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Art of the Genre: The Art of Kickstarter, Advice #2

Saturday, February 18th, 2012 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Steampunk by David Deitrick, and everyone likes Steampunk right?

Steampunk by David Deitrick, and everyone likes Steampunk right?

So a bit over a month ago I started my first every Kickstarter, a retro-fantasy book launch with Jeff Easley that ended earlier this week. It was a very interesting month and as people seem interested in Kickstarter’s and the possibilities that the Kickstarter site provides, I thought I’d continue blogging about it on Saturdays as long as I find out new and applicable facts concerning the program.

That being said, I’ll take you into the process once more and even append some of the numbers I initially reported during my first discourse into this topic.

This post will be about percentages, and how they can affect your project.

When I started my Kickstarter, my pledge numbers [which is to say those who became backers of the project and gave money] were mostly rolling in from feeds on Facebook. This was a cool fact, and showed that viral marketing through your social network does pay off. The percentage was roughly 70% Facebook and 30% Kickstarter internal marketing, and I was happy with that. As the month continued, however, the numbers started to realign with less and less Facebook traffic and more and more Kickstarter original pledging taking place.

Why is this, you might ask? Well, it’s an interesting thing. You see, Kickstarter has a tag it calls ‘Discover’ on its Home Page, and from that tag you can find various categories that might interest you as a possible backer. There are a bevy of them including Art, Music, Photography, Publishing, etc. One of these categories is ‘Recently Launched’ which is a nice way for Kickstarter to promote new projects and give them a bit of a boost when they start out. Still, as a Kickstarter page is laid out, a viewer can see only three projects across the top of their screen per category and perhaps another three below those before the ‘cut’. These first three projects featured at the top of the page are called ‘Staff Picks’ which are prime real estate for any project looking to draw the eye of a backer.

It’s kind of like Google in that if you aren’t on the first page of a Google search, odds are you aren’t getting found, and if you’re not in the top 3 of the page, you’re probably not even going to get clicked on. Same applies here, although a page view does allow for at least three projects to be viewed below the ‘Staff Picks’ in a ‘Popular this Week’ category which may also draw a perspective backers eye.

In every Kickstarter you begin with nothing more than an empty canvas...

In every Kickstarter you begin with nothing more than an empty canvas...

Now the Easley project did get on ‘Popular this Week’ several times, but it can change daily, even hourly, and there are two horizontal columns for ‘Popular this Week’ with the second column appearing beneath the cut on most standard monitors so that’s not quite as nice for marketing.

Also, Kickstarter’s Home Page features a ‘Project of the Day’ in it prime upper left screen position as well as a randomly chosen featured project from any of the Kickstarter categories in the upper right. If you can get on one of these, you should benefit greatly, although my Easley project never did, nor did I manage the favor of a Kickstarter employee as a ‘Staff Pick’ during the entirety of my month.

How you make it onto one of the Boardwalk and Park Place properties of the Kickstarter Home Page I’ve yet to find out, but if I do I’ll be sure to share.

Now about 2 weeks after the project’s launch there was a marked decline in pledging and we’d looked to hit our ceiling, but one Tuesday afternoon I checked my email and found no new backers, went to pick up my son from school, and came back home to find seven new backers. This continued at a nice pace throughout the next two days and as I investigated the reason I found out what non-Facebook product placement is capable of.

You see, during my project’s run on Kickstarter, not one, but two Kickstarter projects were breaking records in fan pledging across the board. The first was Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick reprint drive. Now if you don’t know what Order of the Stick is, it’s a great independent comic that features stick figure characters in a D&D-like setting doing comical and geeky things. Great right? Well, it must be greater than I figured because at the time I’m writing this the Order of the Stick Kickstarter has raised $879,327! Yep, you read those figures correctly. Nearly a million dollars in pledges to reprint Burlew’s comic.

Burlew, for his part, has run a stupendously well marketed Kickstarter, and has given fans a whole bunch of incentives and swag along the way, but still, those numbers are incredible when you consider what my Kickstarter finished at [less than .0097%]. However, as much as I’d like to be jealous with Rich for his success, he was kind enough to mention twenty Kickstarter projects that he’d supported in one of his project updates and my Easley project was one of them. Presto! $3000 more in pledges roll in from that single mention even if it didn’t link directly to me.

