This Blog 2019, Goals and Grommets

Inspired by the 2019 goals post over at Charles's Dragons Never Forget Blog, I figured I would do the same thing. 2018 right around ...

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thoughts on Kickstarter from the smallest of fish..

Why you no Kickstart?

Kickstarter and why I'm not going that route, the small fish view:

More than one person as told me, “Hey you should kickstart your game, that would make producing it that much easier!” I paraphrase liberally, but that's the gist.

I love kick starter. I think it is a great idea for groups and start ups who are looking for a boost. The whole Idea of “crowd-sourcing “ has revolutionized the gaming hobby and provided start up funds that have allowed companies to explore original ideas that may not have fit perfectly into other more traditional business plans.

With all that said KickStarter is also not built for the really little guy. 
"Hold on!" you say, "The little guy is the whole point of crowdsourcing!"
I hear ya...and.. I know there have been some success stories in the past.
Here are some of the biggest ones, naturally they have big names attached to them.
I bet if I looked around enough there are some small success stories as well, and to be honest I don't have aims to be as successful as that gang listed above.

When I look at these items however, most of them have a base of interested people already in place. Wasteland is a known property, Mike McVey is known designer, Order of the Stick had a fan base, Amanda Plamer is just plain awesome and people should know her. The only surprises are the ipod nano watch bands which it's self banks on people who dig i-anything, and the e-paper watch, Even ouya had some pretty big names behind it, apparently.

Sure there are small projects on kickstarter, I can't deny that.

My issue is one of my own scope, it's not the “I did not get funded” problem.. It's the “what if I get too funded?” problem.
My project goal is one game, one “manual” to be more exact, to be produced and sold via PDF and Print on demand. I'm giving myself two years to write, test, layout, and “do” everything I have to do to meet my goal.
If I tried to crowd-source via kickstarter for a goal of (spitballing here) three grand to cover every damn expense involved with the project. I say for each $25 or better backer I get, they get the printed copy and a PDF.. woot...

With a kickstarter I would run the risk of over extending. Kickstarter over-extension is a known thing, and a condition that once it starts can be the kiss of death. (the road through Kick-starter is strewn with the burning hulks of dead RPG's and other stuff, dead stuff. )

That point doesn't really apply to these guys:

However just look at that list of “unlocked” products.. yes they have 300+ thousand dollars to work with, they have also have committed themselves to XP cards, Poster maps, short stories, Players kits, bestiaries, god knows what all.
Monte Cook, Bruce Cordell, and the gang will make that happen, they are pros, it's what they do and how they do it. I'm even considering giving them my money, just because the books are so damn pretty.

My point being once a kickstarter gets rolling there is no telling where it will stop. I have seen some smaller RPG companies and individuals reputations take pretty solid hits when they started a Kickstarter and for what ever reasons could not live up to the commitments. I don't want to be on that list.
(Kairn RPG anyone? Great example, From what I understand the problems were not the creators fault, and I feel sorry about that, because I liked the project. I'm still not giving him any of my money any time soon.)

So best case:
What if the gods of the interwebistry like my little game and I get 300 backers. Now I have to do a print run to cover that. Ok so that's what the other $4500 bucks is for. I get that, but I'm also not prepared to set that up (frankly I don't have a clue, yet.) Print on demand takes care of that as long as the orders are not an all at once kind of thing.
I won't have the time to make extra material for stretch goals. I'm one guy. I have a wife, a house, a full time job, This is a hobby, not my source of income. So it would be awful hard to even attract the 120 donations I would need to meet a humble goal of three grand, let alone inspire people to give more.

Yes I love crowd sourcing and kickstarter in particular as a concept, for even semi established brands, licenses, and . However for a one man “heart-breaker” (hate that term) operation the dedication of time and the possibility of over-extension is just too risky.

And as a bonus track here is a great post on another more positive side of Kickstarter / crowd sourcing.


