The webcomics blog about webcomics

The Perils Of Success

So Howard Tayler’s Kickstarter is running at some 3000% of goal and counting, and he’s got a really important update that you should read. Certainly, read it if you’re a backer, but also read it if you’ve ever considered running a Kickstarter yourself because he talks about how your plans can get completely pooched not just from failing at a Kickstarter, but from succeeding too well¹.

The original scope for this project was as follows:

  • Fund the creation of up to five different coins, at volumes which allow me to sell them at conventions, and keep stock on hand.
  • Fund at somewhere between $10k and $20k after thirty days.
  • Ship all the coins in mid-April

For reference, Tayler is just shy of US$55,000 as of this writing. Between Tayler’s experience and other runaway successes we’ve seen where the delivery of rewards becomes a serious burden², I’m starting to wonder if creators should make much more liberal use of limited rewards. Expecting to see no more than X to Y and a proportional number of backers, and you’ve arranged your schedule for the next few months around those assumptions? Limit the rewards so if you get a blowout success in the opening hours, you aren’t obligated to do more than you’re capable of.

If there’s pent-up demand, you can always say, I’m gratified so many of you want in on this, I’ll whip up some new rewards tiers and let the rest of you give me money while making the appropriate shifts to your schedule. And hey, nothing drives up interest like initial scarcity. If you’ve got a relatively straightforward set of rewards with a predictable production schedule, reliable supply chain, and scalable delivery operations, feel free to leave everything unlimited. In all other cases, some hard-nosed realistic self-assessment will probably be what stands between you and madness.

¹ Paging Rich Burlew, who gets all the slack in the world for an unpredictable injury that forced him to stop work for months, but who also wound up in the situation of having to create 25 separate product categories and try to keep nearly 15,000 backers happy while being just one person. That’s the sort of situation that sends sensible, grounded people on benders that take Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas as a to-do list.

² Above and beyond the simple shipping aspect, regarding which I will have more to say next week; the real work is in the design and production of everything you promise.

³ Except maybe Randall Munroe. If Gambrell and Munroe ever collaborated, my brain would explode from sheer enjoyment.

As I posted on G+

Imagine you’re a pretty good cook.

You go to your friends and say “I’d like to make dinner for us. Something nice. I’ll do all the cooking and the shopping, but I’ll need $100 for ingredients.”

Your friends, who have enjoyed your cooking in the past, agree! Everybody shakes hands, talks about how good the food is going to be, and looks over your shoulder while you plan the menu.

The next morning your friends are on your doorstep with $50,000. “We’ve decided we want you to open a restaurant.”

That is what overfunding feels like. Fortunately, I don’t mind opening a restaurant.

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