4 Things I Will Do Differently in My Next Kickstarter

As I gear up for my next Kickstarter project (March 2015!), I wanted to reflect on the lessons I learned over the past year as project creator. But then spending time thinking of the things I didn’t do well seemed the wrong way to go about it. Instead I want to talk about the things I will do better this time around.

Running and publishing the He Who Laughs Last was one of the greatest experiences of my life, mostly because it allowed me to truly engage with my community when I had just been an observer before. Many of my friends and associates are writers, artists and designers in the RPG space, and now I am too. Writing and publishing a book is hard, but with the help of all the great people out there, you really get the feeling of being a part of something. That was definitely my favorite part of the experience.

And certainly, publishing my scenario, having people run it and getting feedback on the book (both good and bad) was enlightening and validating. And while it’s great to get positive feedback, you really haven’t made it until you’ve had someone complain that they “expected more from this project…”

So that’s all goodness — but what am I going to do differently?

1. Prepare Stretch Goals Ahead of Time: I love the idea of engaging with your backers and getting their help in figuring out aspects of your project, but damn, stretch goals can kill you. And while my project had nowhere near the stretch goal over-commitment of some projects, I still found myself a bit over my head when it came time to finish everything up. (Actually, I haven’t finished everything for my project, as I’ve still to write up a fictionalization of the HWLL story for my backers.) This is mostly because, in the heat of battle (aka during the project), I just came up with stretch goals on the fly, without really planning how I would go about finishing them (and all the various efforts I would need to enlist others in, which is a bigger challenge). Furthermore, stretch goals should be about continuing momentum and not just a given — there’s no reason to add stretch goals in the first few days if people are still backing. Instead, wait until the momentum slows and THEN add stretch goals. This time I will plan all of my stretch goals ahead of time, some big, some small, and only publish them once momentum slows.

2. Be Very Clear About Int’l Shipping: Ah yes, international shipping, the scourge of all Kickstarter projects. I had been warned about how expensive it was to ship internationally, but holy shit! Basically it costs $25 to ship a book from the USA to pretty much anywhere else in the world (Canada is cheaper at $20), which is just a lot of money to ship a book that only costs $7 to print. Oh, sure, you can skimp and pay $10, have it take 3-4 weeks and have no guarantee that it will arrive, or you can pay the higher cost and provide better service. I think it just means you need to be very, very clear up front how you’re handling shipping, and hopefully not turn away people with the high cost. Until I can deal in high enough quantities to justify working with overseas printers and distributors, it’s all POD and hand-shipping for me. That means higher cost for my customers, unfortunately. We’ll see if this impacts my overall project…

3. Find Collaborators Ahead of Time: I did a lot of preparation for my campaign, and it showed when I funded within 36 hours. Great — now what? As I floundered around on my first project, trying to figure out what to do next, I stumbled upon something amazing: other KS project owners. During my project I had three key collaborators help me: Oscar Rios of Golden Goblin Press, Kevin Kulp of Pelgrane Press, and Shane Ivey of Arc Dream Publishing. Each of these folks helped me by spreading the word during the project, which drove noticeable traffic to my project. You can see the bumps in the Kicktraq data, there at those bumps at the end of February and beginning of March. But all of these connections were made during my campaign (except Oscar, whom I knew before), and without any preparation at all. Really, the time for getting in touch with people is right now, just about a month or so before my project starts. I already have a number of people I can reach out to, but putting those people into the plan ahead of time just reduces risk and increases the chances of success.

4. Shorten the Project Length: After all was said and done, I’m not really sure my project needed all 31 days to fund at $9k. Looking again at the Kicktraq data, the only mid-stream bumps came from other campaigns (see above) and not from general momentum. And while Wednesday is the best day to get backers, I started on a Sunday and finished on a Friday, which isn’t the best time-frame overall. This time I’m going to try just 3 weeks, starting and finishing on a Sunday, and just nip the whole thing in the bud. If I have all my reviews and collaborators setup ahead of time, then there shouldn’t be any scramble mid-project to get them in line. I should hit my funding in the first few days and then use momentum to grab a few, key stretch goals. Then I rope in the remaining folks in the final 48 hours and, BAM, done.

So, yeah, I have some work to do.

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