Kickstarter Lesson #1: Starting and Submitting Your Project Page

19 December 2012 | 62 Comments

Update 6/3/2014: Most of this entry is still true, but Kickstarter has also rolled out a “Launch Now” feature that allows most projects to launch whenever you’re ready (instead of waiting for approval). In this notice, Kickstarter says their metric for determining if a project is eligible for launch now is based on “the project’s description, rewards, funding goal, and whether the creator has previously launched a project.”

Update 11/2/2015: I’ve found that Kickstarter took about 2-3 days to approve my Scythe Kickstarter project a few months ago. I’m noting this because (a) it was my 8th project, but Kickstarter’s algorithm still decided they needed to review it first and (b) they reviewed and approved it pretty quickly, but not instantly.

Update 7/16/2016: Kickstarter now has an extensive blog post about exactly how the submission process works.

***

Okay, so you have your passion project in the works. You’ve shared it with people, tested it, solicited some quality art and graphic design. You’ve researched other related Kickstarter campaigns. You’ve corresponded with your manufacturer so you know what you can make, how many you need to make, and what you can add onto the product to make it extra special. You’ve read all of Kickstarter’s rules and guidelines.

You have a rough idea of when you want to launch your Kickstarter campaign, but you’re not exactly sure when all the various pieces will come together. You haven’t even finished editing the video. So should you wait until you have everything together to start working on your project page?

Absolutely not. Make the roughest possible version of the project page and submit it to Kickstarter for approval today.

Why should you do this? Well, let’s assume you don’t take this advice. You agonize over every detail of your project page (as you should at some point, just not now), and you pick the perfect day to launch (I’ll talk about that in Lesson 2). You add your final reward level and submit the project to Kickstarter.

Then you wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Not that Kickstarter is particularly slow–2-5 days isn’t a long time to wait for approval. But by that point when you’re mentally prepared to launch, those 2-5 days can feel like eternity. 

Here’s first dirty little secret about getting approval for and launching a Kickstarter project page: They are two separate steps. After Kickstarter approves your project, you still have to click “launch” to launch your project.

Here’s the second dirty little secret: Kickstarter doesn’t seem to care at all about when you launch the project after they approve it. You could sit on a project for months after approval if you wanted to. During that time you can privately share the project page in preview mode to get feedback about it.

Here’s the third: Not only can you edit your project while you’re waiting for approval, but you can completely revamp it afterwards too. All you really need to submit it for approval is a rough framework that shows them what the project is about and the type of rewards you’re offering.

Here’s the fourth (and last): Kickstarter only gives your project a cursory look to make sure it meets their guidelines. They retain the right to discover new elements of your project after you’ve launched, and potentially use that new information to temporarily shut down your project.

This actually happened to me. I had a reward level that allowed for 16 people to participate in a Viticulture tournament with a cash prize. I thought it would be okay, but it was red-flagged within hours of launch. My project page remained live, but Kickstarter removed it from their “Recently Launched” page for a little bit until I fixed it. The point is that they don’t read every word of every project–they rely on the wisdom of crowds to discover various issues.

Conclusion: If you think you’ll launch a Kickstarter project in the next month or so, spend one hour creating your project page today and submit it for approval. Then you’ll have plenty of time to perfect it, and when the day comes that you’re ready to launch, you can rest assured that your project will launch instantly (actually, I think that Kickstarter prompts you with a dialogue box that says, “Are you sure you want to launch?” After that it’s officially launched.)

Anything to add, fellow Kickstarter creators?

Up Next: Kickstarter Lesson #2: Back Other Projects

62 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #1: Starting and Submitting Your Project Page

  1. Thank you so much for this! I’m on the verge of launching a project and have wanted to submit it for approval, but was afraid I couldn’t make changes to the project, video, etc. after approval. I’ve searched the Kickstarter web page for this info and didn’t find anything. I knew I could launch whenever I wanted after approval, but that was only because I was at an event with one of the Kickstarter founders and specifically asked that question. I’ll be reading the rest of your blog for sure! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hey Eric, thanks for your comment. I’m glad this entry was helpful for you–I tried to make it clear since I found it difficult to find that information when I was preparing to launch Viticulture. You can actually continue to update and change anything on your project (except for reward levels once at least one person has backed any particular level) up until the second that your project ends.

