Jim interviews Nate Cooper to find out advice on how to do a successful project on Kickstarter.com
Kicking things off
Over the past few years a completely new way of raising money for funds has burst onto the scene, giving inspiration — and much needed cash — to artists and dreamers to fund their projects. Still, there’s an art to doing things right, as more than half of all kickstarter projects fail.
So who better to learn some tips and tricks from than someone that has been there, who not only successfully funded a project, but scored a book deal in the process. This week I sit down with my Reboot Workshop business partner Nate Cooper to talk about the crowdfunding service.
Facts about Kickstarter
- Kickstarter.com is a crowd funding website for creative projects, such as indie films, music, comics, journalism, video games, and food-related projects.
- Charity, cause, “fund-my-life,” and open-ended fundraising projects are not permitted.
- Project creators choose a deadline and a goal minimum of funds to raise. If the chosen goal is not gathered by the deadline, no funds are collected.
- Kickstarter takes 5% of the funds raised; Amazon charges an additional 3–5%.
- As of July 03, 2012, there were over 62,000 launched projects, with a success rate of 44%. The completed successful projects had raised a total of $229M.
- Based in Manhattan, NY and has received $10 million in venture funding
Enter Nate Cooper
Listen to the full interview by clicking the play button on this page, or by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes. Topics Nate and I discuss:
Nate’s Project: Website Bootcamp Adventure Comic
This is Nate’s product. He successfully teaches the class live, but the reason he wanted to make it into a comic is that he could extend his reach beyond 1:1 teaching, his students can have a manual to work with, and to do something fun, as people learn in different ways (classroom instruction vs. online learning vs. book reading).
What are your options, and what little-known reason should people choose Kickstarter?
Nate had his manuscript for more than a year, and his initial thought was to go the option of self-publishing. While he was considering next steps, he spoke with a an artist friend. He ended up teaming up with her to create the book in comic book form.
One of the benefits that people might not consider, is the visibility that Kickstarter can provide. Due to the heightened buzz around the platform itself, many projects featured there are seen by a much larger audience, and you never know who will come across your campaign.
So while a major technology or comic-related blog didn’t send his idea viral, true to form, an independent publisher based in San Francisco that does education comic books found his project and reached out to him. Nate has heard this happen from other friends in the Kickstarter community as well.
- Amount: They kept the target goal relatively low at $2,500. Just enough to pay for the book production.
- Timing: Nate chose to make the duration of his campaign the maximum length, which is 60 days. There is research to say that this isn’t the best length, and Nate agrees. The reason he chose this was to coincide with the work schedule of him and his artist… Nate had the Reboot Workshop and SXSW conference, while his artist Kim Gee had another project, so it was a matter of practical timing.
The real story is that the majority of funding happens in the beginning and end of a project, so those are the most important factors, not the length. Thus, building buzz and marketing is crucial.
Thus, you want to price your deals around the sweet spots in the $30, $50, and $100 range.
You’ll certainly get several people on the lowest level, and hopefully a few rich benefactors will kick in at the top, but price your project to succeed.
- Beware hidden requirements: First of all, not everyone is accepted into Kickstarter. They can be choosy, so make sure to select the platform that works best for you.
Next, consider timing. The approval process took a week for Nate to find out that they were accepted.
Finally, note there is certain language that is forbidden within campaigns due to legal reasons around contests, such as “bonus.”
- Video: Nate and Kim have fun personalities, so they let that show in their video. In fact, in the video, in the comic, and in real life, their persona is true to who they are… Nate as the techie teacher with a tie and Kim as the creative student and artist.
Nate: “It’s intentionally cutesy.” View the video below.
- Marketing and your network is key. Nate emphasized that the #1 factor of success is your marketing efforts and the strength of your network. Letting people know about the project before launch and building buzz are key. You must be a marketers as much as a creator. Jim added that “you don’t know who you don’t know,” a fuzzy explanation that while YOU think you might be able to target your friends and family members that might like your project, it is the strength of THEIR contacts that will spread the project far and wide.
- Be realistic. Be realistic about how much money you want to raise. If you’ve never raised money, aren’t great at marketing, and have a small team, $10,000 or more might be setting the bar too high. Work within your comfort zone.
- Learn from others. View other campaigns for successful models. Because Kickstarter hides unsuccessful campaigns, you will need to go outside the site to try and find examples of what not to do.
- Add value. Make sure to give rewards that build recognition and add value to the contributor, but don’t cost you additional money to produce. For example, adding a backer’s name to the final product or doing a Skype call with higher level contributors.
- Be true to your personality Your video is the place to let your personality shine and really come across to the viewer. Make it count.
- Just do it. Nate didn’t go out seeking a book deal, and it would have been extremely difficult to get one by competing in a traditional way. But by creating something and going for it, good things happened and not only did he get funded, but will now be a published author. People love to back a winner, and will often support you just because you’re doing something.
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Hopkinson Report Disclosure: I was not compensated in any way for writing this column. Nate and I are business partners on our Reboot Workshop project. I happily donated $30 to this project back in April, and am eagerly anticipating my copy of my Website Bootcamp Adventure Comic.