Pamela Steele is a delightful woman. She and I travel in the same circles, yet we had not met until recently. She is a faery godmother for other deck creators, establishing a group for those who make decks on Facebook, supporting others in publishing their own projects, as well as being extremely successful selling her first deck, the Steele Wizard Tarot. Her dream is to bring Tarot into the larger culture, making it as socially acceptable as reading your daily horoscope. Her new project, the Wizard’s Pets Tarot is a deck she created for her eleven-year-old granddaughter, and is an adorable and accessible entree into divination for the young and young-at-heart.
I saw a posting about the Wizard’s Pets Tarot page on the Facebook group Tarot Professionals, and went to check it out. I learned she was on the verge of starting a crowdfunding campaign for the Wizard’s Pets, and I asked if we could do interviews before and after her launch. After our first two-hour conversation, I was charmed by this woman’s determination, wit, and heart-felt willingness to follow her instincts to bring her projects to life.
Her current Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign for the Wizard’s Pets Tarot is more than half-way through, and we have both learned more about the crowdsourcing process through how she has designed and handled her campaign. I shall share some of our original conversation about how she came to be a deck creator, and then offer some perspectives we have both come to on the campaign itself.
Pamela came to the world of divination early, doing the Ouija board with her mother, and getting a deck in the late 1970s when there were only a tiny fraction of what is available now. She watched how an Ouija board reading her mother received suggesting she would move to a foreign country turning into reality only three days later! When she got her first Rider Waite deck in 1979 at a little “bell, book, and candle” shop as she calls it in Fort Worth, Texas, she wondered where the rest of the cards in the pack were. When she did her own Steele Wizard Tarot deck two decades later, she added what she intuitively felt was missing from other decks with more Major Arcana and court cards to broaden the understanding of the card’s messages.
The Steele Wizard Deck
The wonderful James Ricklef, who I met at the Readers Studio Tarot Conference in 2010 has done a three-part interview with Pamela about the creation of her first deck, so I will not rehash all of that here, and simply try to tempt you to read the series with the fact that she sold her house, in one day, to finance the first printing of 2,000 Steele Wizard decks.
A Natural Promoter
Pamela is a go-get-em sort of a gal, and the Steele Wizard Tarot was begun in 1999 before social media exploded. She beat the bushes to market the deck, going to INATS, The International New Age Trade Show, as well as traveling down from Canada to the western United States visiting metaphysical stores to promote her new product. She still believes the in-person element is essential to building a tribe around your work, and she is a regular at BATS, The Bay Area Tarot Symposium. She is also helping organize NWTS, The Northwest Tarot Symposium coming March 2015 in Portland, Oregon, put on by Devera Publishing.
The emerging Aeclectic Tarot website was also a major early support for the Steele Wizard, and when the first edition of 2,000 was released July 31st, 2007 at 5pm, she sold 250 decks in 48 hours to people around the world. Pamela says the average number of decks independent creators sell is only about 250 total, so her sales of almost 2,000 decks for both the original edition, as well as the new edition with the full-size book is miraculous. She has always believed in putting your money where your passion is, and her dedication has paid off.
A New Deck Calls
Pamela had no intention of doing another deck after Steele Wizard, creating your own oracle takes an enormous amount of time and effort, but a tender-hearted request from someone dear to her cut through her resistance. A couple of years ago when her eleven-year-old granddaughter asked her to make her a deck she could use, without even thinking about it she said, “of course I will sweetheart.” The granddaughter’s older cousin had previously asked for her own copy of the Steele Wizard deck, and Pamela struggled with the appropriateness of some of the nudity and adult themes for younger users. Pamela had made a deck for adults, but now she was called to bring divination to a younger audience.
After she committed to making a kid friendly deck, the idea rattled around in her head for three or four days. In the early 1980s, during a tough time when Pamela was a single mother of two, she drew a series of characters who were inspired by the antics of her own beloved children to bring humor and lessons into this dark period. Those playful, mischievous creatures could be the characters in her new deck she thought, and because they were animals, they did not need clothes. No issues about nudity there. They could also be colorful and sweet, and they were too cute to be scary. Some of Pamela’s devout Christian friends are even excited about using the cards. Pamela has also made it a fully functioning Tarot deck, with many of the images inspired directly from classic Rider Waite symbolism.
Now that the new deck was percolating along, the issue of funding reemerged. The house would not be sold this time, and some support for printing a run of 2,000 was needed. A friend suggested crowdfunding, and Pamela decided to try it out. In December 2013 Pamela had created a special group on Facebook for people to keep up with the project. That had over 300 members, and seemed like a good base of fans to support a campaign. She was also very active in her deck creators group, and many other Tarot sites, as well as having great sales on her previous deck. She physically went to many Tarot events over the years as she built her career, which were all good signs that the support may be there to help finance this next project. She has three distributors for her Steele Wizard deck, so the next product would have the channels to get it out there. She also had taken care of a big issue around costs by teaming up with Devera Publishing in the states to distribute and ship the deck. Shipping from her native Canada had gotten extremely expensive, and with the bulk of her sales to US customers, this would keep her costs down on the new deck.
In choosing between the two big crowdsourcing platforms, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, she went with the later because they had flexible funding, the ability to keep all the funds you raise instead of the all-or-nothing method, and when she had questions they got back to her within 24 hours.
