Road to Kickstarter 1: First Steps

This is a big topic, but something I’ve wanted to write about for a while now. I don’t claim to be an expert by any means- this is my first project, and I’ve not even got it off the ground yet, but I thought at least a few people might find a “from the inside looking out” series interesting. So this is part one!

If you’re looking for a blow by blow guide to preparing and running a Kickstarter campaign, from conception to delivery, the absolute must read is the blog of Jamey Stegmaier, who’s experience and willingness to share his knowledge has certainly helped me, and I’m sure, untold others. The sheer quantity of information there is daunting, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing- as he points out himself, if you’re daunted by the information required, then you’re probably not ready to run headlong in to the whole process!

I don’t pretend to be able to add to, or even condense, what you can learn from him. This is more of a “how does it feel” sort of blog, rather than “what should I do”, but I hope it’ll be entertaining and interesting to some of you at least, and help anyone along the way. I’d also like to say that a lot of the ideas in this blog series are things I learned from Jamey and marketing experts like Jeffrey Gitomer, and so I certainly don’t claim originality or ownership over any of these concepts. This is my story, but that doesn’t mean it’s unique.

First Steps

I think from the outset anyone thinking about running a Kickstarter should already know what a huge and daunting task it is. If you don’t know that, you’re in no way ready to undertake it. Take a step back for a few weeks and read everything you can on the subject, and make a decision about whether you really want to get involved, or if you should re-assess your timescale.

I was aware of how big a project I was undertaking, but resolved that I’d do whatever it took to make it a success. Now that’s easy enough to say, but you can (and should) break it down in to two halves.

Firstly, do you really UNDERSTAND what “whatever it takes” might be? Sleepless nights, 16 hour days, activities which are way outside your comfort zone (I’m terrible at networking, and find social interaction with strangers tricky)?

Secondly, do you KNOW what will make your project a success? Chances are, if this is a first time project, you have part of, but not the whole picture. If you’re a social media or marketing guru that’ll help a lot, but either way, fail to educate yourself at your peril!

What I think I’m trying to say is that you can walk in to a thing with the avowed attitude that you’ll “do whatever it takes to make it a success”, without true knowledge of what either of those things actually mean.

So how do you avoid that problem? Well, one surefire way is having run a kickstarter before. But that’s not a luxury most of us have. I guess the real answer is that you simply can’t, but you can prepare as best you can. Research, talking to successful and unsuccessful crowd funders, reading blogs and forum posts, and engaging in as much clear thinking about the project as possible.

One of the reasons the task is daunting is simply because there are so many moving parts to the machine, and you need to have a firm grip on all of them, at all times.

Break it down

I like whiteboards and board markers. In fact, I run out of whiteboard space and use mirrors to note things. I work well with lists, and poorly without them. Having a constant, organised grip on the project is important, and I think the way I have been able to achieve that is a constant visual reference of the breakdown of the different aspects of what I need to do.

I’m not going to tell you how to divide your project, as every project is different. A big whiteboard helps me, but perhaps you work just as well with a note or text file on your computer or phone. The key lesson here is to ensure you’ve properly broken down the entire project in to “departments”, which are then subdivided in to tasks. I assessed this on a regular basis, and changed around tasks and priorities- of course a lot of the tasks are interdependent.

One of the big problems I’ve had was having the prototype miniatures way behind schedule, meaning I’m a good 2 months behind being able to take pretty pictures of actual gameplay- something I consider a really powerful tool in exciting and engaging audience.

So those parts of my “to do” list were constantly being pushed back. Likewise, when I decided to go for metal rather than resin production a whole load of jobs became obsolete. The important thing is to be flexible, but not allow that flexibility to interfere with your organisational rigour. Stick to the plan! Just ensure that the plan can change, when necessary.

So to summarise- have a complete idea of what’s involved in the project, and ensure you are completely familiar with it and don’t allow yourself to lose sight of it.

Confidence

Without a degree of confidence in what you’re doing you might as well give up now. There will be times when nothing is going right, and your confidence is shaken to its core. At those times a bit of forced positivity can do wonders! So can taking a step back from it all, working on something achievable and then returning to the problem you’re facing.

Ultimately though, passion is what will see you through. Not blind passion, but focused, goal oriented passion for making your “thing” and completing your project to the best of your ability.

If you don’t believe in your own project then why would anyone else? Go away, and work on it till you DO believe in it. Work out what it is about it which stops you from believing in it, and scrap that thing.

The Ostrich Failure

It’s surprisingly easy to get so caught up in a thing that you lose sight of it. Allowing yourself to become married to your project to such a degree that you fail to see why it’s not working. Always allow yourself the flexibility to walk away, or just to say “next year will also be fine” is hard to do, but essential for success.

In other words, make sure what you’re doing is going to succeed. Don’t ignore the warning signs or problems, and hope it’ll be fine. Of course “making sure” is not as easy as it sounds, but I think most of us know, if we ask the question honestly, when we are applying a little bit of “ostrich” self deception!

 

Rambling Conclusions

I guess the nature of a personal account is that it’ll ramble a bit, so let me summarise my final thoughts. For me, the decision to launch the game via Kickstarter was a simple one, but the game came first, and Kickstarter second. Well, that’s not quite right- from the outset, Kickstarter was of course a possibility- even a likely one. What an incredible facility Kickstarter is for those who wish to self publish. On the other hand, I was fully aware of what I was getting myself in to, having been interested in Kickstarter, and watched quite a number of projects succeed and fail.

At no stage though, did I feel as though I had a handle on it all- I felt I had enough knowledge to navigate it successfully. Am I right? We shall see. So far things are going according to plan (more or less, anyway!). There have been setbacks and issues, all of which so far have been out of my control.

I think my parting thoughts would be that while it’s certainly a big undertaking Kickstarter is an absolutely fantastic way to self-publish a game. The very large caveat though, is that it needs to be handled correctly, and that you need to be willing to put at least as much work in to the Kickstarter as you did the development of the game itself (or more, if your game is not overly complex). If you go in to the process with a willingness to work hard to understand how to make your project a success, and a willingness to work hard to make that a reality, you should be fine!

 

So that’s it for part 1. In part 2 I will talk about the chaos that ensues from having TO MUCH TO DO!

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