What No One Tells You About Running a Kickstarter Campaign
[Editor’s Note: The following is a promotional post. The statements and opinions therein do not necessarily reflect those of TheNerdyBird.com. Read more about promotional posts here.]
On May 11th my husband handed me a shot glass and together we downed a little liquid courage. We gazed at the computer perched on my lap, then nervously glanced at each other. He smiled. I wanted another shot. Instead, I hovered the mouse over a big green button, closed my eyes and hit the mouse. That’s how the Kickstarter for Kamikaze: Volume 1 began.
For almost two years my husband Alan, my friend Havana and I have been working on a webcomic series called Kamikaze. Two centuries after a global ecological disaster, where the worlds of a mysterious covert operation and a young courier collide when a critical mission is blown. Our main character Markesha Nin is unwittingly thrown into a life or death game of espionage and sabotage from which she may never escape. This story has effectively taken over our lives, and this May we finally got the chance to get the first graphic novel printed. As of this writing our Kickstarter campaign sits at 121% funded, and the campaign ends this weekend on Sunday, June 12th.
During this time my team and I have been on a roller coaster of emotions and craziness that only Kickstarter can bring. This has been our first bold journey into the realm of crowdfunding, and we’ve learned a LOT. There’s so much information about crowdfunding out there, but here’s a few things we’ve learned in the trenches of getting our first comic funded on Kickstarter.
Full funding in less than a few hours is the exception, not the rule
So you’ve watched Kickstarter for a while, backed a couple projects and you notice that a lot of them are getting fully funded in a matter of hours! If they can do it, so can you right? Well, yes and no. Of course lots of projects get funded in a matter of a few hours, however most of those projects are run by established artists who have years of experience, a great idea and a very large and passionate fanbase. You may not have these things yet and that’s okay! Most Kickstarters, even those featured on the Kickstarter spotlight, usually aren’t funded in a matter of hours. Every Kickstarter is different, and as long as you make your funding goal you’re gonna be making comics!
After the first day backing rates drop off
One of the most common Kickstarter tips is the first day is SUPER important, but they never really explain why. The best you get is something akin to funding is a thing, and the first push is your chance to shine. This is true, but there’s more to it than coming onto the scene looking flashy. The real reason that first push is important is because those donations begin to drop off after the first day. On day one of the Kamikaze Kickstarter we had friends, family and established fans donating right away, but the next day our backer rate took a nosedive. Our first circle of supporters had already donated and our sudden success seemed to peter out to a trickle. We quickly learned this was totally normal. Don’t panic. The real reason you want the first push to go well? If you can get your project a good head start you have a shorter distance to go in the long run.
Don’t bog potential backers down with too much information
It can be really hard to boil down you big sweeping vision your comic into something simple and short. That’s half the reason commercial ad writers get paid so much, they know how to create compelling stories with layered nuance in less than a minute. We really had to cut out a lot of our written description and work for the Kamikaze Kickstarter. There was so much that we wanted to tell everyone, but we didn’t have the space and test readers didn’t have the patience. Short, simple and to the point is what we had to go with. Our team decided to use images to get across what we needed. Images are worth a 1000 words and make your page more interesting to look at!
Plateaus are a thing
Ask any kickstarter campaign how often they checked on their project and they will tell you something to the effect of “quite often.” If they don’t they’re lying. When we began our campaign it was really satisfying to watch that number go up, but as days passed, especially over weekends, the rate of backers per day went down. Some days you may have only one or two backers. This is what our team began calling a plateau, or a period of time when you seem to be stuck at only getting a few precious backers. The worst part is that plateaus can last for days. The best way to avoid the dreaded extended plateau is by working the media angle. Get reviews, write guest blog posts, share your experiences on your blog, get engaged in conversations on twitter, see if a podcast is willing to talk with you. We found when we engaged others about our project our backer numbers got a nice boost!