Her campaign kicked off on Friday, May 2nd, 2014, running through Monday June 16th. Her goal is $18,500, an ambitious amount for the Tarot world, with Robert Place and Rachel Pollack, superstars in that arena making the goal for their Burning Serpent Oracle only $9,000 (They did reach over $25,000, and they both have enormous reputations). I was the first to donate, choosing the deck and book set at $46. Her perks include limited edition postcards, T-shirts, tote bags, readings, and of course the deck set including a coloring book as well as the full-color companion book. By the third day she had eleven funders and $593 in pledges, which continued to grow slowly over the next week.
Videos are extremely important to the crowdfunding process, they are how you show your sincerity, authenticity, as well as professionalism. It is the emotional and energetic impression people will get about you and your project, and this is a big deal. To reach beyond your own sphere of fans, you need to be able to inspire others to help fund your vision. And your video is that portal into their support.
Pamela’s first video didn’t work. It was technically glitchy, filmed with a distracting, unattractive background, and her charming, articulate, heart-felt connection to her project didn’t come through. There was no story about why the deck was created, how it could benefit others, and the pitch for support was not strong. After launching on Friday, the first video went down on Sunday. In the next week a friend created an animated video of the cards in the deck, but you really need to personally show up to promote your offering. A little over two weeks into the campaign I decided to call Pamela and offer some perspective on all I had learned researching the crowdfunding process. I wanted her campaign to succeed, and it was at a little over $1,000, with a long way to go to reach $18,500.
In this second conversation I learned that over the last year she has been dealing with some involved family responsibilities, along with working extra hours to take care of this situation. Going into the campaign she honestly admitted that she may not have had the time and energy to really make a strong run of it. This is an essential consideration, determining if you have space for another full-time job with your other life commitments.
Facebook has also become extremely unsupportive to reaching out, and her posts about the launch were not being seen by a majority of her friends. My Oracle of Initiation page with 940 fans is nearly useless, my posts reaching about 16 people because of how they have structured things to bring in revenue. I have no issue with paying for advertising, but their systems are deceptive and convoluted. And they are changing constantly. I personally assumed a large percentage of the Wizard’s Pets page from Facebook would pledge, but that has not seemed to be the case. She also had some problems with her Canadian/US bank account with Indiegogo, struggling with that during the early parts of the launch.
When we spoke, I stressed the importance of a persuasive video. I said I wanted to see the woman I met on the phone a few weeks before who is a cheerleader for divination, an optimistic, spunky woman who loves seeing other people shine, and wants to share the beauty of Tarot with the larger world. I needed to hear the story about her granddaughter, and the sweet, goofy characters in the deck who could be brought anywhere because people would see them as playful and fun. I wanted the business woman who has successfully navigated printing her own deck before social media took off, going the extra mile to get her deck out there. We needed to see the full Pamela, so others could be inspired by her own passion for this new project.
The next day she made a great video. She told the story of the deck, and her desire to share divination with her granddaughter and the larger world, and how the characters came to be. She said she sees everything she receives from this process as a blessing, and she always has a back-up plan, so the deck will be made no matter what. And her main motivation is to place a deck in her beloved granddaughters hands, watching her grow in her own knowing through something created just for her.
Pamela is great at reaching out to folks on Facebook, and I would suggest more updates from the campaign. Your people who pledged are clearly interested in your project, and will welcome more information about its progression. I would also say, crowdfunding has become a competitive, saturated market where you need to be unique, imaginative and original with the entire process. Your perks need to be enticing and something you would not get every day. You need ongoing media about your project to roll out during the lull in the middle of the campaign, adding new videos, perks, and interesting information to keep people attentive and involved. Pledgers will re-pledge if something new and juicy shows up, but planning this before hand is part of why it can be a lot of work to do a good run.
Pamela’s campaign is currently at $2,000 with a little over a week to go. Bring more delightful wisdom into your life through ordering your own Wizard’s Pets Tarot here.
Nuts and Bolts of the Campaign
Running from May 2nd, 2014 to June 16th, 2014 on Indiegogo with flexible funding. It is currently at $2,000-11% of the $18,500 goal with 11 days to go.
There are currently 38 funders, with the bulk of those pledges for the Tarot book and deck set. One person has chosen the signed postcard at $10. No one has chosen the tote or t-shirt alone $26/$30. Twenty-seven people have gotten the Tarot set at $46. One person has gotten the Tarot set and postcard at $54. Five have chosen the Tarot set and tote bag at $66. No one has chosen the Tarot set, postcard, and three or seven card readings $76/$131, but one person has chosen the set with the seven card reading at $96.
The final numbers for Pamela’s campaign are:
The campaign came in at $2,546-14% of the $18,500 goal. 50 funders pledged, with 45 deck sets chosen. One person chose the signed postcard only at $10; thirty-seven chose the Tarot deck, book and coloring book in a storage box set; one person chose the Tarot set and postcard; six claimed the Tarot set and tote; and one person claimed the Tarot, postcard and reading option 2. No one chose the tote bag; t-shirt; Tarot and t-shirt combination; Tarot, postcard and reading option 1 and the Tarot, postcard and reading option 3.
Oracle of Initiation Campaign
My campaign on Indiegogo to print 1,000 of my Oracle of Initiation decks Tarot-sized is also currently running. It is at $3154, 35% of its $8,888 goal, with 44 funders and 15 days left. Check it out here: