Building a successful Kickstarter Campaign

Since funding reMIND, my graphic novel, through Kickstarter.com, several people have asked how I was able to get so much interest to generate the kind of money that I did. Well, I’m not really sure, but I’ll try to break down all the things I thought about while putting together my campaign.

If you’ve never heard of Kickstarter.com before, you really should check it out. Kickstarter is an exciting place where creators can post their projects and get pledges from people who are interesting in their ideas and want to help the projects move forward. I’ve already found myself pledging to a few other projects that caught my interest. Anyway, if you already know about Kickstarter and you are thinking of launching a campaign for your comic or graphic novel, here are a few things I suggest thinking about before jumping in.

A video is a must. Here’s a link to my video. I am terrible in front of the camera so I decided to do and animated video because I know how to do motion design animation after years of working on commercials. I’ve seen people launch a campaign without a video and nothing happens. Then months later they launch the same thing again with a nice video and they get more than enough in pledges. If you can’t make a video then find a friend who can help. Even if it’s a bunch of slides with you talking over it all.

Play to your strengths in your video. If you are good in front of the camera then get in front of the camera. If you are ugly or awkward like me then don’t. Cuties get lots of pledges if they just look and talk cute. That won’t work for me. haha

Introduce yourself and the project, in your video. It seems like a lot of the people who just make a trailer with not much explanation of who they are don’t make as much. People want to know who they are giving their money to. They want to support an artist as much, if not more than a project ,so let people get to know who you are.

Make a mock up of what your graphic novel will look like. Show as much as possible. Some people don’t have anything to show and it really hurts the campaign. I know I wouldn’t pledge to someone who just had some awesome things to say about themselves. I waited months before launching my campaign because I wanted to make sure everything was in place.

Don’t make people feel sorry for you, but don’t sound like a corporate snob either. People like to help the artist who has a heart for his projects. If you don’t really care about your project then people will be able to see right through you. This isn’t a way to make tons of cash, it’s a way to fund your dreams, so just be real.

Explain how Kickstarter works for everyone who has never heard of it. This is important. Some people will only see your video and nothing else, so make sure they understand the concept of Kickstarter by the time the video is over. All their questions should be answered with clear links at the end of the video to find out more.

Don’t make too many pledge options. I strongly believe that the more options you have the harder it is to make up your mind and a person will likely leave before deciding what to do. They will probably forget about the whole thing and never pledge. Make it easy to decide while you have their interest. Another thing is to make the options REALLY CLEAR. None of this:

If you pledge $57.42 then you will get everything above except for the glow in the dark cover. But you will get a signed copy, unlike the ULTIMATE PACK (unless you chose the green one) If you want another version then just click through my website archive from 1993 to now and copy and paste the url or secret code at the left bottom of the right column under each page. Once you have emailed me the correct discount code, I will send you a carbon copy, by mail, of your request to be approved before you can pledge.

What? Exactly. Make it very clear and easy to decide. Not to mention, the more complex options you give, the more of a nightmare it will be for you once the drive ends. I only had a few options and I’m still trying to sort through it all. So, make it simple for your pledgers and for yourself when it’s all over.

Your pledge rewards should be better than what you normally offer your product for. I think this is really important. Many people make their rewards so lame for the amount pledged and nobody pledges. The pledgers are doing us a favor by giving money so they need to be rewarded with better prices and offers than someone just buying our product after it’s finished. (I think this is one of the most important parts) I look at it this way, every person who buys a $20 book is essentially paying for the printing of 5+ books because it only costs me around $4 per book for printing. I know I could make more books if the minimum for a book was $30 but less people would pledge. Even if I said $15 for a book, I would still be making money towards my printing costs and that’s the most important part. So in other words don’t say, a pledge of $100 gets you a book! It should be less than what people would pay after it’s finished. That’s my opinion.

Also, consider asking for an additional amount for anyone outside of the US. I ended up getting quite a few people from around the world and I know the shipping is going to kill me. Many of them threw in a bit extra to help cover additional charges but not everyone will be so generous.

A little money is better than no money. You might want to have a lower goal than you need to lock in more money. I made my goal low enough so it was easier to reach but high enough so I could at least get part of my funding in place. Plus, if you say you are willing to pay for half the costs yourself then you are showing that you are committed to your project. If people really like what you are doing then you will go way over anyway. Why make the goal so high that it’s harder to reach. PLUS, when my lower goal was hit in less than 48 hours, Kickstarter put my campaign on the front page and it brought in a bunch more pledges because it appeared to be so popular.  Why make your goal $20,000 if $3,000 can get you printed but at a smaller scale. Remember, pigs get slaughtered!

45 days or less. Maxing out the days your campaign is live doesn’t guarantee more money. In fact Kickstarter says that the best campaigns have been 45 days or less. In addition, I don’t like the idea of having a campaign for two or more months because I didn’t want to wait that long to find out what the end result would be. What if you don’t hit your goal? Do you really want to wait 3 months to find out?

I also believe that people need deadlines to act on something. Seth Godin recently talked about this in his article Six Things about Deadlines. Seth has a cool chart showing the response rate around one of his deadlines and so I thought I’d make a chart for my campaign as well. Here it is:

Notice how many pledges I had at the start and at the end. Plus, that second surge of traffic around day 5 to 10 was when Kickstarter put me on their front page for about a week. We will break this apart more in a bit.

A following is hugely important. If you can start showing your work online on a blog or as a webcomic a good 6 months to a year before starting a campaign, it is a real help. The bigger your fan base is before your start the better you will do. If you are a group of artists working on a project together then hopefully you will all have blogs and websites of your own that you can spread the word with. This stuff doesn’t just happen. You need to get the word out. Try hanging up posters advertising your campaign in coffee shops or on campuses like these guys did.

Start a mailing list. I got the best flow of new pledges directly from sending an email to my mailing list explaining the situation. I even sent everyone an email in my personal email list which is pretty massive even though I hardly know some of the people on it. My mortgage broker is on it and so is my wife’s friends sister who emailed me a invite for her dog’s party that I never went to. I hit them all up. But aside from your personal email list, a Opt-In mailing list for your blog, webcomic or website is very important. Not only to the success of your Kickstarter campaign but also to the success of anything else you do.

People on you Opt-In mailing list want to hear from you and want to know what’s the latest. Most comic artists and webcomics don’t have or understand the power of the niche mailing list. Professional bloggers do and they focus on building it more than almost anything. When they release a new product and send it to 1000 people on their mailing list who want to hear from them, they do really well. So, before we move on, do you want to join my mailing list?

Network reminders. Keep updates on facebook, twitter, blogs and websites. People need to be reminded that your campaign is going on or they will simply forget to pledge even though they wanted to.

Here is my chart again with additional markings every time I sent out a mailing list email, facebook update, tweet, blog post, kickstarter update or DeviantArt update. It’s hard to tell exactly what worked best but it’s fun to look at. As you can see I tried to keep emails only on occasion, mainly at the start and end. Even so, I’m sure people were sick of hearing about this by the time it was finished. Imagine if I let it last for three months. Ugh.

Kickstarter Front Page or  Be Recommended. The better you can make your video and product, the better chances you will get on the front page of kickstarter. If you can make the front page, you will get an increase in pledges. If you can impress the kickstarter team, they will put your project on their recommended page too. All this helps tremendously, so take your time and make it good!

If you post project updates regularly on Kickstarter, like twice a week, then it shows favorably towards your campaign too. The kickstarter folks like when you do this and they might reward you by putting you on the front page or recommend you.

Study the successful and the unsuccessful. Look closely at the campaigns that are ending soon. Here’s a link. What’s interesting is they’re either fully funded or have next to no funding; there’s very few in between. If you can’t make a splash when you jump in then nobody will notice, so study which ones work and which ones don’t. It becomes incredibly obvious why they did or didn’t get funded the more you look at it.

Take your time. Don’t just jump in and throw up a project overnight. Why would anyone want to fund a thrown together project? They won’t. It will just fall through the cracks, so make sure your ducks are in a row and polished nicely.

Of corse, in the end ,it all depends on your project so make it sweet! Easy to say but hard to do.

Hopefully this helps refine your Kickstarter pledge drive.