Funding Faux Pas

I know what you are thinking, “Your project just squeaked by, David. What makes you think you can tell us how to run our Kickstarter?” Though The Wardenclyffe Horror was not half the phenom that many of the Kickstarter projects are, it was still successful. I credit this with modest goals, great execution, and tons and tons of research.

There are a lot of saying about advice out there, and few of them are positive. So if you’d like to stay and hear what I have learned about crowd funding, feel free. If not, well – I understand that too.

Today we are going to talk about the five things project creators do at their own peril, and the things they should be doing instead:

  • Ask for too MUCH money. If your project looks unrealistic, no one is going to give you a dime. Last month, I came across a comic book project that looked really great; it had wonderful art, an interesting premise, and professionals behind it, but they didn’t get my money. Why not? Because they wanted to raise over $200k for their project. They didn’t want the money for the graphic novel, they wanted the money to publish a whole series of graphic novels and found a publishing house to boot. Don’t be that guy.
  • Ask for too LITTLE money. Do not say that you need $50k for your project to fund, and then talk about how this project is actually going to take $75k to actually happen further down the page. I have seen this. It makes backers IMMEDIATELY distrustful of your project and of you. Credibility is about making all the signals match – a warm smile with a threatening posture does not inspire confidence.
  • Give too FEW details on why you need it. If you ask for a few hundred dollars to self publish a digital novel, a few thousand to print a book or comic book on paper, or a few tens of thousands of dollars for a video game, people are not likely to bat an eye, because it falls in line with their expectations. If you are going to diverge specifically from your competitors though, people need to know why. You need to sell them on why your artist makes your book cost ten times more than the next guy, or how the inflated price tag of your board game is due to superior (and worthwhile) components!
  • Tell people, at ANY point, that you don’t need the figure provided. The key to a successful Kickstarter project is two fold: having a vision to create a project people want, and being able to create it. If you start to make people doubt that second one, the first part won’t matter so much. Before you launch make a solid plan, then check and recheck it. When you think it is good to go, consider asking your friends to check it again for you.
  • Hint you might SELF-FUND any shortfall. This one is a big deal. Not only is it against Kickstarter’s ToS, but like the previous point, it really takes the wind out of your backer’s sails, and not only that it can make you look greedy or dishonest. If you needed $20k two weeks ago, why do you actually need $10k today; there might be a valid explanation but you will lose face at a minimum. If this happens, consider relaunching the project, either immediately, or after it completes.

So, Have you seen any particularly egregious examples of any of the above?

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This entry was posted by David Winchester.

19 thoughts on “Funding Faux Pas

  1. Oh good gods, yes, I’ve seen plenty of those. My two current favorites:

    Lore (http://kck.st/SGFwZT), an alleged attempt to make a video game that is about the worst Kickstarter project I have ever seen. I’m half-convinced it’s trolling. “Concept art” that’s so poor I could do better, and my stick figures are an insult to sticks. Laughable grammar. Lofty, overblown claims, with utterly obtuse goals. For instance: “We understand this is something that has never been done but in 1492 Christopher Columbus went out into the sea and everybody told him he was going to fall off the end of the world but with his risk and passion we now know the earth is round and without his will and guts we would not be where we are today.” Oh, and he wants $1,500,000. Yeah, he wants the same amount of money that Project Eternity and Double Fine asked for COMBINED. He’s up to 8 backers and $1355, but I’m pretty sure most of those are trolling HIM.

    And in the sliding goal amount category, we have Vengance (http://kck.st/Pgyix1), whose original KS attempt asked for $250,000, and netted twenty-six dollars in pledges. So, okay, back to the drawing board, scrimp a little here, cut a little there…oh, wait, no, they didn’t do that. Never mind. For the relaunch of the same project, now they’re only asking for $33,000. Somehow, they managed to shave $217,000 without cutting any functionality. They did also manage to call their developers lazy and unmotivated, which was a nice touch. Still, the trick seems to have worked, as they’ve more than DOUBLED their take. With 58 hours to go, they’ve hauled in SIXTY DOLLARS from four deluded (or planted) backers.

    Admittedly, these are extremely incompetent KS attempts that have absolutely no chance of success. Lore, in particular, makes me question Kickstarter’s approval process.

  2. Great post. I do have a slightly different take on point number 2 (that it’s a problem to have lower funding goal than what you actually need). It also relates to the final bullet point a little bit.

    Basically, as a backer and a creator, I think it’s important that creators have money at stake for their project. I think that shows that I’m a big believer in creators asking for the bare minimum that they need to make their project a reality. That might mean that a creator needs to raise $20,000, but they have $2,000 that they want to invest in the project if they can raise the other $18,000 through crowdfunding. Kickstarter doesn’t have an official way to show that kind of commitment (nor should it, necessarily, because no creator would want to filter their own money through Kickstarter and incur the 10% fee), so why not talk about that on the project page? Let the backers know that you’re not just investing time, but money as well? Do you think backers somehow view that in a negative light?

    • Personally, as a backer, I EXPECT a creator to have invested their own money into the project. If you tell me you need $20,000, I’m assuming that’s because you originally needed, say, $25,000, and put in $5000 of your own money. If I find out that you’re holding out and hoping that we, the backers, will cover that $2000 so that you can keep YOUR $2000, I’m not going to be pleased with you.

      • Brian–I expect the same. What I’m trying to figure out here is the best way to communicate that to backers.

