A few hours ago, I launched my first Kickstarter campaign and peered into the inevitable future of commercial creativity.
First off, for those of you not familiar, Kickstarter is a “crowdfunding” platform. If you have something you want to make, you can create a project and people can contribute money to help you reach your goals. In return, they earn “rewards,” which vary from practical to unusual.
My Kickstarter campaign is fairly straightforward. I’d like to print T-shirts, but I can’t afford the initial outlay of cash to the printer. Ordinarily, I’d have to pay the printer before the actual shirts are sold. If I don’t sell enough shirts, I can lose money.
So how does Kickstarter help me? In this case, I get people to pledge financial support (everything from $1 to $100). In exchange, they get items of value, including my “Girls Like Comics Too” shirt. Since I am also an occasional author, I’ll sign copies of my work, including comic books and books I’ve published.
Part of the fun is creating these Kickstarter rewards. You want to incentivize people to support you, so you end up giving away a lot of value-added stuff to get backers. In my case, the value of the stuff is up to 50% higher than the investment people are making. It’s a crazy little system, but it seems to work.
There are Kickstarter campaigns for lots of special interests, including comics, movies, music, photography, fashion, technology, and more.
Kickstarting the Future
Initially, Kickstarter declined my campaign. I was pretty upset, but fortunately they have an appeals process. They offered some suggestions about how to improve my description, I made some changes, and they approved me.
Now that my campaign is running, I can see how this makes sense for independent creators like me. I’m not looking to turn this into a full-time job. I just have a small project that needs a little financial nudge to get it going. Kickstarter may be able to help me get just enough money flowing to print my shirts.
In the past, I’d have to take all the financial risk myself. In fact, when I did a test print run of the shirts for New York Comicon, I was amazed at the positive response. I didn’t actually print enough shirts for the show and my unit cost was too high, but I could see that there was interest in my shirts.
These days, the comic book community seems to be flocking to Kickstarter to launch projects that might not otherwise be viable at a larger publisher. But Kickstarter is connecting the creators directly with their target audience. Some of these are quirky books that only need to sell a modest number of units to break even and make a profit. Kickstarter seems to be a conduit to make those connections.
In the Next Few Weeks
Campaigns run for a limited duration. My campaign will run for a few weeks, and I will know if my shirts will be printed or not. Certainly I hope I reach my goal, since it will be nice to get the shirts out there at a good price.
It also limits my exposure to risk. Sure, I had to spend some time setting up my Kickstarter account and building my first campaign. But I have also created and printed product (especially comics) that never even break even. I have lost a lot of cash in the interest of being a creator. That can take a toll on you and make you question your next project and your sanity.
I’ve also learned a bit about the crowdfunding process on Kickstarter. I like to create and do things, so this was a useful educational experience for me.
Immediately following the submission, I realized how much responsibility I have for my own campaign. What’s my content strategy? What’s my social media strategy? How will I seed images? Do I have a visual content strategy?
Even just creating this post, I realized that I needed a strong anchor image that would both catch your eye and help you discover the actual campaign. Notice how I embedded the URL to the campaign right on the image. I’ll seed this content on social channels, especially Facebook and Twitter, since those are my strongest networks.
Kickstarter is a crash course in a new form of Brand You marketing that I’m going to have to get the hang of real quick. My own money is riding on this.
How You Can Be Part of the Fun
Even if you don’t decide to be a backer for my campaign, I hope you at least check out my shirts. If you are on Twitter, Google+, or some other social network, feel free to share this link and mention @MarketingBuddy, so I can retweet your tweet.
Kickstarter: Girls Like Comics Too – Shirt