“I have a dream, and that dream is that there’s gold foil on the front of one of my books.”
Curious: Is that also why you did a juried submission process? If you had 200 participants, you’d have like a 5000 page book…
Aimee: Yes. Actually the 50 cap was me looking at it and saying, “50 people, 350 comp copies, means we have to sell 350 copies of the book.” Which seems like it could be possible considering Brooklyn’s rep. I didn’t originally want to do a juried submit, but with the huge wave of fan feeling after the finale, I figured it was fair bet that we would have more applicants than 50. I figured capping it at 50 would be the most I could possibly do. Which turned out to be true. We had about 145 applicants, I think, in a week. Let me tell you, cutting it down was very hard. I asked Tea, “Hey do you want to help me out with this thing I’m doing,” and she was like, “Yeah. Sure.” I was like, “Now we’re both really in it. Sorry bro.” I could not have done it without her. Oh Lord, it was a lot of work, a lot of work. There is so much work still ahead of me.
Curious: What was your initial funding goal?
Curious: $16,000. That would cover the basic costs?
Aimee: That would cover printing 1000 books, and minimal rewards, and shipping. It’s a weird thing with Kickstarter where shipping is integrated into the total amount that you make. It’s bizarre. Anyways, $16,000 was our guess at what would fund a print run of a 1000 books, which is pretty much the minimum print run to make something offset print worth the money, because otherwise the books get expensive per book.
I agonized over that price point for weeks. I wanted to get it down to $15,000. There was no way I could swing it. If you asked somebody who was hanging out with me that week before we launched, it was just being like, “No one will ever give us this money. It’s way too much. This is ridiculous. It’s going to fail horribly.”
Curious: How long did it take to make that $16,000? I remember it was a crazy short amount of time.
Aimee: 48 hours.
Curious: What was your reaction when the money started coming in so quickly?
Aimee: We made half of our goal in the first 12 hours, I think. That evening I was riding some sort of emotional high. This is really embarrassing, but I was sitting there, because it was going to hit before midnight, so we had to wait up and make a post about it. I was sitting at the computer listening to “Hurricane” from Hamilton on repeat. Like, “Total strangers, moved to kindness, by my story.” I was sitting at my computer having like a, “Holy shit. What the shit even happened?” We launched it the morning after Halloween. We’d had a Hamilton… Not Hamilton…
Aimee: A Hannibal Halloween party at Melissa’s house, and we woke up the next morning, we went to brunch, and we launched the campaign then. I was like, “Hey, I’m out. I’m home. I’m going home. I’m not going to look at the site. I’m not going to talk to anybody.” Then I get a call and it’s like, “Look. You should look.” I’m like, “What do you mean? They’re still giving us money?” That was the first 12 hours.
Then a really weird thing happened which was, when we funded … After that 12 hours I shut down. My heart stopped working. We had a plan, right? We were like, “Okay, we’re going to make our updates over the course of the week.” If you fund 30% in the first week, most likely that you’ll fund all the way. I sent out emails with goals, and I had an idea of how it was going to go. This just like literally destroyed my plans. I’m in the position, sitting there. I’m like, “Look, I’m glad you’re all excited, but you’re fucking me over right now. This is really stressing me out.” I feel like the first week of that, was spent having a mental breakdown.
Curious: Well it seems so overwhelming.
Aimee: Tea was phenomenal. I was like, “Okay, I have to go off the internet for a whole day.” I didn’t last the whole day, but it was so weird. It was so weird. I’ve never felt like that before. All of the emotion had went, it was just gone.
Curious: It sounds like you hit that point where you’re so overwhelmed you get kind of numb, you know?
Aimee: Yeah. I think I literally went into the technical definition of shock. I had no idea how to handle it, so I was just like, “Okay, put your head down and do the thing you got to do.” Somehow I made it through that week. I remember I went out for drink with Chloe where I was just like, “Oh my God, all these things have happened,” and she’s like, “Wait, you funded?” I was like, “Yes, that was what I was talking to you about.” She’s like, “I was doing something else.” I was like, “Oh thank God.”
It was literally just the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me, and it got weirder.
Curious: You’re funded, so when do you start adding stretch goals? Does that part come afterwards?
