At the recent GeekGirlCon in Seattle, I attended a panel on Kickstarter. The panelists were Tristan J. Tarwater and Caytlin Vilbrant. Tristan has done several Kickstarters for her fantasy novel series, and Caytlin is a comic artist who has also done multiple Kickstarters.
INDIEGOGO VERSUS KICKSTARTER
The first thing the panelists discussed was the difference between Indiegogo and Kickstarter. While Indiegogo is open to international projects, for Kickstarter you must be located in the US to run a project. Internationals can back a KS project, they just can’t create one. Indiegogo also does not use the “all of nothing” backing method that Kickstarter does. With Indiegogo, you get whatever funds you raise regardless of your initial goal. Indiegogo allows charity or “fund your life” projects, whereas Kickstarter only allows projects that result in a creative outcome or product. However, Indiegogo does take a larger cut of the funds raised (7% plus 3-5% Amazon charges) whereas Kickstarter only charges 5% plus the 3-5% Amazon charges. In the end, both panelists chose Kickstarter based on its lower fees and its popularity as it is currently the number one crowdfunding website in the world with approximately 6 million hits a day. Less cost and more exposure is hard to argue with.
GAUGING YOUR AUDIENCE
In order to run a successful Kickstarter project, it is crucial to have an existing audience or clientele for your creative project. Unless you are already a well-known artist, your first project will primarily be backed by friends, family, and people who are already aware of your art. It is a good idea to sit down BEFORE you create your project and make a list of your potential backers. Include family, friends, co-workers, acquaintances, Facebook friends, and anyone who has shown a previous interest in your work. This list will guide you as you promote your project before and once it starts. Be aware that only about 10-20% of those on your list will actually fund you.
GAUGING YOUR FUNDING GOAL
With Kickstarter, setting a realistic funding goal is important because if you don’t make your goal, you don’t get anything. It is better to set a lower goal and overfund, than a higher goal and get nothing. However, it is best to look at your project and estimate the costs involved to make it. Don’t forget to calculate in the fees mentioned above, production and shipping of any rewards, and taxes on your Kickstarter income.
CREATING THE PROJECT
Suggestions the panelists offered about creating your project.
1) Make sure you have a video.
2) Break up your text with visuals. Include mock-ups of the product and rewards, art work, and heading borders.
3) Don’t have too many reward tiers, but make sure you hit the most popular level- $25, and have a variety, including $5 for those who just want to test the KS waters.
4) Involve other creative friends and artists in your project. This gives you more options for rewards, broadens your backer base, and helps support your fellow artists by including their work and links to it.
5) It is good to create a short press release with a blurb and visuals and send it out to appropriate blogs, websites and media outlets before you start your project.
6) Be sure to use the update feature to keep the project current and your backers excited.
THE DOWNSIDE OF OVERFUNDING
In many cases, Kickstarter projects overfund, meaning they meet their goal and then go beyond it. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is good, because it means you have more money to make your project better. It is a curse because it puts pressure on you to offer bigger and better stretch goal and rewards. The more backers give, the more you can produce, but creating extra rewards takes time and effort and may delay your original delivery estimate. Be careful when choosing stretch rewards. Both Tristan and Caytlin suggested making your stretch rewards digital (perhaps an e-version or an mp3) so they are much easier to produce and cost no extra shipping.
FUNDING THROUGH AMAZON
One thing the panelists talked about briefly is the fact that Kickstarter processes all its pledges through Amazon, and only Amazon. Your pledge is linked to your Amazon account (or one you create, if you don’t have one yet), and a hold is put on your credit card, but you are not actually charged until the project makes its goal. If it doesn’t make it, you are never charged.
During my Kickstarter project some people have asked about this and wondered why Kickstarter doesn’t use PayPal or other forms of payment. The reason Kickstarter doesn’t use PayPal is because PayPal requires the delivery of goods within 30 days or the purchaser can demand a full refund. Obviously, this doesn’t work for a Kickstarter where the project often is not finished in 30 days, and one would not suddenly want to see one’s funding pulled from the project 30 days into the process.
As the creator, after your Kickstarter ends you will be exhausted. Running a KS project is similar to running a marathon, and after you cross the finish line you may wonder what possessed you to do it in the first place. And you may be sure you will never do it again. The good news is, just like marathon running, there is something addictive about Kickstarter. You will probably find yourself, sometime in the future, contemplating running another project. And then the question arises,”Are your backers weary?” Have they been tapped out or have you burst the giving bubble. The answer might surprise you.
Caytlin Vilbrandt actually pollled her previous backers to see if they were tired of her asking for money through Kickstarter, or if they would rather she fund her project some other way. They almost unanimously responded, “Do another Kickstarter.” You see, Kickstarter is not just addictive to those who create projects. It is also addictive to those who back them.
Another surprising statistic that both Caytlin and Tristan shared was that on their first KS, their backers were primarily people they knew or who already knew them. The figure they gave was over 50%. But on their second and subsequent projects, the people they knew comprised only about 5% of their backing. The rest came from people they didn’t know. This shows that Kickstarter is a viable promotional tool. It actively broadens your fan base and artistic audience. It also shows that backer fatigue may exist, but it doesn’t really matter. Your second and third project are going to tap into a new demographic of people who haven’t backed you yet. And it also shows that the more you utilize KS, the better you get at it, and the more credibility you build in the KS community. People can see that you’ve had a previous project succeed and you delivered the goods.
Thank you to Tristan and Caytlin for sharing your KS wisdom, and for letting me hand out my Ghost Hand Kickstarter cards.
Ripley Patton lives in Portland, Oregon with one cat, two teenagers, and a man who wants to live on a boat. She is an award-winning short story writer and author of The PSS Chronicles, a YA paranormal thriller series.