You are probably first wondering what kickstarter is. And secondly, why would I do it again, whatever it is. Kickstarter is there to help all sorts of people with great ideas share their passions with the masses in the hopes that you can crowd fund what it is you are trying to do. In our case, I decided to write a book about fodder. How to build a system for growing fodder. The metrics involved in growing fodder. The different types of fodder to be grown. How to maintain the system. How to scale the system as you take on more animals. And most importantly how to formulate the proper diet for your animals with fodder. In my case, I am doing the research for my farm. So it made sense to put those findings into book form and share it with the world. But as it pertains to the hard science on this topic - I was curious if others would share in the cost to determine the nutritional breakdown of the various components to fodder. A task I planned to outsource to the local college Texas A&M. I received 31 backers and $1,150 in 30 days.
How to get started
The only thing you really need to get started with KickStarter is an idea that fits into their guidelines. Your idea must be a “project”. And it must fit into one of the approved categories.
A project is something with a clear end, like making an album, a film, or a new game. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced as a result.
The categories are Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater.
There are a lot of things that can’t be hosted on KickStarter. Look here for more on that.
But once you know what your idea is and that the idea is acceptable by KickStarter guidelines all that is left is to tell your projects story. This is done via their easy to use authoring tools.
Give your project a name:
(book) Fodder - from one pound of seed to ten pounds of feed
Upload the avatar for your project. Which should be catchy or tell the story of your project.
Come up with a twitter length pitch that is somewhat memorable:
Fodder is a climate independent way to reliably feed farm animals for less. I am compiling my findings into a book on this new topic.
Fill in the body of your campaign with their dumbed down WYSIWYG editor. In our case I told the reader who we were. Then I gave them a summary for what we were doing. I wrote the problem statement. Then I wrote the solution to that problem. And with that information in hand I proceeded to educate the reader on what exactly fodder was. If the reader made it this far, I then got into what was being produced by the project. And I answered the most important part - what does the contributor get. Probably one of the most important parts of the project set up is the risks and challenges area. State your fears for the project and your approach to navigate them. These are fears that should be easy for the reader to digest and the solution to them should always be known. Never state “This is going to be really hard” …and I have no idea how to get around it. Because that is basically stating your haven’t thought your project out well enough!
Next you need to set up your rewards. These are the pledge break downs. For a $5 donation you will get this. There needs to be a fair amount of variance in your rewards. Some people only have $5 and would love to back you. So include something at that range. Try to make the thing you are making (a book in my case) part of some of the rewards.
And probably the most important thing for setting up your project is wiring in your bank account via Amazon payments! This allows you to connect your bank account to Amazon. Then connect Amazon to KickStarter so that if you are successful you can get at your funds almost right away.
You can also track traffic through your project which is fun to look at. I used google analytics which is a free way to do web analytics. I like the country report when I do things such as this. People from all over the world came to see my KickStarter campaign! Exciting.
Getting the project approved
My first idea was to come up with a fodder system that could be sold to the masses. As I started tinkering with this idea I realized that this project would be hard. I didn’t yet have all the experience required to do this sort of a project. As I built the campaign around this idea I quickly learned that I had a lot of research to do. And as I did more and more of that research I realized that there was a hole in the data that I needed in the places that I could easily tap into for research. And more importantly I noticed that there was room in the market for a book on the topic. A book is simply a time investment where as building a physical thing is soo much more.
KickStarter allows you to share your campaign before it is approved to get your target audiences feedback before going live. I used this tool often and it helped me realize I was not yet focused in my first few passes. It also helped me see things that I wasn’t paying close attention too. Here is an example from a buddy of mine.
This made me want to pivot to writing a book. And more importantly target the funding of some pointed research I needed to do for one of the chapters in my book. And that was around the nutritional break down of various types of seeds used in growing fodder. This information wasn’t out there for all to see. And it is the most important thing for animal growers to know so that different diets could be built by the numbers. This was it!
I quickly re-wrote my campaign and shared it out to some industry folks and friends. I assimilated their remarks and did some more polishing. Then I submitted my campaign for approval.
All campaigns go through a review process by the staff of KickStarter. I had a few iterations with them. They are there to help you be more successful.
Finally I got the green light.
I sat on my project for another week. To this point I didn’t have a video. And the KickStarter school tells you that having a video goes a long way to getting you noticed and getting your campaign funded. I really meant to make a video. I just never got around to doing it. Finally, after sitting on the approved campaign for a week and change I decided to make it live. I have near 1,000 friends on Facebook and am fairly tied into many groups that would be interested in this topic. And I would classify myself as a social butterfly. And with that I barely got my project funded!
