So why on earth would you cancel, rather than letting a struggling campaign run its course? Surely you should keep going as long as possible, as you never know when a hugely influential backer or bit of publicity might suddenly come out of nowhere, right? Well the reasoning goes that if your campaign is going to fail, then your time is better spent on rebuilding a new campaign and making improvements for version 2 rather than flogging a dead horse. It's up to you whether you subscribe to that logic or not - I do, but not without doubts.

If you're using Kicktraq you'll have a pretty good idea of your chances as you go along. Kicktraq is a service that looks at your campaign's progress, and compares it with data from thousands of other projects to give you a forward projection of where you're going to end up. The data is a bit skewed in the early days (as you tend to get a surge of backers when the project is first launched), but becomes really useful from about day 9 onwards. Here's one of mine from a few days before cancellation:


For me, this was a really important reality check - Kicktraq data doesn't lie, and there's something impersonal about it that you can't ignore. This isn't one of your friends making an intervention, it's just cold, hard data. So after 10% backing on day 1, then 5% on day 2, things really stagnated and it was very hard to generate any new momentum after that. And if you like your data, have a look at the Kicktraq page here, which shows clearly how a promising start soon stagnated: http://www.kicktraq.com/projects/169068487/take-the-kingdom/...

There's also something about self-awareness and self-preservation in cancelling. If you're demonstrably going to fail, don't be the last to realise. Plus, it's really demoralising when it goes downhill, and it can be a huge relief to pull the plug, even if it means the end of your dream (for now, at least). Obviously I don't know yet whether that's one step back to take two steps forwards, but time will tell.

At that point, it's really important not to hit the panic button and make matters worse. In posting #2 in this series I'd talked about all the emails you get offering services and trying desperately to stop you from facing reality. Paying a fortune for advertising, employing crowdboosting services, offering new reward levels or add-ons that you can't afford, can all add up to a hollow succcess, if it gets you over the line but you end up wildly out of pocket. Certainly try different things, but don't break the bank. I stopped myself from doing this and I'm glad I did, although I was very unsure at the time.

Of course, advertising itself may well make that critical difference, but don't assume it's a silver bullet. Chad Krizan, BoardGameGeek's advertising guru, knows all on this, and can advise on whether it would be the right thing for you. He also did an excellent guest post on Jamey Stegmaier's blog series (https://stonemaiergames.com/everything-crowdfunders-need-to-...). Jamey's a big fan, James Mathe is less convinced. Key point is 'Advertising won't save a failing campaign' - it'll just make a successful one better. You can also get much cheaper ad packages on places like boardgamequest.com, or pretty much any game site - drop them an email to find out rates. In general, ad rates are proportionate to the audience. A full package on BGG could set you back $1100, but you'll be hitting over 3m views a day and get in some targeted newsletters for that. You can get to smaller audiences on smaller sites for as little as $30, so again, know your budget.

It's entirely possible that the act of cancelling in itself has a positive impact on your chances next time round. Cancelling brings a certain amount of clarity for you as the designer. Your genuine backers may feel resolved to tell the world about the project, or you may have a large number of lurkers who didn't pledge but were waiting to. You'll never really know on that last point. But don't spam your backers with constant requests for sharing, retweeting etc - thats just annoying and they've already helped you a huge amount by backing.

And of course, the big fat elephant in the room at this point is...is your game good enough? If you've got as far as running a campaign, you have hopefully got your game as good as you can, but you have to ask yourself again. You may get some actual feedback from backers on this, but probably not enough for it to be a reliable indicator of what the world thinks.

So, key points: - Use Kicktraq to assess your progress; - Listen to the encouragement, and the doubters, but make your own mind up; - Try advertising and other services by all means, but don't trash your budget in your desperation; - If you have to cancel, it's not the end of the world!

Cheers,

Ian


(The third in a series of lessons learned postings, following my recent cancelled KS campaign for Take the Kingdom)


So you've got what you hope is a great game, you've tested it to destruction, you've generated some interest on turning this into something real, now comes the hard bit - how much is it all going to cost, and how on earth are you physically going to get your game to everyone that wants it, across the world?


This is probably the bit that will feel most alien to most creators and designers - you probably got into this as a designer, not as a shipping expert, but it's probably the most important bit of the whole campaign; if you can't get your game to your backers' homes, the whole thing could be a disaster. Luckily, there are many companies who are experts in exactly that. After getting some quotes and looking at recommendations, I decided to use two companies together - Spiral Galaxy Games, based in the UK (where we're based), who had the best rates for UK and EU - and another company based in the US (Quartermaster Logistics), who had better rates for the rest of the world, based on the size and weight of the package I would be shipping.


My China-based manufacturer was also also to ship direct, so in some cases that was more cost-effective again. All this meant I could offer customs-free and VAT-free shipping for EU, North America and Australia as well as China and some other parts of Asia. See this posting from Stonemaier Games as to why that matters. I should be clear that the choice of partners wasn't just based on cost (although that's important) - both these companies come highly and widely recommended by people that have run actual, successful campaigns. But there's a ton of great companies out there and new ones coming on line all the time, so do some research beforehand for the latest.


Obviously with the campaign getting cancelled I didn't get to put this into practice, but I felt confident enough in the exchanges I had to want to go with this approach again next time. Going with a single agent, or shipping it all directly from China, would have meant higher costs for backers in at least one continent - although that may be right for you if you're expecting the majority of your backers to be in one continent. Make sure your chosen partners know the exact weight and dimensions of your product, and make sure you know what packaging they plan to add, both so you know the impact in shipping costs but also so you know that the packaging will be good enough for the journey, and will have enough 'wow factor' when people open the box.


Of course, you might have in mind that you'll just do this at home - get everything shipped to you, then you can box everything up and send it all out, right? Please be careful - this is a proper area of expertise that looks very simple when it's done well, but think very hard before taking this on - and remember you may be lucky enough to overfund, so if you think you can cope with boxing up and sending out 50 games, well what if you get 500 backers? And half of them are in Brazil or Russia (which are consistently difficult countries to ship to)? I've done this with protoypes and yes, it's easy one by one, but it's also pretty time-consuming and the costs can really add up. If you're moving more than about 30 copies, you might well find it's actually cheaper to get an agent involved.


I'd noted in a previous posting that you really shouldn't compare your campaign with others, but in doing your research you will need to have established:


- Is your game priced at a realistic level, both per unit and for the overall funding level;

- In other words, can you afford it at that rate, and will backers pay that rate?

- Have you got your shipping costs as low as they can reasonably be (you'll soon know from backers if it's too high). Shop around to get a good range of quotes;

- What is the instant impression people get from seeing your campaign? You don't have to pretend to be a huge, experienced corporation if you're not, but you do need to inspire confidence that you know what you're doing and you can deliver what you say;

- Have you hit the sweet spot between making the page look as good as it can, while not breaking the bank? You can always spend more, but make sure you can afford it.


Although this is a posting about learning from failure, this was actually one of the bits I thought went really well. But... Full disclosure, I made a massive error with my budget. Not in costing up the game or the logistics, I had all that covered. But I completely failed to realise that your funding total on Kickstarter includes shipping charges. So my funding level was based on 250 backers at the basic pledge price of £19 (not including shipping), 250 being the point at which the economies of scale kick in enough to make that price work. But of course with shipping added, each backer actually pledged between £24 and £31, which could have meant hitting the target with as few as 175 backers, which would have left me fairly significantly in the hole as my unit costs would be much higher - or I'd be producing too much stock! Watch out for that one (you're probably not as stupid as me though...)


Main lesson - don't neglect this bit. Put as much heart into planning your budgets and logistics as you did in designing the game and you'll be fine.



If there's one thing you get a lot of when you launch a Kickstarter, it's email. Happily, many of these are genuine questions from genuine backers who want to find out more about your project, or just pass on positive messages. That's lovely. There's also a big pile of genuine businesses offering their services, which you're at liberty to take up or not. And then there's a big pile of spam. It's hard to tell how much of the latter is actively encouraged by KS themselves, as many of the messages come through the KS portal itself. And frankly, I thought it would be obvious which were spam and which were not.


Here's some of the emails I got:


- Several approaches from Chinese manufacturing and fulfilment companies. All legit, but I had made it pretty clear in the campaign that I'd already sorted all that. At least read my page if you want my money...


- Lots of emails from The Crowdfunding Centre, who raise your profile by emailing, tweeting and Facebooking their quite large following, and having you as a featured project on their web page. They were asking for £3 a day for the duration of the campaign. But they also offered a free 24 hours so I went for that. Got no extra backers as a result (and so didn't pursue the paid option), but it does appear to be a way to get your project seen by more people if nothing else. Their emails got progressively more annoying as the campaign went on, as their positivity failed to diminish in line with the failure of the campaign ("Hey Ian, it's going great, you're nearly there!") No it's not (sob), just leave me alone!


- An approach from Crowdrush.co, which seems to be a legitimate service that filters projects and promotes what it considers to be the best on its site and newsletter, in return for which they offer some kind of exclusive benefit for their members (they suggested priority shipping and an exclusive add-on). I declined this on the basis that I didn't want to creates tiers of backers (and didn't do early birds for the same reason) but it may well suit some creators.


- Tabletopia got in touch, which was great because I was planning on doing that anyway. Makes your game available online (without AI, you just create a tabletop that people can access remotely and play each other). They also offered some extra help in getting set up, so that was fab.


- Something from a David Lavensky from "crowdfundingmegic.com" (sic) and "thegogofactor.com", which claim to get your project into the Top 20 in your category, using what they described as SEO for KS projects. Packages start at $35. Didn't pursue this - it's a real link to a real website with many convenient ways to pay (...), but it just looked too amateurish for me. It may well be a legit service, but if so, they probably want to get a web designer in.


- The good people at ZeMind games got in touch, offering to do a cross-promotion with their game Uncaged: World Fighters (MMA card game), whereby we each post an update promoting each other's game. I really agonised over this but decided not to, sticking to the same orginal principle that I didn't want non-authentic publicity (and wouldn't it be really obvious what we were doing?). Sadly, they cancelled as well so maybe we should have gone with it...


- I got a bunch of emails in Chinese, which I didn't read. They may well have been legitimate offers of business or friendship but I can barely get through the English emails as it is.


- A really convincing email from a Lisa J Pearson who claimed to have written a great new book on successful KS campaigns which was FREE and all I had to do was download it and post a positive review. Reasonable looking website linked, apparent photo of 'Lisa' and kids etc. I wrote back, intending to download the book, but offering some advice - perhaps don't just ask for positive reviews, cos that's not really how reviews work; and by the way you seem to have only just joined Kickstarter this month and haven't made or backed any projects, so people may question where your expertise comes from. If you're an experienced backer/creator, you need to make that clear.


Anyway, you go to the website, put in your email and... nothing happens. Odd. And if it was just an email harvesting thing, well she already had my email and I've not been deluged with any more spam than usual since then. So I don't know what that was about, but I strongly suspect there is no Lisa.


Bottom line, it was all quite fun - the full spectrum from genuine business to random spam. Nothing I'd describe as an actual scam, but maybe I just like to assume the best :-)


Has anyone come across any of these, or even subscribe to the newsletters etc they advertise?


Ian

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