How to fail at Kickstarter

5 Apr

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Well, I wanted to try it out.  I did – and it failed.

My Kickstarter campaign for Don Giovanni didn’t do quite what I wanted.  With a goal of raising $17,500 – I raised $2,270.  A thousand of that came from a truly awesome source (thank you again – you know who you are!) and the rest elsewhere (and you are all awesome as well).

So, you might be thinking I’m down in the dumps about it, but actually I’m not.  The reason being it was a first attempt at it and going into it I knew it would be a challenge.  I thought I’d discuss potentially why it did fail so maybe, just maybe, if you decide to go with a Kickstarter, you’ll have a few things to consider.

On a good note, when launching this project, I found that there is interest in it beyond me.  Yes, I wasn’t exactly close to my goal, but the supporters I had were truly supportive.  And some really big outside sources (big names in the industry, let’s just say) helped back it as well.  That makes me feel good about it and again confirms that I definitely want to complete this novel.  Just because it failed on Kickstarter doesn’t mean it’s not a good project.

One issue about it though is this:  You don’t know if it’s a good movie by watching the first five minutes.  Okay, that’s my clever analogy.

I put up the first seven pages of the novel.  I don’t think it’s enough to base the entire book off of.  In fact, the first seven pages tell little of the story.  There was a bit of a cliff-hanger in it, but I don’t know if it was enough to get a lot of people to fund it.

That being said, I believe when the novel is completed, people will be more into it once they can see more and know a bit more about it.

Don Giovanni has a very classic name as well.  I’m not sure if too many people associated it with opera so wanted nothing to do with it.  But, the name could have been a factor as well.  Maybe I should of named it just Don – or something totally different.  However, even after failing, I feel the name needs to stay the same.  That’s part of what makes it special.  After all – it IS Don Giovanni (a take off a Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart opera).  If you notice though, mine is completely different.  It takes place in a trailer park in Ohio and features mostly children.  Not fat men/women bellowing out Italian on stage.

Another factor is I don’t really have a major online presence with marketing.  I have this blog and Break of Day at  This blog is an excellent platform to market things, however, I haven’t always been too consistent on here and my readership isn’t massive.  The REAL successful Kickstarters tend to have a major following.  I think I have a pretty big following with my work (like Break of Day), but me personally, well, I’m don’t have a huge online presence.  So, when marketing my Kickstarter, I relied on Facebook, here (Nate’s Ramblings), Twitter, press releases, interviews, emails, talking with people and others.  I had some great shout-outs, mentions and post about Don Giovanni including at The Daily Cartoonist and Andrew Farago of The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco and more, but it wasn’t exactly enough.  I’m guessing if I had tens of thousands of followers on Nate’s Ramblings, readers like yourself and others would probably be more aware of me and therefore support the project more.

I’ve always admitted to be bad at marketing, but that’s no excuse.  I did learn some new marketing things from all this and so that’s a plus!

My $17,500 goal obviously played a big role in failing as well.  That’s a big chunk o’ change.  However, I didn’t just pull that number out of my behind (which would’ve been gross anyhow).  Nope.  I based it off of printing cost, an editor and just some compensation so I would have the time to do it.  I would have not worked on other projects that pay my bills to complete Don, and so, that’s why it was high.  But again, that’s a big number to hit.  And when you add in the not-so-big online following, well, you know.

It’s funny because I could sorta tell from the beginning (launch) of my Kickstarter that it wasn’t exactly going to take-off.  I just had that intuition.

It didn’t create “buzz” – which is needed as well.  I’ve noticed the successful ones usually take-off a bit right at first.  And if not at first, after a week or so.  Mine didn’t.

I actually emailed a guy that works at Kickstarter and asked for some constructive criticism of how my project looked, what I could do different, etc.  I told him to be brutally honest.  He wrote back and said everything looked good.  The video I did (which was nothing fancy) came across as genuine and sincere (which I was), the first seven pages looked good and the levels of pledging were also up to par.

So, again, what went wrong?

