Ryan Ellsworth writes,
Last week, I launched a Kickstarter for my comic book, North Bend. The first issue of a ten issue series, it’s about a Seattle DEA agent who is recruited by the CIA to help test an experimental mind control drug on unwitting Americans.
With over 50% raised and 19 days to go as of this sentence, I’m psyched at the prospect of making this comic and am optimistic that it will reach its goal.
But the history of this project is not so bright – this is a Kickstarter reboot. Meaning, I have already made an attempt at a Kickstarter for the same comic, and it died a fiery death. It flopped, and flopped hard. About two weeks in, with 22 backers and $547 of a $7800 goal, I decided it was time to put her out of her misery. I cancelled the campaign and started over.
I’d like to talk about some of the mistakes I made, and what I did differently to turn my project around. Around half of all Kickstarter projects don’t reach their goal. If you’ve been in that situation, I hope this article is able to help you out a little bit. But first, a disclaimer.
Be careful what advice you take. That includes this article. I’m no expert – technically, my Kickstarter isn’t even a success yet. But one thing I’ve noticed is there’s no one-size-fits-all advice. There’s some things many people agree on, but there’s a lot of conflicting Kickstarter advice out there. Things like your project category, how well known you are, how old the advice is (things change), and the project itself can all have an effect on what the right thing for you is.
OK, back to the matter at hand.
Running a Kickstarter can take an emotional toll. There’s the excitement of working on your campaign, thinking it looks awesome, and seeing the success stories others have. You’re ready to let your Kickstarter soar like an eagle. Releasing your majestic project into the wild only to watch it fly into a window with a deadening thud is an awful thing to witness.
I thought I was ready. I clicked launch, announced it to everyone I knew, and for the rest of the day…silence. Day one is the most important day of a campaign. That’s when you get the initial traction needed to keep your project going. And my total backer count on the day of launch? One.
Obviously, something was wrong. Was my pitch poorly designed? Did my rewards not make sense? Was my goal too high? Or the worst thought to have: was my comic just crap? I had a hard time not basing my worth as a human on the number of dollars on my campaign page.
THE DAY OF THE WEEK IS IMPORTANT
My initial Kickstarter for North Bend launched back in September, on a Friday afternoon. First mistake. Friday is one of the worst days to launch. Optimally, you want to launch on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning. On Monday, people are generally busy starting their work week. Friday, people are catching up on unfinished work. And a lot of folks aren’t at their computers over the weekend.
For my second attempt, I launched on a Tuesday at 10:30am mountain time.
THE MONTH IS IMPORTANT
I launched in September, when there were almost 200 projects to compete against. Summer seems to be the busiest period on Kickstarter, when the most projects are active at any given time.
By the time I was ready to relaunch in January, there were less than 90 comic projects already going. Less than half the competition of my first Kickstarter.
YOU NEED AN AUDIENCE
This one was my own dumb fault. I hardly told anyone what I was working on before the launch. I enjoyed a veil of secrecy. I had read over and over that you need to build an audience, or your campaign probably won’t succeed. But I didn’t want to spend another few months getting the word out. I was impatient. I thought, “Nah, I hate marketing. They’ll find it through Kickstarter. Once people see the pitch, that’s all I need.”
Nope. No one found it.
With 200 other projects going and the momentum of one backer, I wasn’t high in the results. (By the way, one backer, really, thanks for being the first to believe in me. You’re the best!)
So, I got on Twitter and spent the next four months getting involved in the indie comics community and putting North Bend out there. I met a lot of cool people and it helped prepare me in designing a stronger Kickstarter.
Some projects can and do make it with no real initial audience. Luck, a super awesome idea, an amazingly executed pitch, and wealthy relatives can all play a part. But things like this are rare.
This is an oft debated topic. I’ll try not to go into this too much, but personally, I think rewards should be priced at, or lower, than retail price. Some say Kickstarter isn’t a store, it’s a place to support projects and people you care about. And I’m sure that’s true for some people.
But for others, it is a store. It’s a preorder system. Those people just want a cool thing for a reasonable price. If you are well known, you can get away with charging more. But you’re missing out on potential fans. For the people who really want to support you, think about adding unique, higher priced rewards for them.
For my original campaign, my prices were a bit expensive, modeled after other campaigns I had looked at. For whatever reason, those rewards worked for them, but not for me. For the reboot, I lowered prices to what an average comic issue is priced at. Which meant not selling a PDF for $6.
The first time around, my goal was $7800. I had seen comparable projects make that much or more, and I was wanting to cover all my costs, so it seemed reasonable. But although some Kickstarters made that much, their goal was often a bit less than that.
There seems to be some kind of psychology at work where if you set a goal of $8,000, someone would think “That goal is too high. They won’t make it, no point in backing that.” But if the goal was $5,000, it would look more reachable, and could actually pass it and make $10,000.
There’s a lot that goes into deciding on your goal. Things like your past creative output and the size of your audience also matter here.
Without going too in-depth, those are a few things I learned during the reboot process for North Bend.
Actually, one more tip before I go. And this will most likely be of the most help to your specific project. If you have a Kickstarter in need of reworking, be sure to ask friends, backers, and the community for advice on where you may have gone wrong. A lot of people are more than happy to give their point of view and help you out.