday, October 14, 2013

The Mysterious Monsters of Japan, revealed!



Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation! Today Matthew Meyer joins the conversation with his second Kickstarter The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits.  Thank you for joining us today Matthew!
Domo arigato! Thank you for having me!

The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits is an odd name, could you tell us about it?  
“The Hour of Meeting Evil Spirits” is the literal translation of “oumagatoki (逢魔時),” the Japanese word for “twilight.” This book’s theme is the cycle of one night, and of course, that all begins with twilight. In old Japanese superstition, the border between night and day was also one of the borders between the living world and the spirit world. Twilight was believed to be an easy time for ghosts and monsters to cross over into our world, and that is how the word came about. If you found yourself out and about during twilight, you’d have a good chance of running into some kind of horrible evil. And of course, this book is basically an encyclopedia of things you might run into at night!
Your previous Kickstarter The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons did exceedingly well, and you’ve already reached your goal on the second.  Why do you think your projects do so well?  Is there a large market for Yokai stories and pictures outside of Japan?  
Definitely there is! I started painting and telling yokai stories on my blog in 2009, and one of the constant requests I would get from readers was to put all of these yokai into a book. Even in Japan, yokai can be considered somewhat of a niche interest, but yokai fans are very devoted to their passion. Outside of Japan, though, there is almost no material available on yokai -- a handful of English-language books and websites, but that’s it. Yokai fans outside of Japan want to learn more, but the resources just aren’t there. So my goal is to help change that, and introduce yokai to English-speaking fans (and to make fans of people who have never heard of yokai yet!).

Besides the art, what can we expect to see with each entry in the Yokai encyclopedia?  Will there be complete stories as well?
Each entry includes a translation of the yokai’s name and a few other vital stats like alternate names, habitat, and so on. Then I go on to describe the major characteristics of each yokai, how they interact with humans, and when available, the origin of the monster. When there is room, I include the most interesting stories that I can find, but there are two factors to consider: one is that I want to fit everything into a single page per yokai… and the other is that most often the original Japanese sources for these yokai are surprisingly short. There are some yokai that literally have only a two-sentence description, or a single comic poem, to their entire existence! The reason for this is that most yokai were invented for picture books and very brief oral tales, rather than the long, suspense-building stories in Western tradition. In cases where the yokai is light on source material, I try to flesh out the details with cultural information that might not be immediately apparent to a Western audience -- symbolism, word-plays, and so on.
There has been a lot of demand for longer stories from my readers, though, and so in this book I am also including a section containing a number of famous yokai legends and giving them each a full-page story.
I noticed you have a nice “Yokai Catch-up” level that features your previous book as well as this one, but I didn’t see an eBook backer level that includes both works, why is that?  
The simplest explanation for that is because the eBook for The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons is currently available from Amazon.com -- http://www.amazon.com/Night-Parade-Hundred-Demons-ebook/dp/B007QM71AC/ -- and it wouldn’t make sense to have someone pledge and then wait a year to receive an ebook that they could download in a few seconds. It’s mostly a result of the way rewards work in Kickstarter, where you can only send one survey and everything gets delivered in one package.

You mention you used Amazon’s CreateSpace for the previous book and plan to use it for this one as well.  Why is that?  What benefits does that service provide versus just having a book run made at a traditional printer?  Would you recommend the service to others?  
CreateSpace is an awesome service, and I definitely recommend it to anyone looking to self-publish. They make very high quality books and have excellent customer service, and their print costs are a fraction of most other print-on-demand services out there. The only downside to print-on-demand is that the cost of each book is higher than it would be if you were to order, say, 10,000 copies from a traditional printer. However, that extra cost is made up by the fact that you also don’t have to store 10,000 copies of your book in some warehouse somewhere.
With such an art based project, why do you not have any examples on your project page?  
Well, all of the artwork from my previous book is available to view on my website and on my Facebook page, so backers can get an idea of what the art will look like, but the answer is that this book has only just started and so there aren’t many examples! Since I am making the book as we go, the backers will get to see the artwork with each Kickstarter update as it gets created.
One of the comments I hear from backers of my previous project was how much they enjoyed getting the daily updates in their inbox, watching the paintings progress, and seeing the book come together over a long period of time. Since I am painting one illustration a day during October, by the end of the funding period there will be 31 paintings visible on the Kickstarter page, and hopefully that will be enough to convince any potential backers that they want to become a part of the project!

