The Infinity Campaign: Six Gems to Power Your Crowdfunding Gauntlet
If you’ve seen any of Marvel’s blockbusters, you’ve no doubt heard something about the Infinity Gauntlet, the all-powerful glove worn by Thanos in the titular 1990s graphic novel. This mightiest of mighty weapons draws its infinite power from six soul gems, each possessing the power to control one element of the Universe. (Well, technically it’s the Multiverse, but for the sake of keeping things simple and about crowdfunding for the time being, we’ll stick with one universe.) Many of you might know me as “the guy who literally wrote the book on Crowdfunding for Filmmakers” and as head film campaign strategist at Indiegogo, but I’ve recently closed up shop on a campaign for my original graphic novel Siren’s Calling: A Horror Noir to help make a print run of the first issue happen. Twenty-seven days, 120 contributions, and $5,426 on a $2,000 goal later, I blog bearing gems — six Infinity stones of knowledge to help power your Crowdfunding Gauntlet, be it for an indie comic, film, game, or any other creative idea you want to get up and funding.
The Siren’s Calling: A Horror Noir campaign ran from September 29th until October 20th. Lauren and I gave ourselves only three weeks because we wanted to make sure that we would get our funding quickly enough to get the first issue mailed out to all of our backers by Noirvember. But we also set a short time frame because the nature of almost any campaign is a strong start and a strong ending, with a middle that can either be as silent as space itself or have its ups and downs, depending on the strategy. (See “Mind” section.) In our case, we strategized the campaign with three weeks in mind, leaving a little bit of room for some improvisation; this way, when something else came up, the campaign was unaffected by any attention that need to be briefly taken away from the running of it.
That said, run your campaigns for only as many days as you can dedicate 100% of your time to.
It was very important for me to have a campaign page that looks the part of a cool comic book campaign, and that meant having not only images of our characters from the pages of Siren’s Calling prominently displayed on each of our section headers, but it also meant that every time we unveiled a new perk or ran a referral contest there was an image that complemented it. Imagery speaks louder than words these days, and any crowdfunding campaign being run for a project that places images before words (comics, films, games, etc.) demands that it be visually pleasing to all who visit the page.
So don’t skimp on the look and feel of your campaign. I Tweet this time and time again — a campaign should strive to be an extension of the project you’re looking to bring to life. I’m no a designer, trust me! But Siren’s Calling’s co-creator and illustrator Lauren Clemente is. I wrote all the copy on the page and for every Facebook post, Tweet, and digital ad we pushed out into the social mediascape, and she created all the images that accompanied them. With every mention of Siren’s Calling, viewers got a sense of the horror, the noir, and all the dark details in between about the story this graphic novel might be telling, and never just a “help make it happen” solicitation that would get lost in the black hole of social networking.
I think my Dad said it best many years ago, and as a kid sitting at our seventies-era kitchen table reading my Batman comics, I never understood what he meant: “Prevention is better than the cure.” Maybe it was the Greek-to-English translation, but years later, I understood perfectly well — why cure the sickness when you can prevent it altogether? Since then, I’ve rephrased and repurposed his saying to reflect how preparation is better than reparation.
When I work with filmmakers and other content creators on their Indiegogo campaigns, I ask them to show me their strategy document. Most of them don’t have a strategy document when I ask for it, but by the following day, they start piecing together a day-to-day strategy of what updates will go out, who’ll be Tweeting, what new perks will be unveiled, and what press is being lined up. Lauren and I were planning this campaign for at least two months before we decided to launch it. For the launch itself, all we had to do was get over any fears of loss, and the campaign basically ran itself because its map was well-plotted long in advance.
If we spend more time preparing now, we’ll spend less time repairing later, which will leave room for that much needed improvisation I mentioned earlier.
In the second edition of Crowdfunding for Filmmakers (out spring, 2016), I mention that to run a great campaign, you’ve gotta have two stories at play — your indie film’s and your own. It’s no different with graphic novels and most other creative campaigns. The soul of a campaign is not the story of the project you want to get funding for, it’s your story. Who are you? Why is this creative project important to you? And why should I, your potential backer, help you put it down into this sad brown world, as Kerouac would call it? These are the questions that get to the heart of soul of your crowdfunding efforts, and they should always be answered in the invitation, or campaign, video, since that really is the window to the soul of your crowdfunding page. (You can read more about the invitation here.)
Now, you can do all the plotting out that you want for your campaign; you can take six weeks or six months planning every facet of it, from adding a stretch goal bar to your campaign card for when and if you surpass your goal to securing an exclusive with Hero Complex and all the embargoes and other responsibilities that come along with such press-tige, but you won’t know the reality of your campaign until shortly after launch.
Lauren and I had a plan, one we set in place for two months. And when we launched, we stuck to it, and it was great. The reality of the campaign, however, was that it would hit 100% funded in two days. Our preparation wasn’t for that, so we had to adapt quickly and implement all of those plans sooner.
Then our first stretch goal — $3,000 to cover the costs associated with getting our first issue into local bookstores — was a slow-moving one; once it was eventually hit, though, it didn’t take long for us to hit our second and third stretch goals, which both had more concrete goals — to produce and print issue #2 and write and illustrate an eight-page origin story for Lorie Lye, our siren protagonist.
Again, all the preparatory measures we take (again, see the “Mind” section) set us up for the best success possible. The reality changes as that campaign presses forward. The best thing we can do is have a plan that can be laid out for the long haul or whipped out on a whim’s notice, so we can try and curve that reality into a more manageable one.
The power of a successful campaign comes not from the campaigners, but from the crowd. From backers who believe so much in our projects that they swipe their power-packed credit cards openly, as if brandishing a badge upholding that belief. It’s the person who, although maybe not a backer yet, shares your campaign with their friends and followers to try and get your campaign to its goal.
The only way to secure this kind of power is to practice the other five to the fullest extent possible, making your crowdfunding more than just a campaign, to paraphrase Ras’ al Ghul in Batman Begins. Give it an epic story arc all its own, and give to your potential contributors the power to be like Gambit and turn that potential energy kinetic and join the ranks of the other X-Men in your backers list.
Those are your six gems. Take them, and go forth into the crowdfunding galaxy and harness the power of each shard of knowledge as one. Much the way the Infinity Gauntlet will give ultimate power of the Universe to she or he who wields it, so will these unchanging elements of crowdfunding give you the ability to harness the power of your particular crowd and help them aid you in creating a brand new Universe you can all proudly be a part of bringing to life.