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Symbiotic Patronage: Backers As Creators / Creators As Backers

Published by Salvador Briggman. Find him on Twitter.

This article was written by Wendy Ice, who helped run the $83k Alice in Wonderland Kickstarter campaign and is the partner and print publisher of David Delamare.

In 2001, we offered encouragement to a young artist (Ulysses Dickerson) who had turned up at our art studio door. Twelve years later, he emailed us to ask if we might support his Kickstarter campaign. We gave him a small contribution, but explained that we too were struggling. He responded by sharing his crowdfunding research, and then talked us into launching a campaign. We followed his advice, raised $83,000 for an Alice in Wonderland book and, more importantly, suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a community of encouraging patrons.

Now that we’re in the reward fulfillment phase of our Kickstarter campaign, one of our primary goals is to keep that original symbiosis going. Though we don’t have much in the way of funds, we try to support our backers in whatever way we can by promoting their creative ventures and businesses. For instance, we’re currently gathering information so that when we create a designated website for our Alice book, in addition to listing backer names, we can link to backer businesses, creative projects, and campaigns.

We were excited to learn recently that one of our backers, Chelle Destefano had launched a campaign of her own. Chelle has a long history as a backer, having supported over 200 projects. We decided to interview her about her experience as a backer and a first-time creator, who has already surpassed her funding goal.

Roam the Blue Ghost screenshot

We’ve noticed that a lot of our backers are themselves struggling artists and creators.  Has that been true in your case?

Yes, it’s true that artists have it hard and many backers for my project have been creatives and entrepreneurs, although I was surprised by the number of people supporting me who were high school friends, as well, and other friends.

What I did to get more support was I used Green Inbox. It’s a great service! It helped me get many backers from Facebook. Facebook has become selfish and filtered out many important Kickstarter-related posts when I first launched it, and I was not happy when I learned FB did this (read more here about the FB algorithm changes).

So, I then set up a FB event and invited everyone, but the ultimate tool was Green Inbox. I would not use FB postings as the main marketing tool. There are so many other things to use to help with marketing. Like Kicktraq (advertise), Bitly (link click-tracking/shortening), Google+, Reddit, Instagram, FB groups and crowdcrux (which, I must say, is one of my favorites as well :)). They have been sooo good, Salvador especially. You are right, he is a gem. He helped me so much when I first launched Roam the Blue Ghost).

You can see a list of marketing tools here.

As of today, you’ve backed 260 projects on Kickstarter. That makes you a very seasoned backer. When did you back your first project?

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 1.35.48 AM

I’m pleased to know that I’m seen as that. When I first started on Kickstarter as a backer in late 2011, I fell into it quickly. However, I realized they didn’t do Australia, so I messaged them and pushed them with messages until they finally got Australia allowed in late 2013. That day I was jumping for joy :D.

I love being able to support a project, particularly small ones like artists creating a book, indie game or zines. I don’t mind some of the bigger projects, but I like focusing on the smaller ones and the games are a big love of mine :), like ballads of reemus, nelly cootalot, and dog mendoca and pizza boy, just to name a few.

The first project I ever backed were both Two Guys SpaceVenture – by the creators of Space Quest and the Projecteo: The tiny Instagram projector. The projecteo and Wrylon Robotical Field Guides were my favorite first projects. Then came along some amazing projects like the Continuous City, your Alice in Wonderland project, Mind Afire: A Graphic Novel Biography Of Nikola Tesla, Visualizing Pi: Mural with High School Math Students, The Heartless Machine Guide to Drawing, 3Doodler and Lost Laurel.

All of these projects are small projects but meant a lot to me. These artists worked hard to create some amazing works that left me feeling inspired and excited about the creative world.

How long have you been thinking about launching your own campaign?

I live my life through art and could not imagine life without art in any way. I had been thinking about launching my project for 2 years, and when they finally got Australia in the Kickstarter map, it was all go ahead!

I started to plan for one, which would be the volkswagen one, but I decided to hold that one off, as I felt more work was needed on that one. Then Roam the Blue Ghost came up and I started to develop the idea of the project based on my love for abandoned places and ghosts and found that many people like these things too.

I have always wanted to publish books, especially art books that people would enjoy as a coffee table conversation starter and marvel over abandoned places. The volkswagen one is next to be launched, and aiming for either a sept launch or march next year. I have to pick the right times of the year carefully.

I imagine that being a prolific backer has given you insight into what makes a good campaign creator. What positive lessons have you learned?

The positives I have learned from watching campaigns have been: how many rewards to create, the types of rewards people want, how to get everyone excited about the project, rewards and stretch goals, quality of the rewards, and time deadlines, especially the expected deadlines.

