Kickstarter Lesson #110: The Shortcut to Kickstarter Success

24 July 2014 | 48 Comments

2014-07-24_1031Spoiler alert: There is no shortcut to Kickstarter success.

There are outliers, sure. Creators who get lucky despite not putting in much work or effort. But don’t count on being lucky–your dream is too important for that.

In fact, most of the projects that appear to be outliers are those where the project creator put in a ton of work before, during, and after the project. They put themselves in the position to get lucky–they formed relationships, they built a fanbase, they risked their own money to get great art and design, and they spent a lot of time during the project engaging backers and building a community.

So why am I writing an entry about shortcuts? Well, the other day I got some feedback from a friend (and soon-to-be project creator) about the massive wall of Kickstarter Lessons on this website. His point made me pause and think about the content I’ve been creating. Here’s what he said:

I think you’ve now hit a point with your information that it is overwhelming and daunting. Links to long articles linking articles works for some, but for others – like me – it is just too much.

He continues with a proposed solution:

Rather than writing MORE and linking MORE. I think you should invest time into a clear starting point for each of your prime ideas (How to do a Kickstarter for example) and then spend the time / effort to create a lightweight / visual presentation to this material. Something welcome, positive, and supportive to engage and dig into your content.

My mission with these Kickstarter Lessons is to be a wealth of detailed information about how to run a Kickstarter campaign in any category. I agree that it’s a lot of information—that’s kind of the point. I want it to be daunting, because all too often people look at Kickstarter and think, “Oh, that’s really easy. I’ll just throw anything up there and make $100k.” I want them to realize at a single glance when they arrive at the Kickstarter Lessons page that this is going to take a lot of work. I think shortcuts are misleading–they convey the wrong message when it comes to Kickstarter.

However, people digest information in different ways. Diagrams are helpful, albeit much more time-consuming for me to make than text. Videos are good too (although whenever I’ve made a video, it takes hours to make and I can’t edit it later, and most people say they prefer the written content). And I do have the Funding the Dream podcasts that complement many of the blog posts.

So I’m a bit torn here. I think it’s good that I’ve created an exhaustive list of Kickstarter Lessons that walk a new project creator through every step of the process. That’s the kind of resource I wish I had when I was creating my first project.

But at the same time, I really like the idea of creating something welcoming, positive, and supportive that encourages people to read more. I think there’s value to that, and it might get a new creator’s foot in the door instead of ignoring them altogether. I just don’t want a new creator to only use the summary material instead of digging deeper. Like I said, there are no shortcuts to Kickstarter success.

I’d love to hear what you think about this concept and if/how I could execute it. I’ve already seen the value of lists on the blog–entries like the The 10 Reasons I’ll Back a Kickstarter Project and The One-Week Checklist seemed to go over really well. I also really enjoyed the post earlier this week in which I mentioned some ideas for Kickstarter campaigns and gauged your response via polls and comments. Would you like to see more posts like those?

Also, keep in mind that while this blog helped to get me a book deal, it is not a source of revenue for me. Spending 45 minutes three times a week writing an entry and a few hours a week replying to comments is one thing, but spending several hours per entry to create videos and diagrams is quite another. I have a publishing company to run! :)

There is no shortcut to Kickstarter success, but I believe that any creator with a compelling story and project can be successful. I’d like this blog to help a creator evolve from the “shortcut” mindset to a confident understanding of the intricacies of running a KS campaign.

48 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #110: The Shortcut to Kickstarter Success

  1. Honestly, I wouldn’t pander to the few who look at your list and see it daunting. Those people probably don’t want to run a Kickstarter anyway as it is exceedingly more daunting than reading a couple hundred blog posts. Whenever I first stumbled on your blog I didn’t think, “Good God. Look at how much I have to read.” I thought, “Awesome. Look at all this valuable information and insight.” I thank you very much for spending your valuable time to teach others based on your experience and mistakes. Also, to put it frank after you have read all the blog posts SUBSCRIBE. I find it much easier to read an email as it comes in rather than having to troll through a website.

    1. I think it’s one of those situations where you need a little of column A and a little of column B. There are folks who love reading technical manuals where they want to know where every nut and bolt goes, and there are others who just want a dummies guide to get a feel for what is really involved. I think you could cater to both with summary articles that are higher level, then reference the detailed articles. You could almost just grab similar groupings and summarize each sub-set, then use the detailed articles as cross-reference articles.

    2. Exactly my thoughts. When I first stumbled upon Jamey’s blogs, rather than feeling intimidated, I felt really lucky to be able to absorb so much invaluable information. His blogs are one huge cheat sheet for the coming exam, your kickstarter campaign. In my opinion, if you feel that the amount of reading here is too much for you, you probably aren’t motivated enough or crowdfunding is simply not for you.

      1. Michael: Thanks for your comment. Your last sentence reflects my sentiment too. I think the only thing I’d like to address (and perhaps I have with the new format) is that initial first impression. I want to make sure the list isn’t so daunting that someone wouldn’t arrive for the first time at the site, see the list, and close the tab, never to return. :)

    3. I agree! I just found this yesterday through a friend and instantly thought “Sweet! Lots of good reading material to help me think through my project idea!” This stuff is gold, and I’m so thankful for all the work that goes into it!

  2. I totally agree that if you don’t have the patience and the drive to get through the massive amount of information here, you probably aren’t going to run a great kickstarter anyway. However, more ways to filter and digest the information would be great. For example, I haven’t found a way to easily go through all of the lessons from 1-end without googling for specific numbers. Some of them link to the next, but some don’t. Also, I understand how busy running a business gets, but have you considered assembling a lot of your amazing KS knowledge and creating a product? I know that many people who aren’t necessarily readers would pay to have the information condensed and put in audio or video format, and it would be another income stream. Anyway, thanks for all you do, looking forward to the book!

    1. Andhegames: Yeah, the best way to read through all the lessons is keep the full lessons list open on one tab and open each lesson in another.

      I do have the book coming out, but that’s more written content. I’ve tried a few videos and I think people preferred the written format. Audio has potential, as long as it’s different than the Funding the Dream podcast.

  3. I think Adam has the right idea. You almost need a Kickstarter lesson flow chart. Something that gives the progression based on the subject. Front page layouts/tips, pledge levels, backer interactions etc.

    1. Lori: The flow chart is intriguing. It’s something I could make in inDesign, but I don’t have the technical know-how to convert it to html. Perhaps there’s a way I can do it in written format (though wouldn’t it end up looking similar to the chronological list I already have?).

  4. Jamey, you are already doing great work. Your KS lessons are a starting point for every first time creator and the whole community owes you for your effort and openness. Since time is your most precious resource as a board games publisher, the simple fact that you keep posting is reason enough for me and perhaps many more to thank you. IMHO, you can keep doing what you’re doing. Unless you start a KS incubator which creates revenue, there’s no reason for you to spen more time and resources making videos or charts.

    1. @Andrei: I’m sorry, I missed your comment before, but I wanted to thank you for your thoughts. The KS incubator is actually something I’ve thought about, but I think it would have to be a short, annual event, not an ongoing commitment (at this point, at least).

  5. Check out Philip Bloom. He has gone before you in this regard and his website, readership, and professional work have thrived. I think that you should both continue what you do fantastically (detailed blog posts) but continue to occasionally experiment with new ways to present information.

  6. Alrighty, I’ve taken your feedback and did a few things with it. I reorganized the various topics I write about under two drop-down menus at the top of the page: KS Lessons and KS Insights (see here for KS Lessons: https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter/). I then divided the full list of KS Lessons into 5 subcategories (plus 1 just for board game projects) and created separate pages for each of them. At the top of each of those subcategory pages, I picked the 3 or 4 most important lessons and listed them at the top, and then I listed all other lessons in chronological order below. Here’s an example of one of those pages: https://stonemaiergames.com/build-your-brand/

    I did leave a page of the full KS Lesson list for now; we’ll see how long I keep up with it until it becomes annoying to update two separate pages every time I write a lesson. :)

    1. Jamey, I wonder if there might be a way to leverage the categories and tags in WordPress (I assume you’re using WordPress?) to make it so that the lists update themselves automatically?

      There may not be an easy way to do it out of the box, but I’m sure it would be possible through a plugin (might have to be a custom one though, I’m not sure).

  7. Jamey – I think you give more quality information than any other resource I’ve read and I’m amazed you are doing it for free. Kickstarter is daunting, and you are probably the main reason my business partner wants us to hold back, but the timing seems nearly perfect for my product right now. Any further waiting makes it more difficult on the fulfillment end of things close to the holidays. At what point are you going to make all this info an ebook and charge for it?

    I point people to this blog all the time – you are a huge help from someone who has been there, done that. PS…. I’m very excited about the 6 sec vine videos… doubt that works for what you need, but does for me. Possibly use Fiverr to get some of those charts and graphs done.

    Thanks!

    1. Marj: Thanks for your comment! I’m not going to charge for any of the content on the blog–if I can help a few other project creators, it feels good to do so. I do have a book in the works that will be published next year, but it has a different style than the blog.

      Vine is an interesting idea….I like the idea of sharing tiny doses of information. I’ll look into it!

  8. I can’t agree enough about people needing to understand how much work is really required. I was asked once at a panel for advice and I held up my game and said “This is your life for at least a year. It’s not a hobby. If you want to make more than one game, it’s your life period.” I may have scared someone off, but I probably saved them a lot of wasted time if that’s the case.

  9. It’s great to see the new format, and I think it’s really help new people. Which is good because I send anyone looking for information your way. You have collected here what I believe to be the most insight into the process of running Kickstarter campaigns out there and so it only makes sense it’s format is reflect the quality of the content!

  10. Somehow I missed this – maybe it is because -I- am that guy who doesn’t like to read massive, endless blogs. Responding to some of the posts: Just because someone doesn’t read or engage content in the same way you do, doesn’t mean they are any less capable or driven. Presenting yourself or information in a accessible and engaging way is not “pandering.” – it is being an effective communicator. It is a pretty big deal when you are running large game teams with multi-discipline teams (engineers, artists, designers, producers, all deal with information and challenges differently).

    FWIW – I’m finding this post now because I came back to this site to look something up (after recently launching that Kickstarter (Lift Off! for those curious). I came to the site and was like “Wow, wait a minute, this is nicely presented and clear, why was I complaining before? did he change this up?” – I shot Jamey and email and he pointed me here.

    Nice work, Jamey! I like the improvements. I unfortunately have one last suggestion. I found navigation a little annoying with page loads in categories. It would be great if you kept your major kickstarter lesson categories (Build your brand, create your project, etc) as a nav bar (tabs) under the main title. I want to come to the information and then just tab through and, I hate to say it, read read read :P Still have the landing back listing them though.

    Cheers!

  11. :-) choices, choices…

    should you be reading about Kickstarter, or should you be /working/ on your project?
    Right now I’m having my lunch alone in my mancave, reading posts for digestive entertainment – I hadn’t visited Jamey’s blog the last 10 days or so, as otherwise, even though it is great, it gets crowded out by life and the task of fulfilling Rewards in my KS project finished 6 weeks ago.

    I recently presented on KS to a group of people interested in running their own. The level of knowledge many of them had was as if they expected it was easy money and that I had shortcuts. Sorry, nope.
    As has been said over and over by Jamey and friends, success comes to people who have worked hard to make it happen. Ain’t easy, needs a LOT of preparation, including reading many if not all of the posts AND the comments – yes, pearls I have found there, but certainly much more and other sources. And art. Descriptions. The video! etc.

  12. I think that you have created a very comprehensive library of information for potential Kickstarter creators and it is very valuable to the community it was written to. I wouldn’t attempt to change that.

  13. I am glad you created so much content on this blog. You’re succesfull in this niche and you know how and what kind of informations you should give to other people. If someone is to lazy to read all you advices (free advices!) I think such person have no chances to even start with their own projects on KS. It’s my second article I just read on this blog and I am waiting for your book, you deserve to be paid and respected the way you choose to share all those informations. Greetings.

  14. I have to chime in here, as I stayed up all night a week ago reading you and felt I found gold. Thank you. I’m a person who wishes software still came with large manuals. Your posts are, like you say, for someone who wants to go deeper and know details. I really appreciate them! You have descriptive titles so, if people want to read less, they can pick and choose.

  15. Thank you Jamey for putting all of this together. This is the third time I’m re-reading your kickstarter lessons. I learn new things each time. I agree with you that different mediums work better with different people. I personally love reading text. I digest information much better through text than audio and video.
    The first time I read through kickstarter lessons (over a year ago), it worked as you intended. I saw how much work there is to running a kickstarter. But I very much wanted to get my board game off the ground so I read more and more. Many of the steps I was not close at all in beginning to pursue. My idea was only an idea on paper, no playtesting, no prototyping, and only I knew what it was. So what I took through the first reading was a sense of the scale of the project, and I began hammering away at a prototype, purchased a domain and began blogging about the process.
    The second time around, I had a playtesting prototype and my friends were telling me they were having fun. With all the added insights from developing the game, many of your kickstarter lessons started making a lot more sense to me. But I still lacked much of the material and sense of direction of where I would want to lead the campaign, building the brand and engaging the computer. All I had in mind was making a game but it definitely takes a lot more than that to run a kickstarter.
    I’m now at a point where I’m talking with manufacturers, I’ve been to a few events to demo the game and received amazing feedback from attendees and I’m very proud of the posts I’ve blogged through the development process and I’m still gaining new insights and I’m finally filling in all the blanks I had the first time I read this as for campaign management, building the brand and the steps after.
    There is absolutely a huge value to this and I hope you continue. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share all that you learned.

