Stormlight Premium Figurines Kickstarter Campaign with Brotherwise Games
Today, we launch a new Kickstarter campaign—for Stormlight minis and painted figurines. This affords me a chance to talk about a few things relating to the behind the scenes of how this Kickstarter came about, why we’ve partnered with Brotherwise for it, and how I want to approach Kickstarters in the future. I want to be accountable to you, and aware of potential issues surrounding crowdfunding and the success I’ve been having with it lately.
I apologize in advance if this rambles a little. I’ve got several points I want to make, but I hope they’ll all come together cohesively.
Part One: The Quick Version
Before I dig into it too deeply, I want to get to the marketing portion. Our friends at Brotherwise have been working hard on preparing this Kickstarter for well over a year—and I’m extremely pleased with the product we’ve managed to put together. So I really hope you’ll go take a look at the Kickstarter and consider backing it. They have been a fantastic partner, and they’ve gone above and beyond in trying to get the characters right—often going back to revise a dozen or more times as Isaac and I have requested changes.
I’ll talk more about what is cool about this Kickstarter later. But I wanted to up front give a good plug for what we’re doing here. The short version of what I’ll explain in detail below is: I’m aware it’s a little cheeky of me to be doing a second Kickstarter this year, while everyone is waiting for their Secret Projects. I’m going to do my best to mitigate potential problems, but if this is a concern of yours, I hear you. It’s a concern of mine too. We’ll try, as always, to be worthy of the trust you show us.
However, this campaign should be very fun. We’ll be going into depth about how we arrived at the models we created for each of these minis. Even if you’re not interested in the minis, I think you’ll enjoy looking through the Kickstarter page to see my vision for each of the characters. And in the coming days, we’ll be showing off a great deal of concept art that I think you’ll all find very interesting.
Part Two: On Crowdfunding and Responsibility
I can safely say nobody in our company anticipated the explosive success of our Secret Projects Kickstarter. I’ll admit I knew the seed of something incredible was there, and the showman in me was excited to do my best to make that all come together in a way that would take the world by storm. But even I didn’t expect to get a highstorm instead.
Our previous Kickstarter raised around 8 million dollars when all the final orders were in. This one did 45 million. That is a huge show of faith from all of you, and we’re ready to earn it. We’ve been working very hard behind the scenes to get everything ready for you come January. I think you’re all going to be very satisfied with what you get.
So why do another Kickstarter so soon?
Well, the truth was, this one with the Stormlight minis was in the works longer than the Secret Project campaign was. I didn’t hit on doing a Kickstarter for the Secret Projects until later last year—and as I considered it, I got increasingly excited. I’d been wondering how in the world I was going to get those books to people, and this seemed the perfect way. That, however, risked undermining the Kickstarter we had already been planning—for the Stormlight minis.
This minis Kickstarter had originally been planned for late spring or early summer. After we decided to do the Secret Projects, however, Brotherwise kindly agreed to push their project back a few months to give some space. That also gave us a little more time to prepare the visuals and the models, and I’m glad we had the extra time. We’ve used it well.
That said, an interesting phenomenon happens when you suddenly have the most popular Kickstarter of all time. Companies really want to work with you—as access to people’s attention is one of the most precious commodities in the world right now. However, I would prefer that they not see all of you as a resource to be exploited. I just want to do cool things, tell great stories, and (if I’m lucky) make the world better in the process. Primarily by making lives better through story.
It would be very easy, after our success, to go crazy with products. That’s not our intention, and I want to promise that to you. At the same time, I have lofty aspirations, and I do want to explore crowdfunding further. So, here, I want to outline a road map for you—and see what you think of it. Internally, at Dragonsteel, I’ve presented an idea for going forward. No more than two crowdfunding campaigns a year. One for books, one for another product. We don’t have to do two, and we might not always do two. But I think this year provides a good model. One primarily for books (the Secret Projects), one for something else (the minis).
Right now, we’re looking at a Kickstarter for the Words of Radiance leatherbound next year. (To address those who are curious about this, no, we don’t need to release the Stormlight leatherbounds via a platform like Kickstarter—but we’ve found that doing so makes our lives much, much easier. The thing is, crowdfunding websites have strong, useful behind-the-scenes architecture for things like fulfillment and customer support.
It’s really hard to gauge how much of something to make; for example, we’d initially thought we might need 25,000 of each Secret Project. We ended up needing 150,000 of each. Kickstarter makes managing all of this so much easier. So while we don’t need the funding side of Kickstarter to make our projects a reality, we have an acute need for their infrastructure and preorder frameworks.)
In the future, we intend to continue kickstarting Stormlight leatherbounds—but not other leatherbounds we do. That gives us roughly one of these every three years. The other two years between, I’d like to do other things. The Hoid storybook collection (which is picture books and/or coffee-table-style books of The Dog and the Dragon, The Wandersail, and The Girl Who Looked Up) is another one I’d really like to do. On the products side, we’d like to do a Stormlight pen and paper RPG and a Stormlight board game, two of the most requested items you have all been asking us to do.
Now, if it needs to be said, I want to point out that we don’t expect to be breaking our Kickstarter record anytime soon. The Secret Projects were basically a special lightning in a bottle, with just the right way of presenting them, and a huge surprise to propel people to pay attention. So please, let’s not set expectations too high for these others. The goal isn’t to smash records; it never has been. It’s to make cool things.
As always, we hope you will participate—but I want to note that our goal is not to drive revenue through a sense of FOMO. (Fear of Missing Out.) While we might be able to offer some special pricing and exclusive extras via an initial campaign, our goal will always be to provide post-Kickstarter versions of core products to people who want them later. (This also applies to the minis, which we hope to have in stock and for sale for many years to come.)
Anyway, this is our model going forward. Two crowdfunding campaigns at most in a year, spaced out if there are two. And this brings me to Brotherwise.
Part Three: Why Brotherwise
We met the fine folks at Brotherwise when they came to us and pitched their storytelling game Call to Adventure, for which they wanted to do a Stormlight expansion. We get a lot of requests like this, but this company’s excitement, experience, and product stood out to us. We said yes.
Over the next few years, we found them one of the most knowledgeable and responsive companies we’ve ever worked with. We’ve had some great partners over the years, but Brotherwise seemed to really “get” us and the things we wanted to do. As we thought more and more about it, debating internally, we realized something. We have been getting a ton of requests from people wanting to make things with us, but we don’t want to say yes to very many of them. We want to make fewer products better, rather than flood the market.
The perfect thing we wanted to do, we realized, was to find a few key partners that we work with really well—and then work with them to make more things. And so, earlier this month, we entered a full partnership with Brotherwise for this Kickstarter. We’re doing it together, rather than as part of a traditional licensing deal where my company just sells the rights and waits to see what is made.
This leads to my next point.
Part Four: The Process
It’s been quite the ride to bring these Stormlight minis to life. As I said, we’ve had some great partners in the past, but one thing that my team and I really wanted to do with these minis was level up in terms of quality and continuity. To that end, Isaac (who heads my art department and works on Creative Development for the company) spent long hours working with concept artists, getting versions of the characters that were as close as possible to my vision for them.
This still might shift over time. Like Batman has evolved, I can see us moving characters one way or another. But after hundreds of sketches, and the efforts of a half dozen artists, we’ve been able to present a solid vision to Brotherwise. Rather than just saying, “Here’s the description of the characters from the books,” we were able to say, “Here’s a dozen sketches of poses, expressions, and looks for characters pulled as best we can straight from Brandon’s head.”
I’ve learned a ton in this process, and it’s really helped my mental picture of the characters to get them concepted this way. In addition, it has provided us with a great deal of material we can use for other projects. In the past, I often didn’t want to give artists definitive depictions of the characters, as I enjoy seeing what different artists come up with from my descriptions. Over the last few years though, I’ve come to realize that the books and the Cosmere are big enough that it would be better to be more clear about my vision.
This shouldn’t be seen as me telling you, readers, that you can’t view the characters however you want. I still want to see your fanart of how the character is in your head! But if we’re going to be doing products like an RPG, these minis, and a board game, I’d rather that the characters be consistent across those mediums. It feels right to be doing this now.
Part Five: The Kickstarter Itself
So, that’s where my thoughts have been lately! I hope you’re still with me. I know this has been a long one!
There are a few things we wanted to do for this campaign. Obviously, we wanted to create a group of gaming-ready, unpainted miniatures. That was the main idea of this Kickstarter. As such, the core tiers of this campaign are for unpainted minis in packs based around the first four books in the Stormlight Archive. (Six minis per book, with each higher pledge level adding six new ones.)
But we also wanted people who aren’t gamers to have something they can grab. This is why we have four painted figurines, done at a bigger scale. (Kaladin, Jasnah, Adolin, and Szeth.) And one thing I’m super excited about is the even larger statue. It’s expensive, but it’s something I pitched to the team. I have always wanted one of those big desk statues like you commonly see in people’s workspaces, often depicting a superhero. At my request, then, we’ve designed and included an extremely cool, large-scale desk statue of Szeth and Kaladin clashing.
Not all of the designs have been revealed; we’re keeping a few to show off during the campaign. So over the next 30 days, you can check back as we unveil designs for Eshonai, Taravangian, Leshwi, and others. We’ve tried to make something in this for every Stormlight fan, whether you paint minis or just want something cool for your bookshelf.
I take very seriously the faith and trust all of you show in me, and I’m trying to demonstrate that. I want to be responsible in the way we approach crowdfunding, and never leave you hanging, waiting for updates that never seem to come—and products that are ever delayed.
I hope that you find what we’re doing exciting, rather than overwhelming—but as always, I do want to hear from you. Let me know, over the coming years, if you think we’re doing too much. I just…well, I have a lot of stories I want to tell and things I want to create. Thank you so much for joining me on the ride.