Kickstarter for Nobodies

At my local convention, Madicon, a few years back, one of the author guests made a pretty interesting point in his discussion about coming up as a writer. (I apologize, I don’t remember which author guest — it was the quote that stuck with me, not the person). I’m only paraphrasing but he basically said, When I was trying to get started and needed an agent — no agent wanted me. When I eventually made it on my own — agents wanted me but I didn’t need one anymore.

I’ve been investigating Kickstarter lately, reading up on successes and failures. I’ve backed stuff on Kickstarter before and found some great products that way that I missed the campaigns for but bought after the fact. It seems like a great thing. I’ve talked to some people who’ve used it and been successful and I’ve seen the big name, big budget projects hit. I’ve read commentary about it from outside the RPG niche and well, generally, I kinda feel like that author guest up above. In order for Kickstarter to be worth using, you have to already be “somebody” (in a subjective sense, of course — and based on your audience). Being a nobody is a sure way to get a KS to fail.

So I’m well into writing on my Game. I’ve done a lot of the work and I have a great artist lined up and actively working along with some supplemental art by a few others. The project is shaping up nicely. And I’ve really considered whether a Kickstarter campaign would be worth it to help finance the project. But here’s the thing.

I was discussing this very thing with another guest at Madicon this year, a great guy who was in the middle of his own KS campaign for a music project and he told me that he felt that he’d really used the campaign the wrong way, kind of doing it as a poll — to gauge interest in a project. And he realized after he’d started (he actually made his goals and beyond but that’s not the point here) that he wasn’t sure how smart that was. Because if it’s a project you really want to do and you fail to fund it then basically, does that mean that people don’t want it? If you fail to fund, does that mean you scrap the project and never finish it? And I think those are valid points.

Money is tight all around. So far I’ve funded this project out of pocket and I’m happy enough with the results. I don’t expect my little home-design diceless game to set the RPG world on fire or anything… I’ve even contemplated going the free game route at one point. But a funding drive would be super useful right now. I kind of need Kickstarter but honestly, it doesn’t need me. No rancor in that statement, just true facts and a little sad envy.

Ultimately, my reading and my experience lead me to believe that Kickstarter is a great thing and I love some of the products I’ve learned about and picked up through KS. But I think for KS to be worthwhile for someone they need to already have their audience attracted. Kickstarter isn’t (or doesn’t seem to be) for nobodies.

So back to the grindstone, back to polishing my work and being excited about the art coming in. I’ll see where this project takes me — maybe to the next project which will be worthy of a Kickstarter…

Thanks for reading.


4 responses

  1. I think even a “nobody” can attract an audience before hitting KS if the designer is savvy about grassroots marketing. Find other systems whose players are likely to be sympathetic/excited about your system, hit their fan websites and talk up your game, and have some really, really pretty graphics to grab attention. All that being said, though, that’s time and attention that you’re putting into your game that isn’t directly contributing to its being finished. Is there anyone else in your gaming group that you could get to put in some of that effort?

    I suppose you could also put one of those “donate via PayPal” buttons on your own site…I have no idea how many hits you get, but that might be a way to get to the people who already read you and who are interested in your product.

    I suspect you already know about The Forge, ( ) but you might check there, too. I have no head for rules, so I’ve never tried to write a game, but I remember thinking that the info there would be terribly useful if I meant to write a game. Perhaps they have some ideas about raising money?

  2. One thing I’ve seen is that if you don’t have name recognition on a kickstarter, an excerpt or sample chapter goes a long way. That shows the quality of your work and it shows that there’s already some work done and it’s not going to be complete vaporware. After all, the big thing with a reputation is showing that you can complete quality work.

  3. Thanks for the comments. I’ve thought about some of these things and some is new to me.

    I”m still thinking about going the free RPG route with this one to have something out there that I can be proud of. Then I could see what happens from there.

    @Philo – I’ll think a lot about this. I might find myself still with a desire to try the KS. I’ll really keep thinking on whether or not it’s right for me.


  4. If you don’t follow Fred Hicks, I suggest doing so – he writes a fair bit about the business side of kickstarter, and talks about how to do one successfully in his eyes:; in particular –
    Kickstarter: It’s The Little Things
    Kickstarter Bulletpoints

    (I’m not linking as I’m not sure what the Max # of links is for this WordPress, I know on another WP site it is three and you get filtered.)

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