    1. Jack: Thanks for your comment. I think it’s great that you’ve put so much time into this process–you haven’t taken any shortcuts! I’m glad the blog has been helpful for you along the way.

  16. Jamey-

    As an educator, I realize it seems simple, you write the information down and people can find it and read the information, and much like you before I encountered a variety of students who simply didn’t learn via reading, ( I do), i had to find a multitude of ways to adjust my teaching to the students I was trying to reach. I think your friend was simply trying to say, not everyone learns visually, or in the same manner or method. I, however, do enjoy reading your information and various commentaries regarding KS. I wish you the best of luck in however you approach helping others learn about the ins and outs of KS campaigns.

    Sincerely,

    Kris

    1. Krista: That’s a great way of putting it! I agree that people learn in different ways, and hopefully the way I share information on the blog and in my book. will continue to connect with some people. :)

  17. The wealth of content your website provides is invaluable, and I wouldn’t change the format in any way. I appreciate that this is an old article, but I’ve stumbled upon it whilst researching for my own project, and I’m really thankful. Truly, thank you for all of this information.

  18. Hi Jamey, love this post but had an idea half way through. I’m a graphic designer and i specialise in taking large volumes of text and turning it into a something visually pleasing. Normally I charge clients for this service but with me going to Kickstarter shortly for my card game if you were interested in such a service I can’t help but think this would be a great opportunity for both of us. Trading knowledge for services.

    1. Thanks for asking about this, Chris! While that isn’t typically how I prefer to do business (I prefer to pay for services), I’m open to you doing a guest post about infographics. Send me a preview link to your project page so I can see if that’s a main feature of the campaign’s presentation (my e-mail is jamey@stonemaiergames.com).

  19. Hey Jamey,

    I just found your blog++ via a guest on a podcast called Crownfunding Demystified. His names Dan Blacklock of Cloud Puncher Games. I am so happy to have found your blog. I’ve only read the first 3 in the KS Lesson series you have there but WOW! I’m being inundated with incredibly valuable info. It’s so great! I have to say thank you and just let you know that what you’re doing here is just amazing and to the wonderful people who are adding that much more through their comments, I thank you too. I’m just so glad to be here reading this. I’m in the trenches with a my 2nd prototype being made and will be doing field testing shortly with some people who will be scattered around the continent, any advice as to how I can have them use video for their testimonials on my product so I can incorporate them into my KS video? Thanks you Jamey.

    John Walsh

    1. Thanks John! I’m glad you’re finding it helpful so far, and I appreciate you posting your question here. I’ve seen lots of projects use testimonial quotes from playtesters and reviewers on their project page, but I don’t think I’ve seen a creator create a single video that consolidates those testimonials–I think that’s pretty clever. You can just ask the playtesters to film videos on their phones or webcams, though I’d recommend starting off with a trial run of three video testimonials, as you might learn things about the orientation of the phone and the way they talk about the game that works or doesn’t work (like, if they speak in one long run-on sentence, it might be difficult to edit down to little snippets). You might want to prompt them with questions to answer for the testimonial.

  20. Personally I love the exhaustive information haha. For someone like me as a complete novice to get information and experience money can’t really buy, it’s invaluable. If you have put in the time to share your experiences and put the effort into writing it, the least I can do is sit down, read and pay attention, or forego the lesson.

    Kickstarter to me seems to me from what I have been able to garner so far is you are likely going to get out of it what you put into it. If you are able to cater to people in putting the information in an easier to digest manner without much time sacrifice, great, if not, so be it.

  21. I am absolutely a huge fan of your approach and very detailed information around this massive topic (kickstarter)

    Being knee deep in my first ever personal project – one I will be progressing and pushing through kickstarter at some point… I find this, and the community, hugely inspiring and helpful.

    Good luck to you all and hope to see you down the line!
    :)

  22. Thank you Jamey for these Kickstarter lessons. I’m going to read them all. I like your concept of connecting and giving as the priority. The world would be better place if everybody followed these principles in life.

  23. Personally, I only started getting into blogs recently, so I started at blog one and I’ve been working my way forward. Two months of reading on and off now and I’m here, not quite half way through. I’ll keep ploughing through and I’m reading them faster than you’re writing them so I’m happy with that solution.

    I think the way the blogs are is fine. Maybe I’m getting old and grumpy but I have very little sympathy with people who refer to a page of text as a “wall”. Your Kickstarter lesson blogs are a page or two long, the list of lessons is a couple of hundred long (about a hundred when this was posted). A book 100-300 pages long is not a long book, especially if its a technical one that encompasses everything from calculating shipping costs to making videos. Frankly, the idea at this point that the Stegmaier blog isn’t exactly how to do a popular boardgame related blog is insane.

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