At 11:59 p.m. last night my Kickstarter came to a successful conclusion. We not only met but significantly exceeded our funding goal, and honestly, I am still kind of in shock about the whole thing. While the experience is still fresh in my mind, I thought I’d try to come up with an accurate metaphor for what running a Kickstarter is like, and I’m down to three contenders:

Running a Kickstarter is either like:

  • A non-stop 24-hour cross-country road trip in a parade float that you made yourself (with baling wire and crepe paper from the dollar store) fueled by frantic tap-dancing and the candy people throw at you.

  • Being Tinkerbell in the last scene of Peter Pan, except the last scene is 30 days long and even if a lot of children clap really hard, there’s still the chance you might wink out.

  • Getting tickled to death by squirrels.

(OK, that last one needs work, obviously.)

Now, I can’t yet say with any certainty what I did right or wrong, because I’m only done with the first part—the fundraising. The song-and-dance, the buck-and-wing, the ol’ soft shoe. The relentless self-promotion part was, I admit, rather fun, but it was also incredibly tiring. I don’t know how politicians, movie stars, or hookers do it.

With that part over, however, I now enter the less sparkly phase (that politicians, movie stars, and hookers frequently skip)—making sure that every promise I made, large or small, is fulfilled with perfect fidelity.

But having finished “Phase One” of this project to publish THE WARLOCK’S CURSE, I can at least share what things I did to prepare for it, and which ultimately proved most valuable.

Be ready for 100% commitment

Kickstarter success absolutely relies upon engagement and access. You have to be online just about 24-7. And you can’t just be present, you have to be engaged. Sure, you could spend all day and night tweeting “fund my neato Kickstarter” over and over—and it might actually get your Kickstarter funded, except that you wouldn’t be around to enjoy the proceeds of your ill-gotten gain for I personally would send a ninja assassin to put you out of my misery.

No, it’s not as easy as just hitting “tweet this” over and over. You have to spend that time scrupulously answering backer emails, sourcing last-minute bids on swags, tweeting about other peoples’ Kickstarters, commenting on blogs (without being a complete douche) and generally demonstrating geniality and bonhomie. Promoting yourself without being a dick about it requires walking a surprisingly fine line. Having a good backlog of content written and ready to post at a moment’s notice really helps. Sample chapters, articles, thoughts, humorous quips, whatever—all of these things are ways you can subtly call attention to yourself and your campaign without waving a big “give me your monies!” flag.

Get your web-house in order …

Before my Kickstarter went live, I retooled my Website entirely, optimizing it for speed and efficiency of content delivery. I  ditched my free WordPress theme in favor of a sleek paid theme with a lot of additional features. I upgraded from my slow, shared Bluehost hosting to Rackspace cloud hosting. It was all expensive and time consuming, but according to Pingdom my site is now faster than 94% of all sites on the internet. Pingdom is also a great resource for finding out what’s slowing down your site so you can fix it. And making these kinds of improvements was not only important for my Kickstarter, but will serve me well as I make the transition into becoming a full-fledged e-tailer of my own work.

… And confirm all your methods of accessing that web-house are, too

Even if your Website is running like a dream, it won’t do you any good if your computer is a half-operational piece of crap held together with duct-tape and wishes. The middle of a Kickstarter is no time to have your hard drive crash. And honestly, if you don’t have a smartphone—get one. You will need it, especially if you (like some people I am) have a day-job that takes you away from home for 10+ hours a day.

Make sure you lay the groundwork before you launch

One thing that really surprises me is how many Kickstarter campaigns just seem to launch out of the clear blue sky. You should be building excitement and interest at least a month before the actual launch date. I created a mailing list for “presupporters,” offering to give them a special prize if they signed up and then went on to back the Kickstarter. I had about 100 people on the mailing list before the Kickstarter went live, and while I haven’t yet done a cross-correlation to see how many “presupporters” went on to become “backers” I’m guessing it’s a pretty good percentage.

Actively build good karma in all other areas of your personal life

Every single aspect of your “real life” will fall to pieces while you’re running your Kickstarter. You will fight with your spouse. You will neglect your children and your pets. You will fail to do the dishes, and you will eat lots of fast food. In short, your entire life will go to hell. Except online, where you will appear to be the most cheerful, pulled together, awesome person in all of existence. To minimize the inevitable emotional scarring, build up as much good relationship karma as you can in the weeks leading to your Kickstarter. Take care of whatever household chores you can in advance, have some dinners put up in the freezer (or at least make sure you program some take-out numbers into your phone’s speed dial), have babysitters on call if you have young. Otherwise, while your supporters may be clapping like mad, your loved ones will be looking around for the poison bottle.

By the way, if you have a day job? Scrupulous preparation is KEY. In the weeks before your Kickstarter, make a concerted effort get ahead on every single project. Schedule as much time off as possible. Understand that while your Kickstarter is running, your mind will be elsewhere. You will forget things, you will be checking that smartphone I mentioned, and you will be thinking more about that email from your last backer than next month’s TPS reports. Your lunch hours will be spent, not in reflective contemplation and relaxation, but hunched over your laptop, cursing the slow wi-fi at the local coffeeshop. All of this is another exceptionally good argument for only letting a Kickstarter run 30 days—because unless you’re Double Fine Games, a Kickstarter campaign is NOT worth losing your day job over.

Well, that’s everything off the top of my head. I’m sure my thoughts will be more cogent after I’ve had some time to digest this experience.

2 Responses to What is running a Kickstarter really like?

  1. Sara Mueller says:

    You know, I just saw a post from Cat Valente this morning where she was asking about peoples’ experiences and I pointed her at you.  Then you posted before I could get as far as calling you!  Cool!

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