Live-Blogging Lesson #1: Filtering Cancellations

13 March 2014 | 38 Comments

24_hours_after_launchAs I write this, I’m exactly 31 hours (no, wait, I had to go do Kickstarter stuff, so it’s 35 minutes later than when I wrote that) into my Tuscany Kickstarter campaign, and by all accounts, it’s going well. We’ve raised over $168,000 from over 1700 very generous backers.

I’m not here to toot my own horn here–rather, I’m here to tell you about the vulnerability that a project creator experiences even when everything is going way better than expected.

I’ve talked about preparing yourself mentally for cancellations on this blog in the past. Cancellations are inevitable, and a creator shouldn’t take them personally. Nor will you ever know why people cancelled.

But you know how 10 people can say something nice to you, and 1 person can say something mean, and that mean comment is all you can think about? That’s how cancellations feel. Except that those people aren’t commenting on the shirt you decided to wear today. They’re commenting on a project that you’ve put every ounce of your heart and soul into, a project that has consumed you and driven you for many, many months. Now you’ve shared that project with the world.

So that 1 comment out of 10? That 1 cancellation out of 100? It stings. By all logical reasons it shouldn’t, but it does.

I have a solution for this.

When a backer cancels or decreases their pledge, you get an e-mail notification just like you do when a new backer pledges or increases their pledge. So I created a filter in Gmail for all e-mails from Kickstarter with the subject line “has cancelled” or “has decreased”. I no longer see those e-mails at all.


I cannot recommend this enough. I know cancellations are still happening, but they aren’t bogging me down when my focus needs to be on current backers. Of course, if I see the funding amount take a big dip, I’ll analyze to see what’s happening. But otherwise, this is a huge weight off my shoulders.

Have any other project creators tried this?

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38 Comments on “Live-Blogging Lesson #1: Filtering Cancellations

  1. Although we were mentally prepared for cancellations after reading your previous article regarding this topic, each cancellation really hurt us. We were convinced that the best thing to do was to send a private message asking them what was the reason for cancelling and if it concerned the project, how could we do better.
    Here are the results of that:

    80% No answer.
    15% Financial problems emerged.
    4% Backed other games and couldn’t afford backing a lot of campaigns.
    1% only said that we were not gonna make it.
    (The last ones hurt even more to ask, and we still find illogical that backers would cancel for having the hunch of a project not being funded)

    10% of them jumped back in the last 2 days.

    So, we found that approaching backers who just cancel without any notice gives you barely something to improve. Instead, if there is something of your campaign that you can improve, backers will approach before cancelling to see if you can actually do better. So next time we will follow your example and filter all those hurting e-mails.


  2. Thanks for all your blog posts, its so genuine and full of information’s, I cant stop reading it.
    We are preparing our kickstarter campaign for our RPG (not tabletop), but I think many tips can be used through categories.
    The hardest think to keep our sanity now is the community building. I have never imagined, that building fanbase is so difficult and tiresome, no one know about us, no one ever google us, that we decided to postpone ks for later. Thanks to your blog, we found, that we are not prepared for ks yet. Its like treadmill each day, but almost no progress at all. Have you any estimates, how big fanbase creators need for videogames? Because its more expensive to develop, so we need higher funding goal.

    1. Elothia: Indeed, building a crowd is a lot of work! I hope you find a way to have fun doing it, though.

      That’s an interesting question: How big of a fanbase is needed for a video game project (pre-launch)? It’s hard to put an exact number to it, and the video game space isn’t one that I know particularly well. I think you need to see some amount of buzz or excitement from at least few hundred people.

  3. My pleasure. I thought if I revealed our numbers A) it might be encouraging for other creators and B) we might be able to get an idea of what is a comparatively high cancellation rate, so I hope I’ve started a wave of disclosures!

    I guess it’s just in line with my personality to always want to have as much information as possible. I’ve been opening each email when we get a pledge and since about pledge #300, I’ve also been sending personalized thank you messages. I thought they might prevent the cancellations (and may have data to share about that by the end of the campaign). Because I’ve done that, I discovered one of our backers is a journalist. He offered to write a blog piece on us, which was fantastic (even though the paper he writes for didn’t publish it). Others have responded with kind words and other encouragement/ideas, so I think that’s been good in mitigating any disappointment I’ve had from the cancellations, which are mainly maddening because you don’t know why they’ve happened. (I chose not to spend time asking, as jeffcwg did, since it seemed most people he corresponded with begged off for money reasons.) And sometimes because they make you feel like you’re jogging in place!

    I wonder if that’s a feature Kickstarter could implement: i.e. when a backer cancels, they could ask, “Is there a reason you’d like to share with the creator?” I will suggest if if they ask me for feedback.

    By the way, Jamey, a bit of shared Wash U pride: I too am an alum, class of ’92, though smart a$$ I am, I graduated early in December 1991.

    1. Julia: That’s great to hear about the personalized thank yous! I did that for my first project, and I had a similar experience to you in terms of the relationships I forged thanks to those notes.

      I’m not sure if Kickstarter still does it, but for a while they did ask that question when someone cancelled. However, the problem was that the data was never shared with creators, even though the question gave the impression to the backer that the information would be shared (anonymously).

      That’s great to hear about the Wash U connection! :)

  4. Our campaign for Hoard is now 57 hours from ending. At the moment we’ve had 484 backers with 38 cancellations, none gave any reason, they just backed out. A few people known to me decreased their pledge, but they apologised and explained why.

