Indievelopment: Crowdfunding Week 2 – Riding the Roller Coaster

If you haven’t done a Kickstarter, I don’t know whether I want to tell you to try it or tell you to thank your lucky stars. But I will tell you this: it is an experience unlike any other and, as I said in my previous column, it is a hell of a ride. Allow me to elucidate.

crowdfundingWhen last we spoke, I talked about small data sets and how we were jumping up and down in our projected results. Now the data has firmed up; we’re ten days in as I write this (Wednesday afternoon), and instead of going from 105% to 240%, we’re now shifting between 98% and 103% of our goal. If we hit 100% at the end of the day, we get funded and we shoot our movie. If we hit 99.999%, we do not get a single dime.

How do you think my blood pressure is doing?

I’d tell you how much I love this story, but if you’re a writer for filmmaker (or both), that’s like telling a parent that you love your kid. They get it. So you know what it’s like to watch a number and have it flip between a projected green light and red light for your project. It ain’t fun. Some days are amazing. One day, I woke up to a $500 backer out of nowhere, who didn’t want any rewards. Some days are less amazing. We’ve had a couple of $25 days.

But that’s the game. Unless you have some established property, or are selling a physical good, or are a massive celebrity WITH a great property (could you imagine the Firefly Kickstarter? Just imagine it… ), then with film, it is very unlikely you’ll hit 100% funded in your first 12 hours. It’s very unlikely you’ll finish at 1200% funded. What is likely is that you’ll bounce back and forth, just like I am, between “yes” and “no,” between filming and not, between your target and zero. Or even worse, grind away between “no chance in hell” and “probably not, but maybe…” If you’re lucky, your crowd will rally behind you and shove your campaign over the finish line.

And you have to track the data. It sucks, but you need to see how you’re doing, and figure out if you need to change anything. It’s no good throwing a page online, tweeting a bit, and hoping for the best. If you start to flatten out badly, more so than is to be expected in the middle of a crowdfund, you need to change up your game.

So what’s my point? Well, there are two: don’t lose perspective. It’s easy to despair, just like it’s easy to exult. But, with few exceptions, you really won’t know how you’ll do until you’re really close to the end, sometimes until right at the end. If you’re a week in and you’ve raised 2%, you’re in trouble. If you’re a week in and you’ve raised 92%, you’re gonna be fine. But otherwise… buy the ticket, take the ride.

Report Card

Week two, how are we doing? Well, as the numbers show, we’re doing all right. Right now, our three biggest sources for attracting backers are Facebook, Twitter, and direct links, which tells us that it is still our existing networks that are doing most of the heavy lifting. It’s either friends and family, or else it’s social network folks (many of whom are also friends) and the people they connect to. That’s to be expected, and it’s a good sign.

However, Kickstarter Searches are responsible for a good portion of the backers we’re getting. and that’s great. It proves that the concept has a general interest and people respond to it even if they haven’t been “pitched” with a tweet or a Facebook post. I had hoped that would be the case, but you never know.

Things to improve: We need better outreach, particularly to bloggers. Right now, we don’t have any interviews, podcasts, blogs about our project, or anything similar, and that’s something we definitely need to change. So far, the response has been very positive when people find out about it, especially people who are already Lovecraft fans. So any of those fans we don’t reach are just wasted potential backers. We can’t reach them all, but we need to reach more than we are right now.

One thing we are being very careful about? We’re not over-sharing. My limit is one tweet per hour, max, and usually less frequently than that. You need to tell people, but you can’t barrage them. It’s annoying. Also, never, and I do mean never, auto-tweet. It’s social media, not an answering machine. If someone RTs my campaign, I thank them immediately. If they have a question, I can reply. If they ask a question and you’re autotweeting, no one answers, and 15 minutes later another tweet comes out advertising the same thing they just asked about… that’s a bad thing. They realize they’re talking to, however temporarily, a robot. Plus, autotweeting means you aren’t aware of what’s going on as your tweet goes out; there were more than a few people blissfully autotweeting about their comedy web series crowdfund as the Boston Marathon bombing happened. Guess how that looks?

So, stay patient, stay calm, but stay on top of it. That’s what we’re doing; hopefully, we’ll have a film to show for it!

If you feel like checking out the campaign for Tesla vs Cthulhu, you can find it here. And if you felt like either joining us as a backer or telling your friends, we certainly would be grateful! 

And, on a personal note, I’d like to send a shoutout to my good friend and Tesla vs Cthulhu co-producer Brad Johnson; Brad just celebrated his one year anniversary as a columnist here on Script Magazine. Congrats, Brad! If you haven’t checked out his column, you really should. 

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