Code 45 Pandemic Series: Taking A Risk On Our Comic Book Kickstarter Timing Was A Game Changer

In my previous post discussing our second Code 45 Kickstarter campaign, I mentioned that we had been prepared for a more modest level of first day support, which is what ended up happening for us. What were hadn’t predicted was the huge influx of people who were backing our comic book for the first time.

While it might have taken us longer to reach our higher funding goal for Issue 2, unlike our initial COVID-interrupted Kickstarter, this time the momentum never stopped. Far from experiencing the mid-campaign drop-out that represented COVID-19 gutting us back in March, the foot stayed on the gas all the way to the end, and we ended up funding at 139% of our goal (versus 180% for our original campaign). Our end total represented a roughly 40% increase, dollar-per-dollar, compared to what we had earned for Issue #1.

That constant stream of backers looked different than we expected them to. While we knew that there were a portion of our original supporters who pitched in not because they were comic book fans, but because they were Benjamin, Joe, Angie, and Josh fans, we didn’t realize just how sizable that demographic truly was. As time moved forward in the campaign, it became clear that most of our backers were pledging for all three issues, rather than simply picking up the new mega-issue.

All-told, we ended up with 427 supporters for our second Code 45 campaign, which was almost 250 more than we’d had for Issue 1. Where did all of our new readers come from? Without exaggeration, it was the pandemic that sent them right to our door.

Not Giving In To Fear

It turns out that the very same fears that had nearly kept us from launching our project in the depths of a coronavirus summer had had an even greater chilling effect on the number of comic book projects going live on Kickstarter. Creators were reluctant to brave the waters of economic uncertainty that flooded that point in time, which meant that there were fewer graphic novels available to back when people logged on to the site.

At the same time, there was nearly no drop in the number of active Kickstarter users. Just as our friends and fellow creators had suggested to us, people were still seeking out independent comic books to read and support while they were stuck at home, which created a situation of under-supply and over-demand.

What did this mean for our campaign? In addition to the stream of backers who were arriving at our Kickstarter via our Facebook efforts and our email list, we now had much greater visibility on the website when people browsed the comic book and graphic novel section. We were also more conspicuous to the Kickstarter team, which tagged Code 45 as a ‘Project We Love’ within the first week.

‘Project We Love’ Gave Us A New Audience

It’s difficult to overemphasize how much that signal boost from Kickstarter meant to us in terms of reaching a new audience. The ‘Project We Love’ badge was the difference between averaging single-digit backers in our first campaign and double-digits in our second. In our last four days of the Megaissue campaign alone we pulled in three times as many supporters as we had during that same period for Code 45 Issue 1.

That level of support from Kickstarter goes beyond being called out on the project listing, too. For Code 45, it meant we were included in Kickstarter emails sent to users it thought would be most interested in our book, as well as favorable presentation during searches and exploration of the site. Facebook went from representing 40% of our funding for our first campaign to half that for the second, and while our direct traffic was up (people who used www.code-45.com to reach us from either our newsletter or other mentions on the web) most of the rest of our backers flowed from Kickstarter’s internal processes.

Do Nothing, Learn Nothing

It wasn’t long before we heard about other creators who had had the same experience – those who had gone live before us in the spring and been shocked by how well received their projects had been. What we had initially projected as the worst time to launch our project ended up being perhaps the best in terms of reaching a brand new set of readers in an uncrowded marketplace.

There’s no way to guarantee that our next Kickstarter will also be selected as a ‘Project We Love.’ All we can do is use our experience over the past year to continue to work hard on creating a campaign that communicates what we feel makes Code 45 such an amazing book, and hope that backers agree with us.

The real take-away for us here has been that listening to fear is more likely to sideline a project than anything else. If we had launched Code 45’s Megaissue campaign last summer and had it fail, that would have given us the same kind of valuable information to build on as its eventual success did. Doing nothing, on the other hand, would have taught us nothing. Being afraid to fail is worse than failure itself, because you always come away empty handed.

We didn’t know what we didn’t know, and acknowledging that fact allowed us to launch our campaign and let Kickstarter users decide whether to support us or not, instead of acting like we could predict the future.

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