        For example, say you have a project that needs $20,000 to fund it. You’ve already put in $3,000–that’s a sunk cost that you’re okay with losing if the project fails. You need $20,000 in addition to that to actually produce the gadget/book/game/etc. So the question you ask is, “How low can I go?” That is, if you reach X amount, how much are you willing to cover, and how do you communicate that to your backers?

        That’s why I’m mentioning this, David. In your second point, you’re kind of saying that you shouldn’t say to backers that you need more money than what you’re asking for. So what’s the right way to say to backers that you need to raise $20,000, but you’re only asking for $16,000 in funding because you’re going to cover the extra $4,000 to reach your true goal? I’m not talking about contributing to your own project through Kickstarter–I’m just talking about sharing your personal risk with the backers so you can show them that you’re fully invested in the idea without scaring them away from a project that needs more than what you’re asking for.

        I truly don’t know the answer. I originally had that information on my project page, but I didn’t know how to phrase it. What’s your advice?

      • I think that exactly what you said is the best way to handle it.

        “Backers, I have a project, that I expect will take $27k to build. I have already done x, y, and z, at a personal cost of $3k. I also plan on doing S, T, and U in the near future which I expect to cost about $4k.

        That will leave me with only Q and W to do. These are big items, and I can’t do it it alone. So I am doing this Kickstarter project to raise $20k to accomplish this piece of the puzzle.”

        I think sharing more information that makes it seem like you are a competent person with a plan is always a good idea. What I was referring to specifically was a project where someone was asking for a $75k but saying they couldn’t do it for less than $125k without ANY mention of where the remaining $50k would come from.

    • Good points Jamey, though I think there is a right way and a wrong way to go about this. Telling your backers that you have put several thousand dollars of your own money in is a great thing to do, and a selling point. Putting money in to top the project off in the last few hours isn’t contributing to your own project – it’s ad-hoc flexible-funding, and if people want that feature they should go to Indiegogo.

  3. Personally one thing that annoys me is when a kickstarter will have a great product at say $150 but everything below that is thanks which is not even an email but just them saying thanks on the kickstarter.

    • Isn’t that the worst? I’ve written a couple articles on that subject.

      On our Kickstarter, we sold the digital comic at $10, the print at $24, and the deluxe package at $60, and I still wish I could have brought the price point down a bit more.

      • Okay that I understand if you have multiple items but I mean when they only have one reward it becomes quite annoying and they usually only scrape buy on their KS. If they tried I might give a couple bucks but no they don’t care really which stinks if it is a good KS.

  4. Okay, here’s a faux pas that I haven’t seen before. See if you can guess where my brain began to throb from the stupidity.

    There’s a new KS campaign for a game called “Tiny Barbarian”. The game is available for download for $8, or two downloads for $15 (“give one to a friend”). They’re also offering a soundtrack download with game for $20, or two downloads along with PDF manual for $25. I guess the lower level pledgers don’t need the manual, but for ten bucks over the two download level, it must be pretty special.

    But wait, you say you want more? Greedy bastard. Okay, fine, for a mere $70 you can get two downloads, five buttons, the soundtrack, and a special PHYSICAL VERSION! Yeah! So, here’s the description of what’s in the box:

    “The DVD Box Edition: This special box edition includes your digital download, the box with artwork, and a short booklet with cool artwork and a totally unnecessary (but also Totally Necessary!) guide to getting started. The box edition does not include a physical copy of the game, but it’s a fantastic thing to have on your shelf.”

    WTFingF? Who thought that a box with no game in it was a good idea? I guess that extra ten cents a unit for the CD-R would really drive up the costs, eh? Not to mention the tens of dollars in extra shipping costs.

    Okay, rant over.

  5. Okay, I know this is an older article, but I couldn’t decide on whether this belongs more in here or in the “Double Dipping”.

    So, there’s a new project today for “Pathfinder Online: A Fantasy Sandbox MMO” (http://kck.st/V4zZtU), and they’re asking for a cool million to make their game. Sounds a bit exorbitant, but hey, Pathfinder is a big brand, and maybe it’ll take a million bucks to get the job done right.

    Well, how about $1.3 million? Because if they make this goal, that’s what they’ll have gotten from the suckers in Kickstarter land. This is actually their SECOND KS project for this game. The first one was for the “Pathfinder Online Technology Demo” (http://kck.st/KG7bIW), and while they were only asking for $50k, they got over $300k. Which is pretty impressive (in a pathetic sort of way) considering that project didn’t even offer the game at the end. Oh, for a thousand bucks you could be an ALPHA playtester, but that’s about it.

    So, they got an extra $250k, but somehow they still need a MILLION DOLLARS to make the game? Uh, sure, that doesn’t sound at all like they’re just milking the herd. I really hope this fails super hard.

    • They’ll make their money. A devoted following is more important than a good product, it’s merits, or genuine need.

      I’d have to look at the project before I say anything beyond that.

      • You’re probably right. The game looks like it COULD be good. And given that it’s already raised $37k in a few hours, it just might get the big million. But man, that bothers me, maybe more than it should.

        Also, what rewards can they possibly provide that would make it worth the wait, assuming it comes out at all, given the JANUARY 2016 final release date?

  6. Pingback: Kickstarter Lesson #13: Explaining Why You Need the Funds | stonemaier games

  7. Pingback: Stonemaier Games » Kickstarter Lesson #13: Explaining Why You Need the Funds

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