  2. Thanks, Jamey, for all of your hard work and advice! I’m now reading your tips for the 4th time before we launch our book series project (again). :)

    Becky from Jack’s Back Books

  3. I’m reading this trying to get rid of the post-submission jitters! It’s been about 32 hours since I submitted my kickstarter project and it’s awful, just sitting and waiting, fearing the worse! Now it’s the weekend and I’m wondering does the approval staff work weekends? Argggg, the waiting…

    1. Dale–I would assume that you’re not going to hear anything until Monday or Tuesday. That’s why you need to submit the project page well before you want to launch. :)

    1. Kevin–You can submit without a video. It’s possible that if your project page doesn’t look finished enough, you’ll have to wait for final approval, but you’ll be at the top of the queue.

  4. There’s also a cool tool to help build momentum during this waiting period called Prefundia (http://prefundia.com/ ).

    It’s designed to help you gather up email addresses while you prepare everything so that you can email a hoard of people when you do launch and blow up your project day 1. Pretty cool.

    1. Eugenia–Kickstarter’s guidelines state, “Before you can submit your project to us you must setup your project to receive funds. The setup process, which includes bank account and identity verification, can take just a couple days for some and up to a week for others. If there are complications or discrepancies with your account (this is rare), it could take longer. Budget your time and plan ahead.”

    2. Eugenia, you do need the account set up before submitting for approval. Sometimes it can take 20 minutes, other times it takes 4 weeks, depending on how fluidly the identity verification goes. It helps to use a bank account from a large bank (Chase, Wells Fargo, etc.) because then you can give Amazon your bank login credentials and verification is instantaneous.

    1. mikeydubz–Yep, you can change anything about your project while it’s under review and afterwards (right up until when you launch).

    1. Walter–This might have changed since my last Kickstarter in June, but there isn’t an actual edit button. If you’re logged into your account, there should be tabs at the top of the page that let you change the basics or the project page or the reward levels, etc. Any text on those pages can be edited.

  5. You are so right about this. This will be the third business day and it’s driving me to drink and eats alot of sweets, Perfection is impossible – should have followed your advice!

  6. We’re currently trying to get our Kickstarter project through the approval process, it’s a tech project so they say 5 days to a week for approval. It took a week before we got the first response after doing some chasing. They made some valid points which we corrected and then made some more hoops (which weren’t in the guidelines) to jump through. Its now a week 1/2 and still not approved. It takes about 2 days on average to get a response.

    So some pointers from our experience to add to the above:
    – Don’t rely on the fact that your project is pretty well the same as someone else’s already approved project and it will get through. The rules change quickly and may not be stated in the published guidelines.
    – Interpretation of the rules seem to depend on who you get approving your project, I wonder if there’s some internal Kickstarter effort to vet which projects are ‘cool’ enough for kickstarter, just a hunch tho.
    – Be patient, submit EARLY and you’ll get there, (hopefully!)

    Kickstarter still rocks, you just gotta roll with them.

  7. Do you know if Kickstarter re-queues your project to the back of the queue if you edit your project before approval? And if you then edit after approval does it then go for re-evaluation and further waiting? First time Kickstarter here and just submitted yesterday.

  8. wow – thanks for the fantastically fast answer Jamey! I only came here by Googling my question. I see I now have to do a lot of reading. What a great resource. Many thanks!

  9. Jamey – do you review KS projects? I am at that nail-biting waiting stage after submitting my first project, and only have feedback from people who know me. (My project is just a poster. A very good poster, I think. But nowhere as elaborate and complex a product as one of your games.)

  10. Boy do I wish I’d seen your post BEFORE I submitted my project to approval with Kickstarter! Now I’m in that horrible place you referred to…the one where I’m ready to roll and the clock is ticking slowly by while I sit and wait for approval!!! Lesson learned!!! I was also really happy to see that the edit process doesn’t change your placement in the queue…after (nervously) tweaking my project all day Saturday, it dawned on me somewhere around 4am Sunday (yep, bolt upright in bed) that I may have chewed off my own foot. Glad to hear that’s not the case!

    Thanks so much for providing such a valuable resource & community here Jamey! I’m going to go look up your kickstarter project, please watch for mine: BEKK Blanklets

    Many thanks! Barb

  11. We just submitted our Kickstarter page today for a hardware wearable project called the Halo. I’ll keep people posted on when we hear back from them.

