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Indie Insights: On Kickstarter

Written by Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor on Tuesday, December 06 2011 and posted in Columns

Ken Eppstein returns with tips on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign in the lastest edition of Indie Insights!

Hey hey hey!  Looks like I'm on the verge of another successful kickstarter campaign for the fourth issue of Nix Comics Quarterly.  As always I am flattered and thankful to all who have contributed to my project.  Your faith in me as an artist is a muse unto itself.

Speaking of crowd funding and success, I noticed today that the Kickstarter Blog has a quick hit list of five tips for a successful comic book campaign:

Its a good and useful article, I suppose...  But it didn't really click for me as a Kickstarter user.   Its just a little too much from the perspective the service provider. (i.e. its what the Kickstarter people want to see out of your project.)  

I would suggest that you take all of their advice with a grain of salt.   

When I launched my first campaign I noticed that the search and browse mechanisms on the site are kind of lacking, so I sent an email asking how I might improve my placement on the site.  The email I got back said that placement was a purely editorial decision and that the vast majority of traffic to Kickstarter was provided by the campaigners themselves via social networking.  That left me a little flustered, particularly when dealing with any tips they might offer. Why is it now that should I take their advice about how to ask for money from my family and friends?  Who knows my friends and family better, Kickstarter or me?  

Well, in the spirit of unsolicited advice, here are my 5 tips to starting a Kickstarter campaign.

1) Take a serious look at what Crowd-Funding is

Like I said, Kickstarter is really just a tool for soliciting money from people you know.  By Kickstarter's own admission, the lion's share of traffic to the site is driven by it's campaigners social networks.  Let that sink in.  You're asking the people you know for money.  That's not only a pretty personal thing, but presuming your campaign succeeds in meeting its goal, its a responsibility.  A Kickstarter campaign is a series of promises you're making to YOUR people. With every Kickstarter promise you make, you need to seriously evaluate if its promise that you're willing to and capable of fulfilling.  

For my first Kickstarter campaign I'll admit that I hadn't really weighed this.  An acquaintance sent me an email saying, "hey you should do this thing" and I did it.  It wasn't until I was in the middle of the campaign that it dawned on me that I was suddenly responsible to more than just myself.  Not only was I taking money from my friends, I was taking money from their friends.  That's kinda heavy.  I had to add a level of seriousness to the way I treated the project.

2) Don't treat successful funding as the goal

I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out.  Successful funding isn't the end of your project, its the beginning. As soon as you take money from somebody the clock is ticking on your credibility.   It takes a lot of time and effort to put up a campaign on Kickstarter and even more to follow it through to successful funding, so you're likely to be pretty pooped when all is said and done, so if you have to take a brief rest its understandable.  Just make sure that your rest is only long enough to get the batteries charged. Bad things will happen if you try to coast after a successfully funded campaign.  

I think this is where any advice you get from Kickstarter is suspect.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think they are mercenary.  Kickstarter wants to see successful art projects.  They just don't have much investment in YOUR art project.  Kickstarter is a funding tool.  Once you have your funds, their job is pretty much done.

3) Have as much as possible done before the campaign even begins

Goodwill is a perishable item. (Notice a recurring theme?  Well its an important one, so forgive me if I hammer on it a little.)  You'll make life a lot easier on yourself if you have things pretty much ready to go as soon as your campaign ends.   Schedule the art deadline to coincide with the Kickstarter deadline, have all of your printing quotes ready to approve andbe prepared to launch right into final edits.  In all likelihood, if this is your first time self-publishing, things will take longer than you expect to complete.  You don't want to add to the stress of completion by having Kickstarter pledges breathing down your neck.

As a guy who administers non-profit programs for a living, I was already well versed in this train of thought and the know-how to make sure my book had the legs to hit the ground running once funding was completed.  However, some folks I know weren't so experienced and are now sweating obligations they've made that are waaaaay past due.  Its a rotten guilty feeling.  You should avoid it at all costs!

4) Don't think of Kickstarter as your only possible source of funds

Crowd funding is awesome.  I really love the idea of being able to bring artistic patronage to the masses.   Even in its currently nascent form, crowd-funding has become an integral part of funding artistic projects.  Just remember that diversity is the key to survival.  

Consider Kickstarter as one source of funding and seek out as many other sources as possible.  Save part of every paycheck.  Borrow from your parents. Throw a bake sale.  Give plasma.  Marry rich.  Whatever you can do.  The more money you have coming in from different sources, the more likely it will be that the project will have a long lifespan.

As a personal note, I'm a little depressed that the Xeric Foundation grant is being discontinued.  There just can't be enough sources of funding.  Mr. Laird's contention that anybody can be a start up for minimal investment in this digital age seems a bit out of touch.  You ever try to get people to come to your website without advertising?  Maybe if you're giving away teenage-mutant-ninja money its easy.  For everyone else its tough.  Tough and possibly just as expensive as running a print book.

5) Run your campaign the way you want to

All advice is suspect.  (Even my SUPER-AWESOME advice.)  When you sit down to launch a kickstarter, let your voice come through.  

Kickstarter says you should have a video.  I'm here to tell you that you can successfully fund without a vid.  (And I can also attest that your vid can be purely entertaining instead of being a pitch) Decide for yourself if you want a video and how you want to script the video.  

Kickstarter says post a lot of updates to keep your pledges engaged.  I say frequent updates can be tedious and annoying.  Worse, it can cause pledges to tune you out...  They've already done their part and chipped into the till.  You decide based on what you want to say to your pledges and how often.

Bottom line: you need have fun with it all.  There's an unavoidable "Rah-Rah" element to all crowd-funding techniques, so you need to be creating a campaign that lights a fire in your belly.  If you're excited about it, how can you expect anyone else to be excited enough to give you their hard earned dough?

Written or Contributed by: Ken Eppstein, Outhouse Contributor

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About the Author - Christian

Christian is the exasperated Abbott to the Outhouse's Costello. When he's not yelling at the Newsroom for upsetting readers or complaining to his wife about why the Internet is stupid, he sits in his dingy business office trying to find new ways to make the site earn money. Christian is also the only person in history stupid enough to moderate two comic book forums at once.


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