NOTE: Horace retweeted this and sent us a ton of traffic. If you’re a fan of @asymco, just wait for The Critical Path later this week, wink wink!
We’ve been extraordinarily lucky during our Kickstarter campaign thus far…We’ve been raising over $1000 a day, most of it from complete strangers!
I believe strongly in the kickstarter model for funding films, games, tech projects and other artistic endeavors, so I’ve written this guide. I hope it helps you fund your project and realize your dream. (NOTE: This guide is likely to be revised frequently over the course of the next two months, so please check back for updates).
Before You Start: Getting Your Project Ready
- Is Your Concept Unique and Appealing - So many kickstarter projects fail this basic concept of marketing. What is it that makes your project unique. If you’re famous, even within a subcommunity, that might be enough. But if you’re not…you better have a project that stands out from all the rest. No one is going to back a non-descript project by someone they don’t know. Make sure your project is unique and is something to get excited about. Be honest…are there dozens of projects like this already? Then spend a day or two and figure out how you can make it special. I believe this was the single most important element for our project.
- Build a fanbase - you don’t have to become a mega star, but start building your fan base for months before you make your project. Start a twitter, a facebook, an email list, a blog. Talk to your friends about the project. Let them know you’re planning something important to you. This will help you with early pledges.
- Make a website - It should be simple, clean and pretty. No need to hire a web designer…just go to wordpress.com. They have lots of pretty templates. Make sure you explain who you are, what your project is, how people can reach you or engage with you, and eventually, lots of links to your kickstarter. If you know someone who’s good at this, see if you can buy them coffee and pizza in exchange for their help. If they’re really good, offer to do chores for them.
- Make your video - Once you get approved by kickstarter you’re going to want to launch ASAP, so once you submit to kickstarter, get your video ready. We made multiple mistakes with our first video, and opted to shoot it again. Our second video was better, but still suffered from the same problems. Here’s a list of pointers:
- Don’t try to make your video stand out on kickstarter. It’s your concept that should be unique and stand out. We made two funny videos specifically so we could stand out from the bunch on kickstarter. This was a giant mistake. It’s your concept that should stand out. Your video should explain, as briefly as possible what your project is (including what makes it unique), who you are, why you’re capable of doing such a project, and then a call to action to back your project. Make it short. Under three minutes. Under two is better.
- Production values DO matter. Make sure you look good and more importantly sound good.
- Don’t be afraid to change it. We changed it and far more people who looked at our cleaner, simpler video backed our project.
- Say thank you.
- If you’re going to make a funny video, be really funny. Not just a little funny.
- Make some great small rewards - Especially if like me, many of your friends are starving artists, you should have reward tiers at $25, $10, even $5. Most starving artists don’t want to pledge more than that, so don’t try to extort more.
- At small reward tiers, you’re pre-selling the product as much as anything else - Don’t make the product a lot more expensive to acquire than it would be when it’s released. Lots of people will just wait and buy it then. If your project is for something that has a high per piece manufacturing cost, you may not be able to offer it for $10 or $25, but if you’re making a book or a movie or a video game or something like that, you should at least be offering a digital download or a DVD at those ranges. Don’t make me pay $30 for a digital download of your short film or $75 for a DVD. Anyone who wants to pledge more, will. Anyone who just wants your product will just not pledge if you price it out of their comfort range.
- Offer great higher rewards tiers - We were surprised how many executive producer credits we sold, right away. We only offered four and frankly, we didn’t expect to sell more than one or two to our generous, generous parents. But instead, three people we’d never met before bought them in the first week. We added six more and two more people we either didn’t know well or had never met bought this $2,000 reward. Give them something they can’t get anywhere else. Anyone giving you this kind of many can afford it. But it’ll make them feel great to be involved and get a credit. We only added the $2000 tier because we thought it would make the $500 tier more desirable. We were wrong!
- The rewards should be worth the money - Don’t try to extort money from people. Ask them to buy something that has value to them. Tickets to a movie premiere or your name in the credits may not be exciting to you, but to someone who doesn’t work in the movies, it’s a big deal. People should get something cool for their money. A special thanks on a website doesn’t seem as desirable to me as a special thanks in the credits.
- More Time/Less Time - If you’re going to ignore kickstarter’s suggestion and ask for more than 30 days to do your kickstarter, you’re going to need twice as hard for the whole time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
The First Week
- Send it to your family and friends first - you want to have the first strangers who come across your page to see that there’s already some money there.
- Have some sort of release plan/event - Don’t just expect to put it on kickstarter and wait for the world to discover it. Facebook it, tweet it, etc. Better yet, plan to coincide the launch of your kickstarter project with some sort of media event you’re doing. I launched False Profit on Horace Dediu’s excellent podcast, The Critical Path. If you don’t have any media events coming up, plan to launch it before you attend a party or event where you know lots of people. Now they’re all informed and excited. If you don’t have anything like that coming up anytime soon, then throw a party. $200 worth of booze might very equal thousands in kickstarter pledges.
- Post a Link on Your Facebook and Twitter…Every Single Day - It’s not enough just to link to it once. Link to it often. Tell anyone you meet about your project.
