Saturday, April 20, 2013

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

Project Completes

At long last the project came to an end. The sculptures were made, installed and the last of the rewards shipped out. I thought it would never end but it did and it was quite an adventure. I felt like I had not only fallen down the rabbit hole but through the looking glass too.  All in all I was very glad to use Kickstarter to fund the project. It added a lot of work to the project but I made a lot of great contacts, gained world wide exposure and met a lot of terrific people.  Who could ask for more!

I hope you will consider giving Kickstarter a try. It really is an amazing funding platform and no doubt they will continue to improve it as the months and years go by. Kickstarter is getting a lot of press right now so that should being more people to pledge and more people launching projects too. This means that you really need to make your project stand out.  Offer great rewards, make an honest pitch via video and you will make your goal!

I am happy to answer any questions about my project, my Kickstarter experience or anything else that is on your mind. Feel free to do it either via this blog or direct email


(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

Campaign Ends!

Finally your campaign ends and that is when all the hard work beings!  Before the overwhelm of the project hits be sure to send out a quick update thanking everyone and assure them that further updates/emails will be send regarding rewards.

Kickstarter will give you access to a tab called Backer Report where you can see the full names and addresses of each of people who backed your project. It will be listed by reward. For example all the people who pledged for the $1 reward, $5 reward and so on. It will also give a list of the no reward people (if you have any).

I personally took this data and created a spreadsheet in Excell that stated the name, address, reward type, reward made, reward shipped, complete.  I would mark off the columns as I made the reward and another check when I shipped it.  This made it easy to keep track of all the rewards and what stage each one was in.


There are lots of ways to handle the rewards. You will tell people on your page that you will ship them by a certain date. You can decide to put the date right after the campaign ends or many months into the future. I put my date in the future to give me flexibility but I ended up jumping straight into reward production to get it over with. That way I could focus on the project and not have the rewards hanging over my head. In some cases the rewards were pictures of the final project. Those rewards had to ship after the project so I ended up doing reward shipment twice.

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)


Kickstarter provides some simple statistics that you can use to track your project. The stats can be found by clicking the Dashboard tab. On this page they offer stats for your Funding Progress, data on where the people are coming from (Facebook, other sites, search etc) and Video Plays. Using the stats you can determine where the people who are pledging are coming from. If they are from outside sites, do your best to encourage more from there. If you are putting a lot of time into another source but people are not using it, stop putting your energy there and work to support where they are coming from!

If people are not watching your video all the way through Kickstarter will tell you. If you are not making your goal you might just have to re-work that video. The video really does make a difference.

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)


During the campaign you will want to stay in communication with the people who have already pledged and those who are considering pledging. Kickstarter makes this easy by clicking the Post Update button. This will allow you to post a message, video and or pictures. You can do this as often as you like but remember, if you do it too often you will lose your audience. Nobody is as interested in your project as you are. That is just the plain true so keep people informed but don't send out daily blasts. Send them when you really have some exciting news or have made a major milestone with the project. These updates can be done during as well as after the Kickstarter campaign has closed. The after ones can be about awards, pics of the final project or just a huge thank you for all the support.

People have the ability to send you messages through the Kickstarter website. Be sure to answer them asap. Often they are inquiries about the rewards, the project or simply well wishers. If you respond quickly it will give them confidence in your ability to complete the project!

Monday, December 17, 2012

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

Don’t pledge to yourself

This seems so obvious you would not think I would bother to post about it. Well, I almost lost my campaign because of this topic!  Here is what happened...

My mother and I share a credit card account because we have a business together. I set up my Amazon account with that credit card and was approved. My project launched and pledges started coming in.  I then happened to notice this statement on Kickstarter:

Credit card rules forbid people from paying themselves. Any pledges made by a project creator to themselves will cause Amazon to cancel a project creator's Amazon account, making it impossible to receive or remove funds.

If you try to create new accounts (either Kickstarter or Amazon) to accomplish this, Amazon will still detect it.

I thought OK makes sense no problem. Then it hit me like a thunderbolt- my mother made a pledge to my Kickstarter campaign that day. She used the same credit card that I used to set up my account. Amazon would see the same card number being used by the Artist (me) and a pledge (my mom). Yikes!

