Kickstarter – How Do You Do It Right?

So, now you know Kickstarter and all it has to offer. But how do you go about launching that wildly successful campaign? Obviously, there’s no magic formula, but there are a number of factors that consistently raise the odds in your favor


Do your prep work. If you browse Kickstarter’s Publishing category, you’ll see that the campaigns that succeed above and beyond their goals give their audience plenty to look at. They have covers and book mock-ups, slick explainer videos, and tightly written book pitches. This all needs to be done before the campaign goes live. Once the campaign is live, you’re limited in how much you can change, and those first 24 hours are a really crucial time—your project will be seen by thousands of people just as a function of being on the “Latest Projects” page.


Backers are essentially pre-ordering a book sight-unseen. There’s an element of risk involved. It’s your job to minimize that feeling of risk by telling them exactly what they’re going to get, demonstrating to them that it’s going to be great, and telling them how you’re going to do it.


1. Back some projects yourself.

If you’ve never backed a project yourself before, a good time to do so is while you’re doing the prep work for your own campaign. This will give you a good idea of what it feels like for your backers. Additionally, when you launch your own project, viewers can see how many projects you’ve backed—if you’ve backed some, it tells them that you believe in the community and that you know how crowdfunding works.


2. Have a video.

Campaigns with videos have a 66% higher chance of succeeding than those without–fifty percent versus thirty percent. Even a modestly shot, relatively short video greatly increases your chances of success. Kickstarter even offers users tools to track how many viewers watch the video, as well as how many watch it until the end.

A tightly-edited, professional quality video is even better. A solid video communicates to potential backers that you are serious, that you have an eye for detail, and that you’re capable of creating something of high quality.  On the other hand, when you don’t have a video, potential backers may wonder: if they’re unwilling to put the effort into a one-minute video, what else will they slack on?


3. Tell people exactly where the money is going.

Know what things are going to cost. If the book still needs editing, get an editing quote and factor it in. Know your costs for e-book conversions and print layout. Know how much it’s going to cost for every physical copy of the book, and know how much it’s going to cost to ship. Offering a breakdown of those costs reassures backers that their money is going to be spent wisely, and again, it shows that you’ve done your due diligence. Even better: tell them whom you’re working with. If you let backers know, for example, that BookFuel is handling all of those aspects of the publishing process, they know you’re working with a well-established company with a proven track record, and they’ll be more confident that the job is going to get done right.


4. Handle goals, rewards, and timelines right.

Many Kickstarter users who back projects regularly have a general idea about what it costs to produce and ship a book, since they’ve seen plenty of other campaigns. So when the funding goals, timelines, and reward tiers don’t match up with reality, sirens go off. It’s not unusual to see projects ask for far too little or far too much money, then misalign their rewards—say, for instance, promising full-color hardback books for people who contribute $15 dollars. Or the timeline’s off—the author may promise to deliver books within a month’s time from the project ending, and it just doesn’t pan out that way.

Even more authors don’t know to figure in two additional costs: shipping and taxes. Shipping can be deceptively expensive, and crowdsourced income is taxable, so first-time campaigners often end up losing money on successful campaigns because they don’t correctly figure their costs.

There’s some science to knocking your reward tiers out of the park, and a lot of research has been done on what kinds of rewards structures work and fail—but that’s outside the scope of this particular article. Working with someone experienced guarantees you’ll have a solid reward structure, but even if you’re going solo, you should dig in, do your homework, and put some real thought into your reward tiers. You can’t delete or change a reward tier once someone has pledged at that level. You can only add new tiers.


5. Don’t run the campaign too long.

Kickstarter’s maximum time allowed for a campaign was shortened from 90 days to 60 days. IndieGoGo allows for up to 70 days. But should you use that time?

Virtually everyone agrees that you shouldn’t. Most successful projects set their campaign run for around 30 days, which is also what Kickstarter recommends. The vast majority of successful campaigns are around this time range. Yancey Strickler at Kickstarter puts it nicely: “More time does not create more urgency.” After all, 30 days may not seem like a long time, but on the Internet it is.


6. Communicate often.

Give updates to everyone often, but also message backers individually. A simple thank-you note goes a long way. You don’t want backers to just pledge and move on. Ideally, you want them to become engaged and invested in the success of the project. Get them excited about it! The best campaigns are the ones in which backers know they’re a part of making something special happen. Everyone wants to feel that. Engaged backers are much more likely to spread the word, and they’re also the backers who end up raising their pledges.

That’s a really important thing, so let us reiterate: backers up their pledges all the time. Many backers will pledge a couple of bucks to dip their toe into the water, but as the campaign comes together and momentum builds, they’ll increase their pledges, especially if the project is nearing its deadline. Across the board, most projects see huge spikes in pledges at the beginning and the end of the campaign, with a lull in the middle commonly referred to as “the trough.”


7. Do what you say you’re going to do.

Once your project is funded, nail the execution. Give backers a great book, and make sure they know they’re appreciated. They’ll feel good to have been a part of the journey, and when it comes time to fund your next project, they’ll be there.


If you haven’t already, check out the other entries in this five-part crash course series.

Interested in getting help with your next crowdfunding campaign? We can help! Email for more information.

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