Kickstarter is a horrible nightmare zone that will take years off your life and root through your pockets for change when it’s done. It’s a miasmic catastrophe carnival that sometimes spits out rent money. “Winning” Kickstarter is one of the hardest things you can do, and often requires use of techniques some may call…unnatural.
Disclaimer: Some of the techniques listed in this article are explicitly against the Terms of Service of Kickstarter. This article is not an admission of guilt, nor is it an endorsement of these techniques, it is merely a list of activities many campaign runners make use of that the author has observed in their time in the industry.
#1 – Spamming Everyone In The World
If there is one entry on this list that you absolutely must do, it’s this. Every single Kickstarter ever run has succeeded based almost entirely on how many people the campaign runner could beg for a retweet, shoutout, podcast spot, blog post, or whatever. It feels scummy, you feel gross afterwards, and you worry about burning all your friendships with every message and email you send.
Here’s the secret.
No one gives a fuck.
Every single creator you know has been in the exact same boat as you are right now. Every single person has hovered over the “Send” button on a DM they copy and pasted from another window targeted to someone they kinda sorta know in passing. All of us have sent hundreds of blind emails and messages to people hoping for a lil love on a tweet or a campaign page, maybe even a new backer. All of us.
It never gets easier, and you will feel pretty gross afterwards, but I promise you the overwhelming vast majority of us are going to happily retweet whatever you send along and forget about it within the hour. And the rest of us are gonna skip to the “forget about it within the hour” step.
Now, I do want to coach this one a little. You know your own limits best when it comes to mental health and social anxiety. If DMing a stranger is more than you can handle that day, don’t feel pressured to do it just cause it’s common practice. I’m just here to tell you it’s not gonna get you in trouble with anyone that matters.
#2 – Getting your bud to post about you on reddit/a forum
So you launched your campaign, and you are desperately looking for someone, anyone, to tell about your project. It’s week 2 and you’ve exhausted your network and all your best ideas are done and you still don’t have the momentum you need to feel comfortable. You eye some “How to Win At Kickstarter” articles and they all talk some nonsense about “Join communities early and be a valuable member of those circles. Do this months and months before you launch” and you’re like
Listen, we’ve all been there. You didn’t want to join Goof Gregs Roleplaying Emporium cause all your friends said Goof Greg is a nazi and half the threads are about something called “DiceGate” that seems to just be a concentrated hate campaign against every woman that has ever lived. That place sucks.
Well turns out that place is also where all the popular white dudes with youtube channels and podcasts hang out. Oopsie. Woops. Oops. Woopsie. And it’s too late to sign up now, cause the board has a ton of rules about self promo. Maybe you could drop a link in the “Kickstarters Promo Megathread” but it has 2 views a day and one of them is you.
Ok so here’s what everyone else does. They ask their friends for help.
(astute readers will notice “asking friends for help” is like half of these tips.)
Goof Gregs Roleplaying Emporium is the most popular TTRPG site in the world. This means at least one of your dopey ass friends has an account that they’re a lil embarrassed about. Or they know someone who does. Reach out. Find this clown and ask them very very nicely if they wouldn’t post a thread about your kickstarter in the correct forum and following all the correct rules about it. Sweeten the pot if you can, make it worth their while and don’t be disrespectful to your friend, but ask.
The best way to do this and make sure you’re not caught out as a sock btw is to have them talk about the game like it’s something they just stumbled upon while highlighting something cool about the game that the posters of Goof Gregs will love, “Oh I just backed this cause I love the artwork” or “I love the shuffleboard mechanics” all that kinda patter.
Now, it is always always always better to do the footwork beforehand. No tactic, trick, or scheme beats having a community at your back. The data backs this up time and time again. If you can, start today, join some forums, join some discords, be an active member, make friends. If you do it right, you will succeed. But if you just can’t, this is a perfectly valid backup plan.
#3 – Self Funding
Aw yeah now we’re into the real skeevy shit boiiiii
I wanna break character for a second and say upfront, this is 100% against the Kickstarter ToS. I’ve never done this, and I don’t recommend you do. You can, in theory, have your project pulled and your account banned from Kickstarter for doing this. But everyone does it. Just do you know.
So, this is probably going to be the one that catches some flak. But listen, everybody does this. Big big producers, little indie ones, everyone jukes the stats. But there’s no sense in backing yourself just to hit funded, that’s silly, you’ll be out cash and you won’t be able to produce your product (unless you rechecked your numbers after you launched and realized you could maybe produce this for a lil less than you said. Naughty naughty.), but there’s some tactics in self-funding that can help you succeed that almost everyone you know has employed at one point or another.
First of all, the most obvious thing to say is these tactics only work if you’re pretty sure you’re going to get close to funding anyway. If you think you might be like, 30+% off your goal by the end, try something else, you’re just gonna end up crashing and burning with this.
The second thing to say is don’t do this with any accounts that can be reliably traced back to you. Ask a friend to do any self-funding.
The most obvious play is to kick in a couple extra dollars to make sure your project is funded at a certain point, either in the early days or just before the 48 hour reminder email goes out to all your followers. In practice, this isn’t any different than making your goal artificially lower than it needs to be, which is #4 on this list. Prevailing wisdom says people are more likely to back a sure thing, so this tactic might catch you more backers than you would get otherwise, and if your stretch goals are cool, it might enable you to reach a new demographic to bulk out your backers too. Just remember to pull back your own pledge when you can.
#4 – Set your goal lower than it should be
This is probably the entry I disagree with the most frankly. But this article isn’t titled “5 Things Nem Thinks Are Cool” otherwise there’d be a lot more pictures of sweet robots
This is a risky one, and can backfire really, really badly, so don’t do it. But everyone else does it, so here’s why they do.
Low funding goals succeed quicker, and funded projects get more backers, and unlock more stretch goals, and generally create more buzz than unfunded ones. More backers equal more people talking about it, which equals more traffic from secondary and tertiary sources. So you don’t *actually* have enough money to make the thing? Sure, that’s a problem, but only if you finish with this still being true. If you finish over your actual funding goal then you’re golden. And if you don’t think you’ll hit that in time? Well, you can always pull the plug and say you have a personal emergency and you’ll relaunch later. I’ve seen this happen a ton, especially on big, mini heavy board games, and from big publishers too.
I really don’t like this one! It’s dishonest, and can, if poorly managed, result in a bunch of people being out their cash with nothing to show for it, but it’s also the default method for a lot of big name creators and publishers, because they know for certain they’ll get the money they need. Every time you’ve seen an enormous video game Kickstarter earn a million with a 10k funding goal? They knew what they were doing folx.
If you want to be as close to “responsible” as you can get with this, here’s how you do it;
Step 1: Identify your actual funding needs
Step 2: Base your entire campaign planning off of that number, including a realistic analysis of how many backers you think you can get
Step 3: Take about 25–30% off your actual funding needs and make that the posted goal
Step 4: Profit? Maybe?
Step 5: Pull the project if you were wrong, do not collect the money
With the exception of the first one, I do not recommend you do any of these. Having to do them represents a failure in your plan somewhere down the line, or an abuse of the platform itself and will almost always work worse than if you’d done the right thing beforehand.
But everybody does them.