An Erfworld song, and some Kickstarter thoughts
This is a post about Kickstarters, and about ideas, and plans, and the value (and limitations) of good advice.
But first, a song about Erfworld, by Jonah Knight. This is a scratch track. A full version with rhythm and instrumentality will be on his next album.
Some of you might remember from our first KS project in 2012 that the stretch goals got a little out of hand. One of the things we funded which still hasn't come true yet was a CD of Erfworld songs. I think we're finally going to be able to start that stretch project by the end of this year, and I'm hoping the full version of "For the World" will be a part of it.
Jonah Knight is a friend of mine, an indie musician and podcaster and all-around hoopy frood. I met him a few years ago at Capclave, where he attended a workshop I was giving about career planning for creatives, so we share an interest in that whole "how do we make a living at this stuff" question.
No surprise that Jonah has had a few Kickstarter projects, too. He launched his latest when our latest one had a week to go, and I shamelessly stole the "download card" add-on idea from him.
Which brings me around to the reason I'm writing this post. Obviously, I'm a big cheerleader for crowdfunding. Erfworld would be dead in the water without it. So I'm serious about learning all I can about it, and about helping other creators use it, especially if they're Erfworld fans.
While our September project was going on, two Erfworld fans—Gunter Schlueter and Marshall Todt—approached me for help promoting their projects.
Gunter has a project for a miniatures game, called Teams! Minis. He emailed me before his project launched and I gave him some feedback on his pledge levels and his project story, which he incorporated before launch. I promised to help him promote it, and so that was the "Kicking it Forward" banner on our sidebar for about a week.
Marshall (aka Tigerusthegreat on the forums) has a custom campaign setting for 5th edition D&D called The Septs of Litrilla that he wants to publish. He needs to raise a grand to do it. He linked me the project after it was live, and I gave him some immediate feedback. The project page was a wall of text and had no video or any graphics, so I made him a project graphic and some header graphics and told him he should make a video about the setting.
Both these projects have a long way to go, and they may not reach their funding goal.
I'm usually happy to help a project, but I am not always sure that I have the power to do anything. Erfworld's projects have had these wonderful, often eye-popping results for one simple reason: we've been making this comic for nine years, and in that time, people have come to care a lot about seeing it continue. If you didn't start your comic three years before Kickstarter existed, and have the good luck to launch it on the site of one of the best webcomics ever, then you're not going to be able to get your pledges the same way we get ours.
Except for certain gadget projects, the main difference between a project that makes $500 and one that makes $500,000 is the existing brand value behind it. By that I mean the number of people who already know what you do, and how much they care about it. A good Kickstarter project is a way for people to express their support for something which matters to them.
If you're starting out where your work is unknown, then your project has to somehow make people care about what you want to do. That's much harder to pull off. Erfworld's audience is large and supportive...of Erfworld. I can help get a few people to look at your project page, but I can't make anyone care.
For anyone in that position, my advice is to keep your goals reasonable and make your project so personal and compelling that someone will take a chance on donating even though they've never heard of you. Jonah's goal is very reasonable, and he has an audience standing by to support him at that level. Marshall's goal is also pretty reasonable for what he's offering, but he should make an even better case for why Septs of Litrilla is an awesome setting, and do more footwork to get the word out in front of people who appreciate a well-thought-out 5e campaign setting.
Gunter, on the other hand, tells me that he's already come to grips with the fact that $20,000 may have been too much to shoot for right out of the gate. If his project does not reach its goal (and hey, it still might), then he's got a smaller, intermediate goal in mind to buy some of the equipment he would need to start building the game. He'll do a new project and try again, using the lessons he learned this time around. That's the right attitude. We try things, sometimes they even work.
I will continue to do everything I can in support of other people's projects. But doing that makes me truly appreciate the position we are in, with all of you out there to come through for us when we need it. And I just want to say that I will continue to be very careful to ask you only for the help we really need, and I never take your generosity for granted.
As we wrap up another successful project (and start forward into what I think will be the best time in Erfworld's history), I'd like to ask you to take a serious look at these creators' projects and consider pledging to help them along as well (especially Jonah, if you liked his song). Thanks as always.
Thanks for mentioning my small project here (that I am thinking is a bit doomed to failure due to its poor start). If I can offer my advice I would say if you have a dream that can only be reached through crowd funding, try to grow an audience for it first before seeking out support. One of the reasons erfworld consistently raises it's desired funding is that the team here has consistently delivered free, awesome material and strives to deliver on promises even through hardships.
Thanks for being awesome, guys.