29 July 2014 | 25 Comments
Update: I’m going to have limited access to the internet from July 31-August 18, so there will likely be no new blog entries during that time. If you’re going to Gen Con, feel free to stop by demo room 137 (across from the exhibition hall) to chat with me (Jamey) about games and Kickstarter. In the meantime, if you’re looking for new content, I recently restructured this blog to make it friendlier for creators, so feel free to poke around starting here and here.
I belong to two Kickstarter-related groups on Facebook, both of which I would highly recommend to any creator (this one) and tabletop game creators (this one). It’s a great place to give feedback on other projects, honing your eye as a creator and expanding goodwill, as well as getting feedback on your project previews (don’t wait until your project is live to ask for feedback).
A while ago, I started noticing one person giving a tremendous amount of feedback in these groups. It became evident over time that this person was offering this feedback because he genuinely wanted to help creators–he wasn’t subtly nudging them towards a project of his own or anything like that. His name is Timothy “Francisco” Cassavetes.
People like that stand out to me–I appreciate that generosity of time and spirit. Plus, by offering feedback on so many projects, Timothy has amassed a level of understanding of Kickstarter projects that few people do. I don’t always agree with his advice, but I respect his perspective.
Thus I invited Timothy to share some of that knowledge here is a “best of” format. After offering his advice to hundreds of projects, what type of advice had he given time and time again? What do the majority of creators not seem to understand? We’ll find out below. Thanks Timothy!
Are you cut out to be an astronaut?
Almost 60%+ of all new projects fail by Kickstarter’s own internal estimates, and the odds are pretty good; you’re going to be one of those casualties.
As a Kickstarter creator, we’re all dreamers. We’re always reaching for the stars, we all have our reasons for doing so, be it fame, fortune, or simply the desire to create.
We all have people we look up to, people we aspire to emulate, and people whose advice we take to heart. I myself at 37 continue to take advice on Crowdfunding, tuning my car, writing, cooking a nice filet mignon doused in a shiraz based vinaigrette… just about everything.
The three people I look to for answers when it comes to Kickstarter projects and crowdfunding in general are James Mathe, Richard Bliss and Jamey Stegmaier (and my friends in the “Kickstarter Best Practices and Lessons Learned” Facebook community—Bernhard, Andrew and Damien—who are also awesome, diehard Kickstarter creators). These guys have all collectively amassed over a million dollars in their crowd-funded projects. When they talk, I tend to listen, and I often suggest that others who are thinking of running a project do the same.
“Quicker, easier, more seductive” is how Yoda describes the dark side of the force. For me, that line is a visceral simile and powerful indictment of what I find in most new project creators; it’s that drive to “go go go” without really understanding that running a Kickstarter is a massive undertaking.
You have to realize that running a Kickstarter project is like taking on a second full time job. If you half-ass it, it’ll show; don’t be that girl or that guy. It isn’t over ‘til it’s over, and it isn’t over once you hit the GO button, nor is it when the project ends and you’ve funded.
So here are some things you need to know on how to getting it right that I’ve learned from my both own experiences and the project creators I trust.
The Top 6 Things I Feel You Need to Know:
I think everyone should think long and hard about these, before they ever hit the submit button to get their project approved, never mind before you think about launching it.
#1: Devour All the Knowledge of All the Things
James Mathe, Richard Bliss and Jamey Stegmaier all have blogs (you’re here obviously so you’re already on the right path), and both Richard and Jamey do podcasts. If you spend solid and dedicated time reading every post, listening to every podcast, there is almost no project you that you can’t turn into a reality. Once you’ve absorbed the insights they share, you’ll have learned about 75% of everything you need to know. I’m always saying this because it’s the single best piece of advice that I give to most people, if not everyone.
Armed with their experiences and those of the project creators they interview, you should have no problem clearing any hurdles in your way. The remaining 25% of what you need is cold hard work on your part. Only by running a project can you really learn these lessons. You can find the links to Richard Bliss and James Mathe below, if you’re reading this, then half the battle is already won.
#2: How and When to Launch All the Things
I constantly urge to anyone who’ll listen to stay away from July, August, and December because they’re the blood bath months. Unless, that is, you already have a built in audience, because they tend to have the lowest turnout of backers. You’ll see more failed projects in those months than in any other times of the year.
As a general rule, you want to start and end a project between Tuesday and Thursday, and stay away from holidays and weekends as much as possible. Statistically, the best time to start is 8am Pacific, The best to end is to set the clock to 11:59pm on the last day of the project, maximizing the time you have.
#3: When to Update All the Things
The most important thing a many creators miss (and many don’t), is the importance of updates. You want to talk about project, where it’s going, what your plans are for when it’s done.
This can really be hit or miss for a lot of creators, you don’t want to saturate your backers inbox’s with constant updates every time you hit a percentage point. You want strategic, well placed, well written updates.
For any project, I think if you divide your project length by 3.5 and add 4, you’ll have a pretty solid amount of updates. You want to post one up after the first 24 hours, you want to post one up with you hit 50%, one at 100% and once the project has ended. For every stretch goal you announce you want to make an update.
#4: Grow your Social Media Audience Before You Launch
That’s it. That’s the biggest thing you need to do. You can do everything right: best video, best rewards, best art, best whatever. But if no one shows up to the party, you’re going to languish in that limbo called “unfunded.”
You need to spend money to make money, and that means making prototypes, getting your product into as many hands as you possibly can that you think will help you, and ask for help from people who’ve been there. Seriously, ask people who’ve run projects (and do talk to project creators as long as you’re not bugging them), but also understand that there’s a difference between good advice and an opinion.
#5: Your Estimated Delivery Date Is Wrong. Trust me. Under Promise, Over Deliver
80%+ of projects fail to deliver in the estimated month on the project page. Yours will likely fall into that category too. Set a delivery date 3 to 4 months longer than when you think you can have it delivered by. Oh, and never promise to have it delivered for December, as it will just lead to tears and woe.
If you think it’ll be April, set it July and if you manage to get everything delivered to EVERYONE by April, you look like a hero. Be a Hero.
#6: It’s Not About the Money; It’s About THE MONEY
Kickstarter isn’t about making a profit. It takes money to make money, and I can’t stress this enough: You’re playing with other people’s money, so don’t screw around with it.
Kickstarter is a risk. It’s not a charity, it’s not a donation site, and it’s not a pre-order or retail store where backers buy a product off the shelf. It’s about getting your project made. Failure is an option. Refunds and money-back guarantees aren’t.
Don’t talk about the money. Not in your pitch video, not on the pitch page, not in the comments or in the updates. It’s Kickstarter. Your backers aren’t stupid, nor are they naïve. They know. Honest. True fact. Stop beating the horse, its dead already. They know you need the MONEY. Don’t talk about it, unless backers ask you direct questions about where it’s all going to, and even then, don’t be cagey, be honest, but if at all possible just don’t talk about THE MONEY.
I’ll leave you with this, a caveat to live by…
“As a project creator you are the captain of your own destiny, sometimes betting your livelihood, your reputation, and your backer’s hard earned cash that your math is right, that you’ve done your due diligence, and that you’ve come up with the best project you can.
Running a Kickstarter project is a moon mission sometimes, and some people just aren’t cut out to be astronauts.”
– a friend and fellow project creator
Thanks so much, Timothy, for taking the time to write this. What do you all think about Timothy’s advice?