How (I decided) to Run (what turned out to be) a SuccesfulKickstarter Project. (Results may vary.)
So, I recently had a very successful project on Kickstarter,and as a result a number of people have asked me advice on running one of theirown. Honestly, I’m almost not sure how it happened myself. And I especiallyknow I owe a huge debt of gratitude to all my friends who helped me, whodonated and told their friends and pimped me on theirblogs/websites/tumblrs/twitters. I can’t say whether applying the same approachI used would help anyone else run a successful Kickstarter. But I *can* tellyou how *I* ran mine, what I learned, and what I saw as effective andineffective.
I had two tiers to mypromotion--online and offline. Online was probably the most successful ingetting backers, though I think both contributed to the final total. The firstand simplest thing I did was to regularly post about it on mytumblr/twitter/facebook and asked friends to do the same. I cannot stress thisenough: Having friends and acquaintances who were artists and who were willingto promote my project made ALL the difference. On my own, I had a tinyaudience. Some of my friends’ audiences were just as tiny as mine, some were abit bigger. But the whole was so much greater than the sum of its parts. Ifyou’re an artist thinking of launching a Kickstarter, look to any artistfriends you have, online or offline. See if they’d be interested in promotingyou. Even one link on a blog or tumblr can do a lot.
Near the end, I tried the sneakyapproach of drawing Avengers fanart that tied in with Star Power and popping iton tumblr. That got me a lot of reblogs and a lot of attention. (Again,probably didn’t hurt that a friend of mine reblogged it, allowing her thousandsof tumblr followers to see it.) It was fun *and* helped draw in new people. I alsosent some emails to blogs and portals online that posted relevant things to seeif they'd promote me, though I didn't get many replies. A few smaller folksmentioned me which probably helped. Even though I didn’t get a lot of return onthat I think it was worth trying.
Offline, I went to bars, tattooparlors, sex shops, etc...(basically, places where I could safely advertise aporn project,) and handed out flyers. I made sure to talk to the clerk/bartenderto ask if they were okay with me handing out flyers. The results weremixed---some were happy, even excited at the idea. Some just pointed me to thepile of flyers for various things beside the door. Some actually forbid it. Butit was worth it for those few times that the person I was talking to got reallyinterested in the project. One bartender at the Jinx kept a stack behind thebar and passed them out over the course of the evening. A clerk at a sex shopsaid they couldn’t have flyers out front, but she offered to put them in theback room where the people who worked there could see them.
I also advertised at MoCCA andFluke, offering free sketches to anyone who donated there. I had a QR code onthe flyers so that people could scan it and donate immediately if they wanted.There were no takers on that, unfortunately. Nora (the girl who “plays” DelilahDragon in the comic) handed out flyers at her DJ events too.
The whole thing lit a fire under mybutt with self promotion, which I’d always been a bit lazy about. When you cansee a direct correlation between how much work you put into self promotion andhow much money you make, you get motivated pretty quick. I drew as muchpromotional material as I could, too, since people are obviously going to be moreinterested in drawings, pinups, process work and pages.
(People seem really interested inprocess work on Kickstarter, too. I suspect most people who back projects onKickstarter are going to be at least a little interested in the process—sincethat’s something Kickstarter offers that you can’t get just buying a comic onceits printed.)
Also, a TON of my donations onlycame when the project was nearing its goal. I think because that didn't happenuntil late in the game, there was a sense of urgency combined with a sense ofnearing the finish line. The benchmark rewards (giving wallpapers and dolls andstuff if the backers reached a certain goal) helped with that too.
Oh! And here’s something that thoseof you who backed my project are probably aware I just started doing.Immediately after my project was funded I got sucked up by finishing my thesisand graduating for a while, then I slept for three days straight. Butafterwards I started to feel weird about just sort of vanishing from the radarof my backers. So I’m going to be posting periodic updates so they can see meworking on the project. I really, really think this is a good idea, andsomething I should have been doing from the start. It’s going to keep peoplefrom forgetting about my project or worrying that it won’t come to fruition (Imean, a lot of the people who donated don’t know me or anyone I know. They haveno way of knowing whether or not I’ll just flake out and not make a comic,since Kickstarter can’t hold me accountable.) I think it’s going to make a bigdifference to a lot of people if they can see it actually being made. Plus, ifI keep contact with my backers and some problem does come up that would causeme to alter the shipping date, they’ll be less likely to be annoyed or nervousbecause they’ll have seen what they’re going to get soon.
For more information, Spike ofTemplar, AZ and Smut Peddler made a postabout her own Kickstarter project, which offers some alternative advice: https://plus.google.com/105296061191723353379/posts/dubfwHaDr1s I also like ExtraCredits’s episode on crowdfunding, it’s insightful and fun like all of EC, andmost of its talk on games can be applied to comics. http://penny-arcade.com/patv/episode/crowdfunding Frankly, I would recommend the entire EC series to anyoneinterested in comics or video games. Especially women—their episode on TrueFemale Characters was a breath of fresh air.
I basically had two tiers to mypromotion--online and offline. Online was probably the most successful ingetting backers, though I think both contributed to the final total. The firstand simplest thing I did was to regularly post about it on mytumblr/twitter/facebook and ask friends to do the same. (It helped that I knewa number of artists with bigger followings than mine.) I also drew in sometraffic from tumblr by drawing fanart and tying it in with Star Power. (Makingsure to tag my posts.)
I sent some emails to blogs andportals online that posted relevant things to see if they'd promote me, thoughI didn't get many replies. I tried to take care not to be too pushy or seemlike I was spamming...it's a fine line to walk sometimes.
Nora (DJ Creeper) has a bit of afollowing of her own, she promoted me and passed out flyers at her DJ events.(She's actually Chicago based too--both she and I were born in Mt. Prospect.)Meanwhile I pounded the pavement a bit, going to bars, tattoo parlors, sexshops, etc...places where I could safely advertise a porn project, and handedout flyers. I also took flyers to comic cons (Fluke and MoCCA and offeredsketches as rewards for anyone who donated at the con.)
Basically I just tried whatever Icould think of to make people aware of the comic...and I tried to make everybit of promotional material eye-catching and easy to digest. (The image of thevarious Clipper strippers standing in a row was common...it gives you an ideaof what the comic is about at a glance.) ...Also, a TON of my donations onlycame when the project was nearing its goal. I think because that didn't happenuntil late in the game, there was a sense of urgency combined with a sense ofnearing the finish line.
So, I suppose my bottom line wouldbe do whatever crazy thing you can to get your project out there in the publiceye, but be friendly and try not to be pushy. Kickstarters tend to besuccessful when the person behind the project already has a large audience, so ifyou've got an audience already make them aware of it, and if not just grow youraudience as much as you can. That would be my advice.
Also, I've heard from another artistwho did a successful porn project on Kickstarter (Spike of Smut Peddler) thatoffering limited-edition rewards can really draw people in--like, specialbooks/artwork/t-shirts/whatever for only five backers. I also managed to get alittle extra interest with my benchmark rewards. (The pdf, wallpapers, paperdolls--the dolls are nearly done and will be out soon by the by. :)