When you go to a Kickstarter page, what’s the first thing you do? I always read (or at least skim) the text of their pitch. If it looks interesting, I’ll read through it properly. If not, I’m not going to back it. If I see the project’s video embedded on a different site, maybe I’ll watch that first, but the text is always more important to me.
So when I sat down to write the pitch for Reel, I had to make something that would appeal to me. But this campaign wasn’t really written for me; it’s for you. That means what I really had to make was something that appealed to everyone else.
I’ve gotten great feedback on the whole, so I guess I succeeded. Head below for a deeper look at that process.
[Alec is doing a Kickstarter. You can (and should) back it here. Through the project’s duration, he will be writing a series of articles about the process. More about that here. Check out the other entries here.]
As with every part of this process, it’s important to do your research. (Heck, a couple of you are probably reading this for exactly that reason.) Look at other Kickstarters, successful and not. I believe I said this is an earlier article, but you don’t need to emulate the successes; you just need to learn the lessons of the failures. Research is vital, but you also need to be willing to disregard what you find if you have a legitimate reason for what you’re doing. Rules are meant to be broken, as they say.
When I was looking at other Film & Video Kickstarters, I noticed that most of their pitches were in the 500-800 word range. This was true for massive projects and also for the small ones that were made by people I know personally. They worked to be short, sweet, and to the point. If you’ve followed my writing, you’ve probably noticed that I have a tendency to be verbose. I frequently respond to 200 word emails with 800 words or more. I write a lot. Too much, really.
So it may not surprise you that Reel’s Kickstarter pitch clocks in at a probably-ludicrous 2060 words.
The actual pitch for Reel itself is between 498 and 813 words – depending on whether or not you count the explanation of Kickstarter policies and practices. Earlier versions of the pitch (more on that later) were closer to 1000 and included full bios of my co-creators and me, but in the end I wanted to pare it down to its bare minimum, and unnecessary descriptions of who I am and who Gerard is needed to go. (We have a Kickstarter bio and website for that.) That went, as did a couple of other unnecessary back-and-forths to bring it what I think gets to the heart of everything we needed to say in a short period.
So what about 1247 remaining words? Well, they’re details of how the money will be used. And this was something I went back and forth on at least a dozen times, because it does make everything longer. A lot of Kickstarters don’t do a blow-by-blow of where the money is going. And this is where I made a decision to break from what I’d seen elsewhere. I always like it when Kickstarters explain where their money is going, and even though we decided against actually putting the budget itself online (for a myriad of reasons), we figured it was important to be as open about it as we could.
But where we really broke the mold (at least in the film section) was our decision to explain our stretch goals from the outset. Our stretch goals are something I wrote about at length earlier this week, but the reason I decided to put them front and center was for the sake of honesty. Generally, that information is hidden behind Backer Updates, but that’s something I want to know from the beginning. Enough Kickstarters have been ludicrously successful (Reel will not be one of them) that not even considering what a higher budget could allow you would be silly.
Not having that plan has caused more than a couple of projects to totally crash and burn. We weren’t going to be one of those projects, and so we wanted to point out from the start where we knew we could put money if we were to get it. It may have ended up a bit on the long side (understatement), but it was done with good intentions, and I think that by putting the important stuff up front (and doing so relatively quickly) we got the best of both worlds.
(You may disagree. If you think it’s way too long and how dare I put that many words in the pitch, then you definitely shouldn’t do what I did.)
Three things you definitely need:
Honestly, this might be the most important thing of all. If your Kickstarter pitch has no personality, literally nobody is going to give you money. Because no personality means no passion, and no passion means a lesser product. This is truer with artistic endeavors than technical ones, but it’s important across the board. You are the person asking for money, and you need to put yourself out there to get it. Whether that’s a matter of you being funny (I went for funny) or just generally excited, there needs to be a clear sense of who the person is behind the blocks of text. The video is very helpful in this regard (we’ll be discussing that next week), but the best video in the world won’t really make up for soulless text.
This goes back to the idea of making your text something for you. Will you be proud of something that could have been written by a robot from the early 2000s? No, you wouldn’t. You need to be proud of what you’ve written, and if you’re proud of it, people will know and overlook
Iteration (and collaboration)
Our text went through at least 30 different iterations. Some of the changes were small (a couple of words here and there) and others were significant (restructuring, removing and adding paragraphs, etc.). Very little of the original text made it through all of the edits, and they were happening up until a few hours before we submitted the project to Kickstarter.
During this period, I had more than a dozen separate people look at the text. Some were dear friends, some were acquaintances or people I barely knew at all. Some had never used Kickstarter before, and one had run her own project successfully. I wanted to get opinions from all sorts of people, including people I knew had no interest in backing the project. Every single person, even if they didn’t have much criticism, gave me some useful insight into the way people were understanding what I’d written. In my own head, everything makes perfect sense, but every time I ever write anything, I have someone look over it. I want to make sure that it makes sense to other people as well. Here, it was important that I had as many people look over it as I could, because that’s how I create the thing that caters to everyone else.
You don’t always know what other people want, so ask them.
This kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point, but it’s worth mentioning separately, because if you don’t proofread your pitch, you’re going to look like an idiot and everyone will laugh at you. If I forget a comma somewhere in this article, that’s a shame but it won’t ruin me. I’ve had work published on websites that get millions of hits a month, and even though they went through editors there were still mistakes. That’s unfortunate and makes me sad, but in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t really matter.
On Kickstarter, though? That’s like messing up on a resume. Mistakes are unforgivable. You need to quadruple check every single line, because even the smallest mistake will reflect badly on you as a writer, a creator, and a person.
If you make sure to take these things to heart and write something that you and others are interested in and proud of, then you’re off to a good start. There’s definitely no magic formula to writing the perfect pitch, but if you can approach your subject with honesty and passion, then you can get others excited enough to help fund you.
Your work is a reflection of who you are. Your Kickstarter should be too.