Part 4 of Our Virtual Convention Table
By Anna Rettberg
(illustration)
Casey Muratori
(text)
In part one of this miniseries, I explained the unlikely chain of events that lead to us running a Kickstarter for our graphic novel, Meow the Infinite. Up until all the comic conventions were canceled, we’d never thought about trying such a thing. So when we suddenly decided it was our best option, we found ourselves needing to run a Kickstarter campaign with no real idea of how.
Before moving on, I’d like to really underscore that lack of Kickstarter expertise for a moment: we had literally no idea how to run a Kickstarter campaign for anything, let alone a graphic novel. As I am writing this post with only a few days left in the campaign, it is still quite a surprise to me that we’ve somehow tripled our funding goal. We actually had to add two just-in-time stretch goals because we hadn’t planned for our campaign to ever break $10,000!
All of that is, of course, great news. What’s not-so-great news is that even though the campaign is successful, I’m not really sure I know why.
I realize you are not supposed to admit this.
I, too, have seen the myriad “HOW WE BROKE THE INTERNET AND ANNIHILATED OUR $50,000 KICKSTARTER FOR INTERNET-ENABLED DIAPERS” articles. Whether or not the authors of such articles have any idea what they’re talking about, I don’t know. But what I do know is that I certainly wouldn’t know what I was talking about if I tried to write one of those articles.
So I’m not going to. The words “conversion”, “funnel”, and “acquisition” are going to appear in exactly one sentence in this article, and this sentence is that sentence. Don’t look for them in any other sentences, because you won’t find them.
But that does not mean I will simply throw up my hands and say, “We’re ecstatic it worked. We have no idea why.” We do things the hard way here at Molly Rocket, so instead of giving fortune all the credit I instead choose to present you, faithful readers, with this extremely pretentious graph I made just for you:
Behold the majesty of it all! This is one of those graphs that you find in an Edward Tufte-style book where they talk about how much information they were able to pack into one graph, and the whole time you’re reading it you’re like, “wow that sounds awesome… so much information…”. Then you try to actually read the graph, and it’s so confusing you can’t even tell which way to hold the page.
Well thankfully, this is a web site, not a book, so there’s only one way to hold it. In fact, even if you try to hold it some other way, your phone will sense that you’ve tipped it and thwart you by counter-rotating.
More importantly, like most pretentious graphs, most of the stuff on it is extraneous anyway.
So let’s start simplifying. Here is the graph of backers (in blue) and dollars pledged (in orange):
The first thing you can see from this is, with the exception of a few places where the peaks diverge in scale, these lines follow the same pattern. We don’t need both to assess how the Kickstarter did day by day. And since up is good and down is bad, we really don’t need the grid, either.
So honestly we can just start with this:
That’s really all we need to know to see how things went day by day.
If you’ve ever looked at graphs of Kickstarter campaigns before, you’ll recognize that our graph follows the standard shape of a Kickstarter campaign. Most of the activity happens at the beginning.
Some campaigns have a spike at the end as well. We still have three days left, so we don’t actually know if we’ll have one. But since we’re not doing anything materially different at the end of the campaign, if we did have a spike, well, we certainly wouldn’t learn anything from it other than that people sometimes just like to pledge at the end of the project. It wouldn’t have been because of something we did.
But there’s still a lot of peaks and valleys in the graph, and it’s interesting to see if we can figure out where they come from. One thing is pretty easy to eliminate right off the bat, so let’s eliminate it:
Those are the weekends when Handmade Hero aired and posted videos on YouTube. Since most people who follow Molly Rocket know about Handmade Hero, it’s a fair bet that people may have found out about our Kickstarter via the show. I made sure to mention it briefly at the start of every broadcast in the hopes that folks who were interested would check it out.
But as you can see from the graph, if people did come to the Kickstarter from a Handmade Hero stream, it probably all happened the first weekend.
