Top Ten Things I Learned From Kickstarting

Huzzah! The Kickstarter for CO-OP: the co-op game funded. It was a success, but it didn’t make a major splash. To be honest, I am very happy that it was any kind of success. I have seen some good kickstarters fail. So, I set my funding goal fairly low and made two plans: barely funding and substantial funding. Barely Funded! Huzzah! Still a success! So, I am executing a plan for a small print run.

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Along the way, I learned some weird/interesting/simple things about the Kickstarter process. For future Kickstarters, here’s a list of some interesting things I encountered along the way when running my Kickstarter.

Honorable Mention lesson:  Have two plans so you can be successful at a small or large level  of funding.  If you are a small publisher like us, it’s nice to have multiple levels of success.  This may not matter if you have a lot of experience or are a big company.

10) You get SPAM in your Kickstarter messages. What? SPAM? I got 10-20 messages from SPAMMERS who wanted to be my social media outreach, (for a nominal free of course). It was directed SPAM (no real estate deals or anything like that), but still SPAM. Hm. I wonder if someone should do a Kickstarter for a product that filters SPAM in the Kickstarter messages?

9) Vote Trading. Many people (5-10?) with active Kickstarters reached out to me: “Hey, if you support my Kickstarter, I’ll support yours”. A different variant of SPAM. In a dark hour, when my funding velocity was negative, I did it. Only once, for a project that looked okay. I felt dirty and never did it again. I am hoping by posting this, maybe I can get some absolution. Sorry.

8) People will Cancel. Oof, the worst feeling in the world is when someone supports your project, then backs out. And it’s their right: Kickstarter has made that one of the options. So, you have to steel yourself for that. It’s easy to say “Yes, I know that can happen”, it’s different when you see it. Recently, I saw a video by Tom Vasel who said this happened to him in the Dice Tower Kickstarters … up to $30,000 in the last bits of the project! (This is one reason Dice Tower is moving to Indie-Gogo: when someone gives you money, it is immediately withdrawn).

7) Reviews and advertising didn’t help that much. I spent $500 on advertising and maybe, maybe got 2 people from that. A lot of my supporters came from people I had personally met and playtested my game, Social Media, friends, and UNPUB testing (Rincon Tucson and San Diego). If I had made it to GenCon, I suspect I would have gotten a lot more support. I just wasn’t ready for GenCon.

I will say this: even though I didn’t get a lot of click-thrus, the reviews and ads gave me some legitimacy. The reviews showed a real game, and the ads showed someone cared/supported my game enough to spend money on it. So, I can’t quantify the “legitimacy”, but I suspect it helped me keep people who came to my site.
6) BoardGameGeek. I should have put my game on BoardGameGeek sooner. I was under the impression that I couldn’t register a game until it was “legitimate” (in Distribution). Not true. Although when I did finally register, we had just funded, so it was clear the game was legitimate at that point. I think I got some more traffic once I was on BGG.

Like the reviews and advertising, being on BGG gave me some more legitimacy.

5) Non-traditional buyers. As hard as it may be to believe in this day and age, not everyone likes Kickstarter and the act of putting Credit Cards on the Internet. I had one customer send me a check and one customer give me cash. So I did the paperwork of creating an accounts for both of them and “funnelling” their money through a credit card.

I am happy they cared enough to want the game, so I was happy to do the paperwork (Internet work?) for them. Make the customer happy.

4) Try to give lots of updates. When I first started, I didn’t want to give too many updates (I don’t want to annoy people with too many messages). The more I looked around at other projects and talked to people, I came to the conclusion that people seem to want those messages. They may not read them all, maybe they’ll just glance at them, but it gives a warm fuzzy. They may even get slightly annoyed, but it shows you care enough to try to reach your backers.

I heard about some projects where the people just disappeared with the money. I don’t want to be that guy. I want people to feel fully engaged, knowing what I am thinking.

So, I am probably more chatty in my updates than I should be, but I want people to feel like they are being kept in the loop.

3) Eye on Shipping. I made my game to fit in the USPS Fixed Rate Small box. On purpose: if I only got the minimal funding, I wanted to be able to ship by myself (if I had made the bigger levels of funding, I would have gone with Naked Shipping).

One really neat product I found was the Scottie Stuffer: it allows me to fit two of my games in the USPS Fixed Rate small padded envelope and still have great protection. For those of my backers who bought two games, that’s how we are able to get them two games for the cheaper price.

2) Feedback is important. It always good to have several friends you trust give you brutally honest advice at every level. I thought I was ready to Kickstart much sooner, but really got some honest feedback that really helped me. At every stage, my friends have helped by by proofreading, pointing out errors, and so on. Try to get as much feedback as you can at every stage: the Kickstarter, the Updates, the Comments, etc.

1) Friends matter. This was my first Kickstarter, and I got a lot of support from non-traditional gamers. Thank you.

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