Kickstarter and Publicity
A successful crowdunding project is a symphony of so many different things. The project must be desirable, or else why would anyone support it. The creator must be credible, or even the best project will seem more illusory than real. The pitch must be convincing, or else no one will be able to see the greatness of book inside its half-hearted cover.
Lastly, and most importantly – the crowd must find your project, or all your other efforts will be for naught. That is where publicity comes in.
This blog has covered the various factors that go into making a project successful from multiple angles over the last six months. We’ve talked about how valuable social networking can be, how direct marketing can be effective if done correctly, and even how Kickstarter itself will do you few favors in this particular struggle. Today I wanted to revisit some of these points, go over a few specific techniques that worked pretty well for us in the past, and touch on one disturbing trend I’m seeing lately that you should not do.
- Social Networking – Your friends want you to succeed. I was shocked at how generously some old friends and colleagues were when word got out that we were trying to make a comic book. Be respectful, but persistent There were more than a few family members who didn’t kick in till the last minute when we were funding. This wasn’t because they didn’t care, they just had a lot going on in their life.
- Twitter – If you don’t tweet, start that before you start your project. The reach of this social medium is hard to overstate. This part will require networking, so if that’s not your thing, give yourself plenty of time to ease into it.
- Reddit – Used correctly, this site will pay serious dividends. Getting a friend or backer to link your project to just the right subreddit can get you a dozen backers in a single day, but be careful how you try to tap into this particular network, for the good folks on Reddit are prickly, and quick to label you a spammer if your clumsy efforts at self promotion annoy them.
- Paid Advertising – This one is tricky. If you know who your potential audience is, and where they can be found, than a $50 banner add could pay for itself a dozen times over. More generic advertising is likely to fizzle though. We found our investment at Kicktraq to be very worthwhile, while our advertising dollars spent at Stumbleupon were less so.
- Be Creative – I have seen two projects turn it around in the closing hours of a campaign that looked DOA. Fargoal 2 made it’s last 20% in the final 24 hours while hosting an all night Kickathon; if that creator did that, what are you prepared to do to succeed?
A successful Kickstarter will generate buzz for any project. Though I am not sure if this translates into actual sales once a product enters the marketplaces of the real world, having seen little data on the subject, it is certainly a fringe benefit of the process. If you do well, people will write stories without you even asking (though they will do the same thing if your project implodes horribly.) Lately though, I have seen a couple projects that link success and publicity in reverse order: they are only launching a Kickstarter project for the awareness and attention that such a thing brings.
Kickstarter is not a store, and it isn’t an advertising agency either. Kickstarter is to fund the costs necessary to pay for a project to come to market. It’s not there for you to make a buck, get paid a salary while you work on X, or get you a three picture deal in Hollywood. If any of that happens while you are pursuing the primary aim, then good for you. Do yourself a favor though, if you are looking to misuse the process, don’t tell everyone – leave it at least a little ambiguous.
For instance, if you are trying to raise $1000 to pay for the printing costs of a print on demand novel (of which there are very few) don’t say in your first update that “I’m going to let you in on a little secret…we weren’t really trying to raise a thousand bucks. We’re actually trying to get the attention of the publishing industry and the way we’re going to do that is to fund multiples of the original goal.” If multiples of the goal is all it takes, why not set the project cost at a dollar, and claim that you beat your fund raising goals by 3000%?
Did I miss any of the big ones? I know that several other successful creator types read this blog, so I put it to you – what else did you do to get the word out on your project?
Great entry, David. I really like what you said about starting a Twitter account and being active on social media well before the project begins. I think it’s key for project creators to be more than self-promoters–they should find ways to add value to potential backers by teaching, amusing, engaging, etc. Just like what you did on this blog months before your project began.
You know, I find projects like that “Off With Her Heart” one far more worrying than any obvious joke project like the Death Star. She’s got an actual product, but is using Kickstarter as a means to an end that is pretty much diametrically opposed to what Kickstarter stands for. And people are EATING IT UP. 114 people have donated $4350 so far, and Kicktraq says she’s trending towards over $9600. Getting paid to advertise on someone else’s site. Think other people won’t notice that?
On the other hand, the smart people will avoid this method at all costs. She wants to show that there’s an audience for her book, but anyone who backs her gets a copy of the book. So she’s counting on publishers a) not caring that she’s manipulating a crowdfunding site to get attention, b) being impressed that she’s giving away her book to backers (or anyone who reads her updates), and c) thinking that there’s an audience BEYOND the ones who already have her book (and so won’t be customers.) That seems really shaky to me.
I’m expecting a large drop off at the end of this one. By day two there was a thousand dollars of money not attached to a backer level. I expect that money will leave again in the final hours, and that we will find it was just seed money for the tip jar.
I reported this project for its improper behavior, but apparently Kickstarter is cool with it. I also had a conversation with the creator and she attributed her initial costs to setting up print on demand costs which is hilarious as those don’t exist for Amazon’s createspace.
My favorite part though is all the production companies/agents/other names she has attached to the project banner, like she’s a big deal. Either she’s a big deal, and doesn’t need Kickstarter, or her illusion of inevitability is utterly laughable.
I’m keeping an eye on this one.
Great blog entry. Thanks a bunch, David. That project really is an odd duck. I see the Publisher Rights Pledge got removed by Kickstarter as a violation of their policy.
Anyway, thanks for helping to keep us up on the ins and outs of Kickstarter and for shedding light on things, David!