Seth Godin: Why Kickstarter projects fail or succeed

Many comic creators are turning to Kickstarter to fund publishing book collections and other projects. Rich Burlew raised $1.2 million; Jake Parker raised $80,000. Those are some of the major success stories. Seth Godin, author and authority on marketing in the internet era, has written an article worth reading on why some Kickstarter projects fail.


Kickstarter appears to be a great way to find fans for your work. You put up a great video clip and a story and wait for people who will love it to find you.

But that?s not what happens. What happens is that people who ALREADY have a tribe, like Amanda Palmer, use Kickstarter to organize and activate that tribe. Kickstarter is the last step, not the first one.

He basically preaches what Howard Tayler told me (who got it from someone else): “It’s easier to sell to an audience you already have than to find a new audience.” Bottom line: work to build your fan base, your social circle, your 1000 true fans. Then and only then give them something they’ll buy.

UPDATE: Johanna Draper Carlson has more thoughts on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign regarding how much you ask for, timing in delivering the product, etc.

I am more comfortable funding a project where the work already exists, one where the creator needs print costs. This doesn?t apply to Lea?s case, but one of the reasons why is that, if rewards deliver within a couple of months, I?m protected if something happens and I don?t get what?s promised. Within 3-6 months, I have the ability to do a credit card chargeback in the worst case, if the provider flakes out. On a more personal level, it?s more rewarding to get a book or other rewards within a couple of months, as though it was similar to a preorder. Otherwise, it feels like throwing money into the wind.

Via: Point-counterpoint: What is Kickstarter for, anyway? (Robot 6)

3 thoughts on “Seth Godin: Why Kickstarter projects fail or succeed

  1. This is incredibly true.

    People often think of Kickstarter as a way of gaining fans and gaining a following. But the truth of the matter is that the people that are most likely to fund the project are going to have to be either current fans, or people that are at least passingly familiar with your product or service.

    Another failing that often occurs on Kickstarter has to do with trust between those funding the product and the person producing the product. There have been several scams, so people are hesitant to put up money for someone that they’ve never seen before, even if that person has an absolutely stunning video.

    The most often funded products are those where the creator essentially says this: “I have developed X, and X is ready to be turned into an actual product. Please help support, and you will receive this product.” In terms of comics, this means that you should already have the book illustrated. Don’t try doing a Kickstarter for a product that you have yet to produce. If people fund you, they want to actually get a copy of it in their hands in a reasonable amount of time.

    The last thing is, once the Kickstarter campaign has begun, you need to promote it to death. And get your associates in the field to promote it. And their friends. Etc. Kickstarter isn’t going to advertise your project for you. It’s like real publishing. Even if a company picks up your book, you still have to promote it yourself, especially if you’re new.

    Anyways, I hope that everyone that does these campaigns, especially in comics, are successful. I’m in the process of establishing a sufficient fan base myself so that I can begin a campaign to print some anthologies of my cartoon strip.

    Best of luck, one and all!


  2. Ed Power and Melissa Dejesus succeeded on Kickstarter with the Santa VS. Dracula project.

  3. This has been obvious to me from the start, that Kickstarter is a platform, not an agency. They allow you to put a project up and try to raise funds, but they’re not doing any of the work; that’s the project creator’s job.

    It seems that a lot of folks are not understanding this, but on the other hand, a failed KS campaign is a lot like those cooking shows (or “Shark Tank” for another example) where people get booted off: Just the exposure of having done it appears to be a career boost even for the losers.

    If you’re in your 20’s or 30’s, I would say, go for it, be prepared to fail, and learn as much as you can. And have fun while you’re doing it!

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