I got on the phone and explained what had happened. They confirmed that they would have thought I had backed my own project by creating a new account using a new name (my moms). I asked what I needed to do and this is the answer.
My mother had to do the following in this order-
1. Go in and cancel her bids on my project. This can be done under the manage your bids tab.
2. Go to Amazon and remove the card from her account.
3. Put in a new credit card number at Amazon.
4. Go back to Kickstarter and pledge on my project again.

That was a close one!  

You might not share a card with your mother but here are a few other possibilities that you might have going on.

A. Your partner/spouse pledging on you project. If you share a card then don't- use another card.
B. You had to borrow a card from your parents to set up your account. Don't let your parents back your project unless they use a different card. 
C. You borrowed a card from a friend because you don't have one. Don't let them bid!
D. You used a company card that other officers/employees use. Make sure the numbers on the cards are all different. If they are the same don't let them bid! 


Sunday, December 16, 2012

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)


I have to put a little reality check in here at this point. I knew that I was going to have to be the one to promote my project. I read enough and know enough about fundraising to know that putting something on Kickstarter and sitting back waiting for the money to roll in was not going to happen. Please realize this and plan accordingly!

This is how I went about it.

I contacted the people in the community that support the arts and asked them to help promote the project on their blogs, Facebook and anywhere else they could.

I contacted local papers and offered to provide text, high res photos and anything else they might need.  I sent emails with screen shots of the project, links to the project and a short well worded plea for support to my family and even business associates.

I set up a Facebook page for the project and linked it to my Kickstarter project (DO THIS- even if you hate Facebook like I do). You will get traffic and donations from Facebook, so embrace it at least during the project. I have the ability to see how much traffic is coming from Facebook and it is A LOT.

I put announcements on internet bulletin boards, sent data to the local TV station and printed off small posters to go on real bulletin boards around town. I printed off a ton of business cards with all the data on it to pass out and leave around. Below I will show you the two sides of the cards that I created.

Finally, I contacted everyone I ever knew and even those I had not talked to for 10 years. I used the project as a fun way to get back in contact with people I had not seen and talked to in years. They were thrilled to pitch in a $1 and hear about what I had been up to. 

Make it fun and exciting and keep the momentum going!


How long to run the project and when to end it?  This is such a personal thing, but I will share my ideas about it. When a project runs a long time people can tend to sit back and procrastinate about making that donation. Also, if you make a project go on and on people can get sick of hearing about it and tune out.  I decided to go with 3 1/2 weeks. I figured a few days just to get the promotion machine started. Then one week to get rolling, the second week to really allow the social media web to spread and the final week would be the big push to the finish! Short and sweet.

This is great for small project goals like mine. If you are asking for $20,000 or so you might want to give it some more time and allow more time for more extensive promotion. The exception to this is if you have a project that is so cool it goes viral on Kickstarter. If that happens no promotion is really needed, it just spreads like wildfire!

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

Submitting Your Project

Good news and bad news!  The good news is that if you really follow all the instructions on the Kickstarter School web page you will pass through the approval process without any issues. They are looking for people who are breaking the guidelines only.  The bad news is that it can take 1-3 days to get approval.  Now, this may not be bad news for most but it was for me.

I submitted the project on December 9th (Sunday). I had read that it took 1-2 days for approval so I figured I would be OK with the newspaper article coming out on Wednesday morning. I knew it would be close so I took the extra step and emailed them and asked if they thought that I would be OK with my Wed. morning deadline.  I got a response back saying no promises and it takes a "few" days. I have to be honest it was a "blow off" email. Not personal at all and read like an auto response. I wrote back for clarification and never heard back.  Sorry to say but Kickstarter has very poor communication. So far their only real fault.

The project was approved on Wednesday at noon. This means it took 2 1/2 days (not counting Sunday). So, this is still a fast process but a word of warning- don't push a deadline like I did!

After Approval

Once you are approved it is simply a matter of hitting the Launch button that shows up on the site. Once the project is launched you are ready to start promoting.

Tip: If you are in a hurry, submit the project before you have it totally perfect. Get it to them asap and let them do their approval. While the approval process is going on you can figure out any changes you need to make. Then when they approve it, you can simply pop in your final tweeks and changes and launch the project. This is what I should have done knowing that I had a deadline!

