Kickstarter Thoughts: Part I, the basics
So for anyone following along from that last post, the Kickstarter for my book was successful (hooray! huge sigh of relief! and thank you, thank you to everyone who supported me, financially or emotionally!)
It seems like the thing to do once you’ve run a successful Kickstarter campaign is to write a post with Kickstarter tips. Mostly, I want to write an introvert’s guide to a Kickstarter campaign, but I’ve already gotten a couple of requests for some basic tips, so I thought I’d start with those since I had already written them up. I do want to say that much of what I learned came from people who I turned to for help when I was first getting started. Kickstarter seems to inspire people to want to help others have successful campaigns. But I wanted to give a huge, huge thanks to Jessica from Eye Power Kids Wear who gave me all sorts of great advice and help along the way. In fact, that might be the first tip: Find someone who has done this before who believes in your project and wants you to succeed. Their help will be invaluable!
A couple of caveats: I am no expert at this. I’ve done this once, and while I was successful, the campaign was not a runaway success. These are the basic tips for people doing their first Kickstarter. If you’re on to your second or third, you probably don’t need my advice. Also, there’s a ton out there written about this already. You should really read more than just this post if you’re planning on doing this.
- Start getting your Amazon accounts linked now. You might get rejected a few times. I did, with no explanation. I called and they said they’d look in to it, 2 days later, it was approved, but you can’t start your Kickstarter until that is complete, so you might as well start now.
- Once you have your Kickstarter page mostly set up, submit it for approval. You don’t need to have the video recorded or all the rewards entered. Your Kickstarter can be updated after it’s been approved before it is made live. It only took them 1 day to approve my campaign, but I’ve heard from others that it can take up to a week. You might as well get it approved early, so once you’re ready to go, you can just push the button and go!
- Make sure you pay attention to Kickstarters rules, both for the products and for the rewards. If you have a question about whether something will be allowed, send them the question. They were pretty quick to respond to me.
- I have no idea if the video was particularly helpful or not. Kickstarter will tell you that campaigns with a video are more likely to fund than those without. But they may be mixing up their cause and effect. There’s a whole lot of Kickstarter campaigns where the creator obviously didn’t put much effort into it. Those don’t often fund. They also tend not to have videos.But either way, I felt like it was expected, even though I almost never watch the videos when I browse Kickstarter. My video was not sophisticated at all (you can watch it if you want). I went for a simple and direct video. I wrote the script and memorized it in a night. My father-in-law shot the video. The one we used was our second take. Chris edited it. There were no special effects. The video is just one shot. The good thing about having done it, is that I had to memorize the script, which means I had a pitched memorized that I could use if someone asked me about the campaign. In the end, about 48% of the people who visited the Kickstarter page watched the video all the way through.
- Have someone (or two) look over your Kickstarter page before you launch. There’s a way to share the preview page before it’s live so you can get plenty of feedback from others.
- Look at other Kickstarters for similar projects and see what they have for rewards.
- Make sure you have a $1 reward (even if it’s just a “thank you”), and that you have at least a few other options under $25. I tried to find things that were related to the project, but were less expensive with little to no shipping costs, like electronic copies of the book or bookmarks or note cards for those levels. Others do handwritten thank you notes. I think that’s a nice thing, but I’m bad enough with thank you cards as it is. Adding more didn’t seem like a good plan.
- You also want some higher level rewards. If anything, I think I had too many low cost rewards, but I did have at least one backer at each level, so I don’t know what I would have removed.
- Think about whether you’ll have backers that will want to support you, but aren’t going to be interested in owning your final product. Can you come up with a reward that they might be interested in? I did a reward level that donated a copy of our book to a library or daycare center, but I didn’t get that up until half way through the campaign. I probably should have had that option to begin with.
- Don’t forget to account for shipping costs. For domestic shipping, it should be included in the reward cost.
- International shipping costs are crazy high – they just are. It can really turn off potential backers, and Kickstarter doesn’t let you differentiate between countries. I made a separate reward tier for Canada that was a little higher than the domestic price, but not the full international shipping costs. I did try to facilitate some group purchases where 10 people in the UK or Australia would get together to buy the book and split shipping, which brought it down to less crazy levels, but that was a lot of work for me and others to pull off and didn’t actually work as well as I’d hoped. Offering an electronic or no shipping costs option helps with that, too.
Also worth noting, the money that gets added in for international shipping will count towards making your goal. That’s great for making your goal, but if you just make your goal without much wiggle room, it will not leave you as much money for your other costs. I don’t know what the solution to that is.
(this is where I had the most trouble. Tune in for part 2 for my thoughts on how to deal with this if you’re intrinsically not the type of person who is comfortable doing promotion stuff)
- Have a website and a facebook page (and Google+ and Twitter and whatever other account if you’re doing those) set up before you go live. Start inviting people to follow the accounts about a week or so before you go live with the Kickstarter to start getting the word out.
- If you’re using facebook (or Google+, I suppose) to promote, have some different images to use to post. I felt like I was posting a ton and always posting the same image at first. And it’s really sad when you start getting sick of pictures of your daughter. But most people won’t see every facebook post you do, so you will end up posting a lot.
- You will get to see through Kickstarter where backers are coming from and that can help guide you on where to put more effort. Most of my backers came from facebook, though others have reported that they get more backers from emails.