Self Fulfilling Cancellation
Another good man down. Today I saw a good project that was on its way to a tight but achievable funding cancelled. Reasons were given that I don’t really understand, and again I saw the reactions on social media that Kickstarter is only for the big companies, that its only a pre-order system, that its not for the small or independent creators anymore. So, this is something of an open letter to small independent creators and something of a rant to the world at large, but it boils down to one simple idea, see it out for goodness sakes.
First of all, there is a place on Kickstarter for small independents, I should know, I’m a small independent and I’ve found a place on Kickstarter. I post projects with honest goals timed to fill those goals. I fund in week two of the project and that’s actually what I’m aiming for. A couple of years ago when I posted SSO on Kickstarter the popular opinion was that a solid, reliable project should hit around 30-40% in the first 48 hours and fund in around 20-24 days of launch, possibly with a little overfunding. Somehow in the two years since then that standard advice has morphed into that you should hit 100% in the first 48 hours and that if you haven’t made 100% by the end of day three or four you should cancel. I want to make this very clear, if you are a small independent, particularly if you are a first-time creator, that advice is bad and damaging.
Running a Kickstarter is an emotional roller coaster, if you’re putting your own money into it and you have no previous experience of doing it even more so. Even if you have a great start, 60% in the first 48 hours (and that is a great start, that’s an amazing start) you’ll generally have the lizard brain screaming in your head that you’ve failed and everyone hates you and you should crawl under a rock and die for daring to put yourself out into the world. To then hear that the apparent accepted wisdom is that you indeed should is a form of pernicious poison.
There is only one sort of company and one sort of project that can reliably expect to fund in the first 48 hours, a big company with a pre-order of a game that is certain to be a success. Small independents can do it, but they might not and they shouldn’t expect to do so. If we insist that only projects that fund in the first two or three days be allowed to continue then yes, Kickstarter will be a place for nothing but big projects from big companies running pre-order systems.
Technically that’s untrue, there are other projects that can be certain of funding in the first 48 hours, ones that set a low budget with the intention of overfunding or that self-fund to get a banner up. So, we might get lucky enough to have a Kickstarter that is half big companies with pre-order systems and half creators with false budgets and obscure funds that end up on the controversial and fraudulent lists.
If you are a creator and you cancel on anything over 40% in the first week, you’ve given up your right to complain about Kickstarter being all big companies and big projects, because you are part of the reason that Kickstarter is becoming about big companies and big projects. If you want Kickstarter to feature small projects that don’t overfund particularly, that are modest and realistic with project lengths and goals that are honest and realistic then you need to be the change you want to see in the world on this issue. You need to stand up and run a small project with a 30-day span and a £6k goal that funds on day 20 and gets to 110%. Big companies aren’t going to stop being big companies and no one should expect them to, the lack of small, brave, honest projects that battle through to a tight finish isn’t the fault of big companies, it’s the fault of small, brave, honest creators who aren’t willing to battle through to a tight finish. Its hard, its painful and I say all of this having not had to scrabble until the last days of a project myself, but its how it is.
If you’re a backer and most of your pledges go towards projects that are already funded, then don’t complain that Kickstarter only contains projects that don’t need your backing. If you want it to attract campaigns that need the help, then when you see them, help them. Step back your expectations for five review videos to just two written reviews, let it slide if the project video isn’t a Hollywood production, back something that doesn’t come in a box you could be buried in. When you back a project that could have succeeded and see it cancelled, call that creator to account. Be upset that they didn’t fight it out, complain that they didn’t have as much enthusiasm for the campaign as you did.
We get the Kickstarters that we deserve. If we support a culture where the only projects that fund are the ones that knew they were going to fund going in then that’s all we’ll get and that’s all we’ll deserve. A small independent from a first-time creator won’t know that its going to fund until it does, and its not going to fund until well into the project and we need to support that, if we want that to be the norm, we need to make it the norm.