12 July 2013
Over the course of my 28-day Kickstarter campaign for Euphoria, 298 people canceled their pledges. If you added those backers to the final count of 4,765 backers, you would have 5,063 backers. Thus about 6% of the overall pool of backers canceled their pledges at some point during the project. Compare that to Viticulture, during which 41 backers canceled their pledges out of an overall backer pool of 983 (4%).
This is a small sample size. But based on what I’ve heard from other projects, a 5% cancellation rate is pretty normal.
However, knowing that something is normal is different than facing it when it happens. I’m pretty thick-skinned. I rarely take things personally, and I understand that people have a wide variety of reasons for canceling their pledge: They may not have enough money for your project and another project, they may decide they don’t like the game, or a new aspect revealed in a project update may not have sat well with them. Also, the nice thing about Kickstarter is that you can cancel your pledge any time during the campaign, so some people might sign up early and back out later.
I’m here to tell you that despite the validity of those reasons (which, of course, you’ll never know unless a backer tells you. I always appreciate that, but it’s very rare), every cancellation will sting.
Rejection in any form stings a bit, even after you’re used to it. Think about all the people you’ve had unrequited crushes on over the course of your life. Hundreds, at least. You’ve built up a thick skin. And yet every time you like someone more than they like you, it stings a little bit that they don’t feel the same. Rejection always stings.
There’s really not anything you can do about it on Kickstarter except be mentally prepared for it. Whenever someone cancels, remind yourself that you also got 5 new backers the past hour. Focus on the positive, not the negative.
Usually cancellations are pretty random, but every once in a while you’ll see a pattern. Maybe you just posted an update, and an hour later 10 people had canceled. That’s not a coincidence. Go back to that update and figure out what went wrong.
Learn from it if possible, but also understand that most cancellations don’t have a lesson. It’s just a fact of Kickstarter that not everyone who wants to support you on Day 1 will want to support you on Day 10 or 17 or 28. And that’s okay.
When I got my first few cancellations on Viticulture, I messaged the people and asked very nicely if I could better understand the reasons for their cancellation. I wouldn’t recommend doing this. It’s tough to do without coming across as a pest. Rather than focus on the 5% of people who changed their mind about your project, focus on the other 95% who have decided to stick with you.
I’ve only cancelled one pledge during my time on Kickstarter, so I’m curious to hear from people who have. Perhaps you can help other project creators by mentioning in the comments the types of things that cause you to cancel your pledge.
If you want to read more about cancellations, check out KS Lesson #79.