Just insane! That, for all you scoring at home, is the power of mass marketing on a project like this. Rich’s influence completely flipped my Kickstarter, and by the closing I’d gone from 70% Facebook backing to 70% Kickstarter backing.

For every little bit of backing you start to build your project from the ground up...

For every little bit of backing you start to build your project from the ground up...

Now if you think Rich’s success is something, two weeks into my Kickstarter a little video game company out of San Fransisco called Double Fine and 2 Player Productions launches a Kickstarter for a new adventure game that the gaming industry wouldn’t buy because ‘adventure games are dead’. Well, apparently not because in less than 20 hours Double Fine had reached $1,000,000 and at the time of this posting was sitting on $1,940,030 with 24 days left on their project…

Yep, I’m feeling kind of small. How did they do it? I have no freaking idea other than they had an established fan base and somehow went viral.

I mean, I thought I had an established fan base right here on Black Gate. I was the #1 visited blogger in January and had over six thousand page views of my articles which is positively huge for a BG blogger. How did that translate into Kickstarter pledging? 3… Yes, you read that correctly. I had over 6000 readers in January and 3 of them pledged to my Easley Kickstarter. That is a staggeringly woeful .0005% capture rate.

In a day and age where it costs $3.65 for a cup of gourmet coffee that takes 1 minute for an entire transaction, I drew 3 backers when my minimum pledge was $5.00. Flavored water laced with caffeine for $3.65 or an a epub novel covered and illustrated by one of the Top 10 fantasy artists of the past thirty years and professionally designed and edited right here by Black Gate Books staffers that has taken countless hours of creative process and work to create. Amazing…

To the 3 people that supported me, I salute you. At least a chosen few still believe that the power of the small press is worth more than a cup of overpriced Joe.

What does this mean to your personal Kickstarter? Here are my top 4 for this post.

Once you get the support, you then get to put it all together...

Once you get the support, you then get to put it all together...

Number One: Know your fan base! If you don’t have one, then don’t do a Kickstarter!

Number Two: Facebook is great, but it’s quickly becoming Kickstarter saturated, so don’t depend on it.

Number Three: You need to have a connection that will take you viral. I personally haven’t figured that one out, but I’m working on it.

Number Four: Video production value really, really helps. My video production value stinks, but I’ve seen much worse. Double Fine had a professional documentary crew with a price tag of $100,000 do their Kickstarter video, but they got 2 million out of the deal, so that gamble paid off, but it’s still a gamble.

With all of the above in mind, I started my second Kickstarter, this one with iconic Steampunk artist David Deitrick. If you’ve read this far you might as well click the link here and check it out. You can also see some of his comic images for the Kickstarter in this article. Comics certainly worked for Rich Burlew, right, so why not us?

Anyway, to all you folks out there who read my words each week, or sometimes twice a week, I’m giving you another chance to redeem my faith in my fan base. At a minimum its $5.00, and if you don’t have an ereader then you still get a PDF and I know you have a computer. Show the guys and gals here on Black Gate that we do have a great readership and that we are really connecting with people.

Until next time, good tidings and great reading!

5 Comments »

  1. […] Black Gate (Scott Taylor) on Art of the Genre: The Art of Kickstarter, Advice #2. […]

    Pingback by SF Tidbits for 2/19/12 - SF Signal – A Speculative Fiction Blog - February 19, 2012 2:06 am

  2. Immensely helpful advice. I’ve been contemplating Kickstarter for one of my trunk novels, but it’s now clear that the time to do that, if it ever comes, is not yet here.

    Comment by Sarah Avery - February 19, 2012 1:58 pm

  3. Thanks Sarah, its a very tricky business, and I hope I’m helping authors who are thinking about it. Seriously, it a veritable graveyard of unsupported projects and I’m sure that really is destructive to author’s creativity to do this and fail. Knowing what your up against and how to compete is a nice bullet to have in your chamber, so I hope I can continue to provide support for my readers.

    Comment by Scott Taylor - February 19, 2012 2:16 pm

  4. This is good advice. We tried an Indigogo deal that fell flat. We’re working on a Sword and Soul RPG and may try this route for fund raising.

    Comment by Ndoro - February 21, 2012 10:11 am

  5. Ndoro: I wish you luck, and the RPG sounds very cool.

    Comment by Scott Taylor - February 23, 2012 1:00 am


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