I got this question from a pal on Twitter about my Kickstarter campaign:

 But may I ask how you were able to get so many backers? It’s incredible! How did you promote, advertise and spread the word about your project? What’s the trick? I would really like to know how this works.

Any help would be hot. :)

I didn’t go into Kickstarter knowing anything about the process. I was in contact with a few friends who had successful kickstarter campaigns: Kazu Kibuishi, Jake Parker and Jason Brubaker. They didn’t make it sound easy, but they made it sound possible. That was all I needed. At the time that I launched my own campaign, I looked up every project that launched within my category of book making and comics and I looked at what failed and what succeeded. The problem is that most of the things that succeeded weren’t necessarily the kind of project I was thinking of, while the projects that fail are from every type and style of book imaginable.

There’s one great thing about Kickstarter, which is that it doesn’t cost anything to fail. There aren’t a lot of things in life that are like that, so all I had was my pride at stake to get kicked if it didn’t work, and my pride has a lot of scar tissue on it by now, so why not?

My backers aren’t entirely from my list of Kickstarter friends (4,000) or from Twitter (5500), but that gave me a good head start. About 500 of my donors came from those lists. One thing I didn’t anticipate was that I would gain about 1,000 followers on Twitter from having run my Kickstarter campaign! It was the new people that spread the word to their own networks that I didn’t have access to. They did it, not me.

The project itself is what ends up driving the donors, because people don’t buy things from me they don’t want. I could just as easily have made a different project and the exact same bidders would have said, “We don’t want this.” I’ve thought of doing a board game, a card game, a video game and an animated short, and it didn’t seem like the right timing, the Sketchbook seemed like the best idea… and my audience confirmed my hunch.

The launch of the project is when it’s at its greatest risk of failing, because after one day I might have only had 50-100 or so donors. You have to get those donors to be proud enough of the project to think their friends would also want to buy into the project. That’s why Kickstarter is just like any other free market idea… people don’t spend their money on well wishes and good intent. They really do want to be excited about something and they can’t fake their interest in something they don’t want or need.

I’d like to pause for a second and offer a consolation for projects that don’t work out. Don’t be discouraged. I have a ton of projects and ideas that I try to launch that fail or fizzle out. I’ve read enough about all of our great inventors and idea men that their past is littered with more failures than successes. The one attribute that separates successful people from failures isn’t creativity, but perseverance. Are you the kind of person to try something even after failing in a big way? 

Let me get back to answering your question. I don’t consider 1,725 people that many donors. Other guys like Jake Parker and the Creature Box guys had many MORE donors than I did and they didn’t even have the notoriety or fame of making Earthworm Jim and Neverhood in their corner. That’s how you know it’s the actual project that people want… it’s not based on the fame or marketing, it’s the thing itself that gets the donations. There are lots of great people making projects and I just don’t really want the project. Guess what? They still can’t get me to donate. It’s the project, it’s the project, it’s the project. Ask yourself if you didn’t know you, what would you buy from you?

While you can advertise your campaign, you don’t have to because Kickstarter already is a marketplace. Hot projects float to the top because even Kickstarter gets a cut of projects so that if they want to remain profitable, they want popular projects to rise up. They don’t want you to fail. If a project fails, it fails for very good reasons.

So the trick ends up being what all of us in mass media stay up at night thinking about… what do I want to make that enough people want? I’m still baffled by this and I’m the author of 14 books that haven’t lost money. My most popular projects aren’t necessarily what I would bet money would have been popular and some of my favorite “sure fire” projects were my biggest market failures.

Like everything in mass media, Kickstarter doesn’t lie. Give your best project your best shot and let the audience of donors educate you about your tastes. That’s what I did, and I was completely surprised (and humbled) by the response I got.