IT’S ONLY NOW, more than a month later, that Keith Knight fully realizes he didn’t quite know what he was doing.
“I went into it rather naive on what to do,” Knight tells Comic Riffs of his successful $40,000 Kickstarter funding campaign for his comic “I Was a Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator.” Fortunately, “It was with the help of several readers who wrote and said: ‘I know you don’t wanna be rude bugging people about this, but [here’s] something you gotta do if you wanna make it happen.”
Knight (aka “Keef”), the syndicated creator of “The Knight Life” and “The K Chronicles,” is one of many cartoonists who has discovered that Kickstarter can be a very welcome place for talented creators who present clearly articulated projects.
Over the past year, the comics projects that have found success on Kickstarter include Renae de Liz’s “Womanthology,” (funded for a then-record $109,000); Dave Kellett and Frederick Schroeder’s “Stripped” documentary (which topped its $58,000 goal); and Rich Burlew’s record-setting “Order of the Stick” (which raised a whopping $1.2-million, becoming one of Kickstarter’s top projects ever). And nearly simultaneous to Knight’s, a second comics project was just successfully funded: Batton Lash’s “The Monsters Meet on Court Street” (which topped $10,000).
As for Knight, his “Teenage Michael Jackson Impersonator” campaign slightly exceeded its goal, as more than 700 backers pledged nearly $43,000. “The comics community stepped up in a huge way,” Knight tells Comic Riffs. “Peers were tweeting and Facebooking it, and folks at the Cartoon Art Museum [in San Francisco] were hyping it up, and [San Diego] Comic-Con staff people were donating.
“It was very humbling to see who tossed support my way. It was amazing.”
In the wake of his project’s pledge-drive close last week, Knight has decided to share a “list of things I did right and wrong during my Kickstarter.”
So that all fund-seeking creators and generous fans might benefit from his wisdom and missteps — from the finances to the psychology — here are Keith Knight’s 14 Tips for a More Successful Kickstarter:
1. I’D HAVE a countdown on my website saying, “10-9-8 [etc.] days till the launch of my Kickstarter Campaign!!”
2. A FEW FOLKS said I put the funding goal too high. They said the way to do it is to set it at the lowest level that you’d do it for, because it’ll definitely get reached, and most likely surpassed, and then people get all giddy and throw tons more money on top. People love a winner.
3. BE SURE that your campaign launches ends during the week, not the weekend. Weekends are where Kickstarter campaigns go to die
4. INCLUDE YOUR art on your front Kickstarter page! I didn’t do this till it was halfway over! Thankfully, a reader wrote and said: “Dude, you’re a cartoonist. We might want to see a sample!”
5. THROW IN in some wild-card levels halfway through the campaign to make updates exciting. I didn’t purposely do it, but halfway through I realized I wasn’t offering any “life’s little victories” rewards, and that’s a favorite of my readers. Once I tossed in that “Millie” Jackson level at $152, I got 19 backers for it!
6. PUT ADS UP on your site! I had a graphic designer already do the cover, so I had a distinctive logo that I used on my sites and my Twitter and Kickstarter avatars. I was stupid and didn’t put the ads up until a week into it.
7. SEND OUT a press release. The first big push I got was from the campaign being highlighted in the blog Pop Candy [Whitney Matheson] on USA Today’s website. I was able to ride that for a week. This was one of the few things I did right.
8. LEAVE NO e-mail left unturned! My ruptured Achilles tendon turned out to be a blessing, ‘cause I sat ... for weeks sending emails to everyone on my mailing lists — both music and comic — everyone who has bought something on my site — probably where most donations came from — fanmail, random e-mails I found in my archives that I never replied to, etc.
9. IDENTIFY “INFLUENCERS” on Facebook. That’s what this publicity person said to me a week into my campaign. Find your friends on Facebook who seem to have profound influence over their circle of friends. Then ask them to hype your Kickstarter campaign. It worked.
10. OLD-FASHIONED fliers! I passed out fliers at Wondercon in Anaheim, to neighbors and folks around town, included them while filling orders and mailed ‘em out to friends and family.
11. ANOTHER LEVEL I added late was the $40 “Samuel L.” level. You should have a level that matches the total if 1,000 folks clicked on that level. I was doing $40,000, so I should’ve had $40 at the beginning. The most backers I got was at the $27 level. That’s why I think I should’ve asked for $27,000.
12. I DID as many podcasts, blog, Webtv and radio interviews as I could. I literally bumrushed [“La Cucaracha” cartoonist] Lalo Alcaraz’s show on KPFK. He had no idea what hit him. But I got on!
13. I THINK 30 days is the perfect time limit. Kickstarter says that’s the most successful time limit. There’s a sense of urgency, and I wouldn’t want to deal with another few weeks of stress. Also, the $25 level is the most-backed.
14. THE LAST THING: It's probably not a big deal, but before I launched, I backed a few projects. ‘Cause when I check out a project, I scroll down to the little photo to see the bio, and I found myself more willing to get behind someone who has backed other Kickstarter projects themselves.
It’s nitpicky, but I can’t be the only one that feels that way.
FROM PREVIOUS KICKSTARTER PROJECTS: