It’s all over :,( for #kickstarter

After 20 days with the Kickstarter I realized I am nowhere close to my goal so I decided to pull the plug and cancel the campaign.

I could go on about the problems with Kickstarter and crowdfunding but I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on what I think went wrong:

  1. Too many campaigns in one year. I had a successful campaign in Feb/March but I think a lot of my backers were supporting me to be polite. Maybe in a couple of years I can get them to back again but there was less enthusiasm and it came off as asking for too much money. At least one of my previous backers thinks so.
  2. Not a big enough audience. Crowdfunding is not exactly an “even playing field” when it comes to raising. Sure, a frigging cube or potato salad prank could go viral and earn you hundreds of thousands of backers. Or, you could get a great PR campaign and get some quality publicity. That might work. But if you lack that type of press or virability, then you better have a big group of people prepared to back you. And if you don’t, then you’re likely not to make much money.
  3. Video didn’t feature me. The video is really good and great thanks to Benji Seyler and his friend for their help in putting it together. But some people prefer videos with the creator in it, and this one is very professional but did not feature me.
  4. Demand? I always wonder how demand works. The problem with business (and yes, if you make and publish your own game you are a business!) is that it’s not always easy to know when your products and services are in demand. The marketplace is made up of too many moving parts so you can spend a lot of time on something you’re proud of, only to find out the market really doesn’t care what you made or how you provide service. I think this is the number one reason 80-90% of new businesses fail!

My 3 Biggest Crowdfunding Mistakes you can avoid

KS project photo

support our Kickstarter, set to go live this Wednesday the 7th!

Crowdfund is a $60 billion industry  and isn’t showing signs of slowing down, especially if our government continues to make getting access to capital that much more difficult.

Of course, the definition has evolved from theoretically “micro investing” into what it really is, crowd donating. You take the old concept of a community getting together to raise money to say refurbish a church or school, or a dinner to raise funds to help someone who was sick pay medical bills. These “revolutionary” platforms are exactly the internet version of things we used to do in communities, except now your community is a) the whole world and b) mostly people you’ve never met.

For people who cannot bear the expense of taking on an expensive project like game design (or big companies just using a pre-order platform), we can go to one of more than 400 platforms, each with its own niche. Except for Kickstarter and Indigogo, the two biggest on the planet, which have campaigns which encompass pretty much everything.

Kickstarter is THE platform to go to for gaming plans, whether tabletop or video gaming. Slides in my presentation show Games are generally more likely to be funded than other projects, but you are still likely to fail. By the way, if you’re trying to raise money for your novel, there is a company called Pubslush that was sold a while ago. I spoke to their former owners about the platform but I was not a fan, which I can address for anyone who wants to know more about crowdfunding novels.

Why do campaigns fail? First off, Kickstarter, like most crowdfunding platforms, does NOTHING to help you. Unless they like your campaign and promote it on their platform, they literally do zilch. YOU are the one who must direct traffic to their site. Now people with large followings can get people to the site, or if they have celebrity friends or backers, which is how Exploding Kittens took off so much. Occasionally, something random like potato salad can go viral and get you the bump. But unless you are a celebrity or get lucky, prepare to draw traffic or struggle to raise $.

Second, I didn’t know that if you make a game, you need to get reviews. Period. Even if it’s just 2, get a third-party to vet your game. It’s possible but much less likely to raise funds if you have a game, no community interaction, no plan, and no third-parties to vouch for you.

Third, the pledge levels need to make sense. Remember, CROWDBACKERS ARE NOT INVESTORS. They are literally campaign donors, no different than sending a $10 pledge to a politician’s election campaign and getting stuff in the mail. A real investor would review your business plan, meet your team and visit your  facilities (if applicable), and review your financial projects before deciding whether or not to invest, and then you get into the details of what percentage they will take, who sits on your advisory board or board of directors, etc. In Crowdfunding, I like your project so I give you $10 in return for a t-shirt if you meet your goal. That’s not investing, that’s donating.

So when you set those pledge levels, think about what your ideal backer wants. My first campaign, I set a weak $3 pledge and then had too many prize levels that didn’t offer enough value. I started offering t-shirts and hats which I had done research on the cost of, but which I don’t think offered enough value.

So what am I doing  the second time?

BGG-Banners-ANIM

For problem 1, I made connections, met people, shared their campaigns, played their games, chatted with gamers on forums and on Board Game Geek, and introduced myself to the local tabletop community. I visited stores, sat down at weekly game nights, and directly appealed to past backers or people on my e-mail list. I made postcards and left them with store owners, and sent out reminders to all my previous backers. It’s still not a huge community, but it’s a start.

For problem 2, I got reviews and posted an interview I had with Board Game Geek, made a couple of funny memes, and put them together. The result is a page that shows higher quality than just “hey guys, I’m some dude, back me.”

For problem 3, I only posted 6 goals, was more clear with potential international backers about my pricing strategy, and kept them limited to the game. My bonuses are things like exclusive KS-only cards. This should keep people from being distracted by merchandise. By the way, all these tips are credible for any crowdfunding platform, since the biggest ones all have the same problem.