And this is what I would expect. People who watch the series at this point watch it regularly, so if they already heard me mention it the first weekend and didn’t go to the Kickstarter, they’re probably not going to go the second weekend!
So let’s focus our attention instead on the specific Kickstarter-related things we did throughout our campaign. I’ll add those back into the graph:
OK, I admit it, it got complicated again. I apologize.
But really, this just tags each day of the Kickstarter with the things Anna and I posted to promote the campaign. The yellow-line tags are the external posts we did, and the green-line tags are backer updates we posted on Kickstarter itself.
Going into the campaign, we didn’t have any idea what would help and what wouldn’t. We anticipated it would be a struggle for us, because what limited exposure we have is mostly related to gaming or programming education, not graphic novels. So rather than do nothing and crossing our fingers, we decided to try everything we could think of, and hope that at least something we tried helped.
We had three main things to work with: our blog/mailing list (which you’re reading right now!), our Twitch channel, and our YouTube channel. Every day, we tried something different on at least one of them.
For a quick overview of everything, you can check out our art playlist and our prepress playlist.
For the complete breakdown, in excruciating detail, here’s the list of everything we posted, by day:
4/10: We started the campaign with a post to our blog, which also goes out to our mailing list of about 2500 people. This is just a list of people who voluntarily signed up our website to keep informed about our projects. 4/10 was also the first time we posted the trailer publicly.
4/11: We added a new tier by request, and we posted a timelapse of Anna drawing Meow.
4/12: We posted an illustrated video of Anna and I describing the opening of The Rise of Skywalker.
4/13: Anna posted an update celebrating hitting our funding goal so early, and I posted an update about working with the printers. We also posted another timelapse video, this time of Anna drawing Valorie.
4/14: We did a live stream of Anna Draws It, a show where viewers on Twitch can paste descriptions of fictional characters into the chat, and Anna will try to draw them.
4/15: We were selected by Kickstarter as a “Project We Love”.
4/16: We posted the YouTube version of Anna drawing Cookie Monster from the live stream, and I posted an update to Kickstarter talking about all the stuff we'd posted so far.
4/17: We posted the YouTube version of Anna drawing a Kobold from Dungeons & Dragons.
4/18: I posted the Prime Pussify source code on my personal blog and github (this is a Photoshop script that helps make randomized lettering for comics).
4/19: I posted an update about reaching our Spot UV stretch goal, including a video showing what “Spot UV” means.
4/20: We posted the YouTube version of Anna drawing a Barbaracle from Pokemon.
4/21: I posted another backer update with links to what we had been posting, and we posted part one of this series to our blog and mailing list.
4/22: We posted the YouTube version of Anna drawing a Fury from Dungeon Siege.
4/23: We posted a timelapse video of Anna drawing Snow White.
4/24: I did a live stream talking about all the things I’d learned while doing prepress work for Meow the Infinite.
4/25: We posted the YouTube version of my live stream.
4/26: Anna posted a backer update celebrating hitting our last planned stretch goal, an expansion of the softcover edition to include more concept art.
4/27: We posted the YouTube version of Anna drawing a Funghoul from Dragon Quest, as well as a timelapse drawing of Cinderalla. We did not turn on subscribed notifications for these two videos.
4/29: We posted part two of this series, and the YouTube version of Anna drawing a Mind Flayer from Dungeons & Dragons.
5/1: We did another Anna Draws It live stream.
5/4: We posted part three of this series. We were also selected as the featured comic on Kickstarter’s “comics and illustration” page for the day, and we posted a backer update celebrating hitting the extra coloring book stretch goal we added when we ran out of stretch goals.
And there’s still a few days left in the campaign, but we’ve essentially finished with all the promotional ideas we had.
Now again, if this were a hip Web 3.0 (4.0? Maybe 4.1a?) kind of blog, we would have all sorts of tracking IDs and analytics here, and try to quantify how many people saw each thing we did, how many came to the Kickstarter, and how many pledged. But we’re very, very much not that kind of blog, and we don’t do any of that stuff.
