13 Reasons For a Kickstarter Campaign to Fail (what went wrong with my children’s book?)

13 Reasons For a Kickstarter Campaign to Fail (what went wrong with my children’s book?)

kickstarter book

I know some of you are thinking “What the heck? Your Kickstarter funded and you are complaining? I would kill for $2,000 on a project!” I hear your concerns, but we expected to raise about $5,000 on this campaign and I’ve successfully run three before. Besides, we can always get better. This is me trying to get getting.

Before we get to the 13 reasons that I think the Kickstarter failed to live up to it’s potential, let us say the good stuff.

We funded!


We raised $2162 from 65 backers to make this project a reality. I love you all for backing. It’s because of our amazing fans that we were able to fund at all.

Here’s the thing. You helped us fund DESPITE our bumbling of this campaign. I mean we had 13 days where we raised $0. That’s horrible! I’ve never had a campaign go more than 1 day without funding at least $1.

We also raised from 65 people, which is under half our lowest total backers from the past three campaigns. However, we funded!

Now, let’s look at the ways we could have done better, because even though our campaign funding goal was $2,000 we thought that $5,000 was absolutely within our grasp.

1. I just ran a Kickstarter in February, which ended in March.

Starting a new campaign in April is just too soon. I mean it’s too soon by a long shot. I would say you need at least 6 months between campaigns if you are looking to raise money. Now, you can do smaller campaigns quicker as long as you don’t care about raising a lot, or anything. The Kickstarter platform is to fund projects that need funding, and if you use it too much you are going to dry up the well. That doesn’t mean you can’t launch other products between those times, I just wouldn’t recommend using Kickstarter.

2. We didn’t do anything stuff like in the past campaigns.

Kickstarter campaigns should be events. Books can launch on any platform, including Amazon. Kickstarter should feel like a convention experience online. There should be exclusives, and it should feel like everybody is working together to make something cool. This campaign was just a kind of flat campaign, minus the awesome artist doing some new promo images throughout.

3. Product-market fit with our own expertise.   

None of us were kid’s book people and we weren’t active in parenting groups. I thought my market and audience would want the kid’s book just because they had kids, but that was not a valid assumption. We should have made a plan to get into parenting groups and start talking the book up for a month before the campaign at LEAST. Luckily we got pulled over the finish line by you awesome supporters.

4. We didn’t have a promotional plan.

Honestly, my promotional plan was email our backers and they would support. Luckily they did enough to push us over the finish line, but that is absolutely not enough. It was my own hubris to think I didn’t have to push as much as other projects.

5. Time of year.

We talk about this in our Free Kickstarter Course episode about The Best Time of Year to Launch, but April is a dead zone. I can’t really blame this b/c I’ve seen a couple of Kickstarter in mine and other spaces KILL it. However, April is traditionally a terrible time to launch a product.

6. The rewards were overpriced.

The paperback probably should have been a $15 product instead of $20. The hardcover should have been $20-25 instead of $30. Even though I did my comps, talked to my audience, and found that $20 was acceptable, it was clearly at the high end of acceptable. I mean we sell paperback trades of comics for $20. In fact, I’m going to have to give more free stuff to people to make myself feel better about charging $20. I just don’t think that the value was there for $20. You have to listen to your gut.

7. I should not have been running the one running this campaign.

I am not one of the creators of the book. I am the publisher. So often people asked me why I was running the campaign instead of them. For sure I will not be doing that again. I see why other publishers don’t run their own campaigns. People buy from the creators.

8. Children’s books are an ephemeral product and impulse buy.

People need to touch and feel kid’s books. They need to see them in the marketplace and get recommendations from other people. None of us are known as kid’s book people. Even though the parent buys the book, the kid has to have a reaction to it. Without seeing that reaction, I can imagine many people were turned off.

9. The subject matter turned some people off.

I knew that this would be a niche book. Lots of parents don’t like The Gas We Pass or other books like that. We are hoping it does well with comic people at cons.

10. The book wasn’t genre and it had nothing that would be a big draw.

People like genre books online. If you make an apocalypse book you will sell big numbers, or a fantasy book. If the book has a public domain character or animals it will sell. You need to have something to ground the audience to make them understand what you are selling. Without that it’s a much harder sell that most people won’t back.

11. I should have had a prototype before the book launched.

All our books are done before launch, but for this I really needed a prototype. The video probably should have included a kid being read the book to judge reaction, or it should have had us reading the book to the audience. That would have helped so much.

12. We didn’t update enough or involve the people that did back the book.

Successful Kickstarters average 11 updates a campaign. We didn’t come close to that. You have to keep your audience engaged throughout the experience.

13. The category we picked isn’t one known for big audiences.

Publishing isn’t a category lots of people browse through to find new stuff. People in the community don’t really use Kickstarter as their discovery vehicle of choice. Comics, films, and others do have a large community of people discovering their book, but not the publishing category.

So there you have it. 13 reasons why our Kickstarter didn’t perform up to our standards.

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