Kickstarter compiles a lot of really great analytic information about their projects, which is really great for users who want to find out where they went right and where they missed the mark. Every project has a "Dashboard" that users can visit periodically to track the status of their project and view a lot of graphs and charts concerning their backers and pledges.
Below I will post the results for the Psi-punk Kickstarter for each of the topics they cover, and I will muse a little bit about what I feel that means in regards to the success or failure of certain aspects of my campaign. Hopefully this will help future Kickstarter projects both for myself and for you, the reader.
During the 39 days of the Psi-punk Kickstarter campaign we had 111 backers pledge $4,669 of a $4,500 goal, or a funding level of 103.75%.
There were times when some people (admittedly, myself included) were concerned with the success of the project. However, we eventually pulled together and earned $169 above our stated goal, which to me is a huge success. While we lack the big name and appeal of major projects, we proved that the community really is ready to help fund people who have big ideas but small budgets.
Kickstarter tracks the overall Funding Progress of the campaign. The end result is a graph that shows how many dollars have been pledged by a certain date. Here's what the Psi-punk graph looks like:
We hit 30% of our funding within the first week. After that, there was a slow trickle of pledges that ultimately led to a huge surge at the end of the campaign. We still had roughly 25% of the funding to to go by the time the last two days rolled around, but once Kickstarter started sending out 48-hour reminders to backers the pledges started rolling in again.
Kickstarter suggests a campaign length of 30 days is sufficient for most projects. I opted to shoot for closer to 45 days because, I felt like I needed additional time to advertise, and I think that ultimately this helped. Though I wasn't able to attribute any of the pledge funds directly tot he interviews I did (more on that later), I feel like they had an impact on the campaign and that if I only had 30 days to raise funds I wouldn't have had the opportunity to get in as many as I did; as it was, some of the interviews and events I did really came down to the wire (like the live demonstration I did with Chris Perrin and Wayne Humfleet.)
Kickstarter keeps track of where backers come from. This, in my opinion, is some of the most useful analytic information. I always want to know where my time and effort is paying off and where I can stand to cut a few corners.
According to Kickstarter, $1,533 came directly from services they offer. We'll break this down a little bit more later, but supposedly 33% of my funds came from KS services. Not bad considering they're only taking a 5% cut.
One of the other interesting statistics is that my average pledge amount was $42.06. This is a solid average pledge level for an RPG, especially since a softcover copy of the book was going for $30. We'll break down pledges by reward level in a bit.
Following is a breakdown of referral traffic in a helpful table that Kickstarter provides (my apologies if the table breaks the browser).
Rows that are highlighted represent Kickstarter sources.
As you can see, we gained backers from a wide variety of sources. It's hard to know exactly what "direct traffic" refers to in regards to where the traffic was from, so I will assume that it's links people clicked from instant messages, typed into their browser from untraceable sources, etc.
Beyond direct traffic, Google+ was a big champion for me. Perhaps this is because I have more followers on the G+ network than any other, or perhaps it's because there is such a great RPG following on G+. Either way, I'm glad that I have met everyone I have on Google+, and I can tell you that at least 6 of those 10 referrals came within the last 24 hours!
Also, 6 total referrals from RPGGeek/BoardGameGeek is impressive. I have spent the last year and a half or more getting to know people on RPGGeek (it's where I met Melissa Gay and was also the source for my interview with FutilePosition.com), so it's great to see that the community is really into helping each other out.
One thing I did note is that I got 0 backers from RPG.net, the Inter net's biggest RPG messageboard. I did post about the Kickstarter on that forum several times and each post received around 100 views, yet I had 0 referrals. Is this because I am not a regular member at RPG.net? I am not trying to say that all members of the RPG.net community are unwilling to back projects from people they don't know, but I am not a regular poster on ENWorld either and I received one referral from that website.
When comparing RPG.net to RPGGeek, I think it goes to show that who you know is very important. I've spent a long time getting to know the RPGGeek community and next to no time getting to know the RPG.net community, and look who was more forthcoming. It may pay in the future to get involved on other websites, but how does one have time to post regularly everywhere on the Internet? (/idle musings)
The same could be said about my choice of social networking sites. I have a smaller following on Twitter than I do on G+, and a far smaller following on Facebook (due to my bias against it, I am sure). These numbers could probably be easily reversed if I were more active on all social networking sites.
It is interesting to see how each reward level fared. Here's a column graph of rewards that shows how popular each was:
There were almost as many $30 rewards (softcover book + PDF) as there were $15 rewards (PDF only). I received feedback from some folks saying that they would have pledged at the $30 reward level if they were in the US, but since they had to include an extra $15 for international shipping they chose to go with the digital-only reward level of $15. On the other hand, I also saw a lot of pledges for $45; apparently the sofctocver is in pretty high demand despite its higher shipping cost.
About half as many peopled pledged at the $50 level (hardcover + PDF) as the $30 level. I think it's plain to see the value of a hardcover book when it comes to full-featured core books for RPGs. A lot of people were willing to make that extra $20 push to get the superior cover.
