I first discovered Kickstarter by accident. I saw a post on a mesage board asking about a project called The Department, so I followed the link to their page on Kickstarter. It seemed like a great little game, and in his intro video, the creator mentioned something called “The Goal System”. One quick Google search later, I’m reading about the SuperSystem game. This was a revolation for me, a super hero game that is just about the combat, this seemed to scratch an itch that I didn’t know I had. I was hooked, the next thing I had to do was find the perfect figures to play with.
I looked at the various figures available on the market right now. I found three real standouts. Heroclix, the Four Color figures sold by Old Glory, and the growing range of Pulp City figures. None of the three really spoke to me, they each have their advantages but none were in a style that I like. While perusing The Lead Adventures Forum, on of my favorites, I found a sculptor that was producing some great work. His supers were fantastic and he seemed to be looking for an outlet for this energy. A few emails later we were talking about how to produce a line of supers and we were both in, hook line and sinker.
Now, who would have the necessary funds to get this thing off the ground. Soapy sculpts for a living so he would not be able to put off his lively hood for a month to get things started. I have a day job, two night jobs, and three children. So not a lot of extra money for a project that might not make any money. That’s where Kickstarter comes in. To say it was perfect for us is an understatement.
It works like this, you tell the world your idea and show them what you’ve already done, and the world either likes your idea and agrees to fund your project for a reward or they don’t and you know maybe it wasn’t the best idea in the first place. Soapy agreed to sculpt six figures for the Kickstarter project page, which was very generous and quite a risk on his part. I knew that once I showed them to the world, there would be people that would want a piece of them. Now it was my turn to get to work.
I spent next two months pouring over Google and finding articles on successful Kickstarter campaigns and following projects on the site. There is QUITE a lot of prep work that needs to be done to figure out what your project will cost and how much to ask for. If you don’t make your monetary goal in Kickstarter, you don’t see a dime, it’s all or nothing. So for me that means I had to figure out the following:
- How much it was going to cost in sculpting
- How much the molds and production would be (all new info to me)
- Shipping rates
If you think getting hard numbers about producing miniatures is easy to find out, you’ve never tried. We are a niche industry, and possibly a niche within a niche. Most people involved in the industry are tough to get a hold of. To make it harder, many of the better professionals reside in the UK and I’m in the USA. Though my wife is a Brit and I lived in Aberdeen and Manchester for three years, it made many of the international barriers a little easier.
Once I knew the prices, I had to work through a timeline for getting everything done. Then it was on to figuring out how to reach all the potential backers. I searched forums and gaming boards, talked to people I know in the industry, other posters on boards. Eventually I found the places that people who might be interested in buying miniature super heroes might be. I also received many tips on places to post information from nice people on the forums that I did hit, see people are actually really nice.
By the time this was done, Soapy was sending me pictures of our figures. This made the whole struggle seem worthwhile. It was simply amazing to see my ideas in a solid form. Moral well and truly boosted, I was back at it, starting to put together my Kickstarter account and page. This meant lots of time spent with photoshop getting our photos in a nice presentation and getting the text together to sell the project. Writing convincing text is not my strong point, but I didn’t have a choice. I’d like to think that the hours that I spent creating the project page was worthwhile.
Perhaps the biggest stumbling point was navigating the Amazon payment system to setup an account. Once that was done, we were set to go. We had four figures to present, a Kickstarter account, and a lot of nervous energy.
The Campaign Begins
I started the Project at 11:30 at night so it would finish at a dramatic time for me. Leaving me enough time to cry into my pillow or go to bed full of possibilities. I choose 40 days as the project length, though I wish I had chosen 30. It was a LONG 40 days.
I then spent the next day signing up for every Super Hero message board I could find and posting about the project. Then I spent the rest of the day submitting news items to the various Wargaming new sites. Then I posted to every board that I was already active on.
