POWERCHORDS - Magic, Music & Urban Fantasy RPG from an Award-Winning Team
by SatyrPhil Brucato & Silver Satyr Studios
Powerchords: What Took so Long? A Saga in Three Parts
Well, it took seven years to bring the book to fruition, but Powerchords: Music, Magic & Urban Fantasy is finally done.
Why did it take seven years?
A reasonable question. Here’s the answer: Lots of shit went unpredictably wrong, but the result was a far better book than what would have been produced had things gone as they were originally planned to go.
Because a more detailed breakdown of that answer runs ridiculously long, I’ve split that account into three parts. Enjoy!
Part I: From the Beginning
The biggest mistake on my end involved pitching a project I had not yet written. Because Aaron Acevedo (who proposed that we do “a quick little project” together, using the brand-new-at-that-time Kickstarter platform) and I were new to crowdfunding, neither of us realized that such projects should never be launched until at least the initial work is already completed.
For future reference, I have learned this lesson. Not making that mistake again!
The initial concept for Powerchords involved a short book of roughly 50,000 words, presenting an overview of modern popular-musical culture for folks who wanted to add some “rock ‘n’ roll roleplay” to their urban-fantasy games. Half-expecting maybe a dozen backers at the higher tiers, I promised bands and characters to sponsors at certain levels of the project. Instead, I got over two dozen sponsors at those levels, and needed to deliver on what I had promised to provide. That promise alone accounted for almost 30,000 words of material in the final book… and it would have been even longer than that if everyone who backed the project at that level had given me bands and characters to put into the book.
(Backers who didn’t get bands and /or characters in the main book will have their creations appear in subsequent books. Just let me know what you want, and I will write it in.)
Beyond that predicament, though, I realized once I began writing the book that:
A) there was no way I could cover what I had planned to cover with only 50,000 words or so unless I did a half-assed job of doing so; and…
B) I was having way too much fun writing the book to stop at only 50,000 words or so.
Speaking as someone who has loved music his entire life, and whose personal involvement in musical culture reaches at least as far back as my temp-roadie gig for the Four Tops during a weekend festival in 1982, Powerchords is the passion-project I didn’t realize I wanted to do until after I’d started writing it. Inspiration poured out of me once the writing began, and the more research I conducted – research that has included reading several hundred books on the subject with no end in sight – the more I wanted to write. That writing began in October, 2010; by the following spring, I had well over 50,000 words of material and had only just begun to scratch the itch that arrived once Powerchords took shape. Also, none of those words included any of the characters or bands I had promised to my backers.
As the book grew, I went to our sponsors and let them know about the ever-expanding size of the book. I’d asked folks back then: Do you want a small, condensed version of what this project could be, or a larger, rulebook-type version of what Powerchords might become? Every sponsor who replied told me to take the time and effort to make the bigger, better book. So I did.
That’s when I realized I had another problem:
Part of the rewards promised to Powerchords supporters included a full-color copy of the finished book – a rewards-tier I had foolishly budgeted at the $50.00 level and above. Thanks to an unexpected level of support, I wound up needing to deliver over 60 copies of that book. Given the growing word-count, and the rising cost of printing, I realized that I was liable to be spending more to print and deliver the book than I had netted from the campaign to begin with.
Around 2012, Sandi and I realized that I had over 200,000 words of material, with more of it on the way. At then-current prices, the promised full-color hardback edition of the book would cost around $40 per unit just to print, and even more to ship out to our sponsors. (That’s not even counting the cost of the T-shirts certain sponsors will receive – a reward that added several hundred more dollars to the cost of fulfillment.) After a lot of late-night soul-searching, I began cutting the book down to a more affordable size, revising the text as I went along so that it didn’t have gaping holes where the cut work had been.
Kickstarter Reality Check
Speaking of that net amount we received:
The amount displayed on a Kickstarter campaign’s page is not the amount the creator of that project receives.
- First off, there’s the cut Kickstarter takes out for providing the service. That cut is small – just 5%. We had budgeted for that.
- Then there’s the fee taken by the company that processes the transactions; in 2010, that company was Amazon, though I think Kickstarter has changed that arrangement since then. That was another 5%, for a total of 10% right off the top. In Powerchords’ case, that amounted to over $500. We’d budgeted for that as well.
- After that came the part we had not anticipated: pledges that were refused, or whose sponsors could not actually produce the funds they had pledged. Not only did we lose over $400 to non-obtainable pledges, but we were charged an additional 10% of those pledges by Amazon because they repeatedly tried (and failed) to obtain those funds. So ultimately we lost around $450 more dollars from the official total because some folks pledged money they didn’t actually supply.
- Oh, yeah – and as it turns out, you also have to pay taxes on funds raised by Kickstarter.
By the time all was said and done, the Powerchords campaign netted us under $4000. And we were beginning to look at a print-job that could have cost over half that amount simply to produce the books we had promised to provide.
But wait – there’s more:
Everyone who worked on Powerchords, except the models (who are being paid in copies of the book… meaning an even higher print-bill), was paid for their work. Every illustrator, the final editor, the three graphic designers. Most of the remaining money from our campaign went to pay those people – as it should have done. By the end of the first round of illustrations, however, my share of the campaign came to a few hundred bucks, with the knowledge that I would have to pay thousands of dollars to print the books, out of money I did not have.
Oh, yeah; a longer book also needed more illustrations, more editing, and a longer and more intensive graphic-design/ layout process. All that stuff costs money. Lots of money.
Between the needs of paying for the delivery of the project, paying my collaborators, and holding up my end of our household expenses, I needed to take on other work. So I did…
[Continued in Part II...]