Guidance — 5 Tips for Running Kickstarters

Hey Know Direction fans!

If you’ve been listening to the Know Direction podcasts lately, you probably know that I just concluded a Kickstarter. It’s for a book called the Advanced Occult Guide, and I’m happy to say that after a very tenuous period of uncertainty, we funded! Feeds good, fam.

Now, I’m currently buried up to my neck in stuff to do for this Kickstarter, so I thought it might be fun to go meta and talk a little bit about my experience running Kickstarters. This isn’t my first you know; in all I’ve run a total of four Kickstarters, all of them funded (Grimoire of Lost Souls, Dynastic Races Compendium, Advanced Skill Guide, and Advanced Occult Guide).

I don’t know which of our reads will ever need this information, but part of the magic of being a blogger is that I get to write about basically whatever I want, so enjoy!


Tip 1 — Don’t Rely on Facebook for Advertising

If you only take one tip away from this article and throw the rest of them into the garbage, PLEASE choose this one. Seriously; do you remember how I said that we had a tenuous period of uncertainty when running this Kickstarter? This was why. Originally, I put most of my resources (monetary and social) into pushing my ads on Facebook. Monetary resources are obvious, but when I’m talking social resources, I mean trying to work Facebook’s algorithm (the one that determines which posts get shown to which people) by having friends comment, like, and share posts at strategic times. For the most part, Facebook CAN be gamed. Many of my products are quite successful at it, in fact. But one thing I learned is that any mention of a Kickstarter in your post, and Facebook throttles it. Even if you paid for advertising.

Seriously, according to Facebook my original adds got like 50,000 views and had hundreds of clicks, yet NONE of that translated into actual backers on my actual Kickstarter. Instead, by the time the last day rolled around of the Kickstarter, I was sitting at 4K of 5.5K needed to fund, and getting to that 4K was a GRIND that took four weeks of hard work sharing and tweeting and coordinating boosts. Please, be better than me. Don’t rely on Facebook for advertising.

Tip 2 — Know Where To Find Your People

So, you might be wondering, “Hey Alex, you just said that your Kickstarter was sitting at 4k of 5.5k just 24 hours before it ended. How on earth did you get 1.5k pledges in a single day?” Great question, strawman audience member! I can’t take complete credit for this idea, to be honest. One of my company’s discord fans actually made a comment the night before the Kickstarter ended. It went something like this, “I can’t believe that over a hundred people pledged to the Advanced Skill Guide Kickstarter and less than half that number are interested in your Advanced Occult Guide.”

That’s what actually got me thinking about Facebook, got me considering the facts that ultimately led to Tip 1. So, if I had fans who’ve shown they liked my work, how could I find them if Facebook wasn’t going to help me? Well, I targeted them where I knew they DID find me. Our (Rogue Genius Games and Everybody Games) best-selling site is DriveThruRPG, and I knew that plenty of people followed my work on Kickstarter. So, with 24 hours to go, I pinged Owen and asked for permission to write … a newsletter.

Yup!

I made a preview product for the Advanced Occult Guide specifically for this newsletter, and advertised it (and indirectly, the Kickstarter) as the first of three to four products in the list. This is due to the fact that DriveThru doesn’t allow links off of its site in its emails, so making a free product that I could point to and embed a hyperlink into was super helpful.

Next, I wrote an email and slightly customized it for every Kickstarter Owen or I had ever run. Then I used Kickstarter’s message tools to send out messages to anyone who had ever contributed to any of our Kickstarters. The email was quick, actionable, and included a link back to the Advanced Occult Guide.

This was my best chance to target people that I knew had a high probability of helping our Kickstarter fund. I figured out where to find my people.

Tip 3 — Be Bold

It’s pretty bold to e-mail a few hundred people asking them to help fund your Kickstarter with only 12 hours on the clock, in my opinion. Sometimes if you want to see a project be successful, you need to be bold. I was worried about using Kickstarter’s messaging system to personally message so many people. I was kind of worried that they would find me … intrusive? Let’s go with intrusive.

