Kickstarter Kicked

Back at the end of May, I wrote a long post about how the first two 12 for ’12 Kickstarters had gone. (Go back and read that first if you haven’t already.) The third one ended June 17, and it was another wild and yet very different ride. I’m still digesting a lot of the information, but here are my first thoughts on how it did and why.

As you might know, the Dangerous Games Kickstarter was a huge success. The Brave New World Kickstarter brought in the most money till then ($13,276), and the Shotguns & Sorcery Kickstarter had the highest number of backers (332). Dangerous Games topped both of them by far, with $18,001 and 389 backers. That’s a 35% increase in backing and a 17% increase in backers. Fantastic!

The Kickstarter Dashboard graph for Dangerous Games looks nothing like what I expected. In the first two, we had a typical kind of Kickstarter in that it had a great start, leveled off to almost flat in the middle, and then spiked again at the end. The second one delayed its spike until the last day, which terrified me. If it hadn’t been for a lot of last-minute promotional help, it easily could have failed to fund all three books.

With this one, though, we had that starting spike, but then it continued to grow at a slow but steady rate. There’s jump in the middle from when Steve Jackson plugged the project on one of his updates for his Ogre Designer’s Edition Kickstarter. If you look closely, though, you can see where some of those people cancelled their pledges a couple days later, and we actually had a day or two of negative growth. Still, on the whole, Steve’s plug was a great help and popped us up over the full-funding mark.

The end of the drive was a great, strong day. It wasn’t like the end of the Shotguns & Sorcery drive, but I was panicked at the end of that one and begging and calling in all sorts of favors from people to plug it. This ending was a lot less nerve-wracking, as we hit all three stretch goals and then some.

So, what made the difference here? For one, I made a drastic change to the drive’s structure. In the previous drives, I set the goal for the first book as the drive’s goal, and then set the levels for the second and third books as stretch goals. I had a number of people get confused about why I was concerned at the end of the Shotguns & Sorcery about not funding all three books because the drive had clearly met its stated goal. I also knew that some people hesitated to pledge at the higher levels for fear of not getting all three books, which wouldn’t be fun for anyone.

This time around, I set the goal for all three books at $10,000. That meant that I could easily communicate what the real goal was, and it meant that those who wanted trilogies as their rewards could get them without fear of losing out. If the drive got funded, they’d get all three books, no matter what, and if not, they’d never be charged a dime.

I also set the two Respect the Streak stretch goals at the start. These offer extra copies of the ebooks from the earlier drives to higher-level backers if we reach certain amounts. While those were great fun and meant that people who’d just joined for this Kickstarter could get access to the earlier books, they’re weren’t essential. If they didn’t get funded, people might have to wait a bit longer to buy the books with the rest of the world, much less of a potential disaster.

We hit those fast enough too. In the final weekend, I came up with a stretch goal sure to appeal to my gamer friends and fans: a Dangerous Games playset for Fiasco. We hit that and even topped it well too. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

I can’t say if this structure change did the trick, but it seems to me it helped a lot. We wound up with Dangerous Games as the #8 fiction project on Kickstarter of all time — which, sure, in this case is something like three years, but I was thrilled to see it.

Other things that probably helped include:

  • The Dangerous Games idea is a great hook, easy to sell to fans of my games and fans of my writing.
  • The “get your gaming group in a book” level sold in the last couple hours. Big thanks to John Tynes for that idea.
  • I managed to publish the first 12 for ’12 book before this Kickstarter launched, which helped earn trust.
  • The Dangerous Games cover is my favorite of the lot so far: simple, iconic, and tells you instantly what the book’s about.

If you have other ideas about that, I’d love to hear them.

I have one more 12 for ’12 drive coming up later this year. It launches in August and runs through September, and I’m going to be hard pressed to top this one. With the help of my faithful backers, though, I’m going to give it the best shot I can.