Reflections on a Middling Kickstarter Campaign

We are nearing the end of my current Kickstarter campaign for Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse: Beyond Thunder City and I want to talk about it.

While I’d hoped this thing would fund quickly, I didn’t expect it. It’s a tricky campaign: essentially an expansion book for a three year old game, rather than a standalone product. I’ve also only got low-cost rewards on offer, so I’m depending on critical mass. However I did not believe things would move as slowly as they are moving at present.

I expect I was spoiled by Broken Cask: projections for that little game were exceptionally low. The goal was only a few hundred dollars with small hope of my being fully reimbursed for the money I’d already put into the project. But the thing truly took on a life of it’s own, funding over $8000 in two weeks. I was not prepared for that campaign and put little into the Kickstarter itself besides the very minimum: a few graphics, a short trailer, and a single game session livestreamed mostly so folks on the fence could see how the thing worked.

In hindsight, I suppose Broken Cask was clearly messaged and enticing at first glance: a single player game where you run your own fantasy inn. Shmexy, right? This is not to mention the ubiquity and universal charm of the General Fantasy Setting.

So taken from a simple marketing perspective, it makes some sense that Beyond Thunder City would struggle: what exactly is the thing? I took all my market phrasing from a high level: new worlds! Fresh settings! Award winning! Etc; etc. But I suppose even that could be unclear or, at least, unappealing. My second and real line of defense was the visual element (an absolutely killer animated trailer; an eye-catching cover; general murine cuteness; etc; etc) exciting people about the project. Does it really matter if the book is and expansion if it’s filled with adorable mice doing awesome things? Apparently so.

I also put way more time into preparing this campaign. The visuals are spicier, especially the trailer; I have giveaways planned; there was a livestream run by a pro GM; I talked my writers into creating dev diaries for me; I’m prepared to respond to any and all questions in a timely fashion for maximum interaction; I actually had a launch date set to build hype; etc; etc. So now here we are, two-thirds through, with little-to-no activity, stagnate at just over 80% funding. There have been stretches with negative backer counts.

The temptation here is to be a neurotic creative and take it personally. The issue isn’t Kickstarter or the market or the vacillations of niche fandom, it’s me. My stuff sucks; my supporters don’t like me; etc; etc. If I’ve plotted everything correctly in slapping together a high quality campaign and done my due diligence in the marketing department (contacting all my previous subscribers and backers; utilizing my professional connexions and social media outlets; etc; etc.) and my Mailchimp blast yields one click and one unsubscribe, then that clearly means I’m the one who’s no good.

Thankfully I’m too old for that shit. I’ve spent too much time in therapy for it anyway.

Sometimes we tick all the boxes. Sometimes we do everything we’re supposed to be doing and our successes aren’t as atomic as we believed they would be. And that’s okay. Sometimes a print run of some random 5E book does six figures when you struggle to do four. And that’s okay. Those other creators have put in their due diligence (as an aside, I’m learning that many successful Kickstarts are nursed via a regular following of some other content) and are no less deserving, even when one’s well-practiced shaming/victim mentality leads one to think otherwise.

The nature of these things is fickle. I could get a 100 backers tomorrow. Who knows. Beyond Thunder City will fund and I’ll have another great book to notch on my belt. And I am in now way unappreciative towards those who have backed and will back! Your support is unspeakably encouraging. But for now the duration is a bit of slog.

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