- Create a Facebook Event – The links on your facebook wall probably aren’t enough. Create a facebook event and invite all your friends. Many will decline, but some will say yes and some of them will give you money.
The tips above will help you raise money from family and friends and people you already connect with, but to reach out to strangers requires publicity. Below is a step-by-step guide:
- Have a unique concept (or a celebrity) - Our first step in this guide is also our first and most important step here. If you want publications to right about you, celebrities to tweet about you, or strangers to pay attention, you either must be well known, or have a great, unique concept.
- Make a list of publications who might be interested in your project - Go to Google Docs, start a spreadsheet. Find blogs, magazines, newspapers, podcasts, TV shows, message boards, community events, etc. that might be interested in your project. If you’re making an iPad accessory, that list should include Apple blogs and publications. If you’re making a movie about soccer, that list should include Soccer magazine. Our project is about Wall Street, so it’s no surprise that CNBC.com featured us. Make sure to target publications that might be interested in your project, not just any publication.
- Write some kind of press release - Keep it brief and concise. Your project has a clear, unique concept, right? That should be easy to explain in a sentence or two. Also include something about who you are and why you can make this happen. Include your contact info. The press release might be an actual press release or it might just be a paragraph you copy and paste into emails. Either way, have a written pitch.
- Don’t be shy about reaching out to anyone - Write a personal email to whoever’s on your list and explain why you think it might be great for the readers of their publication (make sure you understand what their publication is). Also include the text of your press release. Thank them. Make it easy for them to read quickly and even easier to type up into a short article or post about you. And don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone. The worst they can do is say “no.” Flattery will also get you everywhere. But don’t waste anyone’s time with a long, wordy release that’s irrelevant to what they do.
- Say Yes to Everything - so you were just interviewed by the New York Times and now your elementary school wants you to speak to an assembly? Make time for them. (PS, this is usually a good life rule)
- Follow up - if a publication did a story about you, the writer may tell you to stay in touch with any exciting news you have about the project. Definitely do. And thank the reported for covering your project.
- Engage Your Backers - I send a personal thank you to every backer who pledges. Kickstarter makes it easy. Most don’t reply, but when someone does, I make sure to engage them back. Respond to your backers as quickly as possible and make sure to consult them before you do anything that they might not like. They’re you’re champions and you need to be gracious. The best part is, you’ll make new fans and friends this way.
- Record what works and doesn’t and learn from it - I’m doing ongoing blog posts about that, such as this one. Don’t be afraid to stop doing what isn’t working and do more of what is.
- Keep doing all of the above - This is a marathon, not a sprint. Keep reaching out to friends, publications, communities. Don’t stop. Make more videos. Create more rewards. Engage your backers. Don’t get lazy. Frankly, I’ve treated this as a nearly full time job.
- Kickstarter Karma - I believe firmly that if you back and champion other people’s projects good things will happen with yours. This doesn’t mean that if you back a friend’s project, you should expect them to back yours. In fact, only one friend I’ve backed in the past has backed us. But we’ve already raised more money than anyone I know personally on kickstarter and I think that means we’re doing something right. Do this before your kickstarter, during your kickstarter, after your kickstarter and even if you ust think you might someday do a kickstarter. If you can’t afford to back it, you can always share it on Facebook, twitter, your blog, reddit, digg, or in an email to someone you think might enjoy it. At a minimum, click like on the kickstarter page.
- This Guide isn’t finished - We’re only 16 days into our kickstarter. This guide will grow as we learn more. I also encourage you to ask me questions either in the comments here, on twitter at @danabrams, or by emailing email@example.com. I promise to respond.
- Keep trying new things - We’re not done. We’re trying a few new things now. If they’re successful, I’ll add them to this guide.
- More Good Ideas - we certainly don’t have a monopoly on good ideas. Here are some links to great sites where you can get great ideas to help you make your project a success:
- Kickstarter’s own tips: http://www.kickstarter.com/blog/categories/tips?ref=blog
- One of our favorite Screenwriter’s, John August, has this to say: http://johnaugust.com/2011/raising-movie-funds-on-kickstarter
- A personal experience from NoFilmSchool.com, a site I read every day: http://nofilmschool.com/2011/09/how-i-raised-125000-on-kickstarter/
- I enjoyed this post from Rooftop Films: http://rooftopfilms.com/blog/2010/07/10-crowdfunding-tips-from-kickstarter-filmmakers.html
- Filmmakers Joke and Blagio have an extensive list of links to tips here: http://www.jokeandbiagio.com/category/dying-to-do-letterman/page/4. They made a great documentary that deserves your attention and wrote a bunch of other useful information. Plan to spend some hours reading their blog.
- I wrote this list of specific things that have worked and haven’t worked for us: http://falseprofitthemovie.com/blog/what-works-on-kickstarter/
- I also wrote this about how 30% is the tipping point on Kickstarter: http://falseprofitthemovie.com/blog/kickstarter-tipping-poin/
- And finally, I wrote this somewhat off-topic post about how Kickstarter can help you learn to make films the way the masters did: http://falseprofitthemovie.com/blog/roger-corman-and-kickstarte/
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Don’t be afraid to disagree with me or ask comments in the section below.