If you are involved in Kickstarter – as a project creator or as a backer – you have likely heard of Jamey Stegmaier. Jamey is one half of Stonemaier Games, a company that creates and sells tabletop games and related products, mainly through Kickstarter. To many, he is Stonemaier, since he is the public face of the company. Most recently, Stegmaier ran (another) successful campaign to develop and publish their newest game, Scythe. That campaign was a high water mark for the company, raising over $1.8 million.
Scythe was Stegmaier’s eighth campaign, all of which have been successful. None of the others have been as successful as Scythe, mind you, but that’s still an impressive track record. So, you can say Stegmaier knows a thing or two about Kickstarter. Pretend for a moment that you didn’t know anything else about Jamey Stegmaier. But drawing on what you know about successful people, you might expect Jamey to be a guy too busy working on his next project to share any of what he’s learned. And how wrong you would be.
Over the past several years, as Jamey has run campaigns, he has been incredibly transparent with those who backed his projects, chosen to read his Web site, and follow him on social media. Along the way he has shared incredible details about what worked (and what hasn’t) and done it all with total and complete honesty. Resultantly, Stegmaier has cultivated a large following not only as a game publisher, but also as a crowdfunding maven. He has built a community that he can turn to build buzz for upcoming projects and who support him with intensity and allegiance.
If you’ve read his blog over the years, you can understand why. There, you will find hundreds of posts. Each one gives away hard-earned lessons in developing a company, running a campaign, and building a community. Jamey’s blog provides a bachelor’s degree worth of information on being successful on Kickstarter.
The other thing you might know about Jamey is that he seems to be infrequently satisfied with the status quo. He is constantly pushing himself to be better in the things he does. It’s apparent in his blog his project updates, and campaign post mortems, as he self-critically examines the choices he made and draws out lessons he learned, as he looks for ways to improve. It’s also apparent in his new book, A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide: Build a Better Business by Building Community.
The book’s not terribly long, there are just 190 pages of content, but each page is jam packed with information — and that’s not hyperbole. There’s hardly a word wasted or a sentence that doesn’t instruct the reader on a lesson Jamey has learned about crowdfunding. Every single page provides really good advice on running a successful crowdfunding campaign. While that may potentially sound a little dry, it’s not. Jamey is also a talented writer and the book reads incredibly easily. The way he spins example after example into the text gives the book narrative and grabs the reader’s attention.
The volume is organized into 11 chapters and the chapter titles read like Stegmaier mantras pulled right from Jamey’s blog: “I Made These Mistakes So You Don’t Have To”, “Backers Are Individuals, Not Money”, and “Go Small to Win Big”. The text is peppered liberally with bold type and bullet points, which help to make Stegmaier’s lessons far more readable and digestible. There are tables, charts, and photos to help Jamey make his points. Page after page has examples to support the suggestions Jamey makes and, while many of them are unsurprisingly about his projects, he is not shy about bringing up projects others have worked on, other successful Kickstarter entrepreneurs, and provide quotes from them. It makes for a more well-rounded experience.
His thesis, that building a community will help any entrepreneur thrive in a crowdfunding environment is easily provable. Stonemaier likely would not have enjoyed the success they’ve experienced, brought in nearly $2 million for a recent project, had they not worked hard to create a community that was amenable to their products. But Stegmaier’s following is much greater than that. His ambassadors advocate and campaign for the company, attracting new customers and converting them to the Stonemaier community.
There are a number of others trying similar strategies, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone doing it better and more consistently than Stegmaier’s efforts for Stonemaier. And the beautiful thing about A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide is that Jamey has pulled back the curtain and given everyone the tools and roadmap to be able to replicate his success on Kickstarter. It’s all there, writing your project page, when to launch, pricing, narrowing your target audience, the logistics of dealing with overseas suppliers, the best way to create pledge levels, when to ship, and, so on and so on. It really is a soup to nuts presentation. Of course, most every lesson draws back to the idea of how to treat your backers and create community.
The other big secret that Stegmaier reveals in his book is that doing all of this – running a successful campaign and creating community – is an awful lot of hard work. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but it probably is to some. Stegmaier says that, after leaving his day job to run Stonemaier full time (he devotes a chapter to knowing when it’s OK to quit your job and do this full time), he began working even more than ever before, devoting up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week on the Stonemaier work. Effective crowdfunding is not for the timid or weak.
In case you’re thinking “Rather than buy the book, I’ll just read the blog” let me address that. You should. There’s a lot to be learned there. In fact, the condensed “125 Crowdfunding Lessons in 125 Sentences” section is far more detailed on his site. But as the blog is a bachelor’s degree in Kickstarter, the book is a complete master’s course in crowdfunding. Smaller ideas come to life in the book, data is presented to support assertions, and anecdotes are presented about projects bring crowdfunding to life. I love reading about behind the scenes decisions and the reasons things end up the way they do.
It’s rare for someone to do well and share the keys to success every step of the way, Jamey Stegmaier has done that with Stonemaier Games and in writing A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide: Build a Better Business by Building Community. If Kickstarter interests you at all, pick up a copy right away.
Disclosure: GeekDad was sent a copy for review purposes. It had a nice note inside from the author because that’s how Jamey rolls.