Saturday, August 5, 2017

My theory on KickStarter and building your audience - Art by: Rebecca Coulthart

Art by: Rebecca Elisbet Coulthart
You can learn more about Rebecca and her art HERE

Since beginning my adventure in game design, writing, and self-publishing I have learned many things.

One thing I would like to share with you today, is my current theory on crowdfunding and its place in your long term planning for your business model.

Don't worry, I won't be using arcane academic theory for this entry.  I merely want to share with you, my position on where crowdfunding (in my case KickStarter) fits in to the way I operate.  As usual feel free to draw your own conclusions.

First lets discuss the basics:

When you are considering launching a KickStarter campaign, your work (book, game, etc.) should be nearly or wholly complete.  Too many backers have been burned by campaigns that didn't produce as promised.  Don't be that guy.

You'll want to draft a realistic estimate, then add about four weeks to that time period to account for things that can, and therefore will, go wrong.  I recommend using this formula to ensure that the delivery date you provide for backer rewards is realistic.  Hitting that date gives you credibility, while missing that date is bad.  (Easy so far, right?)

Delivering on your rewards, at the highest quality possible, will earn trust with backers.  This is INCREDIBLY important.  Do all you can to deliver on time, and what you promised, to each backer. Be professional about it and folks who have backed you before will be more likely to back you in the future.

Next, I'll talk about why:

As you all know from reading these posts, I've been producing role-playing game adventure modules. I've made every effort to produce the most interesting and highest quality books I can.  But I am still learning, so I know I'm going to make mistakes.  I look for those, and make every effort to correct them. So when that happens you have to own those mistakes and provide an honest statement to them.  Don't sugar coat a failure, give the facts to the backers.  They supplied you with money, you owe it to them to provide the truth.

Doing this earns trust with the backers. It may be hard for you to admit a failing, or embarrassing to admit a problem (like a printer losing your file that you sent them and they verified having then lost and printed the wrong file and sent it to you like you wouldn't notice...... I'm not bitter).  But providing that total transparency is important for your reputation.  Build on that for your future.

Now, time for real world example of this, so stick with me.  Tale of the Wizard's Eye has had a problem with printing of the hard cover copies of the book.  As a result, eleven backers are waiting on their copies.  Fortunately, I had padded my timetable, and launched with a fulfillment date of August, and when I made everything clear to my backers, that they weren't going to receive their books early in July, they were very understanding.  At the time I'm writing this it is August 5th.  Every day this month I've thought about those books and I'm waiting anxiously for the proofs so I can confirm everything is alright.  Its the most worrisome thing I've experienced with publishing so far.  I know in my head that everything is going to be fine, but I sincerely wanted those books in the hands of backers in July.  Now eleven of them are waiting.

August 2nd, I launched my second KickStarter campaign.  This time to support my book "Tarot Adventures, Book One: The Draw of Glenfallow"... that is a lot to type so I'm going to refer to it by its development handle "TDoG" for the rest of this article.  TDoG's KickStarter launched and was suddenly getting funding immediately.  It reached fully funded status (and then some) before the end of its third day running and is now (as of this writing) only $30 away from it's stretch goal.

What caused TDoG to fund so suddenly and so well?  Firstly, several backers who had supported Tale of the Wizard's Eye came out in support of TDoG right after it went live.  We also had a backer who made a hefty pledge (thank you!), and several backers who shared the link on their social media channels to get the word out.  So, with 26 days left to go the project is well funded and development is almost done (just waiting on cover art, two interior art pieces and cartography). When is my estimated fulfillment date?  October of 2017.  So I'll have plenty of time to get materials from the printer, proof them, then make fulfillment when the KickStarter backer surveys come back.

This gives me three weeks to polish the book's content, format, and style.  So see my first point about fulfillment of what you promise, and digest this next fact.  This KickStarter succeeded on the pledges of those backers who thought enough of The Tale of the Wizard's Eye to come back and support the new project.  I like to think I earned their interest with my efforts, and with the quality of that first book.

Why is this important?  Because I'm not trying to make money on KickStarter.  I'm trying to fund the production of the books themselves.  Building an audience (remember that, its important) you are creating for, helps you to produce quality materials and those people who have enjoyed your work in the past are more likely to back your future projects.  For me that is terrifically important for my future releases, considering that the Tarot Adventures are scheduled to encompass twenty-two books over the next couple of years.  So I want to build great value into each book, keep quality as high as possible, and deliver on time.  The audience, those backers supporting me, deserve no less.

With each successful KickStarter you have an opportunity to build your audience.  Make the most of that opportunity. Treat your backers well and with the respect they deserve.  Cherish their feedback and each message or comment.  Respond!  If you are very fortunate, they will continue to support future projects, and with each project your audience can grow.

My theory on KickStarter's place in the long term business model is this:
1) Use it to fund your projects to minimize your risk of loss of capital (money).
2) Use it responsibly and with the highest ethical concern for your performance with regard to your backers (see my previous posts reminding people that backers are not your personal money machines).
3) Be honest
4) Produce the best product you possibly can, and improve as you move on to future projects
5) Think in the long term. You need backers to achieve point #1.  So consider your release schedule carefully.  I don't believe launching KickStarter campaigns to fund $65 books each month will meet with much success.  Show some courtesy and common sense.  Develop your project, launch your KickStarter to fund it (books are my model, so this may not fit all campaigns), prepare for launch (promote the KickStarter campaign itself as well as the book), launch the KickStarter (very exciting to me so far), polish up your product and get it ready for release.  Then when the KickStarter funds (hopefully) ship your backer rewards.  Give the audience time to read and/or use your book/game/etc.  before you start announcing a new one. For my purposes, I have to consider that it will take time for the book to arrive, time for the backer to schedule his play session with his or her friends and to enjoy the book.  I also want to give the backers all the support they may need.  I can field questions they may have, or address any issues, and get things sorted before I'm announcing the next KickStarter.

{As to that last point, I should have waited another month to give backers time for completing the Tale of the Wizard's Eye.  I'm going to work on timing a bit so I'm not bombarding backers with KickStarter campaigns for adventure modules. I also don't want them to have to wait too long between releases, so timing is going to have to be carefully considered.}

Old School RPGs - Available Now @

My conclusion, is that KickStarter is a great avenue for promoting as well as funding your projects.  You have the opportunity to impress people with the virtues of your project, and can build your audience by providing what you create, at the highest quality you can manage, and on schedule.  So be professional, be honest, really just be a good person making an honest effort to do the best you can, and deliver on your promises.  People will respect that, and you may (hopefully) earn the confidence of backers who will come back to see what you have prepared next.

I'm going to share this post as far as I can reach, because I want to stress to folks a few things:
1) Don't try to get rich off KickStarter campaigns... that isn't what its there for.
2) Don't disappoint your backers.  Deliver what you promise and on time.
3) Be transparent by updating your backers whenever something significant happens, and take the time to say "Thank You" as they have certainly earned it.
4) When you receive a pledge, send a thank you message.  I do a personal one for every backer.  Granted I've not yet had a project that had 100 backers (I've only done two and one of those is only 3 days old) so for those of you with thousands of backers I understand that can be difficult.
5) Follow the KickStarter rules.  You don't want to lose access to that resource.  Read them before each KS launch.
6) Grow your audience by doing the right things, doing good work, and treating people well.

Thank you for once again joining me on my adventure into writing, self-publishing, and game design.
I hope you will join me next time as well.

Please take a moment to share this post on social media, particularly if you believe the points made above are valid.

As always your comments and questions are welcome.

Thank you.
W.S. Quinton
Founder, Sinopa Publishing LLC

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.