31 October 2013
One of the biggest mistakes when launching a Kickstarter project is to launch too soon.
I see this time and time again. In fact, I see it more than ever now that people contact me on a regular basis asking for Kickstarter advice: “I’m launching my Kickstarter project today and I just found your blog–do you have any last-minute feedback?”
Yes I have some last-minute feedback: Don’t launch today if you’re still asking for feedback.
99% of the time when I get a message like that, I know something is wrong without even looking at the project page. Because if you have the mentality that you’re somehow on a deadline for launching your project, you’re setting yourself up for failure from Day 1. Not necessarily catastrophic failure, but you’re not doing everything you can to make your project a success.
There is a growing wealth of resources out there for the steps you can take to increase the chances of success for your Kickstarter project. It’s important that you discover them months before you launch your campaign. So if today is the day you discovered a key resource, add 2-3 months to today and you’ll have your new launch day.
Not convinced? Here’s a list of some of the things you need to do before you launch your project. If you have not done these things, do not launch your project today:
- Start a blog focusing on creating content that is interesting and useful to other people and write 1-3 entries a week every week for 3 months.
- Hunt down and subscribe to at least 20 blogs related to your project. Read them every day. Comment on at least one a day. Do not think of this as networking. Think of it as you reading about a subject you love and interacting with people about that subject.
- Read every Kickstarter Lesson on this blog, listen to a number of Funding the Dream podcast episodes, and read James Mathe’s blog about Kickstarter.
- Back 10-20 Kickstarter projects and read every update in real time, noting when you reach the point when you have the intense desire to unsubscribe.
- Add value to something that’s important to a stranger every day for at least 2 months. Share a Kickstarter project you love. Be active and positive on a message board or comment section. Message a project creator and tell them what you love about what they’re doing. Proofread and offer feedback on a Kickstarter preview page. Contribute to a conversation on the Kickstarter Best Practices Facebook group. Playtest someone else’s game for them. Do all of these things without asking for anything in return or even mentioning that you are working on your own Kickstarter project.
- Create a spreadsheet of at least 10 successful Kickstarter projects that are similar to your project to compare them to one another.
- Create an extensive budget for your project factoring in a number of different outcomes and what they mean for production and shipping. This is when you need to figure out how you’re going to ship your project around the world in a way that is time- and cost-efficient for you and backers, not after your project has launched or funded.
- Pay a professional artist and designer to create some really attractive, eye-catching art to show off on your project page.
- Make sure that art is actually good by asking people who don’t care at all about your feelings.
- Send out samples of your product to several high-impact bloggers, podcasters, or YouTube creators. For game creators, this means full game prototypes. Don’t send them out of the blue–only send them to people you’ve been a fan of for a while and have interacted with in some context.
- Share your project preview page to at least 20 people asking for their feedback. Ask 3 specific questions and 2 open-ended questions. If there are consistencies in the answers you get, really pay close attention to them and do something about it even if you disagree.
- Send out personalized press releases to 15-20 blogs and relevant news outlets at least 1 week before your project launches.
- Clear your schedule for launch day so you can spend all day sending personal invitations to share your dream with your friends and family as well as responding to individual backers as they pledge.
If you have not done those things, you are decreasing the chances that you’ll fund. Period. All of the reasons you have for launching today are nowhere close to as important to your project’s success as doing all the things on that list.
In fact, let’s look at some of the reasons people give for sticking with a self-created deadline even when it no longer makes sense:
“I already told everyone it’s going to launch today.”
Let’s talk about these artificial deadlines we create for our Kickstarter projects. The idea behind them is good–you build up hype for your project and then release it to the world when you said you would, then you hopefully have a successful launch day. In essence, that’s a good thing.
But the trouble is that we sometimes forget that we’re the ones who created those deadlines in the first place. No one is holding us to them. And yet I get that sense from a number of project creators. They’ve been telling people a certain date for a while now, and if they miss that artificial deadline, they feel like it ruins everything.
Let me assure you: Nothing bad will happen if you don’t launch on the day you said you would.
Plus, Kickstarter now allows people to press a button on your preview page and get a notification when you launch your project. So if you’ve shared your preview page with your friends and fans, they’re going to get an e-mail when you’re ready to launch.
“I have to launch today or I’ll run into a bad time of the month or the year for a Kickstarter project.”
Perhaps you read somewhere that projects make more money or get more backers if they’re launched at a certain time of the year and that you should avoid launching in certain months of times of the month. Well, I’m here to tell you that if you have a great project and you’ve put it the legwork, timing hardly matters at all. We’re talking about a few percentage points at most. There’s no magical formula for the month or time of month, so stop focusing on that and focus on making an awesome project.
“I have to launch today because I need the money ASAP.”
This might be the most dangerous one of them all. Your livelihood should not depend on Kickstarter. You’re raising money to create something, not to fund your life–that’s explicitly against Kickstarter’s guidelines. Most people will have tough financial times at some point in their lives. Those times suck, but they’re not the time nor the reason to launch a Kickstarter project. Figure out your personal finances and keep them separate from your project when it’s ready to launch on its own merit.
“My project isn’t 100% ready, but I’ll fix it as we go.”
Let me be clear about this: It’s a good thing if your product isn’t 100% ready to go. Leave some wiggle room for backer feedback and improvement. But the project itself should be 100% ready to go when you launch. Sure, it will evolve over time, but the first few days of a project are so important. Don’t waste them on a subpar project page. Check every item off this list before you deem your project page ready for the world.
“I have to launch on today or my production schedule is ruined.”
I left this one for last because I DID THIS. I wanted to get Euphoria to backers before Christmas, so I had to finish the project on June 12 and send it to Panda by June 22. It was such a precise schedule, and it looks like we’ll actually make it.
But here’s the deal: No matter how well you’ve planned your project, you know not what awaits you in production and shipping. There are SO many variables. If you really want to target certain dates–say, a release at a big convention–your production schedule should have 1-2 months of buffer room at least.
In the end, backers want a great product. Try to deliver on time, but delivering a subpar project on time is way worse than delivering an awesome product 1-2 months late.
I’ll end this with a question: Are you still going to launch today after reading this?