There are more things I did wrong I’ll share later, as well as my problems with crowdfunding platforms that I want to address. Feel free to share your experience crowdfunding on any platform.

Question of the day: Does crowdfunding work for you? What has your experience been like?

 

News and notes:

HEROES OF HISTORY
I will be at the Boston Festival of Indie games in Cambridge, MA to show off Heroes of History and maybe win a FIGGIE.

I will be in Newington, CT for the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games

I will be in Washington, NJ at Arcana Toys and Games to do a demo for kids.

I at BW will also make an appearance in Stroudsburg, PA to do a demo of the next set.

 

Books:

ERA OF BRADAN is now closing in on 37k reads, and with 3 weeksto go before Wattpad stops featuring the novel, it did a little worse than I expected, but better than I feared. Part of the reason I don’t get more reads is because I don’t go on a lot.

ECHOES OF THE OTHERWORLD is almost at 2k, which is good for a novel that’s 1/3 done.

Still no plan as of today to publish either, since I keep getting rejections.

 

 

 

3 Kickstarter and Wattpad Tips

So now that Kickstarter is over, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Kickstarter was fully funded! I cleared $4100 in 30 days, which is a good marker of success. I now hope I can deliver, both figuratively and literally, within the next month.
  • Waiting to get my cards printed up. Expected deliver is May 27th. My printer doesn’t move any faster. Check below for tips for success.
  • Got an agent requesting a partial! It’s not much but it is pretty cool. First time I’ve ever gotten a literary professional interested in any of my work. With luck, that agent won’t be the last.
  • Story was featured on Wattpad and I am over 8k views in less than 2 months. I expect that by May 25th I will have passed the 10k mark on reads. No, reads aren’t everything. But for those who care about such things, averaging 5k reads a month is not bad at all, especially since i’m still a relative unknown on Wattpad. Probably by the time I clear the 10k mark, I’ll see a bit of an uptick in views per day. My goal is to get 50k reads before my featuring expires. At my current rate I’m expecting 30-35k reads which is not bad given that I won’t write fanfic or teen romances. I’ll check back in periodically to  see if I can hit 50k before the featuring expires.

 

As it’s Mother’s Day, I won’t bore you with a long article. As much as I’d rather Vlog than blog, I just cannot find the enthusiasm to perform like a street monkey for a tiny number of strangers. Plus editing takes a lot of time, even for simple, jump-cut oriented video that is the favorite on YouTube. If you’re wonder why you’re probably not gonna become YouTube or Wattpad famous, I’ll post that next time. Hint: Has little to do with you.

That said, you can have some success, so here are 3 Wattpad tips:

  1. Write in a genre that has more readers, and give them what they want. Teen romance and fantasy (particularly with romance) does very well there, as does fan-fic of popular things. If you do horror or comedy, you won’t have as big a reach. Adjust expectations accordingly
  2.  Don’t do read for read swaps. At first, you will do this because you want to pump up your count. At a certain point there just isn’t enough time. An easier way to find new readers is to post to message boards. You can do this a few minutes a day and still reach a lot of readers.
  3. DO thank voters, commenters, and followers. Not just because it’s nice, but because you will show up on their profiles and this boosts your profile to whoever follows THEM.

 

Now three tips for success on Kickstarter:

  1. I wish I had known how hard it is to raise money by myself. Don’t get sucked into the hype that you just make a profile and “build it” that they will come. The more partners you have on your project, the loftier your expectations will be and the more money you can make.
  2. Get your supporters lined up early. Kickstarter favors those not even with more money, but with a combo of more money AND a higher percentage of their goal reached in the first day and then the first week when choosing which projects to feature. I hit 22 percent of my goal in 7 days, which is the minimum to even have a shot at featuring. But if I had hit 40 percent right away, my ranking would have been boosted and I would have seen my numbers go even higher.
  3. Use the Kickstarter hashtag on twitter. I not only gained a bunch of followers but I actually did get 2 donations of Twitter for boxes, which is pretty cool.

 

Got questions or tips? Post ’em below.

Lessons in Selling Your Product

My Heroes of History Kickstarter campaign is about halfway over, and I’m halfway to my goal. Unlike some other projects, I am way short of them.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1497895052/save-the-heroes-of-history-from-textbook-doom

I looked at a few other campaigns, and try to figure out “why”. Why do they get more/less money than mine does? Why do they have more/fewer backers than me?

What most people don’t tell you about Kickstarter is that the most successful campaigns have one or more of the following:

  1. multiple partners with equal investment in campaign success.
  2. An established fanbase and/or easy access to national/international media.
  3. A network of support where they can focus on Kickstarter and not have to worry about paying the bills or feeling like a “loser” for turning to Kickstarter.
  4. Previous experience running this.

I came in with only a little  bit of #3, in that in the worst-case scenario, I can move home with my parents and focus on my business, which would help a lot. But I lack the others.

A lot of Kickstarter advice is geared towards people whose projects a) depend on the success of their campaign and b) have a bigger team. In my genre for example, most gamers are happy with $10,000 or less, which doesn’t require a massive media push. But the projects in the s6- or 7- figures often have a well-known, established figure and a wider network than I have. I assume most have friends with more money than mine do, which might explain why so few of my friends have bothered to support my campaign. They are happy to like a Facebook post, but actually giving money is proving a problem. I hate cyber begging, but I really have no choice. You’d think some of my ‘facebook friends’ would be more supportive, but I think most of them could care less. They are more worried about their own lives and the idea of charity, that is giving up something for nothing, is foreign to them. Unless it’s something they REALLY care about, and I guess my idea just doesn’t excite them enough.

You are likely to experience the same thing when you run your crowdfunding campaign, or try to sell your book/product to someone who may not want it. So here are my takeaways:

For Kickstarer-

  1. Make sure you have at LEAST 30 people locked in to buy on day 1- Kickstarter is more likely to boost you if you get a big number on day 1. Even better is if they pledge a lot of money. Say $25- that means on day 1, you’d get $750, and that looks great.
  2. Better to have a partner- a spouse, friend, co-worker, or co-founder EQUALLY obsessed with your goal. As much as my parents and family and a few friends have been supportive, no one is more invested in this than me. Not only will having an equal partner help you reach your goal faster, but you can set loftier goals. So if I had 3 people on my team, I might ask for $12,000 instead of $4,000. Granted, partners can bring headaches. But I’d probably be at $6,000 by now if I had more investment.
  3. Most likely, your first product won’t have big attention. It will take subsequent campaigns, with a bigger fan base, to build interest.
  4. Plan! I did not spend a lot of time planning Kickstarter. Most of the more successful campaigns planned theirs out weeks, if not months, or even years, in advance. Without a reliable base of money, my campaign is mostly cyber-begging.

For business:

  1. Build a bigger team- I learned the hard way how hard it is to try to do everything yourself. In hindsight, I would have liked to have a Co-Founder to help share responsibility and also expand what we’re capable of. But the partner must a) have a different skill-set than me, b) be willing to work hard, and c) be willing to share or take responsibility as needed.
  2. Don’t assume your network will support you- big-shots who write for big-shot media outlets will tell you that if you aren’t getting people running to your book or product, it’s your fault and your  book/product probably sucks. That may or may not be true, but accept that if you thought your friends and family would back you to show support, don’t count on it. Some will, and many will not. Don’t assume. Makes an Ass of U and Me. But also don’t listen to ‘experts’ opinions over your product. Trust your instinct and customer feedback, not judgmental morons on TV.
  3. Network- one thing I’ve done is brought my product to game clubs and to kids who game to have them test the rules and give feedback. But, I should have done more of this before, in order to not delay my product launch, which will likely be one more month past when I had hoped to begin selling (may be a blessing in disguise- most people’s refunds will come through by then)

This is only the first post in this category, but if you have any unanswered questions, please ask them.

#Kickstarter Campaign to save history

I have a new Kickstarter campaign and I’d love your support! Besides the  for-profit motive, I have a non-profit motive as well. No one likes studying, and least of all a subject like history, which has little application to people’s lives…or so they think.

But it does, because knowing who we are and how we got here helps us ensure we don’t repeat the same mistakes. As Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Thus I’m proud to announce the Kickstarter campaign for the Heroes of History Collectible Card Game, my new idea to provide an alternative way to learn history. Find reading thick textbooks boring? Not inspired by the old-school documentaries that speak in a monotone and recite lots of facts that have little to do with you? Well, I’m introducing a new way to learn the facts.

my babies

My game has battlefields, weapons, people, and things from history. Each card has a historical fact and most have a special ability to accompany them. It’s up to you to decide how you will make the moves.

 

The goal is simple: Build an army and destroy your opponent before they destroy you. Your deck comes with a brigade of both heroic and villainous men and women from history, several weapons for you to provide your soldiers for extra firepower, and supply cards and real-life battleground bonuses to enhance your army or crush your enemy.

Win the battle with legendary Shawnee war chief Tecumseh trading his bow and arrow for a cannon to blow Geronimo up. Or, put Andrew Jackson on the literally-indestructible USS Constitution to knock enemies out before taking refuge in King’s Mountain. You can even give George Washington the Gatling Gun (predecessor to the machine gun) and let him go for a joy ride on your opponent. Not only can you power your army with buffalo chips (that’s buffalo poop for you youngins), but you’ll learn something you probably didn’t know about people, places, and things which made a real difference to our world.

But, we can’t distribute this card game without your support. While a small number of cards have been made, we need an awesome community of people like you to help us get more units printed, shipped, and into the hands of our fans. Please support this campaign and take home a box (or more) that will give you, or someone you know, hours of entertainment for the price of just a few dead presidents, four of whom are actually playable cards. You can actually say you were studying while you were gaming.

This game is manufactured in the USA and is approved for all ages. All rights reserved. We thank you in advance for all your support.

Visit my campaign by clicking below: I promise you, if my autograph is worth something someday, this will be the best investment you ever made.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1497895052/save-the-heroes-of-history-from-textbook-doom