Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Preparing the KickStarter Campaign (Art:The Steel Road)

Art by: Zachary Viola
From: The Steel Road

Things are busy for me.  I'm finishing up the fulfillment for Comet over Echo Rock, I've been working on the first proof copy draft of The Steel Road, and also working on the test draft of Whispers of Persephone.  As promised at the beginning of the year, 2018 is shaping up to be a very busy year indeed!  As The Steel Road KickStarter campaign is launching soon, I've been preparing that campaign.

Having survived four KickStarter campaigns so far, I have learned a few things about setting them up, the mathematics behind them, and fulfillment.  So today I'm going to talk about setting up a KickStarter campaign, and I'm going to use The Steel Road as an example and as a shameless plug (hope you'll support the campaign when it launches) 😇.

Art from: The Steel Road
Artist: Zachary Viola


For purposes of our discussion today, I'm going to assume you have developed your project fully.  What I mean by that is that your book is written, your game is designed, your widget prototype works, etc.   You may be raising money for art, printing, manufacturing or whatnot: that is fine.

You should be very particular when calculating how much money you will need to raise.  Keep in mind the costs associated with the project, the KickStarter and transaction fees, shipping costs, and your tax obligation (as applies or may not depending upon your jurisdiction).  I would also recommend building in an additional amount to help cover unexpected expenses. 

For The Steel Road, costs are very small, so we set the goal at $1000 (USD).  While we certainly hope to reach a much higher level of funding, it is important that a funding goal that meets the project needs is set.  It is also important that the goal be realistically attainable, otherwise you may be wasting your time as well as the time of your backers.  I have a high degree of confidence that The Steel Road can reach $1000 in funding. I am not as confident that it would reach $25,000 in funding. Fortunately, KickStarter is a very flexible platform that will permit a project to fund well over its goal. So I've set my goal low, and hope that the value to the backer, and the cool concept will help to attract much more funding beyond the base goal level.

A few words of advice here:  Shipping can be tricky!  When you are designing your campaign, be very attentive to your shipping options.  If you are planning on shipping items yourself, don't forget to calculate your costs for your shipping boxes, envelopes, packing paper etc.  Also, factor in the time it will take you to process your shipping (particularly if you are doing it yourself) when you calculate your fulfillment timeline!  Remember that the funds collected for shipping are also subject to the KickStarter fees.

Read the Creator Handbook

While this may seem obvious, it is critically important that you read the handbook before designing your campaign.  Read the handbook, its not long, and you need to be conversant in it. 

Images and Video:

KickStarter's page recommends including videos and/or images in your campaign.  They claim to have statistical evidence supporting the assertion that campaigns with videos and images receive more funding. I believe this to be true.

Select relevant, high quality images that accent the text and show off the project.  Use your images intelligently to drive home your points and show prospective backers why they may want to support you. 

Screen shot from campaign Preview
Art by: Zachary Viola

For the video, I would suggest keeping to the same guideline as for images.  Make it relevant and of the best quality you can.  Regardless of whether you record yourself speaking to your backers, or a sophisticated animation, keep the video on topic.  I have seen many people recommend to keep the video at or under three minutes in length.  I don't subscribe to that theory so much as I believe that so long as the video is interesting and engages the audience the total length can range beyond that recommendation.

Backer Rewards:

Reward tiers should constructed to afford options to the backers, while being priced to help you raise the money you need to fund your project.  You should ask yourself, "would I be willing to pay $X for this?" as you build the rewards.  There should be value for the people who are supporting you.  Don't treat your backers like they are your personal money machine. 

I want to point out that having just a handful of backer rewards makes it far easier to fulfill your obligations than having several different ones.  Take a long look at the logistics of fulfillment when determining how many backer rewards you will include and what those tiers should be priced as. 

Once you have your calculations for your reward tiers, take a few minutes and compare your numbers with those of campaigns from similar genre/type projects.  (Example: if your project is a new board game, take a look at similar games to see what reward tiers were popular and what those price points were.)

My opinion and a few words of advice on backer rewards:  In the long run it is more important that many people support your project than a handful of people give you a lot of money.  Having many people come out to support you creates an audience.  While some may come and go between campaigns, it has been my experience that people continue to support your projects as you continue to provide good value.  (Example: for The Steel Road, I have created an Early Backer tier which rewards the backer with a PDF copy and a POD code for only $8!  This is to provide a great value opportunity to all of you who have been following my adventure here as well as those fantastic people who have been following me on KickStarter! As always, "Thank You" to all of you who have supported my campaigns.) 