Make the video!
During an active campaign
I pressed the green launch button at 3:22am (I couldn’t sleep for the past week up to this point). Once I green lighted my project the timer started ticking.
I immediately went to all the Facebook groups I am part of and politely spammed the crap out of them. I made a nice little post talking up my project. In minutes after going green and before I finished my first round of spamming I received my first “new backer” email. Exciting!
At 3:48am my first backer showed up!
Along the way I received a couple of messages from potential backers. I was immediately notified of questions to which I responded as quickly as possible.
I was able to track the funding via the project dashboard. Where it was at. And more importantly where it needed to be.
They also have a great timeline at the bottom of the dashboard to help you track each and every activity through out the project. When a comment happened. When each funding event happened. Etc.
In addition to tracking a project, you can also use your existing backers to help spread to the work. This is done with project updates. You can send little notes to keep your backers inspired and to help you along the way.
As you can see from the backer report, it was slow going initially. I did some posts here and there. But I didn’t want to be overly spammy. So once a week to the major groups I followed and no more. But then we got down to the wire. I started to panic. I didn’t think I was going to make it. So I got into a mode of share share share. And as a result we were able to get over the line about 24 hours prior to the end of the campaign. Talk about cutting it close.
Once the campaign is successfully funded
Once the campaign is funded you get notified. They are very good about keeping you in the know!
As you can see in the email above - funding will be available in the next few weeks. So I didn’t bother to check my amazon account just yet. Well as it turns out those funds are available nearly right away! They deposit each backers transaction one at a time. And as soon as that transaction goes through they withdraw their bit of that money. So a lot goes in and a little goes out. I also noticed that there are a few attempts to collect where the backer’s payment method didn’t go through. They apparently try to collect every 48 hours until it goes through…and they nag the backer via email to update their payment info. I only had a couple of folks fall into that category. Oops!
And then what?
As my funding has only gone through and I am just now collecting the funds I don’t yet have the full picture of the after process for a successful campaign. I do know that I need to create a survey for each of my rewards that requires input. This will allow me to collect t-shirt sizes and shipping addresses. And then depending on when the reward is ready I can ship it to the backer right away in some cases. Or take care of that later. …as long as I deliver by the date set forth in the campaign.
Also, as I now have 31 new followers (some of which I know aren’t actually interested in anything pertaining to fodder…but instead just “help’n a brotha out”) so I shall continue to chat with them via this campaign tool. Let them know as I make progress with the project.
Ultimately I need to get started building my research samples. And I need to get to finishing all the easy chapters so that when I have the data from my research I can write the two hard chapters around the research results and how to formulate a proper diet plan for your animals.
What to do differently?
- Make 1 video per week: Why you ask? Videos can be funny. They can be engaging. They get to your point without the reader having to read…they just watch and listen. New content keeps people interested. They share videos. Videos can go onto other social networks and get traffic there. You can teach in a video on the topic you are pushing on your potential backers. You can SHOW progress in a video. Definitely going to make a bunch of lo-fi videos next time.
- Market more aggressively every day to more than just facebook: I have to admit it. I was very lazy on this campaign. Probably because whether I got the project funded or not I was going to do it for myself. I love writing. I love teaching. I love sharing. And I really love to know as much as I can on a topic prior to implementing it. This campaign wasn’t a do or die for me. I can’t imagine how I would have done had I joined more than just local groups. Or if I had joined other networks. Or wrote an article for a major magazine publication in exchange for my campaign in their pages. Lots of marketing opportunities I just didn’t pursue.
- Keep the focus small: In my campaign I pitched my book and the research. Next time I might just pitch the research as part of a bigger something. And have several smaller campaigns that make the whole. I have seen people fund their entire farm…one small project at a time.
- Be even more creative with the rewards: This is hard. You want to give something valuable..but not costly. If I had a campaign that needed hundreds or thousands of backers 8 different t-shirt options wouldn’t be the way to go!
- Focus up front: I went through a couple months of gyrations on this project. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I wasted a lot of time creating the campaign only to tear it down and start over again. This time isn’t free.
The book on fodder
If you are interested in the book I am writing - head on over to LeanPub where I am writing it out in the open.
You can buy it now and get all the updates in the future for free as I publish them (almost weekly updates). And as I am self publishing this book…it is very low cost!