Surviving your 1st Kickstarter Part 1 – Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.

“Daughter of Titan” was my first Kickstarter campaign and it was full of ups and downs. So in this post and the next 2 posts, I’ll be giving you an in depth look at how it all works, warts and all. These posts will hopefully help you prepare for your own maiden Kickstarter (physically and emotionally) or satisfy the curiosity of a seasoned pro.

So in this post I’m going to talk solely about preparation. Isn’t that going to be really boring? I hear you say, and the answer is, and I’m not gonna lie to you, yes. But if it wasn’t then it might not be as important. The quote that adorns this post is from Benjamin Franklin and it’s a great quote because it’s painfully true. Now, *spoiler alert*, the kickstarter got funded and is currently in it’s final days as I write this. The key to it’s success? Yup. Preparation.

GET THE TEAM IN PLACE

So I’m going to assume you have your idea and are ready to go. First things first, you need to have a team in place. So for me it’s a two person team; myself as the writer and the immensely talented Vivian Truong as the artist. Everything from the penciling to the final inking is by her hand which is great because a smaller team means fewer people to throw a spanner in the works. But regardless of how many people are on your team, you need to trust them that if your project gets funded they will be able to commit to your project to meet the deadlines you promised your backers.

From your side you need to be ready to go right now. Not in a month when the kickstarter ends. If (like me) you are creating a comic or a novel or something of that ilk, it needs to be prepared to go before you even think of running a kickstarter campaign. My kickstarter began on February the 3rd. I started to plan for that the previous August when I contacted Vivian, the first draft of the script was completed a month later and went through a period of revision with Vivian’s input. Then we worked on bringing the characters to life. Only then did we start working on the kickstarter itself. So even if it’s just you working on the project then there’s no excuse for being prepared.

FINANCING

So when your team, big or small, is ready to go, the next thing you’ve got to do is research on price. Now for me, artists fees and printing costs made up the majority of the funding needed. But there were other things to consider like P&P and kickstarter fees. Especially for your first campaign, set your funding goal low to improve your chances of getting funded. My initial funding goal would create 200 issues of the comic in black and white. That dropped the funding needed dramatically. Should we to reach that, I would then aim for what I needed to make it in colour in the form of a stretch goal. (Stretch goals are essentially unofficial funding goals).

Be prepared to put some of your own money into the campaign to begin with. No one will fund a comic if they can’t see the art so I commissioned 3 pages of the comic as well as character drawings myself to showcase on the kickstarter. It was money well spent. But for the next kickstarter, I plan to get more kickstarter specific art to make the campaign more aesthetic.

WRITING A GOOD PITCH

There are numerous blogs, articles, books and online seminars that stress the importance of your pitch. First you need a good cover image to catch the eye of people scrolling through all the campaigns. I admit this is one part I failed to prepare for. The vast majority of campaigns have landscape images that fill the entire area whereas mine was portrait.

kickstarter-campaigns

Notice how “Daughter of Titan” is quite dark, especially given the blocks of black on either side of the featured image. Thankfully this didn’t derail us but it serves as a warning. Campaigns with landscape images are more successful.

Then you have your synopsis. This took me the longest to write. If the image draws people in, the synopsis is the thing to make them click. Any longer than that and the text fades as you can see on the campaign on the far left. So it has to be concise, edgy yet plain. In the end I went with the following…

“In a dystopian city of augmentations and police brutality, a young woman discovers she is the descendant of the world’s last superhero.”

Not bad eh? It has some interesting keywords like “dystopian”, “woman” and “superhero” which might come up in popular searches. But it also tells you just enough about the story, making you want to click to read more.

PREPARING A GOOD VIDEO

Now, I hate myself. I hate pictures of myself and I sure as hell hate videos of myself. But I had to put that aside to create the video for the kickstarter. I didn’t have the money for effects or a decent camera or even editing so in the end I produced two and a half minutes of my ugly mug talking to the camera on my phone. Unavoidable though as there is a clear trend that shows good videos are a massive factor in getting pledges. It shows you are a real person and gives you the opportunity to say hello personally. Backers are not just investing in your comic, they are investing in you. The saving grace of my video, plain as it may be, is that people can’t resist a good Scottish accent 😉

CREATE INTERESTING REWARD TIER

Everyone loves a good reward, but don’t go overboard trying to create a wide variety of interesting rewards, keep it simple. Your idea and your passion should be the biggest driving factor, not buttons, t-shirts and stickers. All of which cost money and have to be taken into the account and the opportunity for something to go wrong increases.

SOCIAL MEDIA STRATEGY

A good portion of your pledges will come from family and friends who want to give a hand in getting over that first step. Cherish this as there is no greater feeling. But afterwards, getting your project in front of strangers is more difficult. That’s why preparing content to share over social media over the course of your campaign is vital. I tended to use Facebook and Instagram whereas Vivian has a presence on Tumblr and Twitter. Some content crossed over, but we tried to create different content for each platform. Between us we were able to put our project in front of a lot of people. Something else that is pivotal is talking about your kickstarter well in advance of the launch. Create excitement about it so that when you do launch you launch on the right foot.

However, no matter how much excitement around your launch, 30 days is a long time to sit and do nothing. Even the ripples from dropping a boulder in a lake will eventually fade, so make sure you have plenty of pebbles on hand to keep throwing and keep those ripples going. Financial milestones reached, landmark percentages funded and significant number of backers are all perfectly fine reasons to post over social media. And in doing so you keep your project visible on people feeds. Some people might need to wait until the end of the month before they can pledge so keep reminders going. Never post the same stuff. That’s a recipe for disaster. Instead of cultivating interest, all you’ll be doing is annoying potential backers.

Lastly, make sure you have potential avenues of exposure. Find Facebook groups, e-zines, bloggers or websites that your work would be of interest to and get in touch with them. Not all of them will get back to you but those that do will share your project to their audience at some point during your campaign.

QUADRUPLE CHECK EVERYTHING

Finally, check everything again and again. Do the calculations, research the costs, check your product and do a spell check on your campaign. Is everything good? You can’t change things like the funding goal or the reward tiers.

LAUNCH

Once you’re happy with your preparations, it’s time to launch. And that is what I’ll discuss next week.

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