One of the things I found is that many wargamers don’t really know that much about Kickstarter. The average age is much older than the average age of an “average” computer user. (That’s a lot of averages) AND they don’t like change very much. I’m also just some bloke who is showing four figures and asking for some money for something they would receive in 6 months. I had high hopes, but low to middling expectations.
Show Me the Money
We had a great start and the project had money rolling in for the first few days. We hit 44% of our funding goal in five days, FIVE DAYS! I was impressed, my wife couldn’t believe it. She doesn’t know the first thing about super heroes or miniatures and was surprised that people were willing to back it so quickly. I knew there were like minded people out there who were interested in the same things I was, but I was quietly smug that we were off to such a good start.
My iPad would ding every few hours with a new backer alert or a question from someone before they became a backer. I received messages about chatter from message boards and Personal messages from people offering advice or letting me know another place to post to gain more backers. It was fantastic. I would roll out of bed, fire up the ipad and check the new total. It was bliss!
Then we hit the doldrums. For the next 20 days, the project only raised an additional 11% of the funding. Many times going days without a new backer. Even worse, our largest backer pulled out! So one period was a negative progress! This was my personal low point in the project.
About 27 days into the project more money started to be pledged for about 5 days, during this time we met our monetary goal. I was ecstatic and made posts everywhere to try and get just a few dollars over the goal, we were only sitting about $30 over the goal. I was still very upset about the earlier pullout and was nervous that one person could pull out late in the project and undo everyone’s plans. At this point we hit another doldrums, and had a quite week.
About four days before the project ended, backers started to roll in again. This time we picked up quite a few backers from Kickstarter itself rather than our previous source of gaming and super hero RPG sites. In the end we blew our goal out of the water and raised 140% of the target money.
What a ride. I was extremely stressed from about seven days into the project until it finally finished. It’s hard to let your plans rest on the actions of others. I’m very much a “get it done” type of person. I have a similarly hard time with bidding on eBay. I’d much rather have someone tell me the price and I can decided whether I want to pay it. But at least with eBay, you can increase your bid, even if it’s not really worth the price your bidding. With Kickstarter, I never had the option to lower the total sought or contribute myself. If they catch you backing your own project, they cancel your project.
The Project is Over and Now the Waiting Begins
Now with the project fully funded, I’m waiting for my work to come to the front of the sculptor’s queue. It’s pretty much killing me. I’ve been whiling away the time with looking into things like shipping rates and methods. I’m going to open a store to sell the models that were brought to life in this project so that will occupy some time as well. I’m also getting registered as an LLC and many other things that come along with starting a business. There are things to do, maybe even paint a little as I didn’t have much spare time during the process.
My Thoughts on Kickstarter in General
IT IS FANTASTIC. I mean, what an amazing tool for creative projects. I was able to bring to life a fairly niche but expensive venture by finding around 50 like minded people in the world. Creating miniatures is very expensive and you never really know if the demand is there. This is exactly what Kickstarter is for.
I don’t think the world in general is ready for Kickstarter, but enough of it is that projects can succeed there. This is the complete democratization of the means of production. Instead of begging a company to produce what I wanted or waiting for someone else to do it, I was able bring this project together and get it funded. I did all this without some sort of tricky dealing with investors or returns or complications. In my case it worked very much like a pre-order, perfect and simple.
The goal of a Kickstarter project is to produce something, not to start a business. So, even though I will be starting a business, the Kickstarter project will be finished when the models are sent to the backers. Again, clear and concise boundaries for all those involved. I really think it’s a great system.
Some impediments to Kickstarter projects:
- Not everyone knows how it works (yet)
- Not everyone trusts the system (much like eBay when it started out)
- The system depends on Amazon Payments, and many of my potential backers preferred Paypal (could be a hobby industry thing as we’re used to using Paypal for our transactions)
Other than these few impediments, Kickstarter is a great system and will only continue to grow and bring more projects to the world.
That’s All for Now
I’ll write another post when I have more to say. Thanks for reading