I’ve loved comic books as long as I can remember. After I finished my first novel Monsters All the Way Down, I decided it was time to combine my love of comics and writing. The result was Four Color Bleed, my novel about comic books, nostalgia, and the nature of reality. It continues my themes of shifting realities and questionable identity, but throws in a whole universe of costumed characters and Silver Age chaos.

Since I’d already gone the self-publishing route with Monsters All the Way Down, I decided to go all-in with Four Color Bleed. Because the book is overflowing with original characters, I thought it would be a blast to include encyclopedia entries like the old DC’s Who’s Who and The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. That meant I needed artists.

I’d supported numerous successful Kickstarter campaigns, and I felt it would be the best way to raise funds for quality illustrations. If successful, Kickstarter would bring much-needed exposure and let me create the book I could see floating in my mind.

Rika Mizuno by Rian GonzalesGathering artists was a thrill. I wanted a variety of styles, and everyone I contacted agreed to contribute. Some of them had worked professionally in comics for years, while for some this would be their first published work. Because of the added challenge of laying out an illustrated book, I brought Phillip Gessert on board.

With a third draft of the book in hand, eight talented artists, and a cover by Rory Harnden, I launched the Kickstarter campaign. Nothing could have prepared me for the non-stop anxiety or the unexpected generosity of my friends. In the end, we squeaked by the goal. I had an incredible team of people and enough money to make Four Color Bleed a reality.

Because the book was so far along, I thought it wouldn’t take long to get ready for publication. I gave myself six months, just to be safe. The project ended up taking much longer, mostly due to my inexperience in working with so many creative people and my underestimation about how long it would take to edit such an ambitious book.

But everything came together in the end, and Four Color Bleed exceeded my every expectation. The artists went above and beyond, my editor and proof readers made the book sing, and my layout designer was a godsend. My forgiving Kickstarter supporters have loved the book, and new readers continue to discover this new, crazy world.Titania by Morgan Perry

There are many places you can read about people who have achieved massive Kickstarter success, but I thought you might be interested in my experience as someone in the middle. I raised the money I needed, but it was close. If you’re considering using crowd funding for self-publishing, here’s two pieces of advice:

  • Set your Kickstarter funding goal as low as possible. I’m not saying to compromise your dream or to put yourself in debt. I had an unnecessarily high goal, because I included costs I had already paid, such as my cover artist and designer. My recommendation is to save half the money yourself beforehand, so that the Kickstarter has a higher chance of success. You can’t count on going viral. People are more likely to support projects with reasonable, attainable goals, and people are more likely to join a project that has already reached its funding goal. And if you don’t need as many supporters to be successful, the funds you need to cover shipping drop even more. I used this helpful tool to calculate the number of pledges I would need, and it would have been so much lower if my goal were cut in half.
  • Publishing the book will take longer than you think. There’s a reason so many Kickstarters are late. Most are run by people who have never done a project of this size before, and it’s easy to underestimate the time it takes to deliver. Running a Kickstarter campaign is more draining that I expected. It was like running a marathon, and it was impossible to keep up that level of productivity. And when you’re working with other people, you have to take more delays into account. In the end, it took me a year longer to publish Four Color Bleed than I expected. Keep in mind that this was my second time to publish a book, and I thought the manuscript was basically finished. When estimating your delivery date, give yourself all the time you might need. It’s better to deliver early than late.

Songweaver by Weshoyot Alvitre

I’m grateful for my team and the generous supporters who brought Four Color Bleed to life. I had this vision in my head of an incredible book, and people came together and helped me make it happen. No matter what you dream of accomplishing, I hope you have the same opportunity. It’s an experience you’ll never forget.

Ryan McSwain is hard at work on his next novel, a weird book about robots. You can keep track of Ryan on Twitter and on ryanmcswain.com.