Kickstarter Diary: How to Use the Site to Run Your Campaign
There are no step by step instructions and I had a couple hiccups along the way. Perhaps you can avoid them.When last we left my Kickstarter campaign, I’d worked out what premiums I was offering for pledges and what the pledge levels should be. Next came the first genuinely difficult part: entering all this onto the Kickstarter site.
Kickstarter’s documentation leaves a lot to be desired. There are no step by step instructions for anything and I personally had a couple hiccups along the way. Perhaps you can avoid them.
There are five screens worth of data you’ll be prompted to fill out: Basics, Rewards, Story, About You and Account.
Let’s skip ahead to the “Account” screen, since that’s the one that can cause you delays. In fact, when you’ve decided you definitely want to do a Kickstarter, you should probably immediately start a project and fill out the account information. Get it out of the way.
The first part of the Account screen is setting up an Amazon Payments business account. If you already have a personal account, that’s not going to work, or at least I was unable to link a personal account to the Kickstarter account. The setup button will take you right into the business account screen. I was told after the fact by Kickstarter Support (it took a couple days to get a reply, after I’d done this the other way around), if you don’t have a business bank account, you can click on where it says “business” on the screen and select “individual,” then put in your name. You can also put in “kickstarter.com” where the form asks for what website you’d like to sell on.
Amazon Payments will then make a couple test deposits in your bank account. It can take a couple of days for these deposits to post and that’s a reason to do this early in your process.
With the size of their system, you’d think Kickstarter would have developed their own payment system and perhaps save a percentage point or two on processing, but that is not the case.
BASICS“Basics” is the first screen in the normal sequence. Enter the project name, a short description that everyone sees on the listing screens. Upload a graphic. The only thing I did here that involved a choice was the choice of category. Technically, an “Economics of Digital Comics” book could conceivably fall under Publishing, Journalism or Comics.
I chose Comics for two reasons:
- My target audience is comics. Plenty of webcomics on Kickstarter. Plenty of print comics creators looking to get outside the system. Plenty of people interested in that business.
- Publishing has something like 580 projects that are live. Comics has 150. It’s easier to get pledges if you’re not buried. Journalism is a smaller category, but it doesn’t seem that established.
Target audience + less competition. That assumes people will be looking for me on the Kickstarter site, but we’ll talk about that in a later chapter. (It’s real, though.)
“Rewards” is the next screen. I already worked out what my rewards (premiums, if you prefer) would be and I how I wanted to price them. The Rewards screen is just entering all that into the system Not a big deal. Two new things, though:
- The option to ship/not ship outside the US and the prompt to add an extra shipping charge. This is a big deal, because foreign shipping is expensive. The first thing I did was go over to the last Kickstarter run by Spike, a webcartoonist who’s done several of these and whose business acumen I trust. She had a $15 charge associated with non-US shipping. Then I went to the Post Office website and started pricing out how much it would cost to send to countries like Germany or the United Kingdom. Sure enough, $15 was roughly the difference, so $15 went onto the site as my charge.
- “Estimated delivery” date. I’m really hoping to have this turned around towards the end of August, but I put in September and perhaps I’ll ship it a little early.
“Story” is the section that’s going to take the most time to fill out. Don’t feel you have to do it in sequence. Personally, video is the last thing I did. It’s the first thing on this screen, though.
I am not the person you want to ask for tips on how to shoot a video. It’s definitely the weakest part of my campaign. I just propped an iPad up on a stack of books, sat in a chair and recorded myself giving a ~2 minute pitch. They say the key here is authenticity and that projects with videos do a lot better than projects without videos.
I personally think that the video component becomes more important the less niche your product is. I’m writing a book on monetizing digital comics. This is something that’s going to sell on my credentials for writing the book more than my passion. If I were writing fiction or about a social cause, the video would be a little more important to the formula.
A lot of people drop some serious money on video production and editing. If you do that, make sure you account for that outlay in your budget and remember that if you don’t meet your goal, you’re out the production money with little to show for it.
The extent of my production was editing off the part where I left the iPad to go sit down and then get back up to shut it off. Not exactly complicated. I have done video editing, but not since undergrad and I think that was on an analog system.
I initially downloaded the free version of a pro level video editing software package called Lightworks to clip off the beginning and the ending of where I went to sit down and got up to shut off the iPad, but it ended up being a bit more editor and a lot more controls than I needed. I ended up downloading Microsoft Movie Maker and it took me around a minute to clip off what I needed to clip off. It might not work as well for more complicated editing. This doesn’t necessarily need to be that complicated.
Uploading the video was the biggest adventure yet. The instructions were poorly documented. The story page said to upload a file in one of seven formats and the only qualifier was a 5GB size limit on the file. My Quick Time/.MOV was 283MB, well under the 5 GB limit, but when I attempted to upload it, the site told me there was an error with the file. It didn’t specify what they error was, just that the file was no good. It’s hard to fix a problem if nobody tells you what the problem is.
I figured since I was on a PC, not a Mac, maybe I should save the video as an .MP4, that’s only 269 MB. After the upload I got the same mysterious error.
I looked in the FAQ and the only thing I could find remotely close to the topic was some notes on lowering the bit rate to get the video size down under 5GB. Googling the problem, I saw a lot of people whose video randomly wouldn’t upload, but no solutions. I decided to try taking the bit rate down and ended up with 25MB files of the .MP4 and .WMV varieties. These formats finally worked. I have no idea why a higher quality bit rate would get rejected.
But yes, you’re going to have to spend a bit of time with the video
“Project Description” is the tag-team partner of the video. This is where you write out what your project is in greater detail than the video. You’re also selling it to anyone who doesn’t want to take the time to watch a video (say, people looking at Kickstarter while at work who don’t want the sound on).
People use different methods for the project description. Some people throw in detailed budgets so they can convey they understand what they’re getting into and can actually produce it on a budget. Some people like to throw in sample art and a lot of graphics. I chose to lead with the fact this is an overdue update of an existing book that’s been taught at the college level and my credentials in the subject matter. I also listed a tentative chapter outline.
Finally, there’s the “Risks and Challenges” category. In my case, it’s getting hit by a bus or having an urgent 9-5 situation slow me down. If you’re just writing a book and there’s no color forcing a minimum print run, the author is risk. And part of leading with my credentials is about addressing risk.
The final screen to fill out is “About You.” It’s the bio page, so I’m leading with credentials again. This should be something that supports what you were saying in the project description and in your video. Consistency is always good.
That’s the setup process in a nutshell. You can have some hiccups, especially with the video, so expect to spend a little bit of time on all of it.
The campaign is live, should you care to examine what I did.
Next: We’re Live, So I Better Start Marketing the Book