Making A Living Week: Chris Walker

The last independent speaker of Making a Living Week was Chris Walker. He came in to walk us through his successful Kickstarter campaign to publish a children’s book called Let’s play: murder.

Chris Walker. Illustrator.

The book isn’t actually marketed towards children. No bookshop would touch it, (despite the fact that most kids would shrug off the violence just like they do with Horrible Histories books and Mortal Kombat.) Best I’m not the one left to make these decisions, then, eh?

Chris walked us through every step of his (and co-creator Matt Longstaff’s) campaign from having the dummy book fully made (before starting the campaign), through their video pitch and social media activities, to successfully exceeding the original target.

Matt Longstaff and Chris Walker: serial killers for hire. Only kidding. Or am I? You’ll have to ask them…

Chris made it clear that there was a strategy devised for the month when the Kickstarter was live, comparing it to having a full time job.

Staying on top of social media is a big part of a successful Kickstarter campaign

Chris gave us lots of useful statistics like ‘56% of all Kickstarters fail’ but ‘of the projects that reach 20% funding, 80% of those, will get fully funded’.

All in all, it was pretty clear that Kickstarting a project is a significant investment of time and effort, and the reward for a successful one is having to do all the work you said you’d do if you got the money! If you added stretch goals, you’ve got to honour those agreements as well!

Chris also mentioned his second successful campaign for a second book: Death by Shakespeare (again with Matt Longstaff), which is about what happens when you give secondary school pupils lessons on The Bard. Ha bloody Ha. Very bloody, in fact.

Both Kickstarted books

Another great example of a success story that is achievable for those with the ambition and the right mindset. The one thing I worry about, when we hear stories like this is that we don’t hear from the losers, do we? I know it’s an odd thing to say, but, when I was in the foundation year of my degree, a member of staff quite brutally drew attention to the fact that most of the students in the room were not going to be successful in their future endeavours. It was unnecessarily harsh, sure, but I don’t think he was wrong.

The success stories we hear are from strong willed individuals who set out to do something ambitious off their own back, shouldering all the responsibility, credit and blame. When I look across the student body, I don’t see a room full of people who would do such things. There are some who would, sure, but they are the minority. Is this because it takes an alpha personality to be that kind of person, or are there more who would rise to the challenge if it was part of the course from the ground up? Who can say? I suppose ultimately, even as grown ups, it’s best to stick to the same old lies that help most children pursue the dream of creativity: ‘Oh what’s that you’ve drawn? A fire hydrant? It’s very good! Oh it’s a house, you say? Oh okay, but it’s still very good! Keep up the good work!’ etc, etc.

It’s a good idea to lie to children some times, (Santa, death, aspirations, etc) but I think maybe that’s a different blog post!

I’ve always been weary of using Kickstarter to fund a project. Hearing about it first hand has confirmed by reluctance. It is a serious undertaking, almost as serious as taking out a loan from a bank (or less reputable lender). I may use Kickstarter in the future, but just like Chris and Matt, I’ll make sure the numbers add up and the plan is foolfroof.



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