How to maintain your sanity while working on a kickstarter project
How to make a kickstarter book project not a pain in the ass — the ultimate list of to do’s.
My story starts with a mug of coffee splatted over a conceptual paper. Why? Because that’s how all kickstarter stories start. With something you do not expect.
And because a coffee stain on paper is not enough for a good stories, I let it dry, drew around it and created the first ever coffeemonster. ☕️ That’s drawings of monsters created from coffee stains. A couple of years later, I made a dream come true and created a book full of my drawings of coffeemonsters and funded it with the help of 445 kickstarter supporters from all around the world.
This is my story of fails and wonderful learnings finalized in a spreadsheet of to do’s before, while and after putting up your book project on kickstarter.
tldr: You’ll find the spreadsheet at the end of this article
“Lehrgeld bezahlen.” is a german phrase which translates to “learn it the hard way”. But “Geld” means “money” and I want you to save yours as I have already spend a lot more of mine than actually had been necessary. 😭
You may be good in this or that, but in a kickstarter project that you manage alone, you need to be great in everything from communication, planning, creating, making to execution — and finally shipping the stuff out into the whole world (heads ups: which broke my financial neck).
As another book-kickstarter named “Mr. f**king Bingo” pointed out: “Running a Kickstarter is like lying under a pile of bricks and every time I get a new message, it’s like a new brick being placed on the pile, slowly squeezing the last bits of life out of me and pushing me nearer to my eventual kickstarter fueled death.” And that is exactly how Ifelt from time to time during the project, even if mine has been way, way, way smaller than his.
How I approached my kickstarter book project and what I did learn to maintain sanity
As I am a creative person and not a project manager I was struggling hard with all the planning and I have to admit: I did not plan anything beforehand. That makes me really really not a planning person. I live from day to day, figuring out the stuff that is thrown at me. I’m running good with this and I’m a fast thinker. That’s what is rescuing me all the time, but in a kickstarter it sucks when you end up loosing your money and sanity while working that way.
So what would I say to myself, if I would start right now? “Stop working like that right now and write down what you need!” What you really need is a plan with lists and hold them dear, because in the long run it will safe you money, mind and time.
Lists – you’ll learn to love them
Lists are good. Period. I did not love them, but they work. I create mine on paper, not on any app because I tend to forget that I have apps that can do such things, but if you’re into this “always-on” thing, go ahead. Install one. Grab a piece of paper. Whatever.
First bullets should be:
- What is the project / Presentation
- Helping hands & People — you’ll need them
- Third-party suppliers — be early!
- Timings — you’ll hate them
- Emails — painful but necessary
What is the project / Presentation
Describe to yourself in a max. of 3 sentences, what the project is about, how you’re going to make it happen and why you started it. The why will keep you pushing, the how will remind you that you can make it and the what is your goal. Put that on a sheet and print it out.
Helping Hands & People
Just ask yourself one question: “When this gets out of hand and undoable on my own, who will I call for help?”
I ended up calling my best friends, colleagues and my sister. It was absolutely inevitable when it came to closing the project and packing up 445 parcels. We made it happen with 3–4 people working for roundabout 2 days straight.
Third Party Suppliers
This is important. The question here is: “What do I need to fulfill the project?” Fulfillment is from “Where do I get a good scan for my sketchbooks?” or “Where do I learn how instagram-ads work?” or “Which printer is worth their money?” to “How much is the shipping price for Germany > Singapur?”.
As my project was based on a very “designy” approach, I wanted my book to look amazing on a coffee table, with an amazing feel in your hands and perfect readability. I needed every step to be as good as it gets for the smallest money possible without degrading the product to something less than a great graphic book.
The list for my book would look somewhat like this from important to “could be”.
A TPS-List that may help with your kickstarter
• Find a great printer
• Ask the printer for a price and
• for the calculated product weight (!)
• for the production time
• for exact production and print specs
• Follow all the steps above with your perks.
• find the right shipping partner (e.g. Deutsche Post, UPS, Hermes, FedEx, etc.)
• Be clear about what you send out (small boxes only? also big ones?)
• Find a place where to buy the right packaging for a good price
• Be sure to calculate every single perk on it’s own (shipment + packaging price + perk price + standard production price)
• Pro-Tip! Call the specific partner and talk about it with an expert
Find places to spread the news. People need to hear about your project. Ask yourself:
• Do I know someone in media/magazine/influencer e.g.?
• Where would I want to read about my book? Send them a mail or better call them!
• Where are the people roaming, that need to see my book? Let them know!
• Could I do an ad for the project or is this too expensive? Search for facebook/instagram Ad-pricing or hire an expert.
• Get creative.
Publishing — Get in touch with a publisher and talk about your project
• This is a bonus
• It can end up with you having a contract with a publisher and your book in all the book stores of your country (not exactly what happened to me, but a lot of stores have my book and you can order it in any german bookstore)
• It makes things easier, as they have done this before and you will learn a lot from them.
Calculation of prices / This broke my financial calculation
This is the most important section of all time. Really. At least, if you do not want to lose your money. Kickstarter (2016) calculated prices like this:
Product + Shipping + Vat = Product (!)
As you see, the product price is not the product price and you cannot change it after it is set. Back then I started my campaign and in the end realized I did only calculate the price for the product, not the product, shipping and VAT combined. But you must set the price of the product to the combined price.
Be sure to calculate the following to find your product or perk price:
- Product cost
- Perk Cost
- Packaging Cost
- Shipping Cost (global average, calculated per product/perk)
- eventually VAT
These 5 costs must be added. The result is your product price.
That broke my neck and I barely made it to zero losses. At least I have made a great book. ;)
Create a great and easy to read monthly or weekly plan with exact dates when and where what will need to be done. It’s not that tricky, just setting up deadlines for production. If you don’t the project will just vanish and there will be a lot of frustrated people asking for their money back.
Do set up a new email account or at least create a good filtering system, as the kickstarter supporters will spam you with
• Supporter Mail
• General Comments
and so on. I’m just saying: be prepared that this stuff will hit your inbox.
As you see, there is so much to do and to keep in mind. I bet I forgot half of the process already, but let me tell you one thing: keep calm. It’s all ok. The good thing about kickstarter is: Noone really thinks it will ever work out the exact way you planned it and people are more likely to forgive timing issues and other problems if you keep them in the loop. ;)
Copy the spreadsheet for a successful kickstarter start right here:
“How to maintain sanity in the midst of a kickstarter” … will be another article or a neverarticle. I’m procrastinating this one since 2017, so here in 2021 this first part should do. Hope you enjoyed it a bit and the sheet is a good start for you and your project. :)