I’m glad you explained where the money was intended to go though you didn’t give a full breakdown of the costs.  Did you just not want to get into the details of dollars or percentages or do you not have solid numbers there at the moment?  How important is it for you to share with your potential backers where the money is intended to go?  
I want to be as transparent as possible, but I didn’t give specific dollar amounts mainly because I don’t have all the details available to me at the start of the project. The largest part of the money actually goes into creating and shipping each paperback, hardcover, and print that goes out at the end of the project, but I won’t know the cost of that until I know how many of each item I need to make. On top of that, hiring an editor is something I definitely plan to do, but I can’t place an accurate dollar figure on that cost until the book is finished and the exact word count is available. Because we’re really starting this project from scratch, I could only estimate rough numbers for my initial goal based on my previous Kickstarter.
How did you discover Kickstarter?

Like a lot of Kickstarter users, I am an avid gamer, so I first heard about it through various gaming communities and forums. For some reason, Kickstarter just really seems to have taken off with us nerds. Haha… I guess it’s because we have a lot of passion for the things we enjoy.
The concept of Kickstarter really spoke to me when I first learned about it. I had been a struggling artist for a long time, and I found the inability to reach people the most frustrating and difficult part of being an artist. In the past, someone like me would have had to pitch their idea to dozens of different companies before one of them maybe found it worth backing, and then they might have given me a paltry sum while simultaneously gutting my original idea into something else entirely. There was a big risk for publishing companies, and often very little reward for the content creators.
People who have passion towards something will gladly pay money to support a project that they believe in. But since people who share the same passions are often scattered so far apart around the world, it can be impossible to reach them all. Up until Kickstarter came around, there was just no way for creatives to get in touch with the people who wanted their ideas. But now, people in every country and speaking different languages can come together and collectively support the projects they are passionate about. Kickstarter allows people to give their support directly to the creators. As an artist, that is one of the greatest and most liberating things that has come out of the Internet.
A key part of successful Kickstarters is backer participation and how to convert a potential backer into a full backer.   How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates to give notice to those who just hit the “remind me” button and surf on?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

One of the things that I think makes my Kickstarter different from many others is the level of communication I have with my backers. Each backer can be as active or as passive as he or she wants to be. I have near-daily communication with my backers, and if you look at the updates you’ll see that I have posted a new painting every day. I love to read the comments and messages I get about each update, and knowing what my backers think and want to see more of is part of the fun of creating a Kickstarter project.
I think my backers know that they’re not just tossing me their money and then sitting back and waiting for a reward. They are actively involved in the creation, and they get to see the entire process of what goes on in making the book. When potential backers visit the project and see how open it is, I think they’ll want to participate too. After all, once the backing period ends, all of the future updates will be private to backers only, and they won’t get to read any more until the book comes out!

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to track your progress?  

This is actually the first time I have heard about Kicktraq, but wow, that is a cool website! Of course, now I’ll probably be watching it as obsessively as I watch my own project page…
I use my own blog (http://matthewmeyer.net), as well as Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/matthewmeyerart) , Google+ (https://plus.google.com/103909037724147354399) , and Twitter (@matthewmeyerart) to promote my page. I’ve definitely noticed a huge spike in activity as a result of Kickstarter projects, and it has allowed me to continue communication with fans as a result of these projects.
Other than that, I tend to not to be the best at promoting. I prefer to focus more on making the best project I can than telling people about how great it is. From a marketing perspective that’s probably not the smartest thing to do, but I think it’s better for the project in the long run..
Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

You know, I think Kickstarter does an awesome job of giving advice to new backers, and if you follow the tips they give you on the new project page, that’s about all you really need. The only other piece of advice I followed before my first Kickstarter was to start promoting it one month in advance before the actual project launch, which I think was good advice too.
There aren’t really any secrets to launching a successful project other than let your passion show. I think if your backers can recognize the passion in your video and your updates, they will believe in your ability to deliver. If you are serious about your project and honest to your backers, all of that will show through your work, and it will help you to reach your goals.
And what’s the worse case scenario? You fail, fix your mistakes, and you come back in a little while and try again. How great is that?
Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Thank you for having me, and thank you, readers, for reading all the way through! If you have something you want to do or create, there has never been a better time to do it! No matter how uncommon or specialized you think your particular niche may be, there are tons of people out there who want to support you! I never even dreamed that I could reach the level of support that I received for both of my Kickstarters, but people who share your passions are out there! The world is full of awesome people, and we finally have to ability to connect with each other.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thanks again so much for having me!