Today I’d like to talk about some of the trials and tribulations of both running Kickstarter campaigns and backing them. I often encourage people to invest in others—to back worthy Kickstarters campaigns (at least those they have an interest in). I sometimes back Indiegogo campaigns and other crowdfunding outlets, but not too often.Indiegogo would be my second go-to and it slows down after that.
I primarily focus on Kickstarter, since I can only do so much, and only have so much time to research worthy campaigns. I trust Kickstarter more than the others and like some of their philosophies. They aren’t perfect, of course, but this post will focus on what not to do when running a campaign, and those looking to back a campaign might find some useful reminders here as well.
Invest in others!
I’ve posted numerous times that we ought to be there for each other, especially if you have an interest in what the Creator is doing. but also to help support your own industry—those with like minds and dreams. I don’t mind backing my competition, and do, when I like what they are doing. Authors should stand together and see how they can lighten one another’s loads. And of course readers should back authors. Game designers and gamers should back each other as well—again, if they see something they like. But we should all be trying to back each other’s dreams in some way or another on or off crowdfunding, because it makes life more meaningful, giving is as much a blessing to the giver as the receiver. Because it’s helping people, and that’s a good thing. One shouldn’t just back blindly, however.
Iron sharpens iron!
We all need each other. We all have something we can contribute to brighten another’s day, to help along another’s dream, or simply to be an ear or provide an encouraging word. I’ve spent countless hours consulting with Kickstarter Creators, trying to help them understand Kickstarter better, uncover some of the holes in their campaigns (not in an arrogant “I’m the expert and know everything” sort of way. I’m not an expert, but I have some experience and have also made some of my own mistakes, have done a great deal of research, and have a bit of common sense. I can usually spot some problems and try to help when I can find the time.)
Sometimes it’s just easier to spot issues because you aren’t so close to the project. My sons aren’t game designers, but they both know how to read, are sharp and creative, and can spot confusing language and design flaws. When we stand together, we can accomplish so much more than we ever could on our own, but I’ve discussed this numerous times on previous blog posts. And there are plenty of Kickstarter Creators out there with far more intel on this topic than me, which is why I’m just doing a brief overview. That and I just don’t have much time.
Everyone has a dream!
Frankly, I’m tired of all the mediocre dreams out there. If you believe in your dream, do your homework and give it your best shot! Help me to believe in your dream too. I want to believe. I want to root for you. I want you to succeed! I’ve been on the other side, needing the help (and still do, frankly as my finances are still tight and I have piles of cool projects to publish). I look for ways to help people when I have time. Now, I can’t help everyone, and I’m not expecting everyone to help me.
With the help of 76 people, I was able to bring my first kickstarter, Arcane Synthesis: A Blended-Genre Anthology to life back in 2014. Sadly, not only do some not try to invest in others, but they try to hurt others. I had a couple of those in my campaign, who only came on board to hurt rather than help. There are spammers and criminals both among the Backers and Creators, unfortunately. I can only assume that helping people is far more fun and that’s what I like to do.
So far, I’ve backed 63 projects. I’m not boasting, I just enjoy doing it, knowing I’m making a difference and sometimes even walk away with a decent reward. I hope to find many more that appeal to me, to back in the days ahead. Some I only give a few dollars to, others quite a bit more. I actually look fairly often, somtimes tossing a little money in their pot, other times quite a bit more.
I can’t back everyone, and I’m not even interested in every project. Others, I feel were done poorly, had unrealistic goals, terrible rewards, or were unprofessional in other ways. Some projects I couldn’t throw money at fast enough, because I liked what they were doing, even though I couldn’t afford what it was they were offering.
As more and more people find out that I like to hand money out (to projects I’m both interested in and feel were done right), I have with increasing measure, received messages from strangers asking me to back their Kickstarter. Sometimes I do, but they often forget what I said above and don’t even bother to look at my account to see if I’m likely even interested in backing a new hedge trimmer, watch (I don’t wear ’em) or the latest speedo (I don’t invest in clothes on Kickstarter). Just as an employer can’t hire everyone and so often makes special criteria to cut the number of applicants down, I insist on a few things.
Invest in others!
I rarely back a project in which the Creator hasn’t already invested in someone else’s Kickstarter. And the more they are asking for, the more generous I expect them to be. Seeing how many and who they are backing is easy. It’s right there on their account what they’ve backed. I figure if they aren’t willing to help others out, why should I help them? Now I get it, some people are even poorer than I am, but you can sometimes tell a little about the person running the campaign by reading it. Being a Backer is just one of my special criteria (I really, really don’t have piles of money, but I do love helping others, especially those who seem like decent people and in which it looks like they did their homework and have a cool project in my interest area and back others, as I said). So, if you want my money, you need to both impress me and show that you also invest in others, not just yourself.
I’ve backed a wide variety of projects and would have backed many more, but some days I just can’t find anything that pops out at me. I tend to back roleplaying, board and card games (and settings) and fiction that appeals to me (If you don’t even mention editing in your fiction Kickstarter, I seriously doubt I’ll back you—it never ceases to amaze me how many self publishers think it’s okay to skip pro editing). I rarely back books and games that appear to need an editor badly, unless that’s part of what the funding was for. If they don’t talk about editing, I usually move along, assuming they don’t know what they are doing. If I see a horrible book cover, I almost always click out. If you aren’t an artist, don’t do your own book cover! I’m a pro commercial artist with over 30 years experience and I still hire artists when I need them, because I insist on uber high-quality, and when I can’t deliver, I find someone who can. Get a pro when you need one. Can’t afford it? Build it into your Kickstarter, take a part-time job, sell lemonaid, whatever. Just do what you need to do!