    Thanks to this post, I knew I could expect cancellations so although they’re maddening, I’ve tried to take them in stride. (I haven’t filtered them; it’s just not my style.)

    But I’m wondering if it’s a phenomenon that is getting worse as the number of games on Kickstarter increases, so that’s why I thought I’d share my numbers.

    1. Julia: Thank you for sharing! That’s about an 8% cancellation rate, though I’ve really come to not think of them as cancellations since no money has actually changed hands. It’s more like a probationary period for them to make a decision to stay in or not. Consider it a 92% retention rate, which is awesome! :)

      I’m curious why you chose not to filter them, considering you consider them maddening. In such a stressful time of running a campaign, why not remove that stress factor?

  5. Jamey: all the things you went through are horrible. I experienced a little of criticism, but nothing like you. I believe you post will help me a lot dealing with cancellation, stress, bullying etc. I’m almost stress just thinking about it…

    Reading your post and comments here, I think there is a good lesson to learn from: Analyze your personality, emotions and how you react on different things. After that (what you did very well) find a solution – get prepared for it!

    Thanks a lot for your time sharing with us!

    1. Mateusz: I’m glad your experience was better than mine! :) I’ve stuck with the filtering policy ever since this post, and it’s been really helpful for me during campaigns.

  6. Jamey- yet another article where you’re giving great advice! 1 pledge going away seems to draw a lot more attention than 10 new pledges. I just implemented the filters like you suggest and am a lot happier for doing so!

  7. This line of comments does bring up an interesting question for me. This is a little off topic but perhaps something you can address in a later post, Jamey.

    Since you went from 942 backers for Viticulture to 4,765 backers for Euphoria to 1,622 backers in just the first 31 hours of Tuscany, how do you maintain a personal connection with your backers. I am finding fairly easy with only 350 backers for Stones of Fate (although hope that goes up significantly in the next week :) ) but I can imagine that when you start to get into the 4,000-8,000 range that becomes much more difficult.

    Would that be something you would care to address in a future post?

    1. Jeff: That’s a good question. I talked about it a bit in the Kickstarter Lesson about treating backers as people, not numbers, and then I also mentioned it in the retrospective article I wrote after Euphoria. I discovered with Euphoria that I simply couldn’t send personalized thank-you notes to every backer, so with Euphoria and now Tuscany, I’ve tried to maintain that personal connection by being a part of the conversation in the comments, updates, BGG, Facebook, etc. I think a big part of it is that I’m not out there actively promoting or pushing Tuscany. Rather, I’m just trying to talk to people–backers, non-backers, anyone who wants to be a part of the conversation.

  8. That’s a tough one Jamey, I agree with you though that the pain of a cancellation can diminish the positive energy mid-campaign, and cause extra stress. On the other hand, Jeff has done something special by reaching out to those who have cancelled.

    One thing I will say is that since I have run 2 KS campaigns of my own, I only back a project once I know I have the funds in place, and know that I truly want it. That being said, there are situations that arise in life that are unavoidable.

  9. Such a great idea Jamie! We launched our first kickstarter: Mice & Dice a week ago today, and had 3 cancellations in the first 48 hours that drove me bonkers! I could not help but focus on those cancellations and why they cancelled their pledge. Ignorance is bliss I guess, Hahahaha.

    1. I know, right?! It’s tough not to focus on them even. I’m greatly enjoying the ignorance method, as long as it doesn’t blind me to important trends. I think I’ll notice if a lot of backers drop out all of a sudden.

  10. I decided to take a different route with Stones of Fate. i have personally messaged every backer that cancelled thanking them for their support and asking them if there is anything i should consider changing for future projects.

    Most have responded, and the main reason is lack of funds. All of them have reassured me it was nothing i have done. this sets my mind at ease. i know that i am still delivering the best possible campaign to my backers.

    of course there was one backer yesterday that told me they canceled so they could back Tuscany :)

    1. Jeff: You’re a stronger man than I! But I certainly respect that approach. I like that you’re willing to learn from those backers (although I’m sorry about the Tuscany backer!)

      1. I try to learn from every experience I have. I love bettering myself and in turn helping others to better themselves. I am the eternal optimist. :)

        And no worries about the lost backer. I take comfort that I lost a backer to you and I know he will be getting a great game. :)

  11. Ha, good for you, love hearin the behind the scenes stuff. smart move, focus on positive. in fact, I’m sure a lot of cancellations are folks planning to go for different levels, maybe even at a later time. even in a retail store I’ll pick up an item, then put it back, then go back and get it, weighing options.

    1. Aaron: That is the PERFECT comparison. Picking up and putting down a game. It’s just very painful to watch people put it down after they’ve picked it up, even if they might pick it up again in the future. :)

      1. I’m sure store owners feel the same way. I’m sure my FLGS gets tired of my limited budget and my over-eager eyes.

        Have you found a way to rekindle that interest Jamie? Is it worth the effort?

        1. My experience (from asking those who have cancelled) has been that, yes, it is primarily about the money. Nothing you can do about that. However, I do think that people appreciate a personal touch and maybe they will come back after they get paid again just because I reached out to them. Maybe not, either way, seeing the cancellations doesn’t bother me that much so I will continue to reach out to my cancellations and provide that personal touch. (not to say Jamey is doing anything wrong, I think either way is ok)

          1. That is interesting. I wonder if the personal interest you showed will motivate those people to buy later when they do have the money, either as a pre-order or in retail.

            I just imagined as the person picking up the game and then putting it back down, but this time a sales clerk says something. Maybe they don’t get it that day, but they might come back for it later.

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