Every Friday, a list of five things: 5ive on Friday. Quickly bashed out, designed to start not finish conversations. 95% of these will be inspired by the week’s social media conversations.
Kickstarter Warning Signs
None of these warning signs may be a dealbreaker by themselves, but if a project ticks off more than a couple, I’d consider not pledging even if I was otherwise interested. Some of these are a little specific to publishing, but could easily be transferred to other types of projects.
In no particular order:
- The creator is an individual and has not backed other Kickstarters. There are exceptions to this—perhaps they created a new account to simplify running the campaign—but in general, I think actively backing other Kickstarter campaigns is one of the best ways to research how other Kickstarter projects work, and I think creators should be active consumers within the ecosystem they want to work in. If you’ve created a new profile for some reason, you may want to link to your older profile to show the projects you’ve backed.
- The creator is an individual, has never published anything before, and is trying to publish a large or “dream” project. I always recommend that someone new to publishing create a few small books, non-crowdfunded, to learn the publishing ropes with a little less pressure. Even if it’s as simple as having released a couple of $0.99 3-page supplements.
- Project details are sketchy: they do not include estimated page counts, binding type, paper/trim size, or whether the book is in color or not. The second half of the “elevator” pitch for a Kickstarter should include this information.
- Backer level prices are too low, especially for printed projects. This shows that there’s usually some misunderstanding about how much it costs to produce and ship a book. I saw a recent project that claimed that DriveThruRPG doesn’t charge upfront money to print books, but that they take it out of royalties. This is true in the sense that you can pay for printing projects with royalties you accrued from previous sales, but DriveThruRPG won’t front you the money. In a similar vein, if the backer levels and add-ons are weighed down by tons of options—t-shirts, buttons, pins, and other tchotchke—that can indicate a campaign that will sag under the weight of many minor fulfillment items.
- The sell text / back cover copy / project updates indicates that the creator is not in touch with the current marketplace. They may not be aware of other similar products, believe that their project fills a niche that has already been filled, engage in awkward smack-talk about other products or creators, or make grandiose claims. A little bit of bravado is expected in sales text, and there is room for a Kickstarter project to approach the market differently—but usually, for such an approach to work, you have to know “the rules” and how the market works in order to successfully subvert it.