The webcomics blog about webcomics

Of Course It’s Funded Already

Dammit, WordPress is being a pain about uploading images. I’ll get a picture in here as soon as I’m able.

Blah blah blah webcomics-related Kickstarter blah blah goal met in three hours blah. In other words, Wednesday. What’s the big deal?

Glad you asked me that, Sparky; the big deal here is something I haven’t seen before in a Kickstarter, something that’s slightly self-contradictory, and perhaps unnecessary in this case, but it still caught my eye. Let’s take those in reverse order.

I say unnecessary because nobody that follows Zach Weinersmith would ever suspect he’d fail to make a Kickstarter goal handily because he knows his audience, he offers what they want, and he pays attention to what works from campaign to campaign¹, crafting the next one to be more foolproof than the one before. So a neato-nifty new technique designed to drive interest was probably not needed (but then, Weinersmith has never been one to rest on his laurels).

Now, self-contradictory, that’s the interesting part. Because what Weinersmith introduced into the Kickstarter for SCIENCE: Ruining Everything Since 1543 was the idea of pre-success stretch goals. Stretch goals are a given in Kickstarters, driving the interest by adding more stuff in, getting past mere success and into stratospheric levels of mega-success by giving the supporters more and more and more for their hard-earned money. Awesome.

What Weinersmith did for S:RES1543 was to set down milestones that would trigger extra content for the book at support levels prior to reaching the funding goal of US$20,000. Check out the progress map — at just 5% of goal, a bonus story is added to the book by Bad Astronomer Phil Plait.

Now on the surface, this makes no sense. If you don’t raise at least US$20,000 the book doesn’t get made at all, so you must raise at least US$1000, meaning that Plait’s contribution isn’t a bonus in any sense, it’s going to be part of the book if the book exists at all. Similarly, book-exclusive comics were announced at US$5000, US$10,000 and US$15,000 which would have to be there anyway, on account of you can’t raise the 20 grand to make the book without passing those milestones. Weinersmith could have just mentioned those comics and Plait’s story as part of the book instead of making them goals of some sort. Weinersmith, you illogical man! I shake my fist at you, thusly!

Except.

Look at that map again. It meanders and wanders and has portents of danger, and by the time goal has been met, five of the eleven landmarks have been filled in. There’s a sense of progress and momentum it creates just by existing, setting up a feeling that Wow, Zach keeps adding stuff to what the book will contain² so I better keep up the forward motion. Weinersmith is moving beyond what stretch goals have always been: teasing enticements — Give us enough and we’ll show you what we’ve got — and has moved into the active psychological management of expectations. This is operations research at Disney style anticipation-engineering³.

Is it working? Weinersmith said he’d expected to hit US$10,000 by the end of the day; we’re now about five and a half hours in and he’s already filled in the landmark at US$40,000, is updating progress more than hourly, and has to prepare the extension of the rewards map into Rewarda Incognito well before he expected to.

As I said, all probably unnecessary, since Weinersmith was going to make these numbers anyway, but possibly not this quickly. But for another creator, one that might sneak over the line or might not? Managing expectations and building a desire for momentum early could make the difference between meeting goal and going down to ignominious defeat. If you think you can antipeneer4 as well as Zach Weinersmith that is.

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¹ And, naturally, to what doesn’t work.

² Despite the fact he isn’t really, not until the sixth marker.

³ Or “antipeneering”, as I call it COPYRIGHT 2013 MUST CREDIT ME WHEN YOU USE IT.

4 Big scary goggles optional, but recommended.

Someone pointed out that they’re not really “stretch goals.” So, technically, the pre-minimum goals are “compression goals.”

“antipaneer” — are you sure that isn’t “to make a curry more vegan”?

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