  1. One thought; you could potentially use Kickstarter funds to pay other people to help produce stuff. Get a quote from a couple of graphic designers about doing the book layout and your print options. For instance, if you need to print a relatively small number of books, print on demand is probably the way to go. However, if you needed to print a lot of books, you would probably get a better deal by going to a press. Print on demand exists partly because it's expensive to set up a press so it's not worth doing unless you are going to print a lot of copies; but if you do need a lot of copies, once the press is set up it is cheap to keep making copies. A designer could help you sort through stuff like that, as well as doing professional layout of your book. Likewise, you would want to factor in the cost of hiring an artist to do the cover or even other supporting art. You could put that into stretch goals; only if X amount is raised will it fund the cost of the art. Of course, you could also go with IndieGoGo; I don't think it has some of the risks that Kickstarter does.

    1. Hey Rachel thank you for reading and replying.
      I totally agree that a Kick-starter to hire a few professionals to help get things rolling would be a fantastic way to go. My only concern would be if the I started setting things up and the kick starter failed. I'm not irresponsible enough to hire people with out the funds to pay them, but I would also hate to start promising a quality level of product that I might not be able to deliver if the kick-starter fails.
      This is all super premature any way, I am going to review all of this again in about a year when production is more of a pressing concern. If I have built up some interest on the web by then I might feel more confident about the whole crowd sourcing dynamic. Thank you for the link to indigogo I had not heard of that before and I will check it out.
      Again thanks for reading.
      Hope to hear from you again.

    2. No no, you're thinking about it wrong.
      [ 0) Get fans ]
      1) Kickstarter first
      2) IF it goes viral and looks like you're going to over-succeed, then start looking for help
      3) If it looks like you can handle it yourself or if it won't succeed at all, don't look for help.

      You'll have a fair bit of warning before things tip over the edge and become unmanagable.

  2. Alternatively you could just trouser any surplus / roll it forward to the next project. My adage for Kickstarters is from Star Wars... stay on target. Do not get distracted by irrelevancies that people didn't buy in to get (coaster, t-shirts, whatever). Sure, have a couple of stretch goals that if hit improve the quality of your product (better art, colour printing, hardcover, whatever), but don't succumb to the temptation to offer more products. If people want to give you a million pounds to get your book that is going to cost you fifty thousand to produce, then good for you. They are getting the early adopter price.

    Do not feel obliged to offer more stuff because more people bought in than you though. It's their problem, not your problem!

    1. Holy cow I must have hit on a hot topic today, thank you all for the replies and advice. Here and on G+.

  3. As someone who has done three successful small Kickstarters so far, I would say two things. First, write your game *before* you think about doing a crowdfunding campaign. If all you need to fund is art, layout, editing, and printing, and people know that up front, you will not only be more likely to get backers, but you'll be more likely to actually finish the thing.

    Second, you seem to be stuck in the success trap of Kickstarter. Let's assume you do get 300 backers. What makes you think you need to start throwing in stretch goals and extra doodads to attract yet more backers? Stick with the original plan, and just do more of that one book. If you've planned well, and have some money left over, roll it into your next project as Marc suggests. Don't get caught up in the "my success means I need to give more to the backers." Your backers will expect what you originally promised them, and as long as they get it, they won't be disappointed at the lack of a t-shirt.

    People don't back Kickstarters for the extras. They back it for the main thing.

    1. Thank you for the two fine points, nothing speaks with more clarity than experience. I agree writing the game and for me making it good is paramount to any other concern. If I were to crowd source it would only be for lay out, art, and, professional editing.
      The game will have to be done and play tested before I even reconsider funding. Also nothing really makes me think I would have to toss stretch goals at backers,I'm just saying I would hate to make the rookie mistake of promising more than I can deliver.

  4. Joseph has it in a nutshell. Stick to your plan, offer your one product, don't get distracted by stretch goals, and all will be well. Above all, make sure you have your draft 100% complete before launching your Kickstarter and all you need the money for is art, printing, editing, etc. If people choose to give you more than you need, then good for you!

    1. I couldn't agree more Joseph has it 100% straight.

  5. A salutory example of stretch goal distraction is Achtung! Cthulhu. I was an early backer of this and I was dismayed as the money started piling and the designer succumbed to the temptation to start offering dice, bags, cards, t-shirts and all sorts of bullsh1t I didn't want or need. I just thought to myself, "oh cr@p, it's going to be years until I get the sourcebook I actually signed up for".

    1. I have a friend that backed that also and he felt the same way.. I think the inspiration behind this post was watching "The Strange" and "Deadzone"burn through goals and me just wondering, “Holy crap how in the hell are they going to cover all this crap?” I know they will They have the resources.. but still it's intimidating.

  6. I ran a successful Kickstarter from August to September 2013 to fund the creation of 5 tutorial guide books (print and PDF) teaching gamers how to create maps for their games using any software (Photoshop, GIMP, Illustrator, Corel, Inkscape, Xara, etc.) Although I have done professional map commissions for Paizo and other publishers and have my own publishing products (Kaidan by Rite Publishing), I am largely an unknown (have you heard of Michael Tumey?) So, I am completely disagreeing with your premise that KS is not for the unknown little guy without an existing marketing base. I pretty much had no established market until the month prior to starting my KS by establishing a solid G+ community, still with a goal of $16.5 K, I received $23K by end of funding. It worked for me and it doesn't hurt to try a KS even if you don't make funding - I don't see why a little guy wouldn't try anyway.

    1. Also thank you for your reply.
      Again you are speaking from a position of experience, and I value that kind of advice.
      I also am really happy for and impressed by your success. While I agree it you had a success without a marketing base, I will have to reevaluate my position in a yea or so after I do a few developers cons and some serious public play-testing before I think I will be ready to try it for myself. I am not looking out so much for this project as much as I am watching out for my good name moving into the next project.
      So those PDF's about map making, are they on drive through RPG or elsewhere?
      I am seriously interested in the one relating to GIMP.

    2. I should get the first book released early next year, but the guides are scheduled for release in Aug 2014 (at least I put that in my KS). PDFs should be available at DTRPG, print books and PDFs at Paizo Store, and Amazon. Vist my G+ community (25 Quick & Dirty Map Tutorials Guide) I have new content, updates, free rough draft tutorials and more there.

  7. Thank you again to every one who took time out of their day to reply, It's humbling the number of folks who wrote really lengthy, and informative responses.
    I find it interesting that the G+ comments and the comments here are about 50 / 50 spit between ..
    “I agree it's a though road to walk trying to do a kick-starter” and “I disagree, stop whining and go for it.” so it's a very good discussion.

  8. I think those who have found it a tough road, have made it a tough road. This tends to fall into two camps.

    1. Those who weren't adequately prepared and were looking for the KS to fund their lives while they wrote their game. Dwimmermount and Axes & Anvils fall squarely into this camp and were spectacular failures.

    2. Those who got distracted by the stretch goals. Ogre, Appendix N and Achtung Cthulhu fall into this camp. The stretch goals (that very few people actually wanted) weren't directly related to the original product and pledgers ended up waitying months or years for what they originally signed up for while the designer fretted about all the ephemera.

    The textbook example of success is Kevin Crawford's Spears of the Dawn. Full, complete draft published prior to the KS drive. Made clear that the KS was only to pay for art, editing, and printing. One small stretch goal of an already written but not published PDF adventure. As a result it delivered week *ahead* of schedule. Textbook.

    If you do your preparation and stay on target, there is little really that can go wrong. The worst that can happen is you fail to achieve your funding target and that is a low cost way of telling you that there isn't enough public interest in your game for it to be anything other than a spare time labour of love.

  9. All excellent points... Fact is this probably is a spare time labor of love, have to be honest about that. I will definitely revisit the kikcstarter crowdsourcing option as I get closer to actually publishing.

  10. Good for you, Mark. Keep us posted. Success is nothing to fear and we can all learn much from controlled failure. Either way, you win.

  11. Thank you Marc, I will keep you posted for sure.. any more advice ideas or feedback are going to be needed over the next two years , that is one thing I am sure of.