Campaigns with videos have a 66% higher chance of succeeding than those without—fifty percent versus thirty percent.
In this article, we’ll discuss a few general guidelines and secrets to success, and then we’ll analyze a couple of real-world success stories.
Most Kickstarter videos average between 6-10 minutes in length, but among campaigns that have drawn over a million in funding, the median length is 3:47. If you take a look at successful campaigns in the Publishing category, you’re going to see that many of them tend towards the three minute mark—and there’s research to suggest that even shorter is better.
Most visitors to your Kickstarter page will see the video before anything else. Attention spans on the Internet are short, and many of them won’t watch the full video, especially if it’s on the longer side. Kickstarter actually gives you tools to track the average viewing time per user, which can come in handy, but you won’t have access to that data until after the project is launched, when it’s of limited usefulness.
If someone watches only a few seconds of your video, you’re still communicating with them—we instantly know when a production is shabby or professionally produced, for instance. And if you’re on screen yourself, your viewers may take away a sense of how you speak, how you present yourself, and your personal style. All of these things can influence their feelings about the project before they’ve read even one word of your project description. Their initial reactions are going to be primarily emotional in nature as opposed to logical.
Hook them in the first ten seconds, and they’re much more likely to watch until the end. Do that by having a compelling script, nice production quality, sharp editing, and a solid message to build a foundation on. Investing in professional production isn’t always necessary, but it’s a great idea. The video often makes the difference between success and failure, the difference between great funding and total failure.
Lots of people back Kickstarter projects because they think the reward will be worth the price. Lots more back Kickstarter projects because it makes them feel good. It’s fun to be a part of something special, to be there at the beginning when something cool becomes a reality. Your Kickstarter video is a place to appeal to that instinct. Remember, you’re asking people for their money, and you’re not entitled to it. The video is the closest thing you can get to sitting down across a table from someone and explaining why they should give you that money.
As such, be yourself. Be likeable, but be someone they know they can take seriously. People backing books are backing the author as much as they are the book, and they’re aware of it.
Being genuine doesn’t mean being unscripted, though. A simple, effective script structure might look like this:
It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’ve got credentials you can use, share them. If you have previous books, bring them up. For most authors, it’s best to keep this short and sweet.
Where did the idea for this book come from? Is there a story behind the story?
Show the audience the work you’ve already done with images of the book cover, shots of the interior, etc. Explain why this book is special and unique. They can spend their money on any book in the world, so why should they spend it on yours? Give them a firm grasp of what they’re going to get in the mail when your project succeeds. Give them something to get excited about.
Why do you need the money? Where is it going to be spent?
This part isn’t optional: you need a call to action. Ask them to click that “Back This Project” button now. Don’t be shy about it. If you’ve structured your campaign properly, they shouldn’t be doing you a favor—they should be getting a wonderful book (and maybe some extras!) at a great price. If you’re not confident that they’ll be happy they backed you, and part of you feels like you’re asking for charity, go back to the drawing board and ask yourself where that feeling is coming from.
Treat the script like you would the book’s manuscript. Take it seriously, write multiple drafts, and solicit feedback. Cut the fat and make sure every second counts. This is the time to get them excited about the project. The nuts and bolts stuff can come in the written description of the project, the FAQ, and elsewhere.
If you’re working with professionals to set up your campaign and produce a top-notch video, you can be sure they’re putting their technical expertise to work for you. But even if you’re not, you can consider the following video elements to get a better result.
Don’t just sit in front of your MacBook at your computer desk and talk in front of a blank wall. Let your setting communicate something to the audience. Are you writing a fantasy book set in a mysterious forest? Why not go shoot some footage in the woods? A nonfiction book about education? Why not film in a classroom? These examples are off-the-cuff, but think outside the box. And if you’re going to speak from your home, you can still put some thought into the spot you choose and what’s in the background.
Make sure you’re not completely cloaked in shadow (unless it’s appropriate) or illuminated by the blue screen from a laptop webcam. Something as simple as sitting near a desk lamp can create a more professional-looking lightning scheme.
Use a mic if necessary. You don’t want your voice to be grainy or unclear—hallmarks of an amateur production. Consider also using some background music to complement the feel you’re going for.
Smooth transitions, clean cuts, and nice text and graphics incorporated into your video speak volumes and help the audience engage. Even if you’re not technically savvy, you may still be able to achieve some of the simple effects common in many good Kickstarter videos with software readily available on your computer.
Augie & The Green Knight (funding: $384,410)
Zachary Weiner’s video for Augie & the Green Knight probably didn’t break the bank, but there’s clearly thought and effort on display. The time-lapse portions of the illustrations being drawn are catchy, and the music compliments it well. Both Weiner and illustrator Boulet take care to explain why this project is special. We get a strong sense for the good work that has already been done and what we’ll receive in return for backing the project. When Weiner appears on camera, he’s not in a studio—he’s probably in his living room—but he’s smiling, he’s excited, and he’s charming.
Zen Habits (funding: $224,255)
Leo Babauta’s video for Zen Habits is more tightly produced, with trailer-style intro and exit shots, smooth transitions, and a generally cinematic quality. Take a look at how he’s structured the video—after a very brief introduction, he launches right into the story of the book’s creation. He discusses the goals of the book, and he discusses the philosophy of the book as a “movement” that he wants backers to be a part of. His promise is huge: that this book will change lives. If you find Babauta believable and inspiring, it becomes easy to click that “Back This Project” button. And 8,211 people did.
The Warden and the Wolf King (funding: $118,188)
Andrew Peterson’s pitch for The Warden and the Wolf King (funding: $118,188) is more stripped-down than the previous two videos, but he’s coming from a different place: the book is the finale to a saga that already has fans. And the video feels that way, doesn’t it? We’re in Peterson’s office, and he’s reclining in a chair in front of stacks of books. It feels like he’s talking to old friends. The comfortable sentimentality of it all is only enhanced by the melancholy background music. Peterson uses some text overlays to help organize his presentation and to help the audience more fully absorb the information he’s presenting. And, to his credit, in that portion of the video he’s getting down to brass tacks, laying out exactly where he wants to spend the money and how he intends to shape the series going forward.
Peterson’s situation is different from most first-timers—it’s evident in the video that he’s prepared to surpass his $14,000 goal, so he spends a lot of time talking about stretch goals. He’s already an award-winning author, and—if you’re not familiar—he’s an acclaimed singer-songwriter with ten albums under his belt. He’s speaking to an audience that existed long before this Kickstarter campaign, and the video reflects that. The lesson? Spend a bit of time thinking about your audience.