I think that’s something we’ll never know exactly, but I believe it was just a combination of things.  All the possibilities of what would persuade someone not to pledge I think I mentioned.  When you added the all up, it just wasn’t’ enough to hit $17,500.

I’m actually excited that it failed in some regards (and honestly, I use the term ‘failed’ loosely, because I don’t think it failed if I tried – I learned things).  Of course it would have been exciting to hit my goal, to get it funded and get to work.  But, that’s not the way things always happen.  And the possibilities of getting a REAL publisher with Don Giovanni is very exciting.

I plan on definitely, as I’ve mentioned, finishing this novel.  I want to do more graphic novels as well.  I’ve found that I enjoy what I’ve done so far and this is just the beginning.  And speaking of publishers, I’ve already submitted it off to one.

The Kickstarter was a first attempt.  Like learning to ride a bike, I fell off.  BUT, I’ve learned a few things on the way, had fun trying and I actually got a lot out of it.  And unlike falling off a bike, I didn’t hurt anything – not even my wallet.  (The good thing about Kickstarter is there’s really no initial investment – just time.)  It was like taking the over in a football game.  It was somewhat like running for office with all the campaigning.  Through it all though, I learned there were definitely people interested in Don Giovanni, just not enough people knew about it or who pledged.

It’s going to take a few extra steps for me, but hey, nothing wrong with stepping.

Below:  The first seven pages of Don Giovanni

Pg. 1 Don Giovanni Pg. 2 Don Giovanni Pg. 3 Don Giovanni Pg. 4 Don Giovanni Pg. 5 Don Giovanni Pg. 6 Don Giovanni Pg. 7 Don Giovanni


7 Responses to “How to fail at Kickstarter”

  1. Leroy Brown April 5, 2013 at 4:59 pm #

    Hey Nate,

    my Kickstarter project was a big eye opener as well. Although I did succeed in raising the $3400 to print the first ICECUBES book ( it was in large part due to efforts offline. We did a real-life fundraiser party mainly for family and friends and that helped push us over the top. I think without the real face to face party, the funds never would have been pledged. I billed it as a book pre-sale as well, so that pledgers were actually buying their own numbered collectors edition. Anyway, my take is that Kickstarter works well for projects that already have a large following, which is not easy to achieve when trying something new. Thanks for your insight on the matter, I share a lot of those thoughts.

    • w101njf April 5, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

      First off, congrats on funding the book! Also, yeah – I could have done much more in person I’m guessing. My graphic novel is a bit off-the-wall so I wasn’t sure how to approach it really with people and thought just ‘putting it out there’ was the best way. But at any rate, I learned a lot and glad I gave it a go. Thanks for the insight! I always am interested on what other Kickstarter projects did to get funded.

  2. David Hurley April 5, 2013 at 8:01 pm #

    I for one will donate when you decide to do it again. I’m glad you tried and looking forward to it.

    • w101njf April 6, 2013 at 4:52 am #

      Thank you, David! Not sure I’ll go the way of the Kickstarter, but you never know. At any rate, I’ll keep you posted!

  3. bearmancartoons April 11, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    Woo hoo my money is safe!! Aww I mean sorry you didn’t make it.

    It is funny. I have no delusions about while I have plenty of “fans” that when it comes to forking over the money, few will do it for my stuff. Go with indiegogo next time…at least you would have got to keep the $2000…but then you still would have had to deliver.

    • w101njf April 12, 2013 at 5:10 am #

      I keep hearing that about Indiegogo….might be a good thing to check out. Thing is, I don’t think I could do it with $2,000 without having people wait for over a year….

      Don is off to the publishers for now. We shall see! Thanks though for contributing to it – and yes – your money is safe for now. (For NOW….you better still buy a copy down the road, dammit! :))


  1. | Nate's Ramblings - April 19, 2013

    […] it.  And so forth.  I really learned that followers would have helped from my recently failed Kickstarter.  I believe that my lack of followers contributed to it’s demise.  Of course I have quite […]

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