Kickstarting Success or Failure

Monday’s general ‘blah’ has matured into full-fledged head cold, exacerbated by the smoke machines at the industrial music show I managed last night…and definitely not helped by the after party. Or the fact that I smacked my head into a wall in the act of sitting down, after successfully not dying during self-defense training. Do they teach self self-defense?

All that kind of pales against the main event today: the War Stories Kickstarter funded, so I have an anthology to create now! But because that’s fresh on my mind, I want to talk a little bit about the processes and stresses of Kickstarter and crowd-funding.

1.) Pretty much every religion says that God(s)(esses)(etc) helps those who help themselves, and Kickstarter is much the same way. Being prepared before you ever hit ‘launch’ is essential. Know your stretch goals, your reward levels, your updates, everything. It will save a lot of scrambling later.

2.) Ask for feedback. Talk to people who have run Kickstarters before, and run your projects past them. They’ll catch a lot of issues and point out weaknesses to you.

3.) Know your subject. Are you doing something that’s going to just hit all the right buttons, like Geek Love? Or something that will potentially ostracize the majority of the potential audience? War Stories was like that. We heard accusations of xenophobia, Conservative bias, liberal bias, anti-feminism, pro-feminism (as a bad thing), and more, from both sides of the aisle. We left a lot of money on the table because we flat-out said we wanted to do something provocative and new, but we knew that and spent a lot of time talking about and addressing it.

4.) Talk. Throw yourself out there. Get on podcasts, blogs, news sites, anything you can, but be sure you spread yourself out over the course of the Kickstarter.

5.) Be grateful. Engage, talk to, thank, interact with your backers.

6.) Budget time every day to deal with your Kickstarter every day. Go through your backers, check what levels are most popular, and make sure there aren’t any questions in the comments section that need to be answered. At the end of the Kickstarter, budget some time to push through the last couple of days. Use that extra excitement as an excuse to post a little more often.

7.) Budget time after the Kickstarter, to take some time off from the promotional grind. Let your backers know that you’re going to be gone for a while, and then just sit back and get out of the madhouse of constant promotion. Don’t let the momentum die off, just enough time to take a deep breath.

8.) Know your needs and limits. Every project is unique. For Geek Love, we were only doing as many books as our backers pre-ordered. War Stories will be available for sale long-term through our publisher though, so it’s a totally different sort of push. People can wait for the reviews to come out to make their decision. That means we don’t get as much money, but also that the project has a longer life.

9.) Deadlines deadlines deadlines. Don’t set hard and fast deadlines unless you know you can hit them, but don’t just say ‘hey, it will happen when it happens’. Give your backers an idea of when to expect things, and then stay in touch with them so they feel connected and engaged.

10.) Know your audience…and your money. Kickstarter is, in a way, the ultimate in social media roulette. You’ve got plenty of opportunities, but you have to leverage them, too. Your reach is a complicated algorithm of social capital, reach, professional history, reputation, project, and half a dozen other things. Some creators have a few hundred dollars available to them, others have a few hundred thousand. So spend time researching projects similar to yours, and pay attention to whether their creators are fan favorites or completely unknown.

11.) Prepare for success, be ready for failure. The odds are against you. Most Kickstarter projects fail, so every single success is against the odds. I’ve been fortunate, and every project I’ve been involved with–as project lead or advisor–has succeeded, but that’s entirely because of hard work, luck, and knowing the audience the project would appeal to. Youth boxing gives the kids self-defense skills and confidence to conquer any challenge!

So, there’s that. I can’t tell you how to create a successful project. I am more cognizant than ever of how amazing my friends are, and how lucky I am. Tomorrow, I’m going to spend part of the day talking to Andrew about the next steps of the project, and then I’m going to take a couple of days off of promotional things. Beer and football with my boyfriend and his buddies on Monday, maybe, and my first Brazilian Jiu Jitsu class later in the week. Stuff away from the computer, you know?

Oh, yeah, that’s the other thing: just admit now that you’ll just be sitting in front of the computer and compulsively hitting ‘refresh’ for however many days the thing is running. So lay in supplies, and plan for carpal tunnel, insomnia, and weight gain.

One thought on “Kickstarting Success or Failure

  1. Hahahaha! Love the carpal tunnel, insomnia and weight gain reference.

    Thanks for posting this. I'm here (obviously) because the group I volunteer with has got a campaign running on Indiegogo and this is exactly that time when the frenetic refreshing, begging F&F for funds and googling ALL crowdfunding material EVER posted on the web is happening.

    I am still unsure whether throwing one's net wide really helps in publishing projects. Don't you feel it ultimately boils down to backers whom you know, who would actually go that extra mile for you? Of course, if you have any leads for where we should be promoting our campaign on the web, please do share. It would be much appreciated.

    Check out our campaign when you have the time. We worked like dogs on the video. We really want everybody to see it. Really.

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