Three years ago my husband and I put together a successful Kickstarter for our video game Crea. (I'm not going to link to it here, because frankly the video we made is pretty embarrassing.) Through our own experience, and through watching other friends launch successful and unsuccessful Kickstarters, we've learned a lot about what makes a campaign sink or swim. If you're thinking of Kickstarting an illustration or comic book project, (or any kind of project), here are my tips:
- A clever concept is key. As artists, we get excited at the thought of an art book or comic, and any ol' art book or comic will do. But to get attention on Kickstarter, you need a catchy concept under 140 characters. Think specific and unique. Why should people back your "steampunk artbook" when there are plenty of steampunk books out there already? How about a "steampunk coloring book for adults" - that's a unique product they can't get anywhere but your Kickstarter. (Feel free to steal that idea, btw)
- Look at a lot of other Kickstarters - both successful and unsuccessful. Watch their videos, read their updates, look at their funding goals. What did the successful ones do differently? What did the unsuccessful ones do poorly? This is extremely useful information that will help you understand what's expected of a typical Kickstarter campaign.
- Have your project at least 75% complete before Kickstarting. Projects always take longer than we think they will. That's why it's best to have the majority of the project ready to go before you start making promises and setting deadlines. You could even have the project completely finished before starting, but I say 75% because you might want to leave a little room to adjust the project based on feedback and how much funding you raise.
- Have a promotion plan that includes more than just Facebook status updates. Without it, you will only annoy your friends and family with your repeated pleas for money. Instead, look for online communities that might be interested in your project. For a steampunk coloring book for adults, that might be cosplayers, Ren-Faire geeks, history buffs, fantasy and sci-fi fans, goth/lolita groups, etc. Look for prominent members of those communities, and ask them to tweet about your Kickstarter. Look for related Kickstarters and ask them to mention you to their backers. If you have a blog, Deviantart or Tumblr, be sure to drum up some excitement about your project before the Kickstarter begins.
- A Kickstarter is a part-time job. You don't just post your Kickstarter online and then sit back and wait for it to get funded. You have to be actively promoting your Kickstarter, sending out updates and answering questions - then afterwards, preparing and shipping rewards. Prepare for this to be time-consuming.
- You can lose money on a successful Kickstarter. No one is going to stop you from making foolish promises. You can tell backers that if they pledge $10, you'll send them a hardbound, foil-embossed artbook, only to find out that it would cost you $60 to have said books printed and $15 to ship them. That means either losing $65 per backer, or breaking your promises. Don't put yourself in that position! Be very, very careful about what you promise as rewards, and thoroughly research all the costs of producing, packing and shipping those rewards. Also don't forget that Kickstarter takes a cut of your money.
To summarize: Finish up your project, educate yourself about Kickstarter, research possible avenues of promotion, carefully price your rewards.
Some art-related Kickstarters to check out: