2016 Year's End Blog Part 1: Accomplishments
It's been a big year.
As we prepare to round the corner into 2017, we decided we should take a look back at this year to see how far we've come in such a short amount of time thanks to our strong and supportive community. In addition, in this 3-part blog series we'd like to share with you the roadblocks we've faced as we embarked on this journey, and what the updates you can expect to see in the future to address those roadblocks.
taking a step back to look at all we did in 2016...
2016 saw the official launch of Tales of the Forgotten with our Kickstarter campaign that launched all the way back in February. The original plan for TOTF was to write a short novel of 100 pages or so, and feature artwork and music for each chapter. To aid us in our endeavors, we enlisted the help of multiple ridiculously talented artists who taught us a lot about the process of creation and collaboration when it comes to a project as unique and ambitious as this one. Along with that, we spent those same months leading up to the launch also looking for a writer who could capture the world we had in our heads for TOTF as we wrote the very first track, "Prologue: Forgotten." We'd like to give a big thanks to Becca Hallstedt, Jordan Grimmer, Jadrien Cousens, Kuchu Pack, Cesar Espejo, and Josh Beckelhimer for getting TOTF on its feet. We couldn't have made the Kickstarter happen without their help. They played a massive role in laying the groundwork for what was to come.
Leading up to the Kickstarter, we kept fairly hush-hush about TOTF. Not revealing too much of the story to curious fans. And this led to some confusion about what the project really was. To make a unique idea even more obscure, we created animations for the teaser video, and somehow convinced many people that we were making a video game. Despite how awesome that would be, we, unforrtunately, aren't smart enough for that. But we promise it's always on our minds!
In the end, we think we aimed too high for the Kickstarter fundraising goal. Perhaps we had become a little too ambitious. We unfortunately did not reach our goal, but received a strong amount of dedicated support during the fundraising period, through Kickstarter and our other social media like Facebook and YouTube. So even though we had failed on Kickstarter, we felt as though we had the support to try again and push for greatness!
A New Approach
After the Kickstarter campaign, it was time for us (Bill and Dylan) to finish up school. During that time, even though we were busy with final projects and exams, we spent time thinking about how we could still make TOTF a reality. We had learned that the Kickstarter approach was not an effective method, but we still wanted to deliver this great story we had in our heads to our fans. But how could we do it? Making a physical product was out of the question, considering how costly it can be. So digital was the way to go. But if we wanted to write an entire book, who knows how long that would take. We didn't want fans waiting around forever.
After a month or two of sitting and thinking on the matter, we decided on what we call the "episodic approach." In this new delivery method, we decided we would release one chapter at a time. And to go along with that written chapter would be a short EP of music and some nice cover art to top it all off. All of these elements combined is called an episode. We felt like this was the perfect method for keeping an ongoing project consistent, while still remaining true to the original idea of TOTF: to combine literature, music, and artwork.
Episode I: My Status is Living
With the new episodic approach formulated, we announced the June 14 release of the first episode titled "My Status is Living." It would go on to explore the relationship of Iris, a machinery expert, and Rin, a young and naive robot companion built by Iris. Fearing for herself and Rin, whom she thinks of as her own child, Iris struggles with knowing she must leave the Grey Wastes, a mega-scrapyard she's been a part of for many years, and find others in an unknown world.
To get MSIL accomplished, we enlisted the help of our original writer Josh, and the concept artist Eddie Mendoza. In addition to following our episodic plan, we also collaborated with the Cincinnati-based singer/songwriter Jane Decker to produce an actual song for the chapter titled "Believe." "Believe" turned out to be a smash hit, and has taken off on YouTube channels and been a big part of our initial success with the episodic format.
In order to best deliver the episode, we decided to release it for reading/listening for free via our website and Soundcloud. We embedded the specific track links into the story for combined reading/listening pleasure.
Tell your tales
The new episode was a big deal for us. And we felt great about having a new format to explore and expand upon. But we wanted to do more.
During our Kickstarter campaign, due to the obscurity and mysteriousness of TOTF's model and concept, we saw numerous people speculating about what the story actually was based on the artwork and music that we released. We even had someone email us a short story of their take on the TOTF universe based on our content. How cool is that? Well it was so cool that we decided to make it into a new part of our site titled "Tell Your Tales." We aimed to make TYT a facet of TOTF that was fueled solely by the community. Basically TOTF fanfiction. A place where we could display the wonderful work of our fans who imagined things in the TOTF universe that we never would have even thought of.
Despite not having a lot of content in TYT, the content we do have is quite unique, and definitely worth a read if you get the time. It features some young and talented authors that we believe will find great success one day. And we are honored that we can display their work for the world to see.
we moved to la!