Of particular note with this chart is the lack of $100-level backers. 0 people backed at this level, which included a signed hardcover and a t-shirt. Clearly the value of a t-shirt and a signature is not $50 and I will adjust accordingly in the future.
5 people pledged at the $150 level, which includes having an image of the backer drawn by our artist. Very few of these rewards were selected until the last few hours of the last day though, and part of that I attribute to the fact that people just wanted to make sure the project was funded successfully. It was sort of a "sweet spot" for people who had enough money to pledge but didn't want to sell themselves short with just a book and a t-shirt.
Finally, 1 person backed at the $325 level which includes a Google Hangout game and a pizza, in addition to the option to help write a mega-corporation for the game. To be completely transparent, this reward level did go to a family member (who is really excited about the game regardless) but nobody else took me up on this offer or the $700 offer. I am not certain if it is because people simply lacked the money after GenCon or if the reward levels weren't worth it to someone who has never even played a game written by the author before. Perhaps in the future some more of the high-level rewards will sell out.
Project Video Stats
This last category relates to the project video. It's a little embarrassing, but I'll post the figures anyway.
Of the 565 people who clicked the Play button, only 43.19% of them bothered to watch the entire video. I know a lot of people weren't terribly excited by it, but that goes to show that the backing video is really important.
To be honest, I didn't own any video recording equipment (even a webcam) and I didn't really know anyone who I could borrow one from (nobody else in my personal circles have one either). I had a few offers to do voiceovers for the PowerPoint presentation that I made, but I liked the idea of using a synthesized voice for a cyberpunk game. Plus, as someone who is legally blind and who depends on screen reader software for daily computer use, I thought it would be interesting to show others what a computer voice was really like.
Apparently, nobody was really buying it. One Google+ comment said that whoever made the video should be "hunted down and beaten with a stick" and that the computer voice "made my brain bleed." Ouch. A bit harsh, in my opinion, but it goes to show that not everyone appreciates that style.
Now that I do own a webcam and am becoming more comfortable with using it, future videos will at the very least feature my own face talking at the camera. Whether or not I will be able to pay someone to do fancy intros and effects remains to be seen.
Dollars and Cents
It may be taboo to talk about money, but I think this information is really important for anyone thinking of starting a Kickstarter campaign.
As I mentioned before, we raised $4,669 for Psi-punk. That's pretty public; it's in giant text on the Kickstarter page. What's less known is how much the project owner actually gets to "take home" from that.
Kickstarter takes a 5% cut of the pie, like I mentioned before. This wound up being $233.45. Amazon also takes an amount that ranges somewhere between 3% and 5%. In my case, it was 3.74% for a total of $174.60. That means my total "take home" was $4260.95. Amazon puts a 14-day hold on merchant accounts that are less than 6 months old, to ensure there aren't any disputes or chargebacks, so I won't actually get to touch any of that money for two weeks.
-233.45 (5% to Kickstarter)
-170.60 (3.74% to Amazon)
Total amount paid in fees: $404.05
About $3400 of that is reserved for art, editing, and layout. That leaves me with approximately $861 to fulfill all of the backer rewards. I have read that one can expect to pay anywhere from 15% to 20% of the funding total in fulfillment costs, which isn't very good news for me.
$4669 * 15% = $700.35 -- $861 - 700.35 = ~160
$4669 * 20% = $933.8 -- $861 - 933.8 = ~-73
Will I wind up paying $73 out of my own pocket to fulfill rewards for a book I spent 2 and a half years designing and publishing? I sure hope not. As much as I know this is a labor of love, not a labor of profit, I must admit that idea doesn't appeal to me.
This potential issue isn't for lack of budgeting, either. I'm not a mathematician, but I did spend some time carefully considering and planning the funding goal. However, there are a lot of unknown variables -- particularly international shipping costs and the actual amount that Amazon will claim as their own, as well as the total amount of actual dollars pledged.
I knew that, even at $4,500 ($500 more than I originally wanted to ask for) I would be taking a bit of a risk. But to me, I decided it was worth it because I really believe in Psi-punk and I really want to get it to market.
At the very least, I can rest easy knowing that $4260.95 was not coming out of my own pocket up front. That's a risk that traditional publishers have to take, for an uncertain return on investment.
I will post an update in a few months once fulfillment is actually finished so we can all see what it took to complete this process. If nothing else, it's going to be a great learning experience.
There is a lot of information to be gleaned from Kickstarter. These statistics are helpful when considering one's marketing strategy and effectiveness. I can't go back and change things now, but I can use this information to improve future projects.
With any luck, this information has been helpful not just to me but to someone else out there. If you're thinking about starting a Kickstarter campaign, I encourage you to consider some of these thoughts and to look at what others are doing. I learned a lot about reward structures just by looking at other related projects, but as you can see I still fell short on at least one of them.
If you have any questions about any of the above information, or if you'd like to comment about your own experiences with Kickstarter, please feel free to do so in the comments!