I asked people why they'd supported my Kickstarter project (either by pledging funds or spreading the word). About 40 people responded (out of 168 backers) -- I've organized their reasons below, by order of importance:
- they were genuinely excited by the project concept, and wanted to read it (15 people)
- they've read other things of mine that they've liked (14)
- they're my internet friendly acquaintance (13)
- they're my friend and want to help me out (8) (most, though not all, of the higher donations came from here)
- a friend they trusted recommended it (5)
- they like other projects I've done (like Clean Sheets and Strange Horizons), and as a result trust I'll do something good (5)
- they like other projects I've done, and pledged as a kind of 'thank you' (4)
Other reasons that I didn't think to ask about that people volunteered:
- they're interested in this form of funding and/or want to do one themselves (5)
- they were interested in a specific prize (cookbook, naked mug both cited multiple times) (4)
Overall conclusion: You have to have a really intriguing project, as well as a proven track record of accomplishment, so people trust that you will be able to successfully follow through. That might be enough to make a Kickstarter successful, especially with a relatively low funding goal. But it won't hurt if you also have a lot of friends, friendly acquaintances, and a strong presence in internet communities.
Also, spread the word, relentlessly. There may be a thousand people who want to support your project -- but they can't do it if they haven't heard about it! :-)
A few interesting comments from the responses, names stripped (because I forgot to ask if it would be okay to attribute these -- hope no one minds not getting credit for their words below -- feel free to claim them in the comments!):
"I enjoy reading your blog. You blog more when you're happy. You're clearly happy writing this. By enabling you to write the book, I'm likely to see more interesting blog entries."
"I read a poem you posted here on g+ and was deeply moved."
"I liked "Jump Space" and would love more like it."
"It was really just exciting to think about a bunch of stories with brown people!"
"First, because there isn't enough erotic SF that isn't the execrable, inexcusable used furniture stuff coming out of Ellora's cave and the like. I trust you to do better. Second, because I like the kind of writing you do and I'm making up for all the times in the past when I was broke and couldn't afford to toss even a dime your way. Although I did buy 'Wet.'" (Note -- this is the reader's opinion, not mine -- I haven't read anything from Ellora's Cave, and can't comment on its quality!)
"Via the magic of G+, I have seen a picture of your kitchen, of which I am very jealous. Somehow having a kitchen makes you seem more like a real 3D person, rather than a 2D professional persona."
"While I had heard of you before your contribution to Whatever during RaceFail, it was reading your posts there that told me you are someone to learn more about."
"We kicked in a higher pledge than we might have because T. reeeeeeeally wanted the nekkid coffee mug."
"1, 3, 4, 6 -- but 6 would've been enough since I have a long-standing policy of supporting people I know who write!"
"I think we'd be unlikely to support a project just because it sounded like a cool idea -- there are so many many things that "sound like cool ideas", I think we'd need some sort of more personal connection (either to the person's work or the person) to want to pledge."
"This seems like the kind of project that might be difficult to sell through the conventional publishing route, so it's exciting that something like Kickstarter is available to fund it."
"Typically I only fund relatives (however extended) and good friends."
"I'm also a big fan of Kickstarter; if I could afford it I'd designate a portion of my monthly budget to helping things succeed, then take the postcards or whatever (print-outs of acknowledgements?) and put them in a scrapbook and look at it sometimes and say, 'I helped make that happen!'"
"Having low-budget options (I pledged at $10) was critical. My personal spending budget right now is teensy, and $25 would have been out of my range."
"I think this is an interesting approach to publishing that should be encouraged, and I am in a position to do so."
"It's pretty exciting to be part of helping someone realize their goals!"
Thanks so much, everyone! Exciting for me too!
- Mary Anne