ECCC2015 Panel: Ins and Outs of Self-Publishing with Kickstarter

Filed under Writing.


Panel: Daniel Davis (Steamcrow), Travis Hanson (The Bean), Paul Roman Martinez (the19xx web comic), Craig Engler (Kickstarter)


My notes from the panel. Topics may not be in order of discussion. *Some sentences are my own interpretation/flavor added.


Kickstarter is not a lifestyle, but rather a platform to help you complete a project. You will not “get rich” off Kickstarter, nor is it for that purpose. It’s an opportunity to tackle your passion and complete a project; it’s an opportunity to build your brand, and an extension of your tribe/community. Make it one piece out of a long term overall plan for your brand, not a quick cash decision.


Start Early – build your audience. A Kickstarter launched in a desert, has little chance for success*. By starting early (a year in advance) on making email lists, contacts, Facebook followers, you provide the groundwork that will help your Kickstarter be successful. Email lists are crucial. Great thing about Kickstarter, once you do one, they store your email list…and it’s easier to build from there.


Plan accordingly. Financials – if you have physical product, how will you ship? Include those costs – packaging, shipping, transporting. Plan to ask for a realistic goal…what is the absolute bottom amount you need to make it happen? Ask only 20% over that to allow buffer for unexpected costs. DON’T GET GREADY or you won’t get funded. Understand that about 10% will go to fees (some bank fees for visa transactions, some Kickstarter, and some from folks who pull out or end up dropping and not funding you after all in the end)


Research – other Kickstarters, look at what was successful (what was their goal, what layout did they use, what kind of stretch goals did they include), and what was failures…compare and incorporate best practices that work. Go to forums and blog posts about Kickstarter, see what others are saying. Also on Kickstarter there is now a place called Campus (link at the bottom of Kickstarter) where you can hear from veteran Kickstarter folks who give advice.


Be Passionate – in your video about project. People are more likely to support your cause if they see your passion. BUT keep the video 2 minutes or less in length. Most people will only watch up to a minute of video…then they will either keep reading about your project or move on to something else. So make the first minute count*!


Include Visuals – great artwork, video updates, picture of you (author) at your desk creating…build a story around the visuals to pull people in, make them excited about your project. Include music in your video (lots of Indy music places where you can purchase royalty free content to include in your video)


Contact Kickstarter – feel free to reach out to Kickstarter, the staff are friendly and helpful. Share with them your plan/idea and see if you can get feedback on your approach. Reach out at least 4-6 weeks before you want to launch.


Rewards – think through these rewards and how you will get them to backers. Try to make as many rewards non-physical as possible, less shipping. If doing prints, or bookmarks, stickers or postcards – make sure fit in same package as book size, so that you don’t have to get another package (secondary packages cost a lot!) Some examples: A cameo in the next novel ($100 – $400), an executive producer credit + this person gets to read novel during edit phase and provide feedback ($400 – 1000), signed book copies, etc. Things like T-shirts or posters will add more cost to the reward (T-shirts tack on another $5-10)


Pad your delivery dates by a few weeks or more – knowing that things can crop up…it almost always does. Under promise and over deliver. Always deliver on time. People will remember and won’t support you if you drop the ball. If an act of god happens (train derails, wind storm knocks out power and deliveries are delayed, etc…) just be sure to communicate clearly to backers what is happening, and what is being done. They may be in the dark literally, but you don’t want them in the dark regarding your campaign*. Think about the shipping and labels, there are ways to print labels easier, ask on forums, etc. Think about investing in thermal printer to batch it out. Australia and other international shipping fees cost a lot; make sure backers are aware and willing to pay those extra fees.


Stretch Goals –Plan these out carefully, have them ready on the off chance you are funded much higher than expected. It happens!


How long should the campaign run? 15-30 days max. The normal pace of a campaign is the first few days high spikes of funding, followed by a dry period/slow period…and the last few days another high spike. No sense in dragging it out, you’ll just end up with a long slow period in the middle anyway.


Time to Launch! – Do not launch during the months of November or December – Do not launch on any holiday (your campaign can span a holiday…for example 4th of July, but don’t have it begin or end on one). Prewrite your notifications, have it all lined up and ready to go so you can just press send, send, and send. Some panel members launch during conventions, when they know they can promote it to wider audiences.


Rollercoaster Ride – you will ride a rollercoaster of emotion during the campaign and sometime after. Be prepared. The high of the first few days when you see numbers climbing, the low of the middle slow down, and the rush at the end…plus the stress of fulfillment when complete.

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