Kickstarter, of course, does track all this, and will tell you where visitors came from. But since we don’t make special tracking links, it’s a bit hard to suss out. Here’s their breakdown as far as I understand it:
There’s a roughly fifty-fifty split between backers who came to the campaign because of us and because of Kickstarter.
In terms of total pledge amount, it’s weighted much more heavily toward us, but in terms of backers, it’s even.
Assuming those statistics are accurate, Kickstarter actually brought quite a few readers to Meow that had never heard of it before. Strangely enough, this seems to be true regardless of what’s going on with Kickstarter on any given day. We saw a noisy if consistent number of backers coming from Kickstarter day-to-day, and it didn’t seem to change based on our placement in the listings.
We did not see a marked increase in backers from Kickstarter when we got chosen as a “Project We Love”. We didn’t see one when we were the “featured” listing on the comics and illustration home page either. So although we could be quite wrong about this, as far as we can tell, people who browse Kickstarter and discover projects on their own must be doing so very diligently, and found our project regardless of whether Kickstarter tried harder to promote it to them.
Which, if true, is pretty awesome.
But that’s Kickstarter. For the half of the backers that came because of something we did, what was that something?
According to Kickstarter, only 14% of our half of the backers came from YouTube. So despite making a ton of video content to try to promote the Kickstarter, it was very unlikely that anyone who saw our videos on YouTube came to back the Kickstarter.
20% of our half came from our websites. So the little banners we put on handmadehero.org and meowtheinfinite.com, etc., were worth it  —  a significant number of people saw those and came to support the Kickstarter.
Which brings us to the most significant thing we did that brought people to our Kickstarter: our mailing list. Fully 40% of our half of the backers came with no referrer  —  and the only real way that could have happened, as far as I know, is if they clicked on a link in our mailing list.
You may be surprised that we don’t know that they clicked on a link. But like I said, we don’t track our readers. It’s rude. Links in our emails are just plain links  —  no tracking ID, no redirects. But I digress.
Coming back to the graph, we can see that this seems well-supported by the peaks:
Green highlights are posts to the Molly Rocket blog that also went out to our mailing list. For comparison, you can see another blog post  —  highlighted in tan  —  that was to my personal blog and did not go out to our mailing list.
So what have we learned from all this?
Well, we learned that somehow, somewhere out there, there are actually people who read this mailing list. I’m as surprised as you are. I mean, I have to stay here until the end, because if I don’t write the end, no one will. But I didn’t know anybody was actually down here with me!
Put more seriously, it does look like our mailing list is actually great for getting people’s attention, and YouTube mostly isn’t  —  at least as far as we can tell from the limited information we have. If we were to do this all over again, we’d still put links on our websites, we’d still do these blog posts, and we’d still send out our mailing list… but we probably wouldn’t bother with any of the YouTube stuff. It didn’t help, and probably just distracts us from other things that would be more beneficial to the campaign.
That said, there was one spike that is perhaps YouTube-related:
We don’t really know what that’s from, but we do know that there were 14% of our half of the backers who came from YouTube. So it’s probably the case that our inexperience with promoting things just means we don’t know how to do anything useful with YouTube. Someone with better expertise in that area might be able to make it work.
Either way, we’re just happy something worked out.
Which brings us to the end of this series of posts. We hope you enjoyed at least some of the stuff we did for our Kickstarter, and that we weren’t too annoying about it. We’re delighted the campaign was a success, and we’re really looking forward to sending books out to so many people!
So that’s it for now. With any luck, the next time we post here on the Molly Rocket blog, it’ll include some beautiful photographs of our very first softcover graphic novel, fresh out of the shipping pallet!
Until then, thanks as always for reading, and thanks again to everyone who backed our Kickstarter!
Don’t want to miss a post? Join our mailing list: