I recently wrote about David Landis’s new Kickstarter campaign, to fund his papercraft book Desktop Gremlins Vol. 1. He was kind enough to also share his experience getting a Kickstarter campaign off the ground, from a newbie’s perspective. Hopefully this can inspire and guide anyone else out there considering their own Kickstarter campaign.
While most of us in geek circles have heard of Kickstarter, David found that a lot of people out there in person weren’t familiar with it. But whether you’re an armchair spectator in the Kickstarter world, funding a few projects but not doing any of your own, or if you’ve got a campaign or two under your belt, David’s perspective will enlighten. It’s likely to be both familiar and unique, in the scheme of things, and also includes some background about how he started his business.
Kickstarter campaigns are challenging in that you have to do your best to set it up the right way from the start, and then just let it go and wait. David’s currently in the waiting phase. Check out his Kickstarter campaign, and also follow along with his unique perspective below.
The Emotional Toll of Launching Your First Kickstarter – Week 1
I’m a dreamer.
I know it. My friends know it. My family knows it. Ever since I was a young man of age 12, I was part of a crew of kids that made movies. I’m talking serious show biz stuff here. We had huge elaborate cardboard sets, actors, special effects, monsters… the whole nine yards. Too bad we didn’t have a camera. Truth be told, that soon changed and we bought a camera, formed Star Studios, and made movies to show to the kids in the neighborhood in our own basement cinema. Through high school, we got pretty serious about it and won local and national film festivals.
That is how I spent my childhood. Working on big dreams and developing skills that eventually led me to a love of computer graphic design and advertising. That is what I went to college to learn more about and, eventually, I opened my own Graphic Design Studio named Landis Productions, LLC in 1994. Anyone that remembers my days from Star Studios gives me a smile when they walk in my office and see my collection of framed movie posters on my wall.
For the past 18 years, I have been creating professional graphic design and advertising for a wide variety of clients. At the same time, I also like to work on personal design projects to stretch my creative muscles and have fun. About five years ago, I had a simple spark of an idea in the middle of the night — an idea that was powerful enough to get me out of bed and sketch it on paper. The idea was plans for an easy-to-build papercraft octopus. In the days and weeks that followed, I set to work sketching, testing, inventing until I had him just right, a super-easy-to-build paper sculpture for my desk. I started emailing these papercraft construction sheets to my friends, and they would build them and ask for more. Seeing my characters invade other people’s desks really sparked my desire to share them with a much bigger audience. So working during my nights and weekends, I eventually launched Desktop Gremlins in 2008 — a free easy-to-build papercraft download website. I started to receive wonderful comments from visitors from all over the world, and in the months and years that followed, I created many more free downloads for the site. Wondrous, mysterious, and zany original characters with legendary background stories and fantastic reasons to be sitting on your desk. Eventually, I started being commissioned by video game developers, authors, and even YouTube itself to create papercraft projects that they could give to their audiences.
The people that are my biggest fans are in a wide variety of demographics. I have the children ages eight and up that love the craft, story-telling, achievement relationship with my characters. I have the parents that love sharing creative and positive activities with their kids, using them as story starters for discussion. I have office workers that use these Desktop Gremlins as totems on their desks to help them through their day in inspiring ways. I have teachers and librarians that use these as rewards to give to students for good behavior and creative discussion in class. I even have elderly individuals that build them in their assisted living facilities as activities with family visitors or to give as gifts to their friends.
How do I know this?
Because they email me thank you notes all the time telling me so.
So many amazing stories of people around the world using these papercraft creatures in amazing ways.
Each of my original characters are accompanied by a legend — or reason — to be sitting on your desk.
Sounds pretty dreamy, right? Well, ever since day one of the existence of the site, I had a little thumbnail graphic at the top of the page that trumpeted, “Coming soon: the book!”
How would I get there though? Printing a book is expensive! But still the dream bubbled in the back of my head.
Then I started reading about Kickstarter and realized this was the perfect opportunity for me to finally go for it. Kickstarter is a crowd funding site where you set a goal, invent some rewards for people to pledge money towards, make a pitch, and then promote the heck out of it to try to meet or exceed that goal. Because, if you don’t, your pledgers are not charged a thing and no money changes hands. You also end up with a big UNSUCCESSFUL label on your campaign that sits on the Kickstarter site for all to see.
Over the years, I had been building a following at Desktop Gremlins and I felt like I had a pretty good shot at getting funded with the community that was already around me. I researched very carefully what people were writing about the service, what seemed to be working and what failed.
The success rate statistics seemed pretty amazing to me when you consider how hard it is to find a publisher or agent willing to support a new author.
Wired Magazine even profiled Kickstarter.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the creation of my campaign, but let’s just say that I worked my hardest to create something that was truthful and honest — a good strong pitch.
With Kickstarter, you have to set your goal (their very helpful Kickstarter School on their website outlines what works best). I choose a 30-day goal.
With everything in place after a month or so of tweaking, I found myself staring at a big green LAUNCH button with a picture of a little rocket. At that moment I did not realize how good that analogy truly was as I hovered my mouse over the button. I felt pretty optimistic that I had prepared properly. I even set my goal at a level that was truly just the addition of the costs I would incur. This included professional printing of the book, the manufacturing of my cool pledge rewards, Kickstarter fees, Amazon Payments fees, and mailing the final product to your pledgers. (Don’t forget to really research the mailing costs because that adds up really quickly!) All said and done, my costs to kickstart me added up to $18,000. Wow. That number looked really big to me as I prepared to launch. I would not make a dime on this project if I just shaved it by the skin of my teeth. On the other hand, I would have kickstarted to my dream. The owner of a cool papercraft download site that also had an actual book to sell. (And hopefully profits could finally come from that.)
Profits have never been my goal, though, which I proved by operating a free download site for four years in my spare time. The papercraft work has been an amazing creative release for me and I knew the audience loved my work so far. So…
The button was finally pushed.
I’d like to say that I actually heard the rocket boosters fire, but my office was quiet. But I have to tell you, I felt a wave of acrophobia wash over me like a ocean of cement.
To me… this Kickstarter campaign feels much like I’m trying to land on the moon. The space program is full of dreamers, so they would understand what I’m talking about. Most of the campaigns I see on Kickstarter and the few I have pledged to myself are also dreamers.
We are charging into the unknown. We try to arm ourselves with as much data as we can before launch, so once we get into space we don’t run out of air before we reach the destination. Did we get everything just right? Wow, we hope so. Because once you hit that green button there is no going back.
For me, week one of my campaign had been filled with tweaking my existing site to make sure the visitors know what I’m trying to do. In fact, I conducted surveys before I even signed up to Kickstarter to see if my fans would be interested in supporting me that way. I’m also trying to get my corporate studio work done each day without checking the pledge number too often.
As I near the end of my first week, I was 22% funded. Now, whether you think that is good or bad really depends on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. I’m a dreamer, so you know what my answer is.
The launch day excitement was thrilling and well wishers were all around. With the official launch out of the way, I am cruising through zero-G and the moon still seems a far way off. My capsule-life has become a lot more systematic. Checking my gauges, re-tweaking my agendas, and trying to make sure no one on Earth forgets about me as I drift closer and closer to my destination. But more than that, I am constantly running new ideas through my head about new things to try to make that pledge number climb. I am also working on a secret papercraft to give to all my pledgers. They have no idea how much it means to me that they are sticking their necks out for me so early in the campaign. So I will try to say “thank you” to them in the best way I know how.
As I stared down the barrel of Hurricane Sandy (which in my imagination was a solar flare threatening my craft), I worried about what a power outage might do to my journey.
I tried to remain calm but that clock seemed to be ticking in my ear really loudly.
Will I make it? Only time will tell.
Follow along for yourself at my Kickstarter page.
And while you’re there, please make a pledge share the news of my journey to all the other earthlings.
For those of you who have had one, what has your Kickstarter experience been like?