  12. I wish I’d read this 2 weeks ago! I just spend the last 2 weeks, as you said, agonizing over every details, getting feedback, editing and editing and editing.. had April 30th in mind for launching so submitted it 3 days beforehand and I know its only the 2nd of May.. but still nothing!!!! It has been a painful wait, my kickstarter excite bubble has been burst and I now have to change my damn timeline. At least I know for the future!

    1. Jack: Thanks for asking about this. There are a lot of factors at play here, perhaps the biggest being that you’re asking for outside feedback on your project after you’ve already launched! :) I’d recommend running the project for another week and then cancel it if you haven’t raised more than $5,000. Then read every one of my Kickstarter Lessons, back some more projects (you’ve only backed 2!), get better sample art, create a very basic working demo so people know you have the ability to make a game, then share your project preview page well before launching here (https://www.facebook.com/groups/KickstarterBestPractices/) to get feedback. Good luck!

      1. Just so you know there is a working demo but its become clear that I need to make the link easier to find (its at the bottom of the taste test portion) I most likely will have to begin again and I have read almost all of the lessons I suppose I need to revisit them. Even with my lackluster result you have been very helpful and I thank you for your response!

        1. Jack: Ah yes, I see the link now. It’s buried in a wall of text. :) (read my KS lesson about the Anatomy of a Project Page). Definitely feature that much higher on the page.

          1. One more question, I am not sure if you have already answered this in your lessons but what is your opinion on outside promotional services such as Quicker Venture? Are they valid or worth the cost?

  13. I completely agree with you thanks. I have followed your posts for almost a year now and all the information has really helped. The fact that you stay active with your community on here so much is impressive. Thank you for your help!

  14. This is a great post (and a tremendously helpful blog). Does anyone know what you can/cannot change on your project between the time you seek approval and your launch? Goal? Rewards? Etc. Can you still change the video (i.e. put up a temp video to get the project approved and then change it out for a better video before the project goes live without having to get it re-approved?)

    1. Jeremy: Thanks for your question. You can change anything and everything during the time you seek approval and your launch–you have complete freedom. Obviously if you add something that goes against KS guidelines, either Kickstarter will catch it or a backer will. :)

  15. I am trying to start a new project but it is not letting me upload a picture. I have tried every thing I could think of. I have tried adjusting the sizes of width and length and it still doesn’t upload. It stays at 0% and then I cancel the upload and it says error with uploading the picture. I don’t understand what it is I should do. I have tried everything I thought of. I sent them a question form thing and they responded saying they were busy at the time. Please help. Thank you.

    1. Brenda: I’m sorry to hear you’ve had trouble with the mail project image. Is the file one of the files Kickstarter lists as compatible? Also, one mistake I’ve made is clicking on the “upload a picture” button and trying to upload my project video instead. I doubt that’s it, but it’s worth a mention just in case.

  16. I have been agonizing over the fact we can’t finish our video now until our prototype comes in, and that puts our backs up against the wall and I thought we would have to push our release date due to not having enough time for approval. BUT, I could technically submit my project now, without a video at all, get my approval, then put up my video the day before we “launch”? Is this correct? Cause you may have just saved me from respiratory failure as I have already sent out all our press release stating our launch date before I found out our prototype was taking longer.

      1. This is amazing. Why don’t they say this? I even sent them an email telling them my problem to ask for a fast review, and all they said is “we can’t review projects any faster than stated”. They could have easily told me this. So odd…?

  17. What helpful insights! I wonder if this is still the case in November 2015. Their website says “allow up to 3 days for review”. I wonder if their process has been refined over the years. Does anyone know? TIA :)

  18. Hi Jamey,

    Please make a very visible edit to this post because it is very misleading. These days, Kickstarter only gives you 2 chances to get your project approved. If it’s denied the first time, you only get one more chance to make an appeal, and then your project is over. I read your post thinking the approval process was super lax so I didn’t put much effort into it and it was obviously rejected. Now I am stressed haha.

    1. Actually, I looked over the post, and I’m not sure what you’re referring to. What exactly is “very misleading”? I don’t see a place where it indicates that you shouldn’t care about putting effort into making revisions to your project upon rejection.

  19. Hi Jamey
    I have not yet established concrete production costs, however, I know my intended reward level and stretch goal structure, can I include these in my pre-submitted project preview page with a minimal value (detailing in the description that actual value t.b.c.) and edit these values once known prior to submission ?
    Ever grateful

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