Aimee: We had stretch goals set up. Basically, the way stretch goals work traditionally on Kickstarter … Somebody kind of pioneered this idea, and we were just following along. People say like, “Well, if we make our goal then we can do it, but if we make this amount then we can do something even better.” So I done the math on how much money it would take for us to do hardcover books, and I have a spreadsheet that was like, “This is $16,000, this is $18,000, this $20,000.” It went up to $30,000.
The advice that they give anybody doing Kickstarter is there are two things to prepare for. They say prepare for just barely funding, and prepare for double funding. Turns out double funding was not what we did. We funded six times.
Curious: It was so crazy to watch.
Aimee: Over the course of the next few weeks I was frantically redoing the math and adding to my spreadsheet. We had stretch goals lined up to double fund, which is the hardcover. Then, once we realized towards the end of the first week that we were going to go past that. Basically, it put Tea and I in the position of frantically trying to come up with more things. I was like emailing our printer, trying to negotiate like, “How much would it cost to do this? Or this? Or this or the other thing?” So that we could prep to have more stretch goals. No, it wasn’t even double funding, it was up to $24,000 was the hardcover, I believe. Then double funding is when we were like, “Okay, well if we double fund, then we’ll do all these other things.” When we got past that, we were kind of like, “Look, we give up.”
I don’t even remember what the progression was, but we were kind of coming up with things on the fly then, and trying to make sure that the pricing was going to work out. Some things, like … When you look at the numbers, people are like, “Oh, well you wanted $16,000 and you made $100,000. Shouldn’t you have like $80,000 extra dollars?” It doesn’t work like that because the $16,000 projection was for 500 people buying the book. Now we have 2,000 people who bought the book, give or take. Some of them are digital copies. It’s like 2,500 with the digitals.
In any case, we went from printing 1,000 copies to printing 3,000 copies. Then they got hardback and everything. There were points where I was like, “Well, okay, we can do the hardback here but, if we only make that amount, it’s going to be cutting it really close. So we actually want to be up to here, but then if we’re up to there, then people are asking for more stretch goals.” I’m not a math person, and this was basically like relearning Algebra 2 by myself. I was like, “All that shit that I learned in high school, I need to remember that now.”
There was a point, when I was leading up to it, doing the math for the book was trying to shove a brick in one ear. I kind of got the hang of it. It’s awful how much I love my spreadsheets now. I’m very passionate about my spreadsheets. They’re good spreadsheets.
There becomes a comfort about knowing the numbers and what it actually is. For something that was like, “This is my fandom project,” it was a lot of math. A lot of math on the fly. The stretch goals and everything were kind of like us scrambling to keep up but also make sure we didn’t over extend ourselves where we ended up in a bad position. The weeks before I launched the Kickstarter, when I was in the planning stages I read like … I don’t know if I’d say I made the mistake of reading, but I made the mistake of reading like five articles about people who really successfully funded and yet bankrupted themselves!
Curious: Not very inspiring…
Aimee: Here’s how to be so successful that you screw yourself over. Even if you do the whole thing right, you could do something horribly wrong. I’m like, “Ahh, I’m going to die. This is awful.” There was a lot of me being very panicky and dramatic about like, “I’ll lose all of my money!” I have no money. “I’ll lose my home!” I don’t have a home.
Curious: Well it is a lot. You’re suddenly dealing with so much money, I think it would get very scary.
Aimee: Yeah. I will tell you that I had quite the moment when they dumped $80,000 into my bank account. I had never seen that many zeros in my bank account, and probably never will again. It’s kind of nice. It’s not bad.
Curious: What I also loved about RAW were the interviews with the artists and the continual Tumblr and Kickstarter updates where we could get to know the people who were creating the book. Was that something that you had planned out from the beginning as well? To showcase the contributors?
Aimee: Yeah. I decided to do that when we started. I actually completely wholesale stole it from somebody else. I was in the Ladies of Literature anthology, which was recently Kickstarted by Janet Sung and Arielle Jovellanos. Janet is in RAW. They did a thing where they did artist spotlights. I was like, “That’s really nice.” All of the people I talked to said that keeping a steady flow of information so that people remember is a really good thing to do for Kickstarter.
