Archive for the ‘Crowdfunding’ Category

Using Story to Drive Your Kickstarter

Everyone loves a good story. We want to meet the underdog and root for them. We long to face the crisis and see it overcome. We yearn to take the adventurous journey with the characters. We love to get inside their hearts and heads and live vicariously through them.

The good news is if you’re thinking of starting a Kickstarter project, you are probably an artist and artists know story. That is what we do. Whether through visual art, or dance, or music, or film or word, our job is to tell a compelling story. And if you know how to tell a good story then you already have the key to making your Kickstarter project a success. Wait, you say, I thought this was about making money so I could tell my story. Yes, and no. In order to get that money, you have to tell a story within a story. You have to tell the story about how and why you want to tell a story.

Many people go into their Kickstarter project thinking of it as a business venture, and this is a mistake. You might have noticed that people are not really thrilled with the world of business at the moment. People scanning Kickstarter are not looking for slick videos, professional production, and commercial savvy. They are looking for a story. Something they can feel passionate about. Something human and real and personal they can connect to.

So, what is the best way to tell your Kickstarter story?

First, know your audience. Who are your backers? Who is your audience in real life? Have you built a fan base already by doing good work? The people in your social networks, your family, your friends, and your friend’s friends—the people who are already committed to your work—these are the people most interested in your story. For a typical Kickstarter project most of the money comes from people you know or people who know you. Craft your project for that audience, not some faceless mass of backers.

Second, tell your story in three ways.

1)     Your Project Video. Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter says, “If you don’t have a video on your project, you are making a big mistake. We see a lot of faces and people telling their stories on Kickstarter videos. Our videos have taken on the format of the anti-commercial. While they are clearly a commercial for an idea or project, it is a commercial being made by an actual person and they show their discomfort with that, their discomfort with selling, so they leave in all the false takes and awkward moments just to show who they really are. Videos are extremely powerful.”

2)     Rewards. The purpose of rewards is to invite people to participate in your creative project, not just give to it. The process of backing you and receiving rewards makes your story an interactive one, like those old choose-your-own adventure books. People know they are going to get something tangible for backing you, and not just something tangible, something that is a memento of their involvement in your creative process. Rewards should help tell your story and the story of your project. Examples of good rewards include; a copy of the end product or result, tokens from the creative process, products that identify the backer (like a t-shirt or poster from the project), special access to the creative process, one-of-a-kind experiences, acts of participating in the creation or interacting with the creator directly like dinner with the author or a day on the set of a film.

3)     The Project Narrative. In this area, there are three distinct narratives.

 1.     The Back Story. How did your project get to Kickstarter? What has your journey been so far? Why are you so passionate about this project? How long have you been fighting to get it made? What have you invested already? What is at stake? How will it change your life to fulfill your project? For your backstory it is best to leave out the Powerpoint and professional perfectionism and just speak from your heart.

2.     The Funding Narrative. Once someone has clicked the button to back you based on your compelling backstory, a new narrative begins for them (and you). Will your project make it, or won’t it? Will the story have a happy ending, or a tragic one? There is a game show element to Kickstarter that is kind of exciting for your backers to follow along with. They will keep checking back in to see if what they have invested in will come to fruition. This is a fantastic moment to focus on your project, an excuse to tell people about it in frequent updates and keep that funding narrative going.

3.     The Creative Narrative.  Kickstarter is a way to invite people in to how art is made. Usually, the process of creation is done in solitude, not in public. We write at a desk in our office. We paint in a quiet, sunlit, studio. We practice the dance or the play without an audience until it is ready for public consumption. But with Kickstarter, we invite people into the story of creation. What are the steps to writing a book or making a film? What does the creator feel and do at each step along the way? What are the important milestones, the bumps in the road? How does creativity work?  Perhaps someone who backs you can’t paint (though they wish they could). Now, through you, they get to be part of creating a painting. Don’t stiff them participation in all aspects of your work. Let them into your story.

If you tell a good story, they will come. If you tell a compelling Kickstarter story, you will get backers. The good news is, you already know how to tell a story. Now go out there and do it. And good luck.

Enjoyed this article? Be sure to check out the rest of my Kickstarter series by reading Keeping the Charity out of Kickstarter and 8 Reasons I Didn’t Back Your Kickstarter.

Keeping the Charity out of Kickstarter

While Googling Kickstarter recently, I stumbled across a blog post that sported the title, “Is Kickstarter Evil?” Now that is a very provocative question, so I skipped off and read the article (well, honestly, I skimmed it because it wasn’t as provocative as it sounded) and the gist was about how Kickstarter doesn’t allow charities. The question being debated was (loosely paraphrased here), “Isn’t it evil to be giving millions of dollars to art when there are starving children in Africa?”

My first thought was, “Well, when you say it like that…” And my second thought was, “No, making art and asking our society to support those who make it isn’t evil. How did art and eleviating human suffering become mutually exclusive objectives in the world?”