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

Working Through The Tabs

This is when the simplicity of the Kickstarter website really shines through. Once you have made it through the basic set up it is time to work your way through the tabs at the top of the screen. The first page is
  • Guidelines- Read this so that you don't have to do something twice.
  • Basics- This is the tab where you will put the main picture that entices the public to click on your project. It is also where you put a short description of your project.
  • Rewards- This is where you are given a chance to enter your rewards. The good news is that it sorts for you based on price so if you add one later it will still be in order. Yes!
  • Story- This is where you get to enter your project data and upload your main video. What you put here appears right below your video. This is where you can explain the project or any details not covered in the video. You can also put pictures and data about the rewards on this page.
  • About You- This is basically a bio page so it should be all about you and not necessarily about the project. People want to know who they are backing so make it honest and interesting.
  • Account- Just check this tab to make sure your data is correct and also that your Amazon payments have been approved.
  • View Project- Use this button a lot!  When you hit this tab it displays your page as the public will see it. Tweek your page using the various tabs above until you get it just right.
A few tips:
1. There is very little formatting available with their system so you will have to keep it clean and simple.
2. If you want to show additional videos on your page you need to upload them to YouTube (or similar) and just pop the URL in the box they provide. This is not the case with your main video (they store that on the Kickstarter server).
3. Show pictures of your rewards!

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

Nothing is Free!

You probably have a budget in mind right now but you need to re-think it. Kickstarter/Amazon are going to take 5% of whatever you raise (only if you are successful). With that in mind whatever figure you have in mind add 5% right now.

Rewards and Shipping

Part of the Kickstarter Program is offering rewards to people who back your project. When deciding on what rewards to offer you need to think about shipping more than anything!

I was lucky in this area. I have been shipping professionally through my company for years. I know all the companies that ship, cost of boxes, packing and using USPS (US post office) too.  I could write a book, but instead I will just point out a few things and hope it helps.

UPS- Not a great way to go for boxes under 1-2 pounds. It is expensive and you have to pay for boxes too. However, if you are offering high priced rewards, UPS does insure up to $100 as part of the shipping price. They offer great tracking and they do get boxes to their destinations on time and with very few issues. They also deliver right to the person's door. You can ship from retail outlets or take the boxes to a UPS Store. If you have a UPS account like I do, you just call UPS and they come pick up the boxes when they are ready. Learn more  When you box is heavy and wont fit into a Flat Rate Box (below) then UPS will generally beat the post office every time.

USPS- Usually the way to go for light packages, books (media mail) and anything that is heavy but will fit into a Flat Rate Box.  If you do not know about these special boxes, it is time to become familiar. The post office gives you a box for free and will ship it for a flat fee- no matter how heavy it is.  The current rate as of Dec 16 2012 is $5.15 for the small box, $10.85 for the medium box, and $14.65 for the large box (these are the prices you get if you go to and print your postage there). If you go to the counter it is a bit more expensive.  For this price you do not get insurance, but you can buy it. You get OK tracking ability, they do not guarantee a delivery date but they do a good job of delivering the box. Sometimes they will take it to the person's door and sometimes they make them go to the post office to pick it up.

When deciding on your rewards please take the time to research how you are going to ship it before you offer it. You might have something that costs you about $2.00 to make but costs you $14.00 to ship and you offer it as a $10.00 reward.  If you do this  you are going to spend all the money you make just filling rewards and not have enough to do the project!

FEDEX would basically get the same write up as UPS so I will skip it.

Tip: If you offer to ship internationally please take a moment to look at rates. I think you will be shocked at how high they are for boxes over four pounds. Flat Rate International is very expensive too. Do your homework before clicking that "Willing to Ship to International Addresses" button. The good news on this one area is that you can charge an extra shipping fee for boxes that go outside the USA.

Think Big!

This is not the time to think small. Think best case scenario- "I make double what I asked for". This will  be great news but, you will probably have double the rewards to make and ship!  Keep this in mind when deciding on what level you offer the reward and also when you set the Promise to Deliver Date. Give yourself a long time just in case your project is a huge hit. If you end up not needing the extra time you can get the rewards to people sooner than promised and they will be happy. 