Media outlets aren’t your personal army
Letting websites, blogs and podcasts know that you exist is a great way to get more buzz for your comics Kickstarter. When we started our campaign our list was long and featured targeted sites from the very small to the well known. We blasted out press releases, sent personal emails to targeted people and put our best foot forward. Not everyone got back to us. In fact, most people on our list never responded,and that’s okay! It’s easy to think they hate you or they’re rude, but that’s just not the case. Each person or site has their own needs and perspectives. Someone may have run a story about another comic and didn’t want to overcrowd their readership. Others may have new policies in place, or simply have so much in their inbox that they don’t get to you in time. It’s best not to take the silence personally and to focus all your efforts on those who DO get back to you! The people who want to talk with you are going to get you further than those too busy to respond.
The spam struggle is real
On the second day of our Kickstarter an email showed up in our inbox. It was titled something like, “Concerning your Kickstarter and The Huffington Post.” My heart lept into my throat! I clicked the email fully expecting my dreams of being featured on such a large site realized…and then reality came crashing down! No, it was a guy who was selling his ‘marketing expertise’ to the order of several hundred dollars. It skeezy, it’s predatory, and it’s really frustrating to weed the legit messages from the spam. They won’t just do this in your email, they’ll do it on your campaign page too. They promise the world or promote a $1 to $1 backing scam, we even got solicitations from a lawyer looking to help us “get legal.” Be aware. Be mindful. Be careful. Know you don’t have to respond to these predatory messages if you don’t want to. If all else fails, the Kickstarter community is always there to help and answer questions!
You’re going to produce a lot of extra content
Creating comics is a lot of work, and running a webcomic alongside your Kickstarter means adding a whole knew heap of work to your plate. No lyin’, it’s tough. When our Kickstarter launched we thought everything was totally done. Just chill and watch the the backers come in right? Nooooope. Images are so important to your campaign, especially on social media! We created new images to celebrate milestones, inform backers, and engage new readers. We wrote blog posts, typed up responses to interviews, updated our facebook and twitter answering questions and celebrating our successes with fans. On top of all that we’ve had to keep up with our weekly updates too. It’s been more work than we anticipated, but it’s been worth it! Make sure you leave time in your schedule to create the additional content you’ll need for your campaign!
Social interaction is just as important as social media
It’s okay to step away from your computer. It’s okay to put your phone down. In fact, that’s one of the best things we did for the Kamikaze Kickstarter. When we began our campaign it was so easy to get caught up in the digital trenches, but we made an effort to remember there were people immediately around us too. During the campaign we packed up our convention supplies and headed to MomoCon where we spent time talking one on one with attendees, promoting our work and our kickstarter. It was easily the best thing we did. The day after the convention was over we’d made our goal with two weeks to spare by simply talking to people! Small networking events or even catching up with old friends is a great way to get some down time, enjoy yourself, and remind folks that you’re making a cool comic on Kickstarter!
It’s easy to freak yourself out
Kickstarter anxiety is real. It’s hard to wake up in the morning to find no one’s backed the project. There were days we only had two precious backers, and we worried if our Kickstarter would get funded. How could we be successful on only two backers a day? We had a habit of going to Kicktraq and checking our stats, worrying over every detail. Then MomoCon happened and we stopped caring about the numbers and started caring about making friends. Our anxiety levels dropped and by the end of the con weekend we’d made our goal and taken time to have fun! If you find yourself getting bogged down by anxiety or fear of failure it’s time to close the laptop. Call a friend, take the dog for a walk, exercise or go on a date with someone special. Unchecked anxiety can be dangerous and self care is the only cure!
The world of crowdfunding is ever shifting. You’re never in the same place twice. What worked for one campaign might not work for yours. These are just a few of the things we’ve learned and I hope they help you.
If you’d like to support my team head over to our Kickstarter by 8pm on June 12th and grab a copy of Kamikaze: Volume 1. Alternatively, head to our website KamikazeComic.com and enjoy the entire story for free there! If you have any questions send them to us on twitter at @KamikazeComic!
About the Author
By day Carrie Tupper is the lead writer and ink/paint artist behind the webcomic Kamikaze. Carrie is a khaleesi of corgis, feared wherever books are sold, and enjoys the company of animals, geeks and artists equally. Feel free to send questions, comments or adorable animal pictures to her on Twitter.