4 April 2016 | 33 Comments
A few years ago, a backer paid $10,000 to get a speaking part in the Kickstartered Veronica Mars movie.
Around the same time, five backers paid $1,150 each to have Seth Godin include their stories told in his book, The Icarus Deception.
Last year, two backers paid $5,000 to spend a week hanging out with the folks at White Wizard Games as part of their Epic card game campaign. Genius Games has a similar pledge level (for a day, not a week) at $1,500 on their My First Science Textbook project.
What do these examples have in common? They’re all epic-level rewards.
An epic-level reward is very expensive reward that gives someone a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A number of projects have one of these types of rewards–should yours? Here’s my experience with them, as well as some things to consider.
I’ve only ever offered one truly epic reward. It was on my first board game campaign (Viticulture), and it was listed at $999 as follows: “1 copy of Viticulture, 1 copy of the expansion, and your choice of Alan (my cofounder) or Jamey will travel anywhere in the continental US to deliver the game in person on a mutually agreeable date. Your pledge covers our travel/expenses.”
No one pledged for it.
However, on the same project, I listed a somewhat similar epic reward level at $149, and 2 people pledge to it: “2 copies of Viticulture, 2 copies of the expansion, 4 Viticulture wine glasses, and your choice of Alan or Jamey will attend a game night with you and your friends to teach you how to play. Mutually agreeable date in St. Louis, Richmond, or Kansas City.”
The 2 people who pledged at that level were friends, and only 1 of them ever took me upon the game night offer. We had a good time drinking wine and playing Viticulture with a big group of people.
But here’s the thing I realized that night: I’m not comfortable charging people to play my games with me. Can you imagine how your friends would respond if the next time you showed up at game night, you said, “Hey everyone, tonight I’ll be charging each of you $149 for the pleasure of playing games with me.” It’s ridiculous.
So I decided to never again offer paid rewards for things I would gladly do for free.
This ties into the first point when considering an epic-level reward: What is the value of your time?
Take the Genius Games reward, for example. John is basically saying that his team is willing to not work for a day to help a fellow entrepreneur with their business. Is that worth $1,500 to the entrepreneur? Maybe, maybe not. But is it worth $1,500 to John and his team? Absolutely. That’s an entire day they’ve given up.
How much is a day worth to you? Make sure to calculate the value of your time when determining the price of the reward, and limit it to only a few backers just in case it’s more popular than you think.
The second point is about creative control. Sometimes an exchange of money creates entitlement, and you don’t want that to ruin the integrity of your project. (This is one of the reasons why I stopped having custom art reward levels in my projects.)
That could have been the case in the Veronica Mars reward, but the creator made sure to say this in the reward description, “We guarantee you will be on camera as you say the line. Unless you go all hammy and ruin the scene and we have to cut you out, but that would be a sad day for all of us. Just say the line. Don’t over-think it. You’re a waiter. Your motivation is to turn over the table.”
Thus, be very clear about boundaries and expectations in the reward description.
The third and final point is don’t rely on epic-level rewards to reach your funding goal. The chances that anyone will pledge to that level are exceptionally small unless you’re famous or if your grandmother is feeling particularly generous.
There’s no harm in including such a reward, but just don’t expect for anyone to actually back it.
What’s the best epic-level reward you’ve ever seen? If you’re considering an epic-level reward, feel free to describe it in the comments for analysis.