Remember at this point I thought that I wasn’t going to make all the money and I needed to pull out all the stops. I was panicking about how to do this, so was like, “Well this is a good way to keep it at the forefront of people’s minds, but not in an annoying way for like a whole month.” That became less necessary, but I still think that it was good.
Honestly, I can attribute a lot of our success to the fact that we have some really phenomenal contributors who bring to the table, people who are like, “I see Reapersun’s work and I want this.” Honestly I feel like our contributors were phenomenal in this too.
I was basically like, “Hey guys who’ve known me for a month. I’m going to ask the internet for $16,000, and I need you to sell Girl Scout cookies to them, except the Girl Scout cookies in this case, is Hannibal porn and you need to sell it super hard.” It’s like, “All right, all of you are responsible for 12 copies of the book. You all got to sell 12 copies, otherwise you don’t get the little fun prize at the end, or the button on your sash.”
To be fair, everyone was phenomenal about it. They hit the pavement. That was a lot of it, was that they were willing to go to the mat for this. I think, something that I can never get over is the amount of trust that they put in me. There were some of the people who were from Brooklyn, so they knew me. Other people had no idea who I was, and I’m just showing up on your doorstep like, “Knock, knock, knock. Do you want to put a lot of time and effort into doing something with me?” Everyone was really, really gracious…
Curious: I think that’s the thing about a fandom is that people are like, “Why yes, I do want to put a lot of time and effort into something!”
Aimee: Yeah, and everyone was phenomenal to work with. They did really good work. They were great. We didn’t do the chat this time, we used the Google groups thing again where we had a forum, so everyone’s posting works in progress and talking to each other. They really showed up. I think that I’m really personally humbled and honored by that, because I think that it shows a lot of trust in the fact that I’m going to put out a final product. I think that a lot of me putting effort into RAW is just like, you want to honor that. You want to do your very, very best for all of these people who are counting on you.
Curious: Can you tell me a little bit about when the media discovered RAW? Suddenly I seemed to be reading about it everywhere.
Aimee: I’m friends with Gavia Baker-Whitelaw who writes for The Daily Dot, and she knew that I was doing this zine, as it was leading up to it. She mentioned that she might want to do an article on it. I was like, “Oh yeah, that would be great.” I did an interview with her, and the article went live, I think, 2 weeks in, maybe. (‘Hannibal’ fans are publishing a 200-page anthology of fanfiction and art.) That boosted us, and then it got picked up by the AV Club.
The thing about Kickstarters, again I talked to a ton of people about them. You can expect to see, basically, a lot at the beginning. Then it calms down a whole bunch, and then it spikes at the end. It had just started to calm down. That was the morning where we had been getting $1,000 a day, standard, and that was the day that it hit midday and we only had about $300. We were like, “Today’s the day. It’s going to calm down.” Here I’d been like, “Oh my God, please stop giving us money.” The second it started to calm down I’m like, “No, this is somehow worse. Please keep giving us money!
We were like, “No, no. It’s week two. It’s the end of week two. It’s going to calm down. That’s just the way it’s going to be.” That was the day the Daily Dot article dropped. We made like $8,000 that day. It was the Daily Dot article and then it got picked up by the AV Club. (Now you can buy a book of Will Graham/Hannibal Lecter slash art)
I remember this because I was at work when it happened, and I ended up staying at my office desk until like 8 o’clock at night, because I had to keep fielding things. I couldn’t take a break long enough to get up and go back to my house. It got picked up by the AV Club, and then it got Tweeted by Bryan Fuller, and then it got picked up by Vulture (That Book of Hannibal Slash Fiction You Always Wanted Is Happening) and then it got Tweeted by Bryan Fuller again. That happened in the span of two days. It basically picked up to the same pace as it had been at the very beginning which was nuts.
Also the Bryan Fuller thing … It happened at work, and I was trying to explain to my completely non-fan co workers. So its like, “You don’t understand. I made a book about Hannibal Lecter sucking dick, and then the guy who made the thing was like…!” My boss is like, “That’s cool, I guess.”
I thought that Bryan Fuller tweeting it was going to be the highlight of my existence, but we confirmed it online, so it’s legit now. We weren’t sure whether we should or not, but he talked about it. He backed our project.