Buzz!

Something has changed about my Steam Highwayman project.  For several years, it was an idea in my head that I occasionally mentioned to my brother or sister, or toyed with on my laptop.  Then I saw other people standing up and making a success out of their writing, using their brains and passion to push something from their imagination into reality.  80 Days, by Inkle, wasn’t a commission.  Nobody asked for it or told Jon Ingold, Joe Humfrey and Meg Jayanth to write it: they chose to and made it work.

So in September 2016 I changed my attitude about my writing: I was unlikely ever to meet a patron who would sponsor me in comfort and style to create something with the perfect brief, giving me creative control but enough direction to get going.  I had to make it work.

I chose to work on Steam Highwayman because, unlike my efforts in writing novels, I had good example for a printed, multi-volume gamebook in Morris and Thomson’s Fabled Lands.  I also believed that I could produce something with a limited, defined scale of success.  I recognised that, despite my inherent need to develop and surpass any model, I needed to choose a ceiling to bump up against.

So I began writing, first using Twine to create something that could be made available to modern readers on their phones, but soon changed to focus on producing something I have a much stronger understanding of: a printed book.

And then at Christmas 2016 I had to defend my decision to my dad.

It was great: he grilled me in front of my family and my wife and I had enough answers.  Not every answer, but enough.  He was a self-employed multi-discipline artist/manager/technician at an architect for a quarter century and knows a thing or two about breaking ground, managing yourself and finishing projects.  And about making it happen.

I think that was the beginning of the buzz.  When I began to see that Steam Highwayman, if successful, would become much bigger than I could imagine – that people would discuss it without me being directly involved in the discussion – that it would be strong enough for me to not have to defend it or explain it.

So now it has all changed.  This weekend I promoted the project with a live reading at a Steampunk event in Surrey.  Before the end of the afternoon, there were several dozen people talking to each other about this character, the Steam Highwayman.  THE Steam Highwayman – as if he or she had an independent existence.  At one exciting moment, I was introduced as the Steam Highwayman, but when I demurred and asked ‘Who is the Steam Highwayman?’ I was met with the ringing reply, as my friend pointed to those around, ‘You are the Steam Highwayman!’

Last night I dreamed I was travelling along a dusty road and, stopping to refuel at a petrol station, overheard two strangers discussing what they had been reading.  You guessed it: in my dreams, unconnected randomers are discussing Steam Highwayman.

Then in the last few days I’ve been privileged to have the support of several volunteer proof-readers, a few of whom are close friends or family, but more are people I would have never known before pushing this idea into reality.  And then there’s Ben, who has been so inspiring to work with as an illustrator.  Somewhere out there tonight, in the US, the UK and New Zealand, there are people reading extracts of the adventures of the Steam Highwayman – an invented character in an invented world that had no previous existence until I began to share it.  Elsewhere there is a man who is devoting his time to visualising a story that is entirely made-up – but he wants to get it right and do it justice.

I’m a little bit mind-blown.

150 Facebook Likes!

That’s right!  Earlier today we bust this target at last, due to an influx of Facebook Steampunks hooked over the weekend.  So at last I can legitimately share this: Designing the Velosteam.

 

What I did at the weekend!

Essentially, I was very busy!  I visited the Crossness Engines Steampunk Convivial and the Steampunk Essextraordinaire III at the Museum of Power near Maldon.

You can see some nice photos from each even here and here.

It was great to meet Steampunks from across the region, very exciting to publicise my project and an honour to be invited – last minute – to join established (and, note, published) authors Jonathan Green and Toby Frost on the writer’s panel.  Praise God!

Livestreaming is great!

Well, that went well.  I really enjoyed my first live-streaming experience on Kickstarter last night – and learnt a lot too.  It was great to have a few watchers live, but also it’s been fantastic that people have continued to watch after the event.  I even managed to gain 3 more backers from the experience – hooray for Harold, Emily and Josh!

If you missed it, I largely chuntered on about the roots of the project, featuring The Emerald of Wolla-Wolla and telling the story that you’ll also find here on the making of page.  But I also spoke a little about how running the project had been and gave a shout-out to the first 50 backers.

It was so much fun that I immediately scheduled another livestream: Monday 25th, 8.30pm.  I guess it’ll probably be another 30 minute long sort of thing, but I’m anticipating sharing more about meeting and marketing…  I’ve also discovered there is a Beta test option to simultaneously stream to Facebook – which I will DEFINITELY employ.  I can see that stream getting even more interest.

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Anyway, between now and then I am going to try and do some old-fashioned face-to-face marketing.  I still have 500 flyers advertising the project and this weekend there are two Steampunk Convivials (that’s the name steampunks give to their meetups/conventions/festivals) at locations withing striking distance.  The Crossness Engines Steampunk Convivial is going to be held just south and along the river from where we live – at the fascinating Gothic Revival Palace of Sanitation that is the Crossness Pumping Station.  I discovered the place a few months ago on a long riverside walk (from Woolwich to Erith).  It is one of several incredible late victorian buildings that housed massive steam engines to pump sewage through Bazalgette’s ground-breaking sewer system.  And they still have their MASSIVE BEAM ENGINES, apparently in working, restored condition.  So what an opportunity to see inside, as well as to meet up with a good proportion of my target audience…

Then on Sunday there’s a similar event, the Essextraordinaire III, at Maldon, at the Museum of Power, which hosts another working steam engine.  If I manage to get to both I’ll be very pleased with them, but I’m stirred to try and do it.  That means a bit of a push for me since although I’m fine starting conversations, I get very English and ‘over-polite’ about trying to sell people something / ask for something.  Personal growth and publishing at the same time – wooh!

