Kickstarter lessons learned so far

Well, we are closing on the first week of my very first kickstarter and I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned so far.

I walked into kickstarter with literally no idea of what to expect. I have several friends who have done amazing things with kickstarter, such as Howard and Sandra Taylor, Peter Mohrbacher, etc. and they've all given me some great advice. But at the end of the day I still had no real working knowledge of what to expect.

It took me several weeks to actually put the kickstarter together. Most of it was just nerves, fear that I'd say the wrong thing, post the wrong image, and worse... completely fail. I wanted this so badly but I was terrified that no one else would give a rat's ass about it. Finally I bit the bullet and just put it together.

And you all blew my mind. It funded in the first hour and a half.

The Video
The first stalling point for me was the video. I did a lot of research and everyone pretty universally agreed that no one watches the videos, but... if you don't have one, people will skim past your kickstarter and be less likely to take it seriously. It's not so much about the content of the video, but the presentation that you care enough to put SOMETHING there. I think of it rather like putting 'not applicable' on the areas of a job application that don't apply to you, rather than leaving it blank. It shows that you read the whole thing and cared enough to fill it all out.

All of that in mind, I opted to put one of the sped up videos of me actually painting the original in the video field. I am not fundraising for the original painting, but I felt that having that video there really added to the understanding of what went into the piece they're about to purchase a print of, and why it was so important for me to have the very best quality I could find in printing options. I took a risk by not having any sound to it, and in the future I will probably add some copyright free music to my videos, but for now this served the purpose I needed.

The Photos

Looking at the kickstarter now, I feel that I did not give enough photos, or utilize my graphic design space very well. I tend to be more of a talker on this type of thing, but walls of text only get you so far and people respond well to visual aids. Pete has a great system of showing photos that lay out all the rewards together, and I think on future kickstarters I will be doing something similar to make it easy to see what you're getting at a glance.

The Rewards

What really kicked me in the butt, is the rewards. Every tier says "pledge x amount *or more*' and it's that 'or more' that gets me. It implies that if you buy a later tier, that counts as the 'or more' part and so everything on lower tiers is included in the higher end tiers. I know that Pete has found a few ways around that, but for now I went with just 'whatever is below it, is included in the above tier' practice.

And man it's bit me in the ass.

When I put the rewards in place, I went in expecting to make about 1/3rd to 1/2 of my goal in the first three days, and then spend the next month consistantly advertising until I met my goal. I put a lot of low cost rewards in so that people who wanted to donate but just couldn't afford the final print, could help out. I also wanted to give value for the donation, and while I couldn't do anything with the $1 and $5 tier, for the $10 tier I put down three greeting cards (that normally sell at $5 each). Since they were a low level tier, that means that all the upper ones get the set of cards as well.

I was counting on about 20 sets of cards total, worse case scenario. What I've got so far is over 50 and there's still three weeks left on the kickstarter! Woooweee that's a lot of cards to make! To keep from burning out, and so that I don't mess up my shipping timetables, I've started making them already. But at this point I'm just trying ot make more than I need, since I don't know what the final amount will be and the clock is still ticking for them.

What really surprised me was the utter lack of interest in the $10 and under tiers. If people were backing this, they wanted the print out of it, end of story. Definitely a good lesson learned there! I believe in future kickstarters I'll not worry about anything below the option to get the print, and use the greeting cards and the like as add ons at higher levels, rather than starting it right off at lower levels.

Streeeeeeeeeetch Goals

The big question I got asked the INSTANT the kickstarter funded was.. what are my stretch goals? At first I panicked and went OH GOD I HAVE TO ADD SOMETHING, but now that I've had some time to think (and Pete gave me some incredible advice), I realized that stretch goals are not really feasible for this particular project. Perhaps other ones, that have additions I'd LIKE to fund, but don't want to run a separate kickstarter for,  but for this one my entire goal was being able to make a full limited edition print run. Anything beyond that will go towards paying the photographer for my next piece to be photographed, and buying art materials for my next painting that may have been out of my reach until now. It's not really in my nature to push for a secondary goal, though I will continue to talk about my kickstarter and share it around until the end of the funding period.

So what do backers get for backing me past the goal? Well, there's a quirk of mine that I'm rather particular about. It's that once a piece is sold out, that's it. It's gone. I've had to say 'no' to potential buyers more often than yes, because of the desire to buy art that I have sold out of. So a backer is guaranteed that they will get this print, it will not be sold out by the time they contact me. This kickstarter is allowing me to do a larger print run than I usually do (I do between 25 and 100 normally), and so I can say 'no' less often... but I still sell out of my limited editions consistantly. So eventually 'no' will happen with this piece.

I can't say if this will change with the next kickstarter, but for this one I think I'm leaving it simple, so that I can be guaranteed to provide exactly what I promise. Overpromising is one of the surefire ways to get yourself into a LOT of trouble.


One thing about kickstarter is that it will go no where if you don't share it around and advertise. I'm fortunate that I have a fanbase already, but if you don't have a stable fanbase to begin with, it can be a daunting process. The first thing I did when my kickstarter went live, is post it EVERYWHERE that I have a presence. Except, ironically, my own website. That was an oversight on my part. The intitial burst was from facebook, as I posted not just to my personal page, but to groups I am a part of, and many, many friends shared it as well. After that, tumblr was my second biggest push, though at the moment the work in progress for that particular painting is making the rounds and so I have a lot more traffic on my tumblr than I normally would have. It was very good timing, to have the kickstarter launch, just as the tumblr post for the wip gained over 3 thousand notes. It put a lot of eyes on my art that would not normally have been there.

Some places that have been suggested to me to post are reddit, instagram and pinterest. I do not have an account on reddit (and I'm worried about my emotional stability as I don't handle agressive negativity very well and I know reddit can go that way pretty fast) and so it's not an option at the moment (though if you have a reddit account and want to pop my dragon and kickstarter up there, I will love you to pieces). Instagram is a non option as I do not own a phone, so that leaves pinterest. I've posted it as of today and am rather eagerly looking forwards to seeing just how pinterest gathers attention.

What are my worries now?

At this point it's just getting everything together. The minute that I hit funding I knew I was going to have to start immediately to do as much preemptive work as I could before the end of the kickstarter. The hard part is, a lot of it I CANT do until I receive the funds. So I'm doing what I can with the cards, the sketches, and the mat cutting in advance. I want to make absolutely certain that I meet or beat my shipping deadlines.

I'm a little nervous about kickstarter's backend, it's a bit chaotic and doesn't have the information very cleanly laid out. I've transferred everything to my own filing system to keep track of who's got what rewards (and a few people have bought extra things NOT listed on the kickstarter, such as prints of Vance's Dragon), but it's getting all the right addresses that worries me.

I'm also worried about pledges backing out at the last minute, I've been told it's between 2 and 10% on average that scoot out at the end. I'm not TOO worried about fraudulent backers as so far no one's set off red flags.

But over all I feel confident that I can face whatever comes and meet it head on. And that's a great feeling.

For those that are interested, my kickstarter can be found here:

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