Ultimately, my fears were proven unfounded. We added a huge number of backers over that time and jumped almost 3k in pledges; going from 4k to 7k in a single day was incredible. Being bold isn’t always going to work out for you, the lesson I took away from this experience is that if you want your project to become a reality, you need to be confident enough in it that you’re willing to march over to someone’s inbox and throw your project directly into their face.

Tip 4 — Always Have Your Updates Ready

Okay, so I admit that despite my boldness, I wasn’t sure if my plan was going to work. I sent out my emails and left for work without breakfast; I used literally all my time for my morning routine to email as many people as I could, so I had to stop at a convenience store for breakfast on the way. I was hoping my plan would work, but I didn’t know, and so I didn’t have any of the images I prepared to update the page to represent unlocking stretch goals when suddenly my phone exploded with messages about the Kickstarter funding and me needing to update the page’s stretch goals.

You win some, you lose some I guess.

Ultimately this taught me that I should have kept all that Kickstarter stuff in my Dropbox, rather than on my hard file on my desktop. If I had, I could have updated the pictures on the go. But I didn’t, so I had to wait like 5-6 hours until I got home to do it. Whoops!

Tip 5 — Do Your Homework, Have a Budget

This one is sort of just standard Kickstarter advice. Do the work, make sure you know how much money you need to do your project and have a plan to get there. If you need to order art and hire freelancers, make sure you know how much art and how many freelancers you need. Talk to them in advance about their rate and work to make sure you have a plan going in. Kickstarter takes about 10% of your total funds in processing fees, and my personal partnership with Rogue Genius Games (specifically the fact that Owen allows me to use his Kickstarter page to run my Kickstarters, which nets me name recognition beyond what my name alone affords me) also knocks about 10% of what I raise to them. So the Kickstarter’s funding goal, as well as every stretch goal, is chosen with the knowledge that I’m probably going to get about 20% less than what’s on the funding page.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure that you balance your budget so that you make some money. That can feel really dirty, “These people are making my book happen! I shouldn’t be profiting off of my Kickstarter!”

Uh, yeah. You should. You might set it so you make less of a profit off of your backers (my strategy), but ultimately every person who backs your book is a person who won’t be buying it when you release it formally. You need to make sure you’re making some money so you can afford to do your next big project!


And those are my tips for Kickstarter based on my month-long hell experience! But these are just my thoughts and I want to hear yours! Do you have any experience with Kickstarter? What’s worked for you or what have you seen work? Owen once told me that he’s never seen a Kickstarter defy the Kickstarter prediction sites the way that the Advanced Occult Guide Kickstarter did, and while I’m proud of that it also makes me a little sad because it makes me wonder whether I could have spread the word to more people if I had figured all this stuff out earlier. Don’t be like me, go off and run successful Kickstarters immediately!

Alex Augunas, signing out!

Alexander “Alex” Augunas, the Everyman Gamer, has been playing Tabletop Roleplaying Games since 2007 after a friend pretended to be his father in order to smuggle him out of high school so his gaming group had enough people to run a module. Today, Alex is the owner and publisher of Everybody Games, a co-host on Know Direction: Beyond and RPG Design Club, and a player on Stellar. You can follow Alex’s exploits on Twitter (@AlJAug), on Facebook, or on Patreon. Know Direction fans are also welcome to “@Alex” him on the Know Direction discord server!

Today’s banner image is copyright Everybody Games LLC and was commissioned from Jacob Blackmon. If you like his work, you can e-mail him at commissionprodigyduck@gmail.com or support him on Patreon!

Alex Augunas

Alexander Augunas lives outside of Philadelphia, USA where he tries to make a living as an educator. When he's not shaping the future leaders of tomorrow, Alex is a freelance writer for esteemed Pathfinder Roleplaying Game publishers such as Paizo, Inc, Radiance House, Raging Swan Press, and more, and also acts as a co-host and blogger on the Know Direction Network, where he has earned the nickname, "The Everyman Gamer." Recently, Alex has forayed into the realm of self-publishing through his company, Everyman Gaming, LLC.

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