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Kickstart Your Heart

Nick Heim

Recently Junction Road lent some time to a Kickstarter video by a talented artist named Max Miller Dowdle, whose awesome graphic novel Shattered With Curve Of Horn will be released in printed form. Working on the video for Max's project got me thinking about Kickstarter.

Kickstarter is a really interesting idea, and watching it evolve has been a nice peek into the way the internet works.

So far, the big success stories on Kickstarter have been projects that come with a built-in fanbase. The Veronica Mars movie, or Zach Braff's film, or Double Fine Adventure. These are artists or groups that have had success in other mediums and have transferred that loyalty (and money) over to the world of crowd-funding. But is there room for independent artists on Kickstarter? Is this a place to get a "big break"? 

There is certainly a market for products. Items that offer backers a version of their product are popular, but that is using Kickstarter as a pre-order service more than anything else, I think.

As with most internet technologies, there is a sweet spot where it has gained enough traction to be profitable but not so much that the bigger companies jump on it and start blocking the entrance to the average user. YouTube has passed out of that sweet spot - when was the last time an organic YouTube star came around? In internet time, it has been a while, likely because of increasing corporate involvement in the site.

A lot of people felt that once major movie production companies hopped on the Kickstarter train, the doors had closed for the average user. But looking at what Max is doing right with his graphic novel, I really do think that there are still opportunities for the average user, as long as you follow a few guidelines.

1. Ask for the minimum amount of money

A lot of people get greedy and want to fund their whole life on Kickstarter, or fund Hollywood-level projects. Kickstarter isn't a good way to solve your financial woes or get set for life. This is a project funding site, so stick to the project! 

Also, you will have to put in time and money yourself to get to the funding phase, so make sure that you are only asking for what you can't come up with yourself. If you aren't willing to put your own money towards your project, why on earth would anyone else?  

Max is asking for the actual amount needed to print the book  ($7,500) and not a cent more. That is because his goal is the project, not gaming a system to get rich.

2.  Bring content to the table

In this, Kickstarter is a lot like a job. It would be great to walk into a job interview with no experience and no education and just start making money, but that doesn't happen. It's the same with Kickstarter - why would anyone fund a project that doesn't have anything to recommend it? 

Having an idea is not enough, there has to be sweat equity (a terrible but appropriate term) behind that idea. Show some of the project, show some previous work, show that you care. If your video is poor and the examples of work are poor, backers will know that your end product will be poor.

Ideas are easy, implementing them with skill is hard. So show the world your skill, not your idea.

3. Utilize your existing fanbase

This is where the internet can really shine. The internet is kind of like a food truck (no, really). Usually, to start a restaurant requires a huge amount of overhead and capital. But with a food truck, the expenses are minimal and the focus is on the food.

On the internet, you can grow a fan base for your project just by having skill and talent. Max has been posting his comic online for quite some time, and has worked hard to make his site a destination for his fans and fans of graphic novels of all types.

Don't jump right to kickstarter if you don't have to - use the power of the internet to show the world what you can do, and then ask for the financial help only when you need it to complete a specific task.

4. Have talent

Some ideas are terrible, and some executions are poor. And as always, skill and passion will stand out above desperate money-grubbing. Look at your motivations, look at your idea, and make sure that you are ready for Kickstarter before you jump in.


Of course, you could follow all those guidelines and still fail. The internet is a fickle mistress and it is hard to ever judge what will and won't be popular. After all, pictures of cats with poorly-written text overlaid on them took the world by storm, so we are pretty much all doomed.