7 Lessons Upon the Launch of My 7th Kickstarter

My name is Dennis Hoyle and I’m a tabletop game creator launching my 7th Kickstarter project this month. I’ve run six successful campaigns since 2014 with a combined $120,000 in total funding and over 4,000 backers. As I prepare to launch campaign number seven, I’d like to reflect on my experiences as a Kickstarter creator and share a few of the lessons I’ve learned that still resonate with me today.

#1. This is an amazing time to be a creator: When I first learned about Kickstarter in 2011 I thought it was too good to be true…but then I ran my first campaign. Eight months and $45,000 later we had successfully produced and delivered our small deduction card game to over 2,000 backers. I remember holding the first production sample of the game and thinking, “Wow! I made this!” For me, nothing beats the feeling of seeing my creative vision take root and come to life. It is an addictive feeling — one I want to repeat over and over again — and it scares me to imagine a world without Kickstarter. I am sure other creators feel the way I do: we ache to create and share what we make with the world, and we are so fortunate to live in a time when that is possible.

#2. Always be thankful: I love meeting backers in person! Whenever I meet one I am always surprised and then immediately filled with a rush of thankfulness. I say, “Thank you so much for backing!, “but for some reason, just saying, “thank you” doesn’t seem to be enough. Backers do more than just buy a product, they sacrifice their time and money, contribute support and feedback, and help make my dream come true. I don’t ever want to take this for granted. It helps to remember that backers are real people because I know real people are counting on me to deliver the best possible product. It also reminds me not to be discouraged on days when the campaign feels slow or it seems no one is interested. Someone somewhere (a real person!) likes what I’m doing, and has chosen to actively help me do it. This is foundational to everything we do on Kickstarter and should never be under appreciated.

#3. Celebrate small victories: After my breakout first campaign I assumed the next campaign would be bigger. Nope! In fact, none of my next five campaigns raised even half the amount of my first campaign! I can’t say I didn’t feel a little disappointed, but, looking back, I am reminded of one amazing detail: all my campaigns funded! And now, every game has been produced, and except for my most recent project, which is shipping to backers this month, all my games have been fulfilled to backers and are now selling in stores. No, I’ve never run a monster campaign and I can’t even count the number of campaigns that have raised more in one shot than I have in six combined, but that is OK! I have learned to right-size my expectations (and my budget) and focus more on the most important goal: get funded!

#4. Work hard: First, on the product, and then on the campaign. If it is worth putting on Kickstarter it is worth the work needed to make it great, and the opposite is also true: if it is great, it is worth doing Kickstarter the right way. Kickstarter is not a magic wand, but a power tool. Given time, planning and a little skill, Kickstarter can turn hard work into reward. If you want to see hard work in action, follow tabletop creator Carla Kopp (@WeirdGiraffes) on Twitter. Carla daily details seemingly every effort she makes toward producing her next game and building a successful Kickstarter campaign. No massive budget or big team, just sweat equity and determination.

#5. Celebrate others: This one is especially personal for me because I’ve lost many hours of many days gawking over awesome Kickstarter projects that aren’t mine. My gut instinct is to think that when other people succeed, I lose, but this isn’t true. I have regularly felt challenged by fellow tabletop game creator James Hudson (@DruidCityGames) to be positive and celebrate other people’s successes. Not only is one person’s success good for the whole industry (and brings more people to Kickstarter), but I believe it is good for the soul to take genuine joy in other peoples’ wins. I have been a happier and more effective creator when I choose to celebrate instead of dismiss. All this notwithstanding, there are some incredibly talented and hard-working creators out there who deserve a little recognition for how awesome they are!

#6. Kickstarter is only the beginning: The graphic below shows my first five Kickstarter campaigns and the percentage of total units sold from the Kickstarter campaign compared to the percentage sold after the Kickstarter by other channels. In all cases, except for one, post Kickstarter volume sold exceeded the volume sold through Kickstarter, including my first project, which has now sold out six times since the Kickstarter in 2014. Talk about a kick-start! The lesson here is: make a plan for what happens after the Kickstarter is over and treat Kickstarter as a means instead of an end.

#7. Never stop dreaming: Is the market over-saturated with new ideas? Will we eventually run out of good ideas? These questions seem to be taking more root in the tabletop industry recently (I’m not sure about other industries), but I think it is wise for creators to ignore this line of thinking. There is an old saying, “whoever watches the clouds will not plant,” meaning that circumstances outside your control shouldn’t prevent you doing what you feel inspired to do. Keep dreaming, keep creating, keep Kickstarter-ing and maybe your next idea will be the best yet.

If any of these lessons resonate with you, I hope that I have spurred you on to create more and better projects through Kickstarter and to not give up when you encounter setbacks. Now is the best time to make, so get started! If you liked this post and would like to learn more about my projects, please explore www.bellwethergames.com, follow us on Twitter @bellwethergames or check out our active Kickstarter campaign: Mars Open: Tabletop Golf.

Thanks for reading!

-Dennis Hoyle

Bellwether Games LLC