It’s funny how many times in the past week I’ve had this conversation:
- Me: I’m doing a Kickstarter campaign.
- Them: [blank look]
- Me: You know what Kickstarter is?
- Them: No. [apologetic look]
- Me: [deep breath, settle in for slightly boring explanation] Do you know what crowdfunding is?
- Them: Oh yeah! Kickstarter. I know it.
Somehow, the word Kickstarter has not, among the average Joe, become synonymous with crowdfunding, like Google has for using a search engine or Kleenex has for facial tissues. And yet, everyone seems to be familiar with it when you remind them. Exactly how familiar, I’m not sure, since Kickstarter experts still suggest that you explain the Kickstarter process in your video and your literature. The number one misunderstanding? That the campaigner gets whatever funding is pledged, no matter how high or low.
Kickstarter is “a global crowdfunding platform based in the United States.The company’s stated mission is to help bring creative projects to life” (Wikipedia; “creative” can be anything from architecture to food, dance to toys).
Crowdfunding “is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet” (Wikpedia).
A Kickstarter campaign is an attempt by an individual or indie company to raise funds for a creative project, using Kickstarter.
So I thought I would help a brother or sister out. Here are some (slightly) interesting facts about a Kickstarter campaign, in no particular order:
- Most money is raised at the end. For this reason, Kickstarter limits campaigns to 60 days and encourages less than 30. It is also the reason a campaign can look really under-funded until the last minute. Let’s hope that is what’s happening with my campaign, which is at 1-2% five days in.
- Most funding comes from friends and friends-of-friends. This is a crowdfunding mantra. It means that your (hopefully giant) network is important. It also means you may have to send emails. It also means that the best thing your “friends” can do for you is share with their “friends.” Like with a smiley face and a nice recommendation.
- The campaigner gets NO funding if the monetary goal is not met by the deadline. In other words, if I don’t have $17,579.00 pledged by Wednesday, November 5 at 11:00 p.m. EST/EDT, I don’t see a single penny and none of the pledgers gets charged a dime. It is all or nothing, which is Kickstarter’s way of ensuring that everyone’s donations count for something. The theory is, if it is not a fully funded project, it can’t be successful, and likely won’t even be completed. In a way, they are protecting the donors’ interests.
- On the other hand, if the campaign exceeds its goal (by a little or even a way lot), the campaigner gets all the funds pledged. That’s why the campaign should mention what would happen to excess funds. My excess funds will go toward operational costs of the business and future publications.
- Gifts! If you pledge more than the gift minimum (which is usually a small amount; mine is $5), you are eligible for a gift (meaning, it’s yours if the project is funded, but you can decline it). Gifts are distributed only if funding goals are met, and the expected time of delivery on the gift is listed right there with the gift. This is one of the more fun aspects of Kickstarter, and it can really help move a gift from, say, $10 to $25. My gifts include everything from ebooks and paperbacks to a catered party and naming a character after you. (In a smart campaign, gift redemption costs are included in the total funding needed.)
- Fees and taxes apply. (In a smart campaign, fees and taxes are included in the total funding needed.) That also means that not every cent of your donation goes toward the project, but a majority of it does. Kickstarter takes 5% and the payment process takes another 2-5%. It’s pretty minimal, really. And then we all pay taxes on earnings, so…
- The dollar amount reflects a real budget for a real project. You can’t just be like, “I need money for my business. Maybe $50,000 for the year?” Each Kickstarter campaign stands for a particular project with specific goals, deadlines, and a price tag. Personally, I have a list of over 30 dollar amounts that are direct costs of publication, printing, and publicizing the three novels by Owl and Zebra Press listed on the campaign (like sending copies to local news sources, $114, and proofs, 15 total with shipping, $180). With the funding, all three books can be shipped out in six months.
- There are other crowdfunding companies. I don’t really know them. They have some benefits over Kickstarter, but also some limitations. Kickstarter seems to be the biggest and most popular.
- There are no Kickstarter police. In theory, someone could win a Kickstarter bid and then make off with the money and never look back. Kickstarter relies on two things: 1) funding comes largely from people the campaigner knows; 2) the campaigner gets to sort of prove their reliability through their campaign. Owl and Zebra Press has published a book before. The Starving Artist has maintained a competitive blogsite for two years. Flaherty has a presence across the internet, from guest blogs to Goodreads. You can order her book at Barnes and Noble. The reviews are good. Etc.
- 44% of the campaigns are successful. That’s sort of good and bad news.
- A campaign is a lot of hard work. Fulfilling a campaign is even harder. You have to hit the pavement, stay up late, talk when you’d rather hide, cry some… And then, if you get funded, you actually have to publish three books. But it is so worth it.
- You can not write a check or slide some cash to the campaigner the next time you see them at church. I mean, you could, and they might appreciate it, but it won’t help them with their campaign. Your donation only counts toward the goal if it is donated online, on Kickstarter. Luckily, this process is pretty simple. If you can purchase something from Amazon, you can make a donation at Kickstarter.
So that’s basically Kickstarter. And a little bit crowdfunding. People do Kickstarter campaigns because they have a creative project that they don’t think they can bring to fruition without financial backing. So they turn to the people. They say to the people, “Don’t you think this project is valuable? If so, be a part of making it happen!”
You want to see my next three novels on the bookstore shelves? I sure do. I think my books add value to people’s lives. I think they are enjoyable and even a bit emotionally instructive. They represent. So perhaps you should represent, right there on Kickstarter. Check out the project RIGHT HERE. And even if you don’t donate, please share, share, share!