People want to see progress photos, detailed descriptions of a project and updates, a good video that explains everything and, most of all, that the creator is keeping the goal amount realistic.

You must also research resources to get a project up off the ground (like book printing companies, boxes for prints, etc), and it’s often a good to offer digital rewards too like ebooks and wallpapers of the artworks.

What mistakes were you able to avoid as a result of being a seasoned backer?

One mistake I was able to avoid was having too many rewards that confuse backers. Instead, as an example, I would say it’s best to combine many images of artworks being offered as prints as one pledge tier, with the option in a survey to choose which image(s) the backers would like.

Another thing I have learned is to calculate every cost possible, including 10% fees, and combine them into one amount, but be careful to not over-pricing things. I sent out a link to friends in my pre-launch stage and got advice from them and some creators. Also, I looked at how successful projects had their story/description set out in segments, so its easy to read.

Finally, it’s important to do as much market research and question asking as possible about your project. Set up a FB page for your product/work months ahead of starting a Kickstarter campaign. Research how to market a Kickstarter ahead of time.

You came to us after backing our campaign and asked us to back yours. Naturally we wanted to support you. How many creators did you contact in this way and did many back your campaign?

I contacted most of the projects I backed on the off chance that one or two would like my theme. Surprisingly, nearly all of them backed my project! About 60 of these creators have backed Roam the Blue Ghost which has been amazing! Even more amazing is some of them have done shout outs of my project, which was a honour. I would say 50% of the funds have come from the creators.

What else have creators done to help?

Some of the creators offered advice, including you and a few others, like the updates – make these visible to everyone, not just backers, so people can see more of the project through updates which has worked well! Other advice was on finding the best promotion tool, which was Green Inbox, and on choosing particular times to post a Tweet or Facebook post so that more people were likely to see the project’s post.

Would you advise other creators to back many campaigns? If so, why?

I would certainly advise other creators to back campaigns and have already advised a few to do this, as it also develops a good network with creators and backers from everywhere, almost like a forum in a way.

Thinking of forums, I sent some feedback to kickstarter suggesting that they could open a forum community within Kickstarter for creators and backers and would-be creators and backers to converge and discuss. I find so many of the creators and backers are passionate supporters and love projects like the ones I do. Often creators are more than happy to do shout outs on their updates, fb and twitter so it is good to support many projects and form a network. Plus you make new friends with creators! Some friends for life too, as in my case :).

Note from Sal: This is why we created KickstarterForum and CrowdfundingForum

I would advise anyone who launches a project, please please ignore messages from crowdfunding service companies claiming they will promote your project for $100 – $200, which is a scam to be honest. As we can do all the promoting ourselves, by joining groups in fb and google+, reddit and using green inbox (which we pay much less to use).

I found out by researching, that one crowdfunding service company put in their case studies page, campaigns that they had not helped. I contacted a couple of those kickstarter creators to ask if crowdfunding services helped them and they said no they had never heard of Crowdfunding Services, so I knew then that the company was lying and scamming people so it stopped me from purchasing a “pack plan” which I was very fortunate about.

On a last note, I forgot to mention, one of the things I learned is that it’s very very important to engage with backers and people who could become backers, as that sort of personal touch is what people love and makes them more want to support your project.

Check out Chelle’s Kickstarter Below.

roam the blue ghost

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  • AThousandSilencedVoices

    Symbiosis is also a great way to get caught up in artistic momentum! Staying positive has really helped me during my pre-launch phase. Helping others with their campaign is the best way to promote your own! Thank you for telling me to avoid crowd funding companies!! http://www.twitter.com/solairethebrave http://www.thepocketnovel.wordpress.com

    • CrowdCrux

      Good points! It’s also just good for being recognized as an artist in general. The more people that you network with and form genuine relationships with, the more you can cross-promote and help each other out!

  • Guest

    @AThousandSilencedVoices: Best of luck with your launch!

  • Thanks, Sal, for editing and posting the interview!

    • CrowdCrux

      Of course! Thanks for the awesome write-up and interview.

  • P Roberts

    Great article and some interesting tips. Since I started my Kickstarter campaign I have been inundated with messages from companies trying to get me to pay for them to promote my campaign.

    • CrowdCrux

      Yea, I would research each of the companies. A quick google search can tell a lot about a company.

  • Myles Adams

    Great article! I hope all backers are this nice.

    • CrowdCrux

      Glad you liked it! Kudos to Chelle for being such an involved member of the Kickstarter community. I’ve already backed her project.

  • Thanks P Roberts. There’s so much great free information available (best example: crowdcrux.com) that there’s often little need to pay for help, unless you need specific skills. My husband, who illustrated the Alice book, could never have run a campaign. He relied on me for that, but if I hadn’t been available, he would have had to turn to a consultant.

