In 2019 we were in the public eye quite a bit between in person appearances, podcasts, facebook live interviews, and crowdfunding campaigns. We already spent a good deal of our previous posts talking about conventions and appearances, so this one will angle more so towards our ONLINE experiences with crowdfunding and promotion.
Once again, we will give you this disclaimer: This is not intended to be a 'be all, end all' from experts sitting at the top of the food chain. We aren't either of those. However, we DO feel that our experiences and insights are worthy of being shared. This is also not about 'calling other people out'. We are looking in the mirror hoping to find ways we can FIRST improve, but we know that many others out there struggle with the same situations. So here we go!
TOP 5 THINGS WE LEARNED / EXPERIENCED with PROMOTION (especially KICKSTARTER) in 2019:
* EVERY CROWDFUNDING / PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN IS DIFFERENT: One of the main understandings we've gathered from doing three Kickstarter campaigns this year (and the months of research prior, and the hundreds of others we viewed or backed) is that they're all different in operation and success rate, even in the areas where you'd THINK there would be some similarities. Our research and conversations with other creators has proven this to be a true statement across the board. The only 'consistent' truth is inconsistency.
First campaigns tend to garner more support from friends and family than those that follow. This isn't an indictment on those closest to us - it's just simply that they are helping to 'kickstart' that first project. Running your very first campaign is such unknown territory, and being new to the market means you have to first reach out to those you know will support you no matter what. Over time however those that are investing in YOU outside of your creation will dwindle and those that are investing in you as a CREATOR will start to increase (hopefully).
Even then, there is no guarantee you will have repeat backers on your different projects. Our first two campaigns were for very different genres, despite Tales From Nocturnia being a spin-off from Heirs of Isildur. For the Heirs of Isildur trade, we relied heavily on fans and supporters within the Steampunk community as well as those who already were with the series since the beginning. Getting those people to jump on proved to be much easier than trying to grab the attention of potential backers to a brand new series that was 11 issues deep.
We thought the Nocturnia #2 campaign would have been an easy formula: get returners from the first Nocturnia campaign as a primary source while also bringing in some Heirs fans and new backers. Boy did we miscalculate. Yes there were returners, but 'new blood' made up a MUCH larger chunk of the backers than we expected. Time of year played a MUCH larger role than was accounted for. Market trends changed dramatically. We funded but probably lost a few years off our lives in doing so. We definitely reflected and assessed quite a bit after this campaign so that we don't make that type of miscalculation again.
Going into each new project with an "anything can happen" and "expect the unexpected" attitude can help provide the right perspective to get you through the entirety of the campaign.
* IF YOU AREN'T TRYING TO SET YOURSELF APART FROM THE CROWD, YOU WILL DISAPPEAR INTO IT Crowdfunding is one of the most popular avenues for creators to sell their products. In fact, Kickstarter is one of the top grossing means of publishing for indie comics, so it should be no surprise that there are a LOT of campaigns going on at any given time. Trying to promote is difficult enough as it is, but doing so when there are many other voices shouting into the void all vying for the attention of prospective backers can be a daunting task.
Setting yourself apart from that crowd is a must, and for us, this is something we are still learning. We like to say that we have one foot in the comic community, one foot in the steampunk community, and one in metal music (just roll with our mathematics on this). This helps us to have our fanbase spread out across multiple demographics.
The point is, if you want to stand out, you've got to be willing to put forth the effort to find what that means for YOU, so that you don't get lost in a sea of creators all clamoring for the same results, which leads us to our next point...
* GOING BACK TO THE SAME WELL WILL MAKE IT DRY OUT - QUICKLY! One of the biggest mistakes we have seen creators make, and ones that we are still learning how to navigate ourselves, is this. If your formula is: "Create comic, create crowdfunding campaign, spam post to every single facebook board you can without any interactive /specific content for that board, sit back and hope for the best" - you are asking for heartache.
YES posting on facebook groups is something we all must do, but we have to find a median level to do it. We have not figured out or our own go-forward formula just yet, but we encourage our fellow creators to resist the urge to think that spamming the same post everywhere ALL THE TIME is acceptable. Posting to comic and / or kickstarter boards is NOT the same as putting an ad in 35 different print newspaper markets across the country.
Fact of the matter is that MOST comic based kickstarter boards have the SAME core membership. So posting spam to EVERY board literally just becomes an unending and annoying waterfall of facebook notifications on people's phones when you do it, and it may turn OFF those who may consider becoming backers. Don't be the person that spam posts to every board with the same ad every few days with NO adjustments. We've all seen the same post probably 300 times. We get it. Tell us what makes your campaign different. Compelling.
Again - we are looking in the mirror at this one before pointing any fingers. We just know that MANY out there need to look in the mirror as well and understand that they are a part of the problem, and they need to come up with their own personal solution. Is it posting to LESS boards? Is it posting LESS often? Is it making sure that your content has some MEAT to it? We haven't figured it out yet, but our intent is to do BETTER in 2020.
* JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING WORKED ONCE, DOESN'T MEAN IT ALWAYS WILL. The worst mistake someone can make is to think they have found their tried and true formula that will work every time. Market trends and consumer habits shift dramatically and if you are only paying attention to the CURRENT thing and not the NEXT trend that could be coming, you could get left behind.
For example: I(Matt) recently watched the movie series 'Maze Runner' with my family. It's five books, and three movies. At one point there were talks of there being a fourth movie. In reading up on why there wasn't I learned that originally they were going to split the 3rd movie into two, which was all the rage at the time (think Harry Potter, Hunger Games, Twilight, etc...), but just as soon as that trend started, there became a backlash and the audience started railing AGAINST these bloated ends to series. Hence the decision was made to cap this series at three movies and NOT split the end.
We as creators have to have the same mindset. You must always be reassessing, refining, pivoting, and adjusting your game plan. If your business plan starting 2020 has the SAME actionable bullet points as 2019 or 2018, you will probably see a decline in your overall business effectiveness this year.
* JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING WORKS FOR SOMEONE ELSE, DOESN'T MEAN IT'LL WORK FOR YOU Imitation is the greatest form of flattery as they say. The key word here is 'imitation'. The word is NOT 'duplication' or 'replication'. In our time learning and building our brands we have studied what some others have done and borrowed concepts and made them our own. We know there are some out there that have looked at what we are doing and have done the same. That's part of the business.
However, we try diligently to NOT do exactly what someone else is doing, especially those in our circle of close associates in the industry. The community is small. They will notice when a concept has been plagarized. They will notice when your schtick at a show now resembles that of someone you've been associated with.
We actually have a concept that we started working on in early 2018, prior to INSYM, that we have put on the backburner because it is too similar to one that a close friend of ours currently has ongoing. Did we copy this individual? Absolutely not. But if we were to put out that project in the form it is in now it would probably cause some unneeded heartburn in the content creation community as well as competition with someone that is a big supporter of ours. So on the shelf it now sits while we focus on other, more original projects.
We are now in 2020. This is not the era of 'crush the competition' in what we do. We all can work alongside each other. We can stand at the starting line of the race together. That doesn't mean we all will finish the race at the same time. We all should have the opportunity to run the race and finish as our abilities and circumstances dictate. Just make sure you aren't trying to do it by stepping needlessly into someone else's lane.
We have released this on facebook as well, and would love for you to share your comments or experiences there! Here's the link: https://www.facebook.com/insym/posts/536531620270813
There you have it. Join us tomorrow, the FIRST day of the 2020, and we'll reveal "TOP 5 AREAS OF FOCUS For INSYM IN 2020!"