How to… run a successful Kickstarter campaign

This is nothing like an expert guide, just an account of how I went about it, what worked and what didn’t.

Setting up the campaign
Before doing anything else, I worked out the budget for my project. I got estimates for the content editing, copyediting and proofreading that I wanted to pay for. I worked out what I could afford to contribute, and I set my target at the minimum level I needed to be able to pay for everything. Don’t be tempted to set your target too high, because if you don’t reach it, you don’t get any of the funding. Then I worked out my reward levels with the target in mind. I wanted people to be able to pledge just a couple of pounds and still get something, but I also included a couple of much higher levels of reward in case anyone was feeling especially generous. Some rewards I set a limit on so that I wouldn’t end up creating excessive work for myself if I got a huge, unanticipated response to the project. For instance, I limited the number of printed books to 50. If all of those were taken, I’d have exceeded my target, and I wouldn’t end up in a situation where I was dealing with shipping thousands of books out.

I did make a video, because all the advice suggests that helps massively in getting your project funded. I made mine a bit like a book trailer, so I didn’t film myself speaking. I used some royalty-free music and did some basic editing. I am not an expert, but I think it was worth the time it took to do this.

In my campaign story I talked about the book, linked to sample chapters, explained what I wanted the money for, where the project was at, and why I was confident I could complete the project. My advice is to be as clear and concrete as you can with this information. Think of it like a business proposal you’re taking to the bank. You can have fun and show personality, but ultimately you’re asking someone to trust you with their money, so you need to show you’re taking that seriously. Make sure that the focus of your campaign is on the book, not on you and your dreams of becoming a published author.

Promoting the campaign
Some campaigns will get traffic via Kickstarter itself. If your project is a staff pick, it will appear on the front page of the site. Some locations generate local traffic. Some kinds of project are more appealing to the community. I got almost no funding via the Kickstarter website. Almost all of my backers are people new to Kickstarter, and of those that have backed previous projects I know that all but one found out about my project elsewhere. You can’t assume that just by putting up your campaign you will generate funding. You have to go out and get backers.

Here’s what I did:
Blogged about it.
Tweeted about it.
Mentioned it on my personal and author FB pages.
Added it to my signature on online forums.
Posted about it (with permission from moderators) in online forums.
Sent an email to friends which included information about the campaign among other things.
Contacted a number of other blogs.
Signed up to Kicking it Forward, Kicktraq and Ayudos.
Talked about it on a writing forum.

Here’s what didn’t work:

Tweeting. I tweeted to my followers and also to several of the kickstarter/crowdfunding accounts. I think I got maybe 2 RTs.

Contacting other blogs. One posted an enthusiastic link in a weekly news post. No backers. One posted a distinctly unenthusiastic piece about the evils of Kickstarter without a link to my campaign. However, this was not wholly negative, since in the comments, there was some very useful discussion. It’s a blog I regularly follow and know many of the commenters there, so I was able to join in the conversation. I added a new reward level and an update clarifying more financial detail as a result of that conversation and one backer found me through that (indirectly by clicking on the link to my blog which had the link to Kickstarter).

Signing up to the other crowdfunding sites. As far as I can tell, no backers came through those channels.

Here’s what did work:

Using my own pre-existing online contacts. By far the majority of the backers have come via facebook and Ravelry. Some are people I know pretty well online but many are not. But because they are part of the same communities there’s a predisposition to trust and be interested.

Emailing my own RL contacts. I was quite reluctant to do this for various reasons, but by including it as one item in a regular (ish) update I send out anyway, it seemed easier. My strategy of last resort was going to be sending out a similar email to various family members next week.

Blogging. I’d posted various updates with links to the campaign which hadn’t had much impact. Then a few days ago, I wrote a post that had been brewing in my head for a while about the nature of Kickstarter and how it relates to arts patronage and commercial creativity. I linked to it from Facebook and twitter and a couple of other forums. That prompted a good number of backers who pledged very generous amounts.

Of my 27 backers, 5 are people I know in real life, 3 are online friends, 2 are friends of friends, 2 I have no idea about, and 15 are from online forums. The average pledge is just over £25 (which is a little lower than the overall Kickstarter average of about $50, I think). The most common pledge amount is £10. 7 backers pledged more than they needed to for their reward level and one chose to receive no reward at all.

I think only about 40% of Kickstarter projects get funding. If you look at some of the unsuccessful ones, it’s very clear why – not enough information about the project and what the money will be used for. For others, the target level is unrealistically high or the reward levels don’t match the target. If you’re hoping to raise $10,000 with 5,000 $2 pledges you’re just making life hard for yourself. But similarly, don’t expect ten $1000 pledges, either. You need a range and they need to match the rewards you’re offering. But for many unsuccessful campaigns, I think it may be because there isn’t a marketing strategy in place. It helped me to think of selling this campaign in the same way as I would think about selling my book. If one of your reward levels is effectively a simple pre-order, then that’s exactly what you are doing, after all.

Good luck!

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