    Fortunately, there are some very reputable and knowledgeable consultants as well as some powerful tools available. In retrospect, I can see many mistakes that I made which a consultant might have helped me avoid. (Of course, we had no money to hire one, which is why we were on Kickstarter in the first place.)

  • Myles Adams: Kickstarter attracts a really extraordinary group of people. A testament to just how nice backers are is the fact that we are currently many months behind fulfillment and we receive consistently kind and supportive communications. Those are a huge factor in keeping us motivated to do our best. (I really feel as though we’re making this book for valued friends.)

    I think there’s a tendency when we talk about crowdfunding to put too much emphasis on the funding. Though we are incredibly grateful for the funds that backers provided, we are just as grateful for all their moral support and encouragement. Everyone can be a powerful patron—it doesn’t require money. Back in December, I dedicated an update to listing just what backers have done for us (it’s a long list). If you’re interested, you can read it here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1954507197/alice-in-wonderland-book-illustrated-by-david-dela/posts/1088657

    • CrowdCrux

      I agree with you that there is too much emphasis on the dollars. For technology projects or products where the creator intends to sell them on an ecommerce website after shipping out their rewards, getting feedback from backers when the product is actually in their hands might turn out to be more valuable than the funds raised.

      • chelle snail

        I agree, it has felt fantastic having the kind encouraging support of all backers, and someone today said to keep being awesome with my artwork which was a wonderful compliment 🙂 I think the main focus should be on the creation of a project than the money and more focus on non commercial products.

  • Nitro Feel Good

    It is always nice to help, I feel really great doing it, but it becomes a supreme experience when others help you and you know karma had something to do with it 🙂 Of course there is people that would like to help more than they can, specially in money terms, but in the small actions is where you feel satisfied too.
    Nice post and congratulations, Chelle!

    • CrowdCrux

      It does feel nice to help, especially when the person really deserves it. I agree also, you don’t always have to help in a significant monetary way. Sometimes just backing for a $1 and leaving a positive comment, and sharing the project, will encourage others to back it as well.

      • Nitro Feel Good

        exactly!! but it is hard to know who deserves it and who not sometimes, everybody doesn’t have same opportunities in life…
        have a ncie weekend!

    • chelle snail

      Thanks Nitro 🙂 your support is amazing, everyone has been amazing in this project and I’ve met some wonderful people during my project 🙂

  • @nitrofeelgood:disqus I can attest that those “small actions” make a huge difference. Many times during our fulfillment phase, when I’ve been in a state of stress or worry, my state of mind has been shifted entirely by a few kind and supportive words from a backer. And, of course, when we feel supported our natural impulse is to go out and support others. Kickstarter has made me much more aware of how powerful our daily small gestures can be.

    I’ve been thinking of printing a book of all the incredible emails and comments we’ve received. I sometimes think it will be as valuable to me in future years as the book that we’re publishing.

  • chelle snail

    Thanks for doing this wonderful article! 🙂 I’m honoured to be the one to talk about symbiotic patronage. Bad Monkey, I love the idea of a book of emails and comments, that would be a valuable book and a good read! 🙂 when I backed Bad Monkey’s project of the Alice book, I fell in love with the illustrations and the whole project. Again it’s a honour to be supported by Bad Monkey (Wendy)
    My project is nearly finished with 20 minutes to go, and so much wonderful support! 🙂

  • Guest

    A couple of the Roam the Blue Ghost artworks in the project

  • chelle snail

    A couple of the Roam the Blue Ghost artworks in the project – taxi in abandoned petrol station and abandoned toys

  • chelle snail

    It was a honour to be interviewed for the story of Symbiotic Patronage 🙂 I have had so much fun on my kickstarter and I want to thank Bad Monkey (Wendy) for all the support she has given me, she has been a friend and mentor from the start of the project to now 🙂 when I first saw her kickstarter on Alice, I fell in love with the illustrations of her partner and had to back the project. I only wish I had been able to afford the book at the time. I was delighted and honoured to have her support as I have held her project in high regard including the artist David and Wendy 🙂

  • More symbiosis at work: I just heard from someone who had seen us backing Chelle’s campaign and now wants to buy our book (that we kickstarted a full year ago). The backer, by the way, lives right here in Portland, Oregon USA. Chelle lives in Australia. We have tremendous power and reach when we authentically collaborate.

    • CrowdCrux

      Wow! That’s awesome!

      • chelle snail

        This is fabulously exciting! 🙂 I was delighted to learn this, and I agree we do have a great power when we work together, the goodness of the heart and patronage, makes me proud of the people that are like us in the world 🙂