Art from: The Steel Road
Artist: Zachary Viola


Whether it is a novel, RPG book, or comic book make certain to have the file formatted and backed up somewhere before you launch. I've had a bad experience where my computer died, which forced me to reformat all of Comet over Echo Rock.  I would like to recommend that you save your work locally, to a removable medium, as well as to a cloud storage for redundancy.  This was careless of me in several ways, and cost me more hours than I care to admit.  Don't make the same mistake I did!

All books should be written, at least in the first draft stage, before launching your KickStarter campaign.  If additional content comes in through backer contributions, make certain the backers understand the timeline for submitting their material.  If stretch goals add to the project, make certain to have that material in development or fully developed before the campaign ends.

For printed works, be fully aware of your print and shipping costs.  I will point out that signed copies get shipped at least twice: once to you for signatures and then the second time on to the backer.  Be certain to factor in the additional shipping in your calculations.

Books that are released electronically or via a print on demand code the backer uses are inherently easier and faster to fulfill.  I strongly recommend a digital version of any book created as a backer reward.  I'll be offering POD codes as backer rewards for The Steel Road.  This is my first time employing this option, but I've read up on it and I believe it will allow for a more rapid fulfillment and will lower costs for fulfillment. 

Screen shot from Campaign preview
Art by: Zachary Viola

Promoting your KickStarter campaign:

I'm a big believer in using social media to promote your projects.  I'm also a big fan of building community and helping others.  Make connections to people who share your same interests, tell them about your project and campaign, and ask if they would help spread the word. 

Reach out to other creators whom you have supported in the past, Social media circles, and any social media personalities you may be acquainted with.  Whether it is a podcast channel that has fifty followers or a just your friend who has five hundred facebook friends, ask them to help promote your project.  Be cordial, professional, and honest in all such dealings.

Many people will tell you to use paid ads of one form or another.  I can only say that I have had more people find me from word of mouth on social media than I have from

{Example:  I routinely promote KickStarter and Indiegogo campaigns I find interesting or which are being conducted by people I network with.  This is great for building a mutually supportive community but it does take effort on your part.  You also have to begin building that community well in advance of your own campaign launch.}


Communicating with your backers is incredibly important.  I would go so far as to say that it is incredibly rude not to do so. 

I recently added a link to a KickStarter campaign I found interesting.  I had never communicated to the creator before, I don't know her, but her campaign was really neat.  Over the last few days I've been watching as she has failed to respond to comments from backers.   This appears to have cost her some backers so far.  I have no intention of embarrassing anyone so I will not specify which campaign this is.  What I will say is: Do not make this mistake!

Be genuine in your communications, honest in your statements, and realistic in the expectations you create.
Art from: The Steel Road
Artist: Zachary Viola


KickStarter provides a magnificent opportunity for your to develop and release your creativity.  Where once a person may have left an idea to linger and die, now you can pursue your idea with the help of others.  I strongly recommend that you utilize the funding available to create the best version of your project possible.   By creating the best product or service possible, you will be able to realize income outside of the crowd funding campaign. 

Don't get me wrong, you should hope to make some extra money from your campaigns.  What I am recommending is that you create the absolute, best version of your vision before claiming any funds as revenue.  See my previous post concerning my recommendation on what to do with "Profits" in my previous post HERE

This has been a very basic overview of how to put your KickStarter campaign.  I would like to recommend that you do your due diligence and research crowd funding at length before designing and launching your campaign.  If you have questions, please post them in the comments below.  I will make every effort to answer the questions I can, but those I cannot answer I'll try to point you to resource if I know of one. 

Be honest in your promotions, be meticulous in your calculations, innovative in your project, and treat your audience and those who support you with respect and professionalism.  Do all this and you'll find that during those moments when you may wonder if you'll reach your goal that you will know you have done your best and acted ethically.  You cannot put a price tag on that kind of peace of mind.


Thank you for joining me for this entry.  I hope this helps you in developing your own crowd funding efforts. 

The Steel Road is coming to KickStarter in coming weeks.  You can follow me on KickStarter to receive notification of the launch, or follow this blog as I'll be announcing the launch date here.

Thanks for joining me on my adventure in game design, writing, and self -publishing.  I hope to see you here next time!

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