So in today's post I'm going to talk about the Kickstarter campaign I started at the beginning of the month and my general thoughts and reflections on the entire experience. Hopefully if you're considering doing your own Kickstarter campaign then some of these tips may help you with your campaign.web comic for a few months and had a modest audience.This leads me to my first tip.
Tip #1: Have a clear goal
I had started reaching out to comic book stores to stock a few issues of Journey to the Middle Kingdom. I also wanted to have books on hand to sell online. I also wanted to start promoting the comic and to figure out which marketing techniques work and what kind of people would be interested in reading about 3 teenagers and magical calligraphy brushes. With all these goals in mind, I thought doing a Kickstarter campaign would hit all these notes.
Before you start you need to clearly define all your goals, not just the monetary ones. Do you want to expand your readership? Do you want to develop new promotion techniques? Think about this clearly because it will guide where you put your energy.
Tip #2 Prep, prep, prep
The amount of prep work a Kickstarter requires is not obvious. It's not just getting your project page to look snazzy. You need:
- A project video. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
- Images that are share-able on social media.
- Press releases.
- A list of influencers: people who have podcasts or blogs that you can reach out to.
- Local events you can participate in.
I kept information in an Excel spread sheet and would have it available as a Google Doc so whenever an idea popped into my head I could easily add to the list. I also had to scour Twitter and the Google Webs to try and find who to reach out to. Always remind yourself that there is NO deadline for you to get started. The best day to launch is the day you're ready. I had all emails, images, everything ready to go for after I pressed the launch button.
Tip #3 You better know your budget
I reached out to 5 different printers and talked with some local comic book store owners to talk about how they handle sending comics to their customers. I didn't know about comic mailers, boarding and backing, and how much shipping cost, but I learned fast. You need to know every detail of your costs. Get a clear quote from the printer and order a proof to make sure you like the look and feel of the final product. Budget for shipping, but also budget for the materials needed to ship everything out. What about advertising? I set a maximum limit I would spend on advertising because I figure new things would pop up and I didn't want to have to pass them up because I hadn't initially budgeted for them.
After you budget you can plan your reward tiers accordingly. For me, my main idea was to make everything affordable. After all, I am a new writer for a new product that doesn't have a track record. Few people are likely to pay $20-25 for a comic that no one knows anything about. Budgeting helped me get a target of $10 for the print version which I figured newcomers might shell out for an indie comic.
I also figured out shipping to Europe and general international shipping so those costs wouldn't sneak up on me. There are plenty of websites that help you estimate shipping costs, but nothing beats going down to the post office with the actual comic in hand, weighing it, and knowing the exact cost.
Tip #4 Your Comic Isn't For Everyone
As a creator you have a special relationship to your own work. You put your blood, sweat and tears into it. You saw it come into reality from the ether. The thing is, if you were to simultaneously show your comic to every human being on Earth, a huge chunk would not be interested. This is normal. There are few things that are universal, like bacon. This is tough for newcomers because you don't have a group of dedicated readers, but thinking about other things people might be interested is a way to narrow down your audience. And you need to do this, because your energy needs to be focused so you're getting the most return for your time.
Tip #5 Get Used To The Idea of Promoting Yourself
I am a highly introverted person. Promotion doesn't come naturally to me. I hate to think I'm being annoying or overly aggressive about an idea that other people may or may not be interested in. But at the end of the day, no one is going to know what you're doing unless you tell them. Yes, in our current media climate people are inundated with ads for stuff they don't need, with a huge choice of entertainment media delivered to them across dozens of services. There's a ton of noise out there. That doesn't mean you will be ignored and it doesn't mean your work won't be a hit. You need to practice your elevator pitch, your interviewing skills, and your technique to connect with people and the only way you're going to do that is by well, doing it. Also, you'd be surprised at who really supports your idea and can help move you along.
Tip #6 Execute On Day 1
First off, the first 24-48 hours of your Kickstarter are crucial. You've heard that one before. But it's true. People like to back a winner. Part of the fun is to feel the momentum as people are pledging and it gets closer and closer to the goal. It's why people love when a team wins in the last minute in basketball, when one of the players makes a throw from half court with only a few seconds left and hits it. The crowd goes wild. It's the same thing with crowdfunding; there has to be an element of fun and adventure.
I had developed a modest mailing list. I sent an email out around 2-3 weeks before the campaign was live to share my preview page. I wanted people to sign up to be alerted when the campaign went live. This would give me a barometer as to how interested people were. I joined Twitter months before, despite the fact I'm not a huge personal fan of the platform, to try and start building an audience. I already had a Facebook page, and an Instagram account. I printed out flyers to hand out to local game shops, with snazzy QR codes, because I figured people who enjoyed RPGs and board games might also enjoy fantasy and fairy tales. I reached out to friends and family individually.
So when Day 1 of the campaign came, I had already prepped my potential audience that the campaign was coming, and gave them a taste of the cool things they'd get for backing it. It worked, because we hit 85% of our funding goal by the end of day 1, and also got "Project We Love" status on Kickstarter.Tip #7 Cross Promote
Tip #8 You Are Going To Make Mistakes. Get Over It.
Launch day probably won't go perfectly. You'll forget something. You'll overlook a detail. You may not hear back from people you reached out to. Your press releases may sit in the dark recesses of someone's Outlook. Your sentences may not be worded with just the right amount of pizazz to win over that reviewer. You are not perfect. You are not a robot.
These are just some of my thoughts that have been whirling around in my mind as the campaign comes to a close. I plan on doing another Kickstarter for the second issue once it's complete later on this year. I feel like I'll be even more prepared, with new ideas on how to promote myself and how to connect. The biggest lesson I've received from this entire experience is that building a community is about individually connecting with each and every fan. There is so much big impersonal media out there that people appreciate getting to know a creator and gaining an understanding of their work they would not otherwise get.