For a long time, we, as composers, have planned to move to Los Angeles to further our careers in the entertainment industry. So after we graduated from college, that is what we did! Immediately after we released Episode I, we began packing for the long trip across the country (we were in Ohio). By August we were in LA trying to make new lives for ourselves. And though it has been difficult at times, we like to think we are doing quite alright!
After we made our move, we knew we had to start planning the second episode. After all, we said we were going to be releasing an episode every 2-3 months. Little did we know how stressful this would be! While starting the planning for episode 2, we started to run into a problem though: money. As always, money became an issue as much as we tried to not make it one. Unfortunately we do not have a permanent artist on our team who will work with us on a consistent basis. Thus we have to outsource for our episode art, which is expensive! Until this point we had been funding TOTF entirely out of our own pockets. And while trying to survive in LA and make our own careers happen, this proved more difficult than we expected. So we decided to turn to crowdfunding again, but this time in a different way.
Enter PATREON! The awesome crowdfunding site that is perfect for ongoing projects and individuals trying to make a living producing consistent content. This fit perfectly with our new model! Jumping to Patreon would take some of the financial burden off of us and give us more opportunities to expand the project in different ways, paying for more art, acquiring merchandise, or thinking of other new things to do for our community! This also allowed us to deliver our content in a new way instead of trying to sell the episodes on Bandcamp.
We introduced 3 different tiers: $1, $5, and $10. The more you pledge the more you get out of TOTF! One of the new things we started doing is monthly tracks specifically for Patreon. Every month we write a new track that is unrelated to the episodic material of TOTF. It could be about a part of the story that hasn't been discussed in writing yet, or it could be influenced by any of our Tell Your Tales submissions! The monthly tracks allow us to expand more upon the TOTF universe and get more creative and exploratory with our writing.
To celebrate the launch of our Patreon campaign, we composed the track "Zsera Suite" and released it for everyone to hear on YouTube!
While our Patreon has grown slowly, the small amount of funds we receive every month is a bigger help than you know! We greatly appreciate every dollar we receive, as 100% of it goes toward funding new episodes of TOTF and investing in new opportunities for our community! But more about that later!
EPISODE II: Unexpected Guests
Because we had moved to LA, we were undoubtedly a little bit behind on our originally proposed schedule of releasing a new episode every 2-3 months. Luckily we have a fairly nice community, and not many seemed to hurt by this! With a little bit of Patreon funds coming in, we felt a little better about Episode II, and aimed to make it better than Episode I. We spent time writing more music and making the writing more immersive. This time around we enlisted the help of Cesar Espejo to complete the artwork for Unexpected Guests. It's safe to say it turned out amazingly as well! So amazingly in fact that we decided to introduce a new perk to one of our Patreon tiers: receiving posters of the artwork!
To help promote Unexpected Guests, we even created a nice featurette preceding the release, to give our fans an idea of what was to come!
“Unexpected Guests” finds Aapo alone among an empty village and Rebourne Forest. After the pollution and downfall of civilization, Aapo is the only one left to nurture the ancient trees that can no longer sustain themselves. But when an unwelcomed group of humans arrives at the village, he has to decide which lives matter most: theirs, or the trees' to which he has dedicated his life's work.
UG released on November 1 for patrons and November 8 to the entire public. At this time we also began making our music available on other platforms such as Spotify, Google Play, and iTunes, to give our fans more options for listening and purchasing our music.
TOTF OFFICIAL SITE STORE
The most recent update notable update to the TOTF project is that we have officially released our on-site store. Now our community can buy our episodes and other music directly from us without having to go through a middle man like Bandcamp or iTunes. Purchasing our content directly from our site gives us a larger percentage of the profit compared to any other platform we are on, so we encourage you to visit our store before going anywhere else! The prices are the same (if not better) than they are everywhere else. So don't worry! Check back every once in awhile for new items available for sale. We will make sure to share the news whenever we have something new to offer!
OH yeah...we almost forgot...
And we reached over 1000 subscribers on our YouTube channel! And while this might not seem like a lot, we honestly never thought we would have gotten as much support as we have for what we are doing. And we are especially thankful for everyone that has liked our videos, made a nice comment, or even just given our music a listen or our chapters a read through. Or even our site a look! It means a lot that people see what we are creating and see the potential for what we hope to achieve! So thank you! We could not have done it without all of your help! And don't forget to subscribe!
part 2: challenges - coming soon...
While we consider it an overwhelmingly successful year, not everything was perfect. The road to success is a bumpy one, and we still believe we are far from the end. There are numerous lessons we have learned and challenges we have faced all while trying to better Tales of the Forgotten for all of our fans. In part 2 of the Year's End Blog, we are going to discuss some of these things, and in part 3 we will address what we will be doing to fix them as we move forward into 2017.