Livestream on Kickstarter – Tomorrow 7pm

I’ll be going live tomorrow evening at 7pm through Kickstarter’s inbuilt livestream feature.  This is a new feature and I haven’t seen many projects using it yet, as well as being a first for me.  Come and join in.

All questions gladly received – otherwise I’ll just be rattling on about the things I want to talk about:

– How I got the idea for the book
– The processes of planning and writing an open-world gamebook
– How the project has succeeded so far
– Shoutout for backers!

Kickstarter: 15 Days Gone, 15 to Go!

15 days gone in the Steam Highwayman Kickstarter! We’re currently camped at 166% percent funding – no mean feat – so let me run through a few details to let you know about the workings of the campaign. I’m really excited that in a couple of weeks I’ll have the funds that allow me to complete this project and get the gamebook into your hands. Thankyou.

Kickstarter tracks how backers found the project – in a rough, mechanical way. I’ve added onto this by asking you, particularly if we’ve never met previously, a brief question in my welcome message.

31 of the 128 pledges have come from what Kickstarter calls direct traffic. This is the largest single group of supporters and this is directly due to everybody who has shared a direct link to the project – thankyou!

23 of the pledges have come straight from Facebook. Thanks to everybody who has shared the funding news, the Steam Highwayman page and the information about the project even before it began!

A combination of Kickstarter’s own messaging and publicity materials have attracted 36 pledges. These are some of the most exciting, because they indicate people with whom I have no prior connection, but who have chosen to support the project purely on its own merit.

As you can see from this little graph, we had a strong start, with 26 and 30 supporters pledging in the first two days respectively. The last week has been quiet overall, so I’m planning to do everything I can to see those green bars back up in the second half of the project. If you have any suggestions or ideas for me, please get in contact.

Finally, the Steam Highwayman page on Facebook is approaching the 150 likes target that will allow me to unlock the Velosteam Development log – which I’m really excited to share with you. If you haven’t yet liked the page, please take a couple of clicks to push us on towards the target!

The Spenser Cup – An Audio Adventure

Steam Highwayman now has an interactive Audio Adventure!  One of the most popular adventures within Smog and Ambuscade was the Spenser Cup, in which you must race a high-powered steam car, making tactical decisions as you ride.  I’ve narrated the sections and organised them so that your choices can string the events together into one story.  A different take on the ‘gamebook’ format: I’ve created the ‘gameaudiobook’.

150% – and rising!

Steam Highwayman has now hit 150% funding over on Kickstarter and although the recent few days have seen fewer new backers, it’s still very encouraging to hear from keen gamebook and steampunk fans from all over the world.  Recently, Thailand appeared on my radar!

I’ve had a few days working on more mundane things, including laying a friend’s lawn, but I’ve also been preparing a parallel mini-project that I hope will attract even more backers.  I’ll be moving into a new social media platform as well as making more of Smog and Ambuscade available to, er, read…  So watch out for another announcement tomorrow!

First Social Goal Unlocked – Designing the Steam Highwayman!

Well, it’s been quite a day for the project.  After some excellent publicity and a growing worldwide interest, funding is standing at 113% and 86 backers!  We’ve got supporters from Sweden, Denmark, Malaysia, Hong Kong, the USA, Canada, Germany, France, New Zealand, Australia and the UK.

Not only that, but we reached our first social goal – 100 likes on the Facebook Page!  Facebook has proven to be a really important place to publicise the campaign, with around 30% of backing coming directly from the site – and I’m sure much more coming indirectly.  This means I can release a development log all about how Ben May designed the appearance of the Steam Highwayman.

Designing the Steam Highwayman

Thanks to everyone who has passed on the news of the project’s success: please help me to bring the campaign to as many future readers as we can to unlock more content and to fund even more of Ben’s fantastic art.

Steam Highwayman is Funded on Kickstarter

Well, I’m fairly excited about that!  The generous support of several international backers overnight has tipped the Steam Highwayman project into the green-light zone: no longer just a plan or an intention, it is a funded publishing project.  Fantastic!

I’m just as overjoyed to have gained the support of several gamebook authors along the way, chiefly Jamie Thomson and Dave Morris, who posted a feature on Steam Highwayman last night on their Fabled Lands Blog.  The write-up means a lot to me, but I also hope that it will allow me to find out, like my dad said, how much steam this project has in it…

The process is pretty busy for me now.  I’ll be green-lighting the first batch of illustration work with Ben May and sending him a brief I prepared the other day.  I’ll also be looking for another round of proof-readers soon to make sure all the text is free from errors.  I have to prepare some costume, too, as I’m hoping to make a couple of appearances in character to get the project some exposure at Steampunk events.

Please continue to share the project!  I would love to meet my stretch goals, which will allow me to invest in Ben’s talent more significantly, as well as giving me a little breathing space to settle down to Volume II.  I was world-building yesterday afternoon to distract myself from facebook and kickstarter: the next volume promises some new concepts, new plotting mechanics and lots of new characters to interact with.