Note from Robin: Please welcome Christina Major, author of this Guest Article, whose approach to Kickstarters will have you thinking about campaigns in a new way! She’s also running a Kickstarter for the next volume of Sombulus! Yay!
Crowdfunding can be a very scary prospect, much like your first artist alley table at a convention. If you haven’t made a name for yourself, what can you hope to expect? Is it a waste of time? Can you really prepare? And how can you learn to find success, even if you don’t see the traffic we hope?
There are definitely tips we can glean from the wisdom of long-time convention goers to make the crowd-funding process not only less terrifying, but more likely to succeed. Here’s a few of them:
1. Let them know your table number.
Once you find out you’ll be at a convention, you should make a plan to let folks know you’ll be there so they can attend, both before the show and throughout the show, and Kickstarters are similar. Let your fans and internet colleagues know where to be and when to be there.
I like making a simple redirecting link, which you can upload to your webspace (mine is sombulus.com/kickstarter) and change when you’ve stopped started the campaign. Hootsuite and Tumblr will let you preschedule announcements for when you’re busy or away, which can help remind people.
And by talking about your Kickstarter plans with other artists, you may find your campaign is going on at the same time as another person’s, which might open some cross-promotion opportunities.
2. Prepare for the things you need (and things you don’t know you need yet).
When you prepare for a convention, you do a couple things:
- Count your stock and try to estimate what you need.
- Make lots of banners to show where you are and signs for everything you’re offering. Maybe two or three.
- Account for peripherals; packing materials, tablecloths, small bills for change, Square fees
Prepare as much of the art you’ll need as you can before you launch for any rewards you’re offering. You’ll want a nice big set of graphics for not only your general campaign, but the goodies you’re offering and stretch goals you have planned. You’re going to be using these like signs to guide people from your site, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, or Tumblr to your campaign, so just like for a convention, include the convention (Kickstarter) logo.
And have general graphics with your art handy, just in case. You never know when you’ll have to make something on the fly (this is the scissors and sharpie of your toolkit).
3. Offer a variety of products.
There are people that go into Kickstarter selling one product, but if you’re just starting out, you might not have a huge following or any idea of what your audience wants from you. Just like conventions, you’ll want to explore a variety of products for people at many price ranges.
Be extra welcoming to new people being introduced to your comic for the first time. Make sure the first volume tiers are easy to find and back, even if you’re on book 2 or 3. With the Sombulus Kickstarter, I chose to make all the tiers modular; meaning $20 will get the backer either book 1 or book 2, whichever they’re on. (Hopefully this won’t turn out to be a logistical nightmare.)
4. Don’t overcrowd the table.
If you have too many options/addons/offers, people get very confused very fast. When building your Kickstarter page, use good design sense and hierarchy (or bribe a graphic designer) to make your milestone maps clear and concise and your graphic callouts clean.
Same thing with your video; it’s easy to blabber out a pitch at a convention, but get feedback and/or help to make your message tight and to the point instead of sprawling all over the place.
5. Adjust your expectations.
Lots of things can make a convention good or bad. Some of it’s how you present yourself (were you back in the corner with your nose in your sketchbook, or welcoming to new people?), some of it’s the turnout (is this the right audience/time of year for you?). And there are many stories here and elsewhere where artists experience wild fluctuations in profits between one year and the next at the same venue.
Crowdfunding campaigns are points of data, not ultimate judgments about every attempt at marketing your comic ever. You might not attract a big enough audience to make your goal with this audience and these products and this time. Learn what you can by working with peers to identify the gaps in your offerings or presentation. Then move forward.
6. Give yourself a break (and a cookie).
Remember to eat and sleep every once in a while. If you burn yourself out and you have no energy, you’re going to feel bitter about all the people who walk by and ignore you.
Also, give yourself permission to enjoy a snack or bath or walk outside when you’re feeling exhausted. By even having the material to consider a Kickstarter campaign, you’re living a life that many people dream about. Celebrate that and treat yourself.
Christina Major writes and draws Sombulus, a world-hopping adventure comic full of magic, sword-swinging, and puns.You can back her Kickstarter right now at sombulus.com/kickstarter and check out the rest of her comic at sombulus.com.