If I see a game with shoddy art, unless they have already invested in a picture or two that demonstrates what they are shooting for, and talk about art as part of the funding, I usually don’t back it. Yeah, art is that important to a game. I don’t want to see scribbles, I want you to give me the confidence to think you will provide a pro product.
There are so many mistakes I’m catching every time I go on Kickstarter. There are a lot of ways of doing a Kickstarter wrong, and not that many ways to do one right. If a Kickstarter has little funding after a few days, I take a look at it, but assume they screwed up somewhere. There’s just way too many Kickstarters done wrong for me to waste my time. If they can’t be bothered to do their homework, than I usually don’t back them. This kills me, because I might even like the idea, but sometimes it’s so obvious they weren’t even trying or didn’t know what they were doing.
Kickstarters are very hard work!
I’m in no hurry to run another. I will, but not soon if I can help it. They are exhausting, and can be expensive (yes they cost money – at least you ought to spend some money to do your campaign right and get the project as far along and as pro as you can BEFORE you ask for money). They are also time-consuming and are not always the best option. Sure, if you are a big name in your industry, it’s a lot easier, but it’s never easy. I’m not lazy by any stretch, but I want to be even more prepared before I run my next, and I’m working on building a bigger fan base first.
Nobody wants to pay for your “eternal gratefulness”!
Even though I’ve backed plenty of campaigns without asking for a reward, I do like getting rewards if I’m interested, but so many Kickstarters have horrible rewards or rewards that are great, but are priced wrong. You want to reward those who are backing you more than some joe off the street. Your Backer is doing so much more for you than some future, potential consumer. I’ve seen people charge $5-10 just to credit the Backer in their product as a contributor. That is absurd! They can’t think of something to give at a price point or are being arrogant and set up credit as its own reward. It’s insulting, and all too common. I made it free on my Kickstarter. Why? Because I was grateful to my backers. They DID contribute, so I DID credit them! You should too!
Kickstarter isn’t a charity. Give potential backers something they can sink their teeth into! Backers should feel appreciated, not “lucky to get in on the ground floor of my awesome product”. Rarely will a thank you note or the realization that you will be “forever grateful” ever make me want to give you a dime. I want to give money because I believe in what you are doing and think it’s cool, and maybe because I think I might like you and like what you’ll do the next time.
I’m a dreamer and love backing dreams—not just any dreams, but dreams that were followed up with a battleplan, lots of thought and elbow grease. I want to give money because you’ve shown me that you are not only passionate about what you are doing, but you know what you’re doing, can do it, do it well and impressed me.
Just as people shouldn’t rush into launching a campaign, people shouldn’t rush into backing a project. I’m seeing people invest money in Kickstarters that don’t deserve it, and I’m seeing some Kickstarters that deserve more than they are getting and are not properly supported. I know, we’re all busy. We’re all short on cash. Most of you probably didn’t even know I was running a Kickstarter back in 2014. I’ve missed more than a few I would have loved to back somehow, despite my frequent visits to Kickstarter to see what’s new.
It bums me out when I go to Kickstarter looking for a cool project to toss some money at and I can’t find a single one in my interest area that looks like they cared enough to do their homework. I’m not saying I didn’t make any mistakes on my Kickstarter. I’m still learning, but I worked my tail off, read piles of articles, studied for well over a year, I did my homework. I did make mistakes, but I did a lot right too. There have also been some projects in which they did so much right and I’d love to back them, but find red flags that turn me off, like some of those I’ve mentioned above.
Make actual friends and fans, not just followers!
Likes are cheap and thrown around. Followers come and go and may not even like you (they may have randomly followed you. Some of them are spammers, others followed you on a whim). Those of you who have cultivated numerous followers on Twitter and Facebook, please understand that the conversion rate of likes and followers is extremely bad. There’s a difference between a follower and a friend. Sometimes they are the same thing. More often than not, they are not the same. Anyone can hit like and do so casually, but most will not take the time to back you. Even relatives may not take the time to back you, will get confused how to back, will forget to back, and that includes real friends too. If you get 2 in 100 twitter followers to back you, that’s not half bad. I haven’t looked up the conversion rate lately, but it’s better to have a few true friends than a stadium full of strangers.
I had some generous friends and family as some of my Backers. But I also had both friends and family who completely forgot I was running a Kickstarter, despite talking about it frequently. People live busy lives, so you have to make your campaign rock and spread the word. Talk about your project often, but don’t spam people.
Get involved in what other people are doing. Invest in their lives—show that you care, don’t just try to hit them up for money. That gets annoying quick. Sometimes I can’t back someone because my money’s just too tight that week, but if I believe in what they are doing and it is in my interest area, I’m much more likely to spread the word on social media for them and am also more likely to squeeze some money out of my pocket even though I really can’t afford it. Some people forget about spreading the word and would if you let them know. Others don’t want to be bothered. Be a real friend and you might get some real friends back. Start now. Friendship takes time, but you won’t regret it!
This blog post wasn’t meant to be a rant, though I know at times it came off as one. It’s just that I want you to succeed and take this seriously. It was long, but far from exhaustive. Hopefully it will help someone avoid a bum campaign and another to run a better campaign. As always, I covet your comments. Cheers!