Ever since I first backed a Kickstarter, I’ve been a fan of the crowd-source funding site. Not only is a great way for us indie guys to fund a project, it’s even better as a fan, for discovering all sorts of cool things that you might not have ever heard of otherwise.
To date, I have created one project on Kickstarter (Canadian Corps- 173% funded) and backed 45 projects (unfortunately having had to pass up at least another 15 or 20 that I wanted to back).
Let me get this out of the way first: I am by no means an expert on running a Kickstarter. I have run exactly ONE. It was successful, yes, but that doesn’t make me an expert. What it does mean, is that I have at least a SENSE of what does and does not work.
Since running the Kickstarter for Canadian Corps, for some reason I’ve taken to reading through all of the other comics projects that hop up in there- sometimes to make sure I’m not missing out on something cool, sometimes to make sure I pay forward the success that we had with ours, and sometimes because… well, just because.
While reading through them, I started taking them apart- seeing what I like and didn’t like about them. What works and what doesn’t. And sometimes getting a little outraged over the stuff that people put out there thinking that it is ready or should be on there.
Things that drew my ire included a supposed novelist who wanted to raise $30,000+ for his book (which is a LOT of money to produce a novel) and did not capitalize the “i” when referring to himself; among at least two dozen other errors in spelling and grammar. Now in this day and age of texting and messaging, I can understand a slip or two- we’re all guilty of that. I can handle that. But when you are asking people for money to help fund you for a WRITING project and you do that? Really? REALLY?? I just can’t deal with that kind of thing.
Running a Kickstarter is asking people to invest in you and your idea. Not to hand over money because you are poor or cheap and don’t want to do it and you’re going to take it and forget about them. Some treat it like that, unfortunately, but they should not. You are asking your backers to take part in this journey and, whether you like it or not, that means you are beholden to them for a few things. Like proper spelling. A clear message of what you are trying to achieve and what they will get in return for helping you reach your goal. Kickstarter is a business venture and should be treated as such.
Part of any business venture is doing research- knowing who your audience will be, what you can offer them, and how you will go about doing that. If you cannot answer those things, you are not ready to launch your Kickstarter.
For the Canadian Corps KS I looked at the levels that people pledged at on other Kickstarters- what sort of things they wanted and were willing to pay for them. Easy enough, right? A quick look at what’s on Kickstarter right now will tell you that there are many who have not done that. When in doubt approach your reward levels as a fan- would YOU be willing to pay $10 for that PDF copy of a 20 page comic book? I know I wouldn’t. $5 and we’re talking. It’s about value to your backers. Make it worth their time. And still worth yours- after all you are trying to raise money, not give things away. It’s tricky but it can be done.
Research everything that you can think of that you might need to tackle- production/printing costs, shipping costs (which is where a LOT of projects run into problems), how long it’ll take to finish the project (and it’s always safe to assume it’ll be longer by a month than what you think it will) and then ask friends and family for any questions that they might have. Get all your stuff lined up before you launch- if you don’t, it’ll fall apart fast.
Once you are set up and running the campaign, make sure when people back you that you thank them. When I ran the CC one I made sure to send every backer a personal thank you message- if you’re able to do that, do it. It takes literally a minute to do so and that’s the least you can do for something throwing $40 at you to make your dream come true. People work hard for their money and they want to know that their pledges are appreciated. And if they take it upon themselves to tell others about it, you HAVE to thank them. That’s above and beyond and should be recognized and appreciated as such.
The real key to running a Kickstarter that performs well is to do all the little things right that you would want to see as a fan- interact with backers on social media, be polite and friendly to those that show an interest in it (I mean you should be those things as a default but…) and show that you’ve done some work on your project.
I understand that sometimes the cost of a project is so insurmountable that the only way to do it is to seek outside funding, but do SOMETHING to show people that you’ve at least STARTED working on it. If you’re funding an album- have a song for people to hear (even if it’s just you in your bedroom and an acoustic guitar). If it’s a comic book, have some pages for people to look at. A board game? Samples or mock-ups of what it might look like. This should be common sense stuff, but so many people drop the ball on this. If you’re not willing to invest a little time and money into getting your project ready, you can sure as hell bet no one else is going to be willing to either.
Use common sense, think like a fan, be polite and engage those who show an interest. It’s not hard stuff, though it does involve a lot of hard work. If you’re willing to do it however, you’ll succeed.
Or you can hire me for cheap and I’ll look it over for you- odds are that I’ll be checking out anyhow if it’s a comic book, and be ripping it apart. For a small fee, I’ll tell you how to fix it. 😉
Best of luck!