So You Launched a Kickstarter Campaign


ARE YOU CRAZY? WHAT DID YOU DO THAT FOR?!

Kidding.

So, you know you're ready for Kickstarter, and you've put your entire pitch together. What can you expect from the campaign itself?

THE LIFE OF A KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
Most Kickstarter campaigns follow the same general trend:
  1. A large amount of pledges on the first day.
  2. A quick drop-off of pledges over the next couple of days.
  3. A long "lull" where the amount of pledges per day is about the same.
  4. A spike of incoming pledges on the last two or three days.
From this, I can tell you a few things.

First, don't freak out during the lull. It's perfectly normal, and there's nothing you can do about it (almost nothing; see below). Instead, interact with your backers and continue your non-spammy publicity (again, see below).

Make the first day of your campaign count. A lot of projects, even major ones asking for millions of dollars, like to throw their project up one day and surprise everybody. Mostly, this doesn't go like everybody thinks it will.

A better idea is to float the idea of a Kickstarter to your existing network (you do have one, right?). These are your core fanbase and your early backers. By telling them what's going to happen ahead of time, not only do you make sure that some people show up on that first day, but you can also get a sense of whether your Kickstarter is even a good idea. Are they excited about it? Worried? Do they have ideas for rewards you can offer? You can learn a lot from your core fans, so don't hesitate to include them on the idea.

Prepare for the last days. You'll have spent the lull interacting with the core backers who hang around the Kickstarter page, but on that last day you'll see an influx both of people who haven't been to the page in a while and who have never heard of your project at all. Make sure the information on your front page is still clear to someone who knows nothing about your project or stretch goals. Make sure your updates are inclusive.

THE LULL
Every Kickstarter campaign has a lull. It's perfectly normal, but your backers might not feel so. You can educate them on the basic life of a Kickstarter, but there are other, better things you can do to make them feel like the campaign is still moving.

Interact with, and listen to, your backers. I cannot stress this part enough: people want to feel like they're making a difference. If people suggest good ideas -- stretch goals, rewards, ways to improve the product -- take them, run with them, and don't forget to credit the people who submitted them.

Also answer their questions or just hang out with them in the comment threads. People are much more likely to invest in a person than a project, so make yourself real and personable to them.

Make stretch goals. Now, stretch goals are not appropriate for every project, but if they make sense for yours, then do them. In fact, plan them even before you launch (you never know when you might, you know, break the fastest to a million dollars record). They won't break the lull (more on that in the next section), but they'll give your core backers things to watch and root for.

Some of them might even plunk down more money just to meet a stretch goal.

BREAKING THE LULL
There is very, very, very little you can do to break the pattern of the Kickstarter lull. For the most part, there are only three things that can give you a spike in the middle of your campaign:
  1. Get to within a few percent of your funding goal. If you look at the pledging stats for other projects, you will notice that almost every single one has a spike of new pledges and new backers on the day they met their goal. Once again: people want to feel like they're making a difference.
  2. Get publicity to an audience that hasn't heard the news yet. This is about marketing. By the middle of your campaign, your core fanbase knows about the project. Their friends have heard about it. Is there anyone else in your target audience who might not have? Find them. Find the forum or news sites they hang out at, and tell them too. (But DON'T SPAM. Spamming only reaches the same audience repeatedly, thus annoying them. Even well-intentioned fans can be guilty, so be careful.)
  3. Make an announcement that changes the nature of the project (in a good way). For example, say you launched a Kickstarter to get internal illustrations for your book. Halfway through the campaign, you announce that Tony DiTerlizzi(!) has agreed to do the illustrations. Whether it's a newly revealed stretch goal or not, this sort of announcement can give you a huge spike in pledges once people hear about it.
Don't freak out if these spikes don't create a new level of daily pledges. Very likely, the pledges will jump up for a day or two then go back to the normal lull. But that's okay. You've created excitement, given your core backers something to talk about, and made just that much more money. And that ain't bad.

Hopefully this little mini-series (written while my novella is in the hands of the most awesome critique partners in the world) will help you, should you ever decide to Kickstart a novel. Or anything, really. You can't predict everything, but neither is it all completely random. Let me know if you have any more questions.

5 comments:

Matthew MacNish said...

Wait. Did Tony actually get involved in a Kickstarter I don't know about? Or is that just an example?

Karren Alenier said...

Dear Adam,

Thank you for this great calming advice. We at The Word Works--Nancy White in upstate New York, Joshua Prentice in India, Dr. Jim Beall in Annapolis, Tod Ibrahim in Arlington, VA, and I on the Maryland border of WAshington, DC, just launched a Kickstarter project on June 13. We aren't biting our nails yet, but we will soon I'm sure. We know it is all about community.

Trying to humbly calm,
Karren Alenier

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

This is a great series, whether you're kickstarting a novel or not. It's always good to be on top of the options! Thanks for sharing all your wisdom on this! :)

Karen Clayton said...

Thanks for the post. I'm thinking of using kickstart sometime in the near future. My 13 year old and I co-authored a series of middle grade books. We just self published the first one this summer and are thinking of doing kickstart to raise funds to self publish the second. Mason Davis and the Rise of the Storm Makers is available online at Amazon in case anyone is interested.

Karren Alenier said...

Getting approved for KICKSTARTER even if you are a nonprofit of longstanding which we at The Word Works happen to be is no small thing. Kickstarter is a hard nut to crack. They do not make it easy to get approved for a project. You probably need to collaborate with a pre-existing group to get your books published. Maybe a school? Good luck!