And then I remembered an awesome video I’d watched on Youtube with Kickstarter creator Yancey Strickler. The video is a presentation he gave at the Sheffiield Doc Fest in England in 2011 and is over an hour long, but has some great stuff in it.

Apparently, Yancey gets that question about evil and suffering and art and charity a lot, because he addressed it in the video, and I couldn’t say it better than he does. Here is what Yancey says:

“People ask why we don’t allow charities or projects that do actual good in the world, versus just creating art, though I would argue that art does actual good in the world. Well, let’s say we started allowing charities on Kickstarter and your project is trying to save Haiti, and my project is trying to write a book of poetry. If my project and your project sit side by side on the same platform, you make me look like an asshole without even trying.”

Yes, this is a brilliantly said and poignantly true. He goes on to say:

“Charity has a way of framing things in purely moral terms that art does not stand up well against. So, rather than force people to negotiate that guilt in their minds, to ask ‘How can I help this indie rock band when there are starving children in the world?’ we decided just to make it about art.”

Kickstarter is a space dedicated soley to championing creativity, and I have to say I consider that the opposite of evil.

Finally, Yancey says, “We wanted to create a place where artists didn’t have to be afraid of being frivolous or silly because it’s all that, really, to some degree.”

Art frivolous? And silly? Maybe. And wonderful? Yes. And deeply important to the human spirit. Certainly all that and more.

I, for one, am refreshed to have all the religious and humanitarian guilt banned from Kickstarter.

Uncharitable of me, I know, but a mite better than looking like an asshole for writing poetry.

What are your thoughts on Kickstarter and the crowdfunding movement? Do you think it is a threat to charity, or an expansion of what charity can do and look like?

Read my other post in my Kickstarter Series: 8 Reasons I Didn’t Back Your Kickstarter.


8 Reasons I Didn’t Back Your Kickstarter

Did you recently run a Kickstarter Project that failed? Well, fifty-six percent of them do. Are you thinking of running one soon? Then don’t make these mistakes that have sunk many a project (or at least made me scroll quickly to the next one)

1. You didn’t tell anyone what you were doing.

21% of failing projects never get a single pledge. If you can’t get your mom to back your project, it is just not going to happen. Letting people know what you are doing is on you. You have to tell them. Too shy to put it out there or promote yourself? Well, if you don’t have confidence in yourself or your project, why should I?

2. You have no idea what you’re doing.

So, you woke up this morning and decided to become a documentary film maker (dancer, painter, novelist- fill in the blank) and you want me to back your first project. Most backers want to see some kind of proof of success or track record before they will back something. Almost everyone in the world I’ve ever met wants to write a novel or make a film, but I’m only going to give money to someone I think can and will actually do it.

3. You didn’t have a video, or if you did, it sucked.

Kickstarter is heavily driven by video. It is the best way for you to connect personally with your backers and audience. Not having a video is a serious mistake. Having a video WITHOUT your face and voice telling your story about your project is only slightly better. People looking to back projects want a personal connection with the creator. Don’t be afraid to make a video with personality, and mistakes, and a raw, real element to it.  The Kickstarter video  is not a commercial for a product, it is an anti-commercial about the person and story behind a creative process.

4. Your project description was sloppy or showed little effort.

You wanted me to fund your book, but your Kickstarter page had misspellings, grammar mistakes and typos all over it. Even if your project isn’t writing-related, you should have someone (probably several someone’s) with language skills check and edit all your Kickstarter content. I’m guessing if your Kickstarter description is sloppy, your project product will be too, and I don’t want to pay for sloppy work.

5. Your “creative” project looks like an excuse for something else.

I’m not completely convinced you need to travel to the depths of the Amazon jungle to write your YA novel.

I’m glad you have a tea company or a lamp company or a shoe company, but how is that an artistic project? Aren’t you just trying to sell me something you’ve already made. A lot of.

I’m glad God told you to do this project and that it would succeed, and the fact that you are using it  to proselytize your religious beliefs is just a handy added bonus and all, but no, not really. I’m not glad about any of that.

6. Your project was a zombie film.

This might have been done before.

7. You had lame rewards.

Good Karma- not a good reward.

Being put on a giant list of names in the back of your e-book- who cares?

You’re traveling around the world and all I get is a homemade postcard?

Come on, people. You can’t get something for nothing, even on Kickstarter.

8. You are already exceedingly rich and famous.

Not going to name any names here, but you know who you are. Don’t worry. I may not back you for this reason, but a hell of a lot of other people will, so you should be fine.

*Stay tuned for a series of Kickstarter posts because, damn, that thing is fascinating.*

Update: READ Keeping the Charity Out of Kickstarter.


Ripley Patton lives in a 22-foot camper in the woods of Southern Illinois with a cat named Lemmy. Her two young adult children, a daughter and a son, are her favorite people. When Ripley's not out exploring nature and getting her hands dirty, she's usually reading or writing a book.

Want updates on The PSS Chronicles? Subscribe to my mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format
Get your e-book signed by Ripley Patton