Since this is our first campaign and we have no idea how it will go, we don’t think it’s appropriate to give any special advice. Just let me tell you about 10 remarkable aspects that struck me and my very personal evaluation of those.
Anyway, my team and I would appreciate if you could take a look at our campaign!
At first I thought setting up a Kickstarter campaign would take us a few days or so, since other campaigns have this smooth and compact look to them. More like a sleek walltile than a complex clockwork. Very big misjudgement. It’s quite a huge pile of work, but as a rookie, you will realize that when you’re in the middle of sorting it out. You need pictures, a nice text, probably even in more than one language, probably even a movie! You have to think of rewards, calculate their prices and a way to present them nicely. And it’s not just throwing the stuff you have on one big heap and publish it, this will look like a junkyard. In order to get the sleek look, you have to make up a concept, some theme that carries through all the campaign. This is one aspect to make it look round, sleek and complete. So prepare that a nicely set up campaign will take several weeks. Minimum. So announcing „Hey, I’ll launch my campaign next week“ when you haven’t even started setting in up is not a good idea.
In case you’re doing something very sophisticated, I recommend to have vast parts of it already finished before you launch your campaign. Remember: There’s the risk that your campaign might be successful! In this case you are obliged to deliver what you promised and it shouldn’t be ten years later. So prepare as much as possible in advance.
I’m a very calm person and it’s very hard to make me nervous. But the campaign really drove me round the bend! Prepare to get up early and go to bed very late, because you keep on checking and answering your emails, contacting people, websites and magazines who might be interested in your project and of course: You keep on watching the total sum of your campaign. Will it go up? Do I have a chance to reach my goal? Why didn’t I get any pledges today? Don’t they like me any more? Really stressful. If your projects requires just a few hundred bucks, I recommend to get the money from somewhere else and to save your nerves.
Don’t just barge in, yelling „Here I am!“. Even if you have a good product, nobody might notice, unless you have great luck. Bear in mind that there are several hundred campaigns launched every day! Take your time and tell people about your project a long time before you launch your campaign. We started three years ago by posting artwork and animations in several adventure game related forums and we kept on bugging people running game sites with announcements quite a bit, until we got SOME attention. And don’t be discouraged quickly. In the very beginning, maybe the first year or so, we didn’t get ANY reaction at all! But then, they slowly began to answer our mails and we got a bit of attention. Also use social media to get the word around, tell your friends and ask them to help you to make your project known!
But we must admit, we could have done a lot more there. It also depends on how much money you want to collect for your project. If it’s a truly huge sum, you should really concentrate a lot on what I said before. I talked to somebody who ran a very successful campaign and he told me that he was doing nothing else but mailing and twittering all day long about his project for three months, a full time job. But of course the effort you put in that should be roughly in balance with the goal you’re intending to reach.
This means, if you have your campaign ready, don’t press the launch-button the very next moment. We did that and it was quite a hard start for our campaign. Although all we managed to get from gaming site up to then was rather mild interest, they suddenly complained about us not notifying them about when our campaign would be launched! So if you have it all ready, tell them a week or two in advance so they can prepare a bit of news on that, which might help getting people prepared for the launch. This might give you a much better start.
This is a bit more on the stressful part of the campaign, but I think it’s important. Once you launched your campaign, don’t lean back and watch it go. It might get stuck unless you have really great luck. Keep on twittering about it, keep writing mails to magazines and blogs, and maybe most important: Answer all mails you get from your supporters! This will show them you really care and that you are devoted to your project and that you take your supporters and fans seriously. If you get offers to participate in Q/A sessions or interviews, use these occasions! Then don’t forget to write updates about your campaign on the campaign website itself. People like to know what’s going on behind the scenes. All together it’s a bit exhausting and also stressful, but it pays off in the end if people see there’s a real person on the other end who really cares.
You will get many offers from people running services to promote your campaign for a little fee. When I got the first mail, I thought „Great! Someone’s going to help me!“ and I immediately bought one of their promotion packs. When I finished that, I noticed that suddenly there were 12 other very similar messages in my mailbox. If I had bought all the service I was offered, I would have run broke just on marketing. After that, I checked what the internet was saying about those services and I found that many of them didn’t really have a very good reputation and that they were only of very little help for the campaign. We booked some of them after gathering some background information on them and these seemed to be doing a good job for us, but there were others that didn’t seem to show any effect. So be careful when you decide to use one of those services but in the end, the major work of getting the word around will be up to you anyway.
You should have a good idea of what your project will cost to be made a reality. Le’t say, you have a small project that will require 5000$ only. Setting up a campaign for 5000$? No, wrong. First, there are various fees, for example for Kickstarter and for payment services. Then of course, if you have physical rewards, they need to be paid for and shipped! You might want to buy some external help for promotion I talked about before. You might cross-promote and cross-pledge for other projects running parallel to yours. And in the end, when the money finally gets to your bank account, don’t forget about the tax office that might show great interest in that kind of income. Despite of a successful campaign, you could end up with not very much left for the actual project. It can be a bit confusing at times, so speaking with somebody who has a good overview over financial things is a good idea.
You might get requests and promises from supporters while running your campaign. Some might sound truly tempting, like „I will support you significantly if you do this and that in return.“. The most important thing about this is not to get yourself into obligations that you don’t feel good about. Maybe someone wants you to put something into your game that will change the game’s character in an undesired way or someone wants you to add some technical changes (e.g. to run on other platforms than you planned at the beginning) which you won’t be able to implement in the end. Always check if these things are in line with your own ideas and possibilities before you agree. We had a very good example for that in our campaign. We got asked whether our game would be available for Linux as well. Since we had this on our plans anyway and just haven’t had the time to take care about it in advance, we said „yes“, we would try it with Linux. This got us one huge pledge and motivated us to intensively taking care about Linux. This was winning on all ends. Users of this platform will be happy to be able to play an other game without emulation, we got a good deal closer to our funding target and it gets us a whole new group of potential customers. We’ve been also asked whether the game will be available for x-box and playstation. It might be, but at present we don’t have the slightest idea what the technical and legal requirements are to make it available for these platforms. Maybe expensive licenses and certificates? No idea. So in this case we haven’t excluded that, but we haven’t promised anything.
I know I told you about so many things that need to be taken care of when you’re running a campaign. But don’t forget you have other duties as well! Don’t forget you might neglect your family, your friends and your work when you concentrate too much on your campaign. In the worst case you might end up divorced, disliked and unemployed, along with a failed campaign. Although I said you should keep in touch with your fans and supporters and keep getting the word around, it doesn’t mean you should be grimly determined to your campaign. A campaign might try the patience of your family and your friends, but when everybody realizes how important it is for you, they will show you their love and tolerate that you spend so much time on it as long as it goes. But when your wife asks „Don’t you think it was enough for today?“, maybe you should switch the computer off for that day and take care of the ones you love. The whole business should be in balance with all the other important things in your life that will still be there, while the campaign ends after a few weeks.