One of the great struggles of my professional life is when to run my Kickstarter campaigns, how to drive business, and how to integrate the Kickstarter into my convention appearances without distracting from con sales. See, we're a young company without the advantage of much book store shelf space at this point, so there's pretty much only a couple ways we make money and get our names out there.
- Online Advertising
Since we're only a couple weeks into our web comic run, #3 hasn't been the kind of driver we hope it to be. Even when we're full blast with advertising there probably won't be a huge uptick in revenue from it, just eyeballs and brand awareness...which will drive sales in the long term, but not the short term. When you're a young company, the best thing to do is get out there and shake people's hands at conventions, which is why we're planning to hit as many as possible. In person meetings lead to Facebook likes, which lead to brand engagement, which lead to long term sales. However, the #1 single revenue generator for me in 2014 was the Kickstarter we ran. It dwarfed the rest of my revenue last year by a wide margin, and we expect similar this year. But by running a Kickstarter campaign during a show, it drives DOWN the revenue from the show and takes away from all other sales...which in turn eats into all booth costs including booth space, printed copies, incentives, etc. etc. etc. It's a vicious cycle, with one nagging question... is it a good idea to run a Kickstarter campaign during a show you're selling at? Here are the positives and negatives.
1 - Immediate engagement - You can have somebody sign up for the Kickstarter and pledge on the spot. If people hem and haw you can help push them over the edge.
2 - Massive amount of interaction - shows, at least the kinds of shows I attend, have thousands of people all interested in the kind of thing you are selling.
3 - New audience/fans - Kickstarters are notorious for begging money from friends and family, which is fine and all, but it won't help you grow the kickstarters year over year...only new fans will do that.
4 - No immediate cost - Most con goers have a set spending limit and blow through it on big name stuff. There's not much money left for indies. However, with Kickstarter they don't pay until the Kickstarter funds. This is a great sales strategy for a kickstarter.
5 - Social media bump - Just by being at a con and posting photos you'll get a social media bump from people and more engagement on your page. Additionally, by meeting creators they will likely tweet out support for you on the spot to help drive sales.
6 - Built in mailing list - You get the email addresses of everybody that pledges to your book. These are all warm leads for your next book. Actually, they're hot leads because they already like the thing you are selling and will likely buy the next thing.
1 - Distracts from other products - If you have more than just the Kickstarter going, it will distract from your ability to sell other products, which will drive down show revenue, even if it boosts overall revenue. I saw a massive dip in other book sales at Long Beach Comic-Con last year because of the Ichabod Kickstarter.
2 - Complicated Kickstarter enrollment process - I'm hoping this has changed since last year, but when I ran my Kickstarter the process of enrolling somebody that didn't already have an account was a massive headache. I lost more than a few deals trying to get somebody signed up and having it take forever.
3 - Not selling something tangible - Most people go to cons to leave with something tangible. However, even if you give them some swag on the spot, by definition you won't have a tangible book for them to buy.
4 - Being out money if the Kickstarter fails - You've spent money on a booth, swag, parking, and food. It could all be for not if the Kickstarter craps the bed.
Overall, I would always plan to do a Kickstarter in tandem with a con. If I could do 2 I would do one to open and close the Kickstarter. If I could do 12 I would do 12. To me there's no better engagement than cons and no way to drive in new fans to your projects. I would be remiss if I didn't say that I tabled with a guy that ran an unsuccessful Kickstarter earlier this year. He gave out about $1000 in merch + table fees and got nothing in return. That kind of thing hurts, but if you set realistic expectations and have an amazing product there's a great chance you'll come out massively ahead.
Make sure to check out freekickstartercourse.com too in order to start your journey on the right foot.