Studio Musings

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Lessons Learned: Managing my Kickstarter Campaign

If you're just joining in, this is part of my new series focusing on the lessons I learned in last year's adventure in crowdfunding and self-publishing for my third book.  A Google search will turn up scores of posts with tips for creating a stellar Kickstarter campaign.  My goal here is to provide a much more personal look at the process based upon my own experiences.  In earlier posts, I covered designing a Kickstarter campaign and my experiences creating a Kickstarter video.  Now, I'll focus on what happened once the campaign was off and running.

The Kickoff
Make sure to tell everyone you know about your campaign!  I can't stress this enough.  The more people you have excited about your project, the better your chances of succeeding.  Don't bore people, but make sure to let them know - here's where an elevator pitch comes in.  Mine went something like "I'm running a Kickstarter campaign to support my newest book to help people learn to trust their creativity and make their own freeform beadwoven designs."

Even if they're not interested in your particular project, they may know someone who is.  My campaign succeeded entirely through the power of word of mouth.  I didn't know it at the time, but I really didn't have a large enough Facebook following for my campaign to succeed according to statistics (250 likes when the campaign launched).  But what I did have were friends who believed in my project and shared it with their friends, who shared it with their friends; and the rest was history. (Thank you all!!!!!)

Social Media and Spreading the Word:  
  • Play to your strengths.  I'm primarily a blog and Facebook kind of girl, so that's where I focused. If you're great at building Pinterest boards, using Instagram or Twitter - then use your medium to its fullest advantage.
  • Only a portion of your audience will ever see any one post.  With Facebook, the stats indicate that only 10-20% of my friends see any individual post.  
  • Use the power of personal emails.   I was slow to take advantage of this.  At the start of my campaign I emailed a few of my friends whom I thought might be interested.  I didn't want to send out "please give me money" emails, fearing I would sound greedy or money grubbing.  I have a sneaking suspicion this is something that women wrestle with more than men - one of those hidden paradigms in our culture.  Halfway through the campaign, a friend sat me down and told me that I was being foolish.  About that time, I realized that I didn't need to ask for financial funding; what I really needed to ask for was support in spreading the word. 
  • Respond to Everyone who Contacts You! I spent several hours each day responding to emails.  If you have more than one account, remember to check them all - you'll receive messages through Kickstarter, tweets, emails, Facebook messages and any other social media you use.  I'd never realized how many different ways there were for people to contact me.  It's exciting and wonderful, and can be tiring.  I was afraid that my emails would sound 'canned', so I tried to write an entirely new email to each person.  Some stock phrases are probably okay, especially if they are truly meant.
Keeping Things Rolling

Updates give you a chance to engage with the people who already support your campaign, and to woo those who might be considering jumping in.  They are automatically emailed to all of your Kickstarter supporters, and can be viewed from your main campaign page. 
  • Milestones - it's fun to post progress reports on your campaign, but I was advised to keep this to the major milestones. 
  • Insider Info - Updates are a great place to go into greater depth about aspects of your project that excite you.  For me one of these was full-bleed photography.  Since I'd published my second book, Createspace had finally introduced this printing option.  This meant that photos could stretch all the way to the edges of the page without margins, opening new, wonderful possibilities for page layout and design.  An update allowed me to show off how this could look. I also announced my Call for Entries for inclusion in the book in one of my updates.
  • Contests/Challenges and Rewards - I spent a lot of time looking through other campaigns to see what they used as extra incentives during their campaigns.  They key was to find something that would be of value to my supporters without destroying my budget.  Save your best ideas for the end, when there's already a greater sense of urgency.  
  • The most popular reward I offered (and the only challenge to succeed) was a full PDF copy of my original book, Freeform Peyote Beading.  The challenge was IF we received full funding by midnight on the last full day of the campaign, I'd email the download code for the PDF version of my first book to all supporters at the $40 level or above.  I have never sold the digital version of this book; the only way to receive a copy was through this campaign.  Which made it a more powerful incentive. 
  • Acknowledgements - with the tremendous support I received, I wasn't able to list everyone who helped spread the word, but I made sure to include shout-outs and links to everyone who wrote a blog post about my campaign. 
Navigating the Doldrums
Most campaigns do their best in the first and last week.  The first week everything is shiny and new.  The final week there's a sense of 'all or nothing' urgency.  The weeks in between were particularly difficult as I watched my campaign stall.    It helped to know that this was normal.  This doesn't mean you can slack off, nor does it mean you should give up.  I fretted, worrying about the all-or-nothing aspect of the Kickstarter process.  Should I have gone with Indiegogo, or one of the other sites that allowed for partial funding?  Should I have gone with a longer campaign (60 days instead of 30)?

See what I meant about mid-campaign doldrums?
Thank you, thank you to those of you who joined the campaign during weeks two and three; you helped keep my stomach from eating itself!

Going back to the statistics, I reminded myself that shorter campaigns had higher success rates.  I can see why; a longer campaign would have been more wearing, with a longer, potentially more devastating, trough in the in the middle.   The best advice I found for navigating my campaign's doldrums was to dig in, have faith, and keep going.  Spend this time continuing to build content to share, comb through your email and contact lists to see if there's anyone you missed, keep conversations going with your early supporters, and generally keep the faith.

It's good training for later in your project, when energy flags but you simply need to keep going.

Celebrate your Wins
Whether or not my campaign succeeded, I'd committed to celebrating my wins.  For me, that was the number of people who had turned out and turned up, who'd become involved and helped to push things forward.  For the first time in my publishing career, I had people actively excited and waiting for my new book to appear.  That in and of itself was spectacular.

If my campaign hadn't succeeded, it would have been hard.  I would have gone through a period of mourning.   However, I'd already committed mentally to pursuing this project either way.  The final project would have been paired down, and taken longer.  But there was enough excitement to indicate that the effort was warranted - my book could find its audience.

My campaign did succeed, and we were off and running, full-steam ahead with the actual project.  I spent the following week writing another flurry of emails and postcards - thanking everyone and sending out the first wave of rewards.  Since my rewards tiers were pretty complex, I also built a spreadsheet to track what each supporter was supposed to receive.  It was time to put processes in place for the long haul. 

In my next post, I'll talk about what I learned about submitting works and photographs to Calls for Entries from the other side of the table; running one. 

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