Tip: Give yourself a financial and time cushion.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

The Start Your Project Button

Ok so you have an account. You have gone to the "Kickstarter School" page and read ALL of it. You have a project in mind and know your budget. You are now ready to hit that Start Your Project button!

Once you hit the button you are taken to a page where they walk you through a few easy questions. Are you over 18, are you in the US or England and a few others.  Once you make it through the questions you will hit your first wall- Taxes and Payments!  Lets take this one at a time.

Taxes: For me this was easy. I own two businesses so I have a Tax ID number. If you have a business then you will use that number. If you are an independent artist then you will be putting in you Social Security Number.  This is hurdle number one.

Payments: All donations are handled by Amazon. This means if you do business with Amazon and already accept Amazon payments you are all good to go. If you only have an account with them to buy things from their site, this is not good enough. You will need to follow the links that Kickstarter provides and answer some questions over at Amazon. The questions are standard but it can take up to 7 days to get approved for payments! They need to verify your bank account, have a credit card on file and a few other requirements. If you plan to launch on a certain date be sure to get the payments issue squared away long before you are ready to launch!

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

To Video or Not to Video..

The idea of making a video to pitch my project was almost too much for me. I was camera shy to the extreme, and would venture to say that there are less than 25 pictures of me out there in the world (that I know about at least).

When I read in Kickstarter School that projects with a video vs without is the difference of 50% to 30% in terms of success, I knew I had to confront my fear and just do the video. Yikes! So I did, and guess what I survived... and guess what... by the time I edited the film for three days I was no longer camera shy!

Here is the section of the Kickstarter School that discusses the video:

 1. There are a lot of videos on Kickstarter that are super slick. There are ones that are shot by total professionals. There are some that look like Disney made them and had a $10,000 budget.  After spending a few hours on Kickstarter watching other artists videos you sort of get the idea that you should give up before you even start. I am here to tell you that an honest pitch, well explained will do the trick.

2.  There is hope!  I discovered a wonderful and affordable software to edit footage. I literally typed in "video editing software for idiots" into Google and this popped up:
It is so easy! You just save your footage from your camera/camcorder to your desktop. Then open the program, open the footage and then drag the file into the right spot on the screen (red arrow).  Once you have the footage in, you can cut it, add music, add sound from a microphone, add stills and do all sort of fun transitions from shot to shot.  This program lets you use quite a few different file types. I used AVI and made the final film a MOV (which was the best quality type of file).

Final Advice:

My video is 8 minutes with a 3 minute slideshow tacked on. This is too long.  I wanted it to be 5 minutes which is really a perfect length. Unfortunately, the weather turned on me. I shot the footage at the gardens figuring I would see how it looked and then if needed go back and re-shoot when I knew what I really needed. Great plan but the next day it rained, and it poured for 10 days straight.  I was stuck with the footage and it was too long.  Anyway, the video is still doing the trick at 8 minutes BUT, I have a lot of people not making it through to the end. One nice thing that Kickstarter does is give you the ability to see statistics.  From my "Dashboard" I can see that out of every 100 plays only 30 people make it to the end.  All in all that is not a bad statistic, but if the video was 5 minutes or less I bet it would be higher!

(As a "How To" blog you will want to start with the first post and work your way up to this one)

Getting Started is a very user friendly website. If you are not overly familiar with the internet and working forms on web pages, never fear. They really do make it easy, and the site is uncluttered with distracting things you don't need. You are walked through the process very logically, and allow you to go back and fix and tweek things until you get it just right.

The first thing you want to do is set up and account by going to Log In. Once you have done that you really need to visit Kickstarter School.  This is where they explain how it works and what steps you need to take.  Here is the link to the School page: 


Tip: Even if you are just thinking about doing this project but are not ready to start- set up your account and go to school now!  The process of the set up, allows you as a creative being, to realize what is needed. This starts those creative juices flowing!

First Post

Welcome to my blog Down the Rabbit Hole!

I set this blog up to share my experiences in running a campaign. I plan to share my experience, tips and important things to know to succeed. I really hope this information helps and if you have any questions, please ask away. I am always happy to help fellow artists in any way I can.

We have now fallen down the rabbit hole so it is high time to start exploring!