ceciliatan (ceciliatan) wrote in crowdfunding,

Some thoughts about Kickstarter

Kickstarter has been in the news so much lately! The site just had its third anniversary, so was featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, etc... and thanks to the SMASH success of Amanda Palmer's (still ongoing) campaign (had raised over half a million as of this morning...) has been the talk of National Public Radio and a bunch of other mainstream media places.

I launched a campaign to do a print edition of a book two weeks ago, and I've got two weeks left, so thought now would be a good time to put down some thoughts for my fellow crowdfunders who may be contemplating doing the same. I'll put it all under a cut, though, so as not to clog up flists...

Regular readers of crowdfunding will be familiar with the book: Daron's Guitar Chronicles, which won the inaugural Rose & Bay Award for fiction when it was just a web serial. DGC has continued as a web serial since then. I eventually packaged many of the chapters into ebook form: three volumes so far. But people ask me when there's going to be a print edition fairly often, as if that's just an assumed next step. I decided I couldn't commit to doing a print edition without getting the budget together to hire a decent proofreader, layout person, and cover artist and the like.

So I launched the Kickstarter on April 22 for $2,750. That's not a huge number compared to some fiction projects I've seen. I didn't build into that price any money for myself figuring my "payout" will come in future sales of the book and future donations through the website as usual. I figure if we happen to go over that goal by a significant amount, I'll keep some as my royalties, but for now my main goal is cover the cost of getting the book made, including printing the copies for the people who pledged enough to get the book as a reward.

My thoughts so far:

From day one, the pace of what I seem to raise is about $100 a day. Given 30 days to do it, and a $2,750 goal, that seems to say we'll make it with a day or two to spare. The one day I took off and didn't do any tweeting, posting, or Facebooking about it, we raised $0. That seems to me to say I can't take a day off to keep up the pace. I need to do at least one round of social media a day to keep everything flowing.

Generally speaking, the donations are coming 4 out of 5 from people I know or who are regular commenters on the DGC site. Many many of those folks are helping me cast the net wider by retweeting, "like" the Kickstarter on Facebook, etc etc... but the majority of the money coming in is from people already in my network. This may not be true for every project, of course. Some things I've backed, like the EAT MORE KALE guy, I found through a friend of a friend and thought it was cool and so backed it. EAT MORE KALE guy is being sued by Chick-Fil-A who claim it violates their trademark, so he's making a documentary about fighting them. That kind of politically-focused "cause" might be able to get more random donors than a fiction/entertainment project can. Overall I'd caution anyone who hopes Kickstarter will put them in front of a vast and deep-pocketed audience previously undiscovered to be more realistic. Your own network and platform is the basis.

Kickstarter gives you stats on where people came from, like mini Google analytics. This is undoubtedly a small sample size error, but although I have the same number of donors coming through Facebook as through Twitter, the FB folks have given more than twice the dollar amount than the tweeters. Maybe more of my friends and family are coming through FB, and more random readers are coming through Twitter? I think it's just a coincidence at this point, but it's interesting to speculate about.

For the first two weeks, I've pretty much relied on my own network, as I said, with Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ being my main push points (as well as on the serial blog itself, which does three chapters a week right now). I did one guest blog on another writer's blog (Mary Anne Mohanraj). Today though started Phase Two of the promo, with a guest blog on Ryan Field's blog and several more guest blogs and online chats scheduled for this week. I'm very curious to see whether the pace of donations picks up this week as a result. One thing that has already picked up is traffic to the DGC website. Average visitors per week is usually around 300, peaking at 400. First week of the KS campaign we topped 600 and last week was over 500. So that is good no matter how I look at it, especially when I see how low the bounce rate is on the web site (the average visitor spends 15 minutes on the site and reads at least four pages/posts...)

Kickstarter is not the only site like it out there. KS specializes in artistic and creative projects, books, films, musical performances, plays, etc. Some of the other ones out there aren't as restrictive, so if you want to raise money for a non-profit cause, medical expenses, running a conference, etc... here are some others people have pointed me to recently:

Indiegogo.com -- for anything Kickstarter would do and also non-art projects. They also have multiple models. One allows you to keep all money raised even if you don't make your goal!

Peerbackers.com -- for small business startups. FAQ says if you didn't meet goal you might still be able to keep what you raised, if you raised enough to fulfill your rewards obligations. If you didn't, then as with Kickstarter it all gets returned to the donors.

Authr.com -- does books only, includes publishing tools like a cover designer, etc. They charge a monthly fee for their ongoing services and don't take a cut of what's raised. I'm a little skeptical but interested to see if they take off.

I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see more of these trying to take off. Kickstarter for now is the 800 pound gorilla on the block, though, and their ubiquity gives people a feeling of security, I think. One drawback to anyone who boycotts Amazon, Kickstarter uses Amazon payments to process their payments. One huge plus: their terms of service does not prohibit "adult" content or any of the usual moralistic, censorious TOS one sees with companies like Paypal. If it's legal, go for it.

A small list of other crowdfunding platforms, some for specific uses like music or gaming: ArtistShare, Cameesa ChipIn, CrowdRise, Dreambank, Gamester, GrowVC, Kachingle, Peerform, RocketHub, Sellaband, SlicethePie, Sponsume, Spot.us...

Actually, here's an immense list of places compiled by someone else: http://www.strategy-of-innovation.com/pages/List_of_Crowd_Funding_Web_Sites_and_Web_Sites_To_Find_Investors-4605700.html

In short, crowdfunding is hot news right now. I think we need to be careful because there are scammers out there (one fake game company was already ratted out recently) and I would stick with websites with a known reputation. (Money in some website's hands isn't FDIC insured.)

Finally, if you want to see the info on my own Kickstarter, here are the links:

The Daron's Guitar Chronicles Kickstarter page: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1458565937/darons-guitar-chronicles-omnibus-book

(A $15 donation gets all three ebooks and a logo sticker, $25 gets the omnibus paperback, $30 gets a T-shirt, $50 gets the book and T-shirt combo.)

Watch the promo video I made for the Kickstarter site:

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