Lessons from a failed Kickstarter #1: The Emotional Rollercoaster
We've not posted here for a few weeks, as we've been variously running, cancelling and then regrouping after our Kickstarter campaign for Take The Kingdom. But today we're back, with the first in a series of posts about that experience. In part 1, we look at how it all feels, and how you can stay sane during a KS campaign.
Excited and well-prepared as I was when I launched on 24 August, I don't think I was fully ready for the emotional rollercoaster that running a campaign takes you on. Of course you're invested in your project, of course you deeply care about it and have hopefully already invested many hundreds of hours in your creation. What I didn't expect were the highs and lows, and how quickly one came after another. It's worth doing what you can to prepare for this aspect, and make sure you're no more stressed than you absolutely need to be. For me, the most stressful part was the night before launch, and this is because you're never really finished. There's always something else you can do to improve your graphics, edit text on your campaign page, tip off a few more people, tweak your reward levels and so on. By the time it was launch day I was desperate to just get on with it, and above all, start interacting with potential backers and finding out what they would suggest, object to or get enthusiastic about - before launch you do feel like you're operating in a vacuum to an extent.
That first hour went something like this:
(5 minutes pre-launch) Massive tension, what have I forgotten? Hundreds of people are going to see this! Is it good enough? Aagh!
(1 second post-launch) Aah, that's better. Huge relief, it's finally live after all that work.
(10 seconds post-launch) No, hang on, there's something else I could have done! Can I un-launch? Stop!
(15 seconds post-launch) Calm again. Deep breath, you've got a month now to edit, update and improve things.
(30 seconds post-launch) Where's all the comments and backers?? Oh no, it's a terrible game after all...
(10 minutes in) Backers! Real ones that I'm not related to! Pure, unbridled joy!
The other area of stress is that you never want to step away from the KS page in case something happens. Of course you can set up your phone to get alerts when a message is posted or a backer backs, but it still makes you twitchy. It's worth noting at this point that I'm really not someone that's prone to stress and am generally pretty laid back, so all this was quite a revelation!
So, what can you do to keep yourself sane? Here's a few tips:
- Really think through your worst case scenarios beforehand and work out how you'll feel, and what positives you would be able to draw from that. What happens if you miss out by $100? What happens if you only get 5 backers? What happens if your campaign gets derailed by trolls? If you've been through this in your mind and have got a plan, it will make reality that much easier to deal with. For me, I was clear from the outset that if the campaign didn't fund, I would be financially worse off (having spent a reasonable amount on extra art, graphics, animations etc) but I would have the experience of running a campaign and would have at least some people that were interested and whom I could follow up with.
- Don't compare your project with others! Jamey spells this out and he's right, as it's the road to madness. Of course, you do need to have looked in detail at dozens of other campaigns so you can understand what works, what makes you cringe and where your creation fits within the overall pantheon of KS projects (and games in general, of course). But do that before you launch, not during. I say this knowing full well that you'll check every other campaign and will wail and gnash your teeth when they're inexplicably doing better than you - but be pleased for them and see what you can learn for next time.
- Related to the above, be clear what you are, and what you are not. If you're not a boardgames giant with many successful projects under your belt, there's no point in lamenting how CMON's latest project got £400k on the first day while you're still plateaued at £1k. If you are a one-person band making a card game, there's no point being baffled as to why 8000 people have commented on the 100+ minis in another game that came out on the same day.
- Are you really ready to launch? Is everything ready to go? Have you really worked out how you're going to get all these games to backers if it goes according to plan? And is there anything nagging in your mind that you know you should have fixed, but have already told everyone you're launching tomorrow?
- One the first 24 hours has passed, set yourself specific times at which you're going to be available for the campaign, and when you're not. I know some creators seem to respond instantly, 24 hours a day, but chances are you've got a day job, maybe a family, you certainly need to sleep now and again, and you need to keep in touch with the rest of your life (not least, to remind yourself that there's more going on than the project). Be there in quality, and don't be afraid to be unavailable sometimes. I've seen one project where the creator got a hard time for not responding instantly to messages that he would have received at 3am local time, but by and large your backers know that you're human. It may also be possible for you to team up with someone in another hemisphere to keep an eye on your page if you do feel the need to be "always on" - give them the right info and you can keep things on track while you're catching up on your sleep.
- Listen to all the feedback, but don't take it to heart, nor react to it immediately. There will always be someone who thinks your game is too simple, too complicated, too formulaic, too esoteric, and sometimes you'll get a fantastic tip on an improvement you can make.
Next time - negotiating the seas of spam