How It's Done

Yesterday, the project Unbunny’s “Black Strawberries” Limited-Edition LP was posted on Kickstarter. It’s by a blogger named Ryan Catbird, and its goal is to do a vinyl reissue of a record by his favorite artist, a virtual unknown. And yet right now, just one day later, Unbunny’s “Black Strawberries” has raised $1,111. Let’s figure out why.

The first thing that jumps out about this project is the rewards breakdown. As you can see below, each reward has a parenthetical number next to it. That tells you how many people have picked that option.

The $40 “Deluxe Edition” gets you the vinyl, which is hand-numbered and signed by the artist, and it’s currently the most popular pick by an almost two to one margin (earlier today it was even larger; a rush of twenty-buckers since). This is an example of someone pricing their reward and knowing their audience well. Really good job. (I picked the $20 option.)

Ryan’s explanation of why he wants to reissue this record is well put. He makes a case for the music, and he makes a case by talking about what it means to him. He makes you care.

The final part of Unbunny’s early success is that Ryan Catbird is a well-known blogger, and he has promoted his project well. Here’s a screenshot:

Very prominent callout. Ryan is doing it right. One of our model projects thus far.


Ken Jennings (Wiki), Jeopardy champion, just plugged Kickstarter on his blog! Quote:

The crossword was born in newspapers, but I assume that, like a hardy tapeworm, it may survive their death. (Unlike the Jumble.) It won’t die, it’ll just transmute to another sphere, like V’ger. But I’m not sure yet what that process is going to look like.

Eric Berlin thinks he might know, which is why I’m plugging his new venture here. He’s using, a sort of micropayment website that allows visitors to fund artists in ventures they find worthwhile.

Here’s the project Jennings is talking about. And here’s a link to his post. Thanks so much, Ken!


Note the plug from Lindsey Markel on her Tumblr for her project You Are Among Friends, which has raised, to date, nearly 200% of its goal. Really awesome! Just an illustration of how much promotion helps.


On the 2 train home tonight four young dudes got on, introduced themselves as Gotham City and proceeded to NAIL an original R&B tune and then a cover of “Cupid.” Didn’t have anything smaller than a $20, so dropped my Kickstarter card into the hat and said we could help. Hope they get in touch!


“Fundraising Successful.” It’s the first time Kickstarter has had that image. This is a good opportunity to remind everyone that you are only charged if, when the time limit for a project ends, that project has reached or exceeded its funding goal.

Congratulations to darkpony, and we hope the backers for “drawing for dollars” are psyched for their pictures! We’re sure they’ll be awesome.

The Power of Asking

A good friend to Kickstarter once shared an anecdoate about a poll where respondants were asked why they had not given to charity the year before. Something like 95% said it was because they were never asked.

Now part of this is being self-serving — how many of those folks would have simply said “no” when asked? — but there is an indirect truism here, especially when it comes to Kickstarter.

When you are involved with a project on Kickstarter the most important thing to know is that you’re not going to get anywhere without asking for support. It’s on every project’s creator and backer to get the word out, however they can.

Today a new project went up called “Produce My Play” about a guy raising money so his local children’s theatre troupe could put on a show. (It sounds suddenly like a Christopher Guest movie; it’s not.) It was posted by a guy named Haden Polseno-Hensley, one of my oldest and closest friends in the world. I know his play will be successful and I know his project will be successful. He’s a really effing smart, capable dude.

But there’s another reason why I know Haden will succeed. Because tonight, about a half hour after his project went live, I — and about 30 other close friends and family — got this email from Haden:

I recently wrote a play for my local theater children’s theater. I’m in the process of trying to help the theater become nonprofit, but until then, they have to rely on private funding for sets, costumes, performance space rental, etc. If you follow the link below, you will find my new post on a unique fund-raising tool called Kickstarter, which was recently launched by my friend Yancey Strickler. Thanks for your time and hello to all of you (especially to those of you I haven’t seen in ages and now here I come out of the blue asking you for money…who do I think I am…etc.)

PS. I’ve posted a very low quality video on the site. For some added entertainment value, note my stronger southern accent at the beginning.

A simple sentiment, honestly stated. It’s going the extra mile to write emails like these so that the people who know you best, who are most likely to support you and tell their friends and family about you, can pitch in. It’s an important part of launching a successful project. Just ask Laura Kicey, who has raised $490 in a day all by getting the word out about her project to her friends.

It’s easy to get tempted by the lure of “going viral” and striking it rich. But those things don’t happen often, and when they do, it’s almost certainly happening to the folks who put in the extra time to spread the word, beat the bushes for their cause. If you can do that, you can be successful on Kickstarter.

Why Kickstarter?

The Beatles were turned down by nearly every record label. George Lucas couldn’t find a movie studio that would make Star Wars. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post were two of the only reporters assigned to cover Watergate. John Kennedy Toole went to his grave with A Confederacy of Dunces still unpublished.

Anecdotes like these have become folklore, as have their lessons: good ideas go unrecognized, experts get it wrong, perseverance prevails. All true. But as we marvel at the elixirs of skill and luck that have brought the few enormous fame and many endless heartache, it’s also worth considering that maybe this judgment system that seems to get so much so wrong is outdated. That it doesn’t speak for anyone except itself. That a good idea, well-crafted and pursued with passion, doesn’t need a gatekeeper’s stamp of approval to succeed.

The gauntlet that is fundraising (for everyone who doesn’t have a rich, benevolent uncle) sees only profit or predictability. Not art or passion or talent or an incredible story of inspiration.

Kickstarter aims to give each one of us a chance to fund our ideas, starting directly with the people who are closest to it (friends, fans, community-fellows). And it’s a way to break beyond the traditional methods — loans, investment, industry deals, grants — to discover that